Royal Naval Museum

Poster produced by Vegetable Produce Committee, WWI

HMS Bristol

Model of HMS Daedalus


HMS Duke of Wellington

Superstructure of the battleship HMS Vanguard, 1945

The A & B turrets of HMS Queen Elizabeth, 1913

Landing Ship Tank in Normandy Landings, 1944


Reserve Collections

The Museum’s collections can never all be on display, and many are too delicate for permanent exhibition.  Researchers who wish to see items in the Reserve Collections can contact us to make an appointment with a curator to come and consult them.  The Museum also has a programme to make catalogues of these reserve collections available on-line between 2006 and 2008.

The reserve collections consist of oral history and sound recordings, photographs, the WRNS collection, visual art, and artefacts

Oral History and Sound Recording Collection. 

This includes recorded interviews with men and women of the Royal Navy, focusing on their personal experience, both in war and peace, of naval life during the 20th and 21st centuries. Subjects covered include: recruitment and training; equipment; war-time role; changes in the Navy's structure and requirements; ships; naval bases; naval operations; prisoners of war; uniform; accommodation; victualling; discipline; pay; working conditions; health and welfare; family life; and recreational activity.  The Collection includes life history interviews; project collections on such topics as the D-Day WRNS, the Gulf War 1991, Portsmouth Dockyard etc.; themed collections on medicine and welfare, training, etc.  A description of the collection is provided by Val Billing, Catalogue of the Oral History Collection at the Royal Naval Museum, 1997.  Copies are available from the Museum shop

To listen to new oral history recordings, visit the Sea Your History website.

Back to top

Photographic Collection.

This covers the period from the beginnings of photography in the 1850s to the present day.  It consists mainly of prints and albums and covers a broad range of naval topics including; naval biography, ship portraits, non-naval vessels, shore bases, naval operations and social history.  Part of the archive includes the well-known and long-established Wright & Logan Collection of Warship photographs acquired with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  This consists of around 22,000 negatives, mostly on glass plates, of warships from 1924-1998.  Many of the more popular images are now available for sale as prints from Museum shop.

Visual Art Collection

The art collection includes approximately 2,600 works including: oil paintings, watercolours, prints and drawings, glass paintings, embroideries and miniatures.  It is particularly strong in works of all kinds relating to Horatio Nelson, prints of actions from the Napoleonic Wars and naval caricatures.  It includes notable works by John Wilson Carmichael, Thomas Luny and William Lionel Wyllie.

Back to top

The WRNS Historic Collection.

This collection was transferred to the Museum from the Director of WRNS Office in 1987.  Since this time the collection has been supplemented with private donations and transfers of material, and now includes approximately 5,000 items.  It encompasses photographs, manuscript items, artefacts, uniform, paintings and drawings relating to the Women’s Royal Naval Service during the First and Second World wars, as well as the Permanent Service from 1947-1993 when the WRNS became integrated fully into the Navy.

Items from the WRNS collection are now available to view on the Sea Your History website.

Artefact Collection.  

This is the most varied of the Museum’s collections.  It includes everything from weapons, uniforms, personal memorabilia, ship models, ceramics, to four floating craft.  Of particular interest are:

  • An extensive collection of naval medals from their inception to the present day.  This was based on the medal collection of the late Captain Douglas-Morris, which is particularly strong on the Naval General Service awarded for many naval actions prior to 1847.  It has now grown to be a representative collection of all naval awards and is strong in 20th century gallantry awards, holding 5 examples of the Victoria Cross. Information on how to understand medals can be found on the Sea Your History website.
  • A collection of ship relics consists of figureheads, badges and other items of warship decoration or equipment from the earliest times to the present.  It includes 36 figureheads, and a large collection of name boards, honours boards, tread-plates and badges for 20th century ships assembled by Tom Ferrers-Walker.
  • A reference collection of c.3,000 uniform pattern badges from the 20th century covering the great variety of rank and trades badges that have been and still are used by the Navy.

Back to top