Permanent gallery

Essential Information

National Maritime Museum
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The sea is an often-forgotten battleground of the First World War. Yet, without the crucial roles played by the Royal Navy and merchant service, an Allied victory would not have been achieved. 

The Forgotten Fighters gallery at the National Maritime Museum explores Britain’s naval experiences during the First World War through artefacts, model vessels, weapons and documents, and tells some of the remarkable true stories of the crews who fought under extreme conditions. 

Visit Forgotten Fighters, and explore how the First World War played out in one of the most unpredictable and unforgiving environments on Earth.


Inside the gallery

Britain’s war at sea took many different forms and was fought worldwide; from blockading the German fleet in the North Sea, to attacking strategic sea passages in the Middle East, and protecting underwater communications infrastructure across the globe. 

Image of the Forgotten Fighters gallery which has a walkway in the middle of two big glass cases that span the length of the room. They are filled with objects relating to the first world war at sea

Back on dry land, thousands were employed in important roles such as designing, building and equipping ships. Later in the conflict, the new Women’s Royal Naval Service provided essential support to those fighting at sea, with women filling roles that were previously exclusive to men. 

In the gallery, through the biographies of sailors, merchant seafarers, reservists, pilots, submariners and more, you’ll discover the often-untold stories of people placed in extraordinary circumstances above and beneath the waves. 

Must-see objects

Tap the arrows to discover more about items on display in the Forgotten Fighters gallery.

Tap to begin

An altar cross made from a German bullet and cartridge case

Fashioned by a French chaplain serving with the Royal Naval Division on the Western Front, this altar cross was made from a German bullet and cartridge case. 

This kind of creation is known as ‘trench art’, where functional or decorative items were created from the debris of warfare.

An image for 'An altar cross made from a German bullet and cartridge case'

HMS Agamemnon staghorn bollard

This staghorn bollard belonged to the battleship HMS Agamemnon. On one side the bollard’s metal surface is pockmarked with bullet holes, damage likely sustained during the Dardanelles campaign in early 1915. 

During this campaign, Britain and France launched a naval attack on the Dardanelles, a narrow body of water between Europe and Asia. The campaign was eventually abandoned with huge losses sustained by the Allies.

An image for 'HMS Agamemnon staghorn bollard'

Submarine cables

It’s easy to forget in an age of smartphones and superfast internet just how much global communications used to depend on cables sunk deep beneath the waves.

During the First World War however, protecting this vast web of submarine cables was a naval priority. In the Forgotten Fighters gallery you can see small sections of these cables, which many people gave their lives to protect.

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Medal commemorating the sinking of RMS Lusitania

The Cunard cruise liner RMS Lusitania left New York for Liverpool in early May 1915, with 1,959 people on board. Cautiously approaching Ireland on 7 May, the liner had additional lookouts on guard and the latest submarine reports radioed to the crew. It would not be enough. 

The Lusitania was about 15 miles off the Irish coast when German submarine U-20 attacked. The ship weighed 30,000 tons and sunk in just 18 minutes, with 1,198 people killed. 

The sinking caused a huge outcry around the world and was a major factor in the United States later deciding to enter the war. This medal commemorates the sinking; on one side of the medal, a crowd of men are clamouring for tickets from the figure of Death at the window of a ticket office. On the reverse is an image of the sinking Lusitania.

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Model of the cargo vessel Springwell

This is a highly detailed model of a cargo ship called Springwell, which was built in 1914.  

As an island, Britain was heavily reliant on ships for food and other supplies. Merchant vessels like Springwell played a vital role during the war, both delivering supplies to the British Isles and transporting them to troops fighting abroad.  

In February 1916, Springwell was sailing from Middlesbrough