Life at sea

Gain a fascinating insight into the lives of sailors and seamen throughout history. From the protocols of the Royal Navy to the traditions, customs and working lives of 18th and 19th century crewmen, we explore what life was really like on the high seas.

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Our archives are full of amazing stories of love and loss. With Valentine's Day fast approaching, Tracey Weller looks at some of our touching love letters.

Mr Frederick Heintzig, landsman, to Nelson, on board the Foudroyante, 19 July 1799 (CRK/6/156)

Many of the common seamen of Nelson’s time were not literate, meaning letters of the ‘Lower deck’ are rare. Nelson probably received a great deal of correspondence asking for help or influence of one kind or another, but was his reputation for benevolence towards those that had served under him sometimes exploited or taken advantage of? 

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Richard Parker was sentenced to death for his role in the 1797 Nore Mutiny - but was he a ringleader or a scapegoat?

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The Royal Navy introduced coloured cloth on to their uniforms in 1863, so that it was possible to distinguish between naval departments.

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As part of LGBT History Month author and LGBT/gender historian, Jo Stanley, discusses queer history in the navy. 

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The Caird Library has recently installed a new display of archive and library material. The theme is Prisoners of War at Home and Overseas, 1793-1815, and it reveals what life was like for the men and boys captured during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. During this period, hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war were held captive at depots, barracks, and on board prison ships all over the world, from North America to the Indian Ocean. The documents on display focus on the experiences of captured British and French sailors and soldiers.

The funeral ceremony of Nelson in St. Paul’s Cathedral at the moment when Sir Isaac Heard, Garter Principal King at Arms, gave his oration

In this blog we recall how the nation bid farewell to Nelson and look at the life of the Garter King of Arms, Sir Isaac Heard (1730-1822), who organized the procession and ceremony.

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One of the wonderful things about working here is being bombarded with questions that wrack the brain and start an ongoing research relationship with the chosen topic. Such are the Button Boys - the daredevils of the mast displays carried out by naval training establishments.

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A Matthew Walker Knot keeps the end of a rope from fraying but its origins are a mystery.

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