Naval Heritage Centenary

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About the Director


Colin White was born in 1951 and educated at Culford School, Suffolk, Southampton University, and University of London, King's College, where he took an MA in War Studies. He joined the Royal Naval Museum in September 1975 as a research assistant, eventually becoming, in 1995, the Deputy Director and Head of Museum Services, with special responsibility for the Museum's ambitious Development Plan.

At the same time, he came to be recognised as one of the country's leading experts on Nelson. He published three books on him: The Nelson Companion (1995) which is now a best-seller, in its third edition; 1797: Nelson's Year of Destiny (1998): and The Nelson Encyclopaedia (2002).

In 2000, he was appointed Chairman of the Official Nelson Celebrations Committee, with responsibility for co-ordinating The Trafalgar Festival, an ambitious, and ultimately very successful, national and international programme of events to mark the bicentenary of Trafalgar in 2005. His achievement was recognised by the presentation of the Longmans-History Today Trustees Award in early 2006.

In 2001 he was seconded to the National Maritime Museum as Director, Trafalgar 200 to assist the Museum with planning its 2005 initiatives: including a major exhibition, publications and special events.

He also published two major books, both based on original research: Nelson - The new letters and Nelson the admiral. The former was awarded the ‘Distinguished Book Prize’ by the Society for Military History in 2006 and he was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is also a Vice President of the Navy Records Society and of The 1805 Club.

In 2003, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. In 2004, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters (DLitt) by the University of Portsmouth for his contribution to naval history. In 2006, he was awarded the Desmond Wettern Media Award, “For being the most visible spokesman of Britain’s maritime interests in 2005”.

A well-known and popular figure on the lecture circuit, he regularly appears on radio and television talking about maritime affairs. In 2005, he presented his own series on Radio 4, Nelson: the latest news.

He was appointed Director of the Royal Naval Museum in June 2006.

Dr White passed away on Christmas Day 2008 at the Rowans Hospice. His replacement as Museum Director has yet to be appointed; in the interim, Graham Dobbin is Acting Director.