Why my grandfather joined the Royal Navy

My grandfather owned a book ‘Warships of World War II’ (H.T. Lenon & J.J. Colledge, price 35/-) that provided me with untold hours of statistical wallowing when I was a lad. I inherited the book in adulthood and it’s one of the few that travelled with me when I joined the ranks of expatriate Englishmen. It’s here beside now while I sit overlooking my wintery garden, drinking my umpteenth cup of morning coffee and thinking of times past.

My grandfather annotated the book with slips of paper that are filled with his neat copperplate handwriting. I’m looking at one where he notes his decision to join the Royal Navy.

Iron Duke. I went aboard this ship when a Territorial gunner in City of London Battery on weekend training at Southsea, Victoria Barracks, Hants, during 1936. It was this visit which decided me to enlist in the Royal Navy if war should come. The ships company’s food was far better than we were getting as gunners, and of course, cigarettes were duty free. I was aged 23 at the time.”

As you can see, my grandfather was a purely practical man with an eye on good food and cheap tobacco.

Oh yes… a family of patriots, one and all 🙂

As for what the book says about Iron Duke:

The IRON DUKE had been de-militarised as a Gunnery Training Ship and had her boiler power mutilated and speed reduced, here main belt armour removed and two turrets (“B” and “Y”) taken out. Deck and internal armour and the second battery were left intact and varying lighter calibre guns were added and removed from time to time for instructional and experimental purposes. Owning to severe bomb damage received early in the Second World War the IRON DUKE was grounded at Scapa Flow but continued to serve as a base ship.

Anyway, war came and my grandfather and his brother motored down to Portsmouth on a BSA motorbike to enlist in the Navy.

Here he is in Malta in 1943, already switched from cigarettes to a pipe (future tobacconist’s shop no doubt in his mind).

My grandfather in Malta, 1943

My grandfather in Malta, 1943

He was the SBA on HMS Rye. The stories about that can wait for another day.

Royal Marines Museum will move to Portsmouth Historic Docyard by 2017

I have happy memories of the Royal Marines Museum at Eastney as a kid back in the Dark Ages (1970s). The diorama of the attack on the mole at Zeebrugge… the diorama of the attack on Suez… I dearly wanted to take those home with me. Yet while there’s a part of me that bemoans the move from the historic Eastney location, there’s also a part of me (the pragmatic adult part) that acknowledges that the survival of the museum as an institution depends on getting visitors through the door. Moving to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard makes sense. We might not want it to make sense, but it does.

THE ROYAL Marines Museum will move to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard by the end of 2017, it has been revealed.

Administrators are planning to switch the museum from the former Eastney Barracks to boost visitor numbers and income.

The Band of HM Royal Marines at the Royal Marines Museum in Eastney.

The museum has been at the historic site since 1958 and was a barracks for Royal Marines dating back to 1867.

It is hoped that the move to the dockyard will quadruple visitor numbers.

But the future of the Grade II listed building currently used by the museum at Eastney has been left in doubt.

Museum director, Robert Bruce, defended the plan and said: ‘The story of the Royal Marines is at the heart of the naval story, which is told at the dockyards.

‘That’s the right place for the whole story to be linked up together.’

The museum averages 29,000 visitors a year, a figure administrators hope would quadruple by moving.

Mr Bruce said he hoped the move would also include the Yomper statue – a marine on a long-distance march – which stands at the museum’s entrance on Eastney Esplanade.

Mr Bruce added: ‘I know the Yomper is an emotive subject.

‘But it’s important to point out that the Yomper was funded and is owned by the Royal Marines Museum and it is our iconic figure and it features on all our material.’

Mr Bruce said the move would cost ‘millions’ which would come from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the museum’s own resources and further fundraising efforts.

He added that moving the museum would allow its collection to be displayed using modern technology.

‘You only have to look at the Mary Rose Museum to see what can be done with museums now. We could be ploughing a similar furrow,’ said Mr Bruce.

Only about 10 per cent of the museum’s collection is currently on display.

East Southsea Neighbourhood Forum vice-chairman, Leon Reis, said the move would be good for Portsmouth, but a shame for the seafront.

Royal Marines Association member Frank Lycett said: ‘It’s an obvious move when you consider everything is down there (the dockyard) as far as tourism is concerned.

‘If it were down there it would get more visitors and therefore more income.

‘Even if it was a reduced income per person, it would be to our benefit.’

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he did not want the Yomper statue to move.

‘It is such a beautiful sculpture and an iconic part the Eastney seafront,’ he said.

Mr Bruce said it was too early to say what the current museum site in Eastney could be used for in the future.

Capt John Rees, chief of staff of the National Museum of the Royal Navy at the dockyard, said: ‘The relocation of the Royal Marine Museum to the Historic Dockyard has been raised, but this would be subject to suitable premises being found and the generation of adequate funding.’