Home Page | Permanent Collections | Exhibitions | Library | Education | Publications | Visitor Services
Development Plan | Shop | Friends | Conferences/Events



Permanent Collections

Victory Exhibition Gallery and Museum buildings


Royal Naval Museum Collections

The object of the Royal Naval Museum is to collect, conserve, record, research and make publicly available material relating to the history of the Royal Navy.

The Royal Naval Museum achieves this purpose, in part, through the acquisition, preservation and interpretation of its Collections.

The Collections comprise :

  • Artefacts

  • Manuscripts

  • Oral History and Sound Recordings

  • Paintings and Prints

  • Photographs

  • WRNS Collection






Artefact Collections

The Artefact Collections of the Royal Naval Museum consist of collections of naval uniforms, medals, weapons, ship relics, floating craft and personal belongings.

Uniform : The collection consists mainly of post 1920 officers' uniforms with a limited number of World War One items and some late nineteenth century pieces. The museum holds a large collection of pattern trade badges.

Medals : The museum holds a representative collection of naval medals from their inception to the present day. The Naval General Service medal collection of the late Captain Douglas-Morris covers many of the actions in which the navy was involved prior to 1847. It also includes an example for every ship present at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Weapons : The collection of naval weapons is small. Many of the items held at the Royal Naval Museum relate to personnel whose memorabilia is held in the other collections of the Museum.

Ship Relics : This collection consists of figureheads, badges and other items of warship decoration or equipment from the earliest times to the present. A large collection of name boards, honours boards, treadplates and badges are held for post-1900 ships.

Floating Craft : Only four floating craft are held by the Museum. These include a 50ft Steam Pinnace and King Charles II State Barge.

Personal Memorabilia : The Museum contains a wide selection of material ranging from a large collection of belongings of Nelson to the personal relics of World War Two officers and ratings.

For more information please contact :

Richard Noyce
Curator of Artefacts
Royal Naval Museum
HM Naval Base (PP66)
Portsmouth
Hampshire
PO1 3NH
England

Telephone : 023 9272 7579 | Fax : 023 9272 7575
Outside UK - Telephone : 44 23 9272 7579 | Fax : 44 23 9272 7562

E-mail : richard.noyce@royalnavalmuseum.org


Home Page | Top of Page





Manuscript Collection

The manuscript collections at the Royal Naval Museum are in two parts. The larger part consists of the Royal Naval Museum's own collection which has been assembled since 1952 by donation and purchase, or occasionally through transfer from other institutions. There are some notable collections relating to Portsmouth Dockyard, to HMS Victory and to Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, but in fact collecting has been much broader than this. The policy has been to gather unofficial collections that are a source for a social and opertional history of the Navy, rather than a history of technological development. The archive is, therefore, mainly an aggregate of groups of personal papers and subjective accounts of service from all ranks and branches of the Navy. It is particularly strong in personal diaries, memoirs, journals and collections of letters circa 1780-2000. Although there are some instituational collections and collections of stray official material, the archive does not include official naval records and is a manuscript library rather than an archive of records.

The second part of the collections consists of the manuscript items from the Admiralty Library which were moved to Porsmouth in autum 1997, to be administered by the Royal Naval Museum. This includes many small collections of historic interest principally from the 17th - early 20th centuries; Navy Board records, papers of Admiralty officials, ship and dockyard plans, logs, personal diaries, order books, letter books. No complete listings of this collection exists, but a Catalogue of the Admiralty Library Manuscript Collection is in preparation. This will be published in mid-2001, please contact the Curator for further details.

Further information

Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the Royal Naval Museum Full descriptions are given in: M Sheldon, Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the Royal Naval Museum 1997. Copies are available at £7.50, excluding postage and packing. Please contact the Curator of Manuscripts to place an order.

Annual reports of significant new collections are kept at the National Register of Archives. These are available, along with details of some of the collections from the above guide, via the web site of the Historical Manuscripts Commission.

Access Collections can be consulted in the Museum's Libary, open 10.00 - 16.00, Monday to Friday. Appointments should be made via :

Matthew Sheldon
Curator of Manuscripts
Royal Naval Museum
HM Naval Base (PP66)
Portsmouth
Hampshire
PO1 3NH
England

Telephone : 023 9272 7577 | Fax : 023 9272 7575
Outside UK - Telephone : 44 23 9272 7577 | Fax : 44 23 9272 7562

E-mail : matthew.sheldon@royalnavalmuseum.org


Home Page | Top of Page





Oral History and Sound Recording Collection

The Oral History and Sound Recording Collection at the Royal Naval Museum 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 Century. 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 sound archive collection; and video productions.

Catalogue of the Oral History Collection at the Royal Naval Museum An introduction to the Collection has been published - Catalogue of the Oral History Collection at the Royal Naval Museum - and is available from the Curator of Oral History (price £7.50, excluding p&p;).

