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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We get a fascinating insight into life on board a Royal Navy aircraft carrier in the inter-war years.

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Alan Villiers was a distinguished sailor, author and photographer. His work vividly records the period of early 20th century maritime history.

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Our uniform collection holds over 7000 items, including items owned by Admiral Nelson, Edward VII and Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher. 

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Poor records mean the valuable contribution of Asian crew members to Britain's mercantile fleet have often remained hidden. However new crew lists found in our archives promise huge potential for future research. 

Oil Tanker

This item of the month is a 1970s journal kept by the merchant navy’s first female navigating cadet, 18 year old Nina Baker on board British Petroleum (BP) Tanker Vessel British Willow. Nina’s journal influenced me to explore women’s developing role in the merchant navy during the second half of the 20th Century and beyond.

Cover of the personal journal written by Gilbert James Inglis

October’s item of the month is a personal journal written by Gilbert James Inglis. He served as purser on board the convict ship Duchess of Northumberland and kept a diary on a voyage from London to Hobart, November 1852 to April 1853 (RMG ID: JOD/150)

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The gold lace on naval officers’ uniforms has traditionally be used to indicate rank. But what are its origins?

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Get up close to the actual uniform Admiral Nelson was wearing when he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Lieutenant's logbook for HMS Temeraire 1803-1809

Artist and writer John Kelly delves into the fascinating history of the ship's log and the many experiences and discoveries it has recorded.

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