For more information contact :

Val Billing
Curator of Oral History and Sound Recording
Royal Naval Museum
HM Naval Base (PP66)
Portsmouth
Hampshire
PO1 3NH
England

Telephone : 023 9272 7572 | Fax : 023 9272 7575
Outside UK - Telephone : 44 23 9272 7572 | Fax : 44 23 9272 7562

E-mail : val.billing@royalnavalmuseum.org


Home Page | Top of Page






Photographic Collection and Service

The Photographic Collection of the Royal Naval Museum 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.

Copies of most of the prints can be made available to order.

There is a reproduction fee for those wishing to make use of images in publications of a commercial nature.

For more information please contact :

Stephen Courtney
Curator of Photographs
Royal Naval Museum
HM Naval Base (PP66) Portsmouth
Hampshire
PO1 3NH
England

Telephone : 023 9272 7578 | Fax : 023 9272 7575
Outside UK - Telephone : 44 23 9272 7578 | Fax : 44 23 9272 7562

E-mail : stephen.courtney@royalnavalmuseum.org


Home Page | Top of Page






The WRNS Collection

THE WRNS COLLECTION

Created in 1987 the WRNS Collection at the Royal Naval Museum is the most comprehensive collection of material relating to the history of the Women's Royal Naval Service. It contains both official and unofficial documents and manuscripts, photographs, uniforms and artefacts relating to the Service from its inception in 1917 to its disbandment in 1993. The Collection also contains some material relating to women serving post-1993 when they were integrated into the Royal Navy.

The Women's Royal Naval Service was created in November 1917. After sustaining heavy losses in the first three years of the War, the Royal Navy was faced with a serious shortage of sailors to man its ships. However, there were many hundreds of sailors serving ashore and it was decided to replace these men with women. This led to the creation of the WRNS with its rallying call of "Free a Man for Sea Service".

The Admiralty decreed that only 3,000 women could be recruited and that they could only do domestic work, for example, cleaning, cooking and waiting at tables. However, numbers very quickly grew to over 6,000 Wrens doing over 100 different jobs, many of which had been considered too difficult for women to undertake.

Although the Service was in existence for only 19 months, the WRNS proved how valuable women could be to the Navy in difficult times. Their contribution was recognised when the Service was quickly re-formed at the outbreak of war in 1939.

This time the Service numbered over 74,000 at its peak in 1944 with women doing over 200 different jobs. WRNS played a major role in the planning and organisation of many of the Navy's most significant operations and were vital to the smooth running and maintenance of naval activities ashore. Thousands of Wrens served overseas and many more thousands worked with the Fleet Air Arm, Coastal Forces, Combined Operations and the Royal Marines.

Acknowledgement of the WRNS's contribution to the war effort came in 1947 with the creation of the Permanent Service. The role of the WRNS remained much the same but with greatly reduced numbers, an average of 3,000 and far fewer trades. This remained the case until 1977. Until then the Service had been voluntary with its own disciplinary system but in order to bring it more into line with the Navy itself, and with the other two Women's Services, the WRNS was brought under the Naval Discipline Act. This had very little to do with discipline but opened up many trades which up until 1977 had been male-only. This was the first step in the gradual integration of women into the Royal Navy itself, and finally led to the disbandment of the Service altogether in 1993.

Since then women have joined the Royal Navy not the WRNS and are totally equal in jobs and working conditions. The final integration came in 1994 when the first women served on board ships. Women now serve on at least one third of all Naval ships and in some cases make up at least 10% of their crews. There are no jobs they cannot do, and some are now serving as Bandswomen with the Royal Marines. The only area from which they are still excluded, for purely practical reasons, is the Submarine Service but this is now under review as well.

The Women's Royal Naval Service has come a long way since its birth in 1917, and this history is reflected in the WRNS Collection which can be viewed, or used for research, by appointment with the Curator, Miss Lesley Thomas.

For more information please contact :

Lesley Thomas
Curator of WRNS Collection
Royal Naval Museum
HM Naval Base (PP66)
Portsmouth
Hampshire
PO1 3NH
England

Telephone : 023 9272 7576 | Fax : 023 9272 7575
Outside UK - Telephone : 44 23 9272 7576 | Fax : 44 23 9272 7562

E-mail : lesley.thomas@royalnavalmuseum.org


Home Page | Top of Page






Fine Art Collection

The Fine Art collection of the Royal Naval Museum contains a number of significant Wyllie paintings, including the famous Wyllie Panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar, as well as Wyllie sketches. It also contains some important Rowlandson caricatures.

For more information please contact :

Josephine Birtwhistle
Curator of Art
Royal Naval Museum
HM Naval Base (PP66)
Portsmouth
Hampshire
PO1 3NH
England

Telephone : 023 9272 7581 | Fax : 023 9272 7575
Outside UK - Telephone : 44 23 9272 7581 | Fax : 44 23 9272 7562

E-mail : josephine.birtwhistle@royalnavalmuseum.org



Home Page | Top of Page




Last modified on 23 June 2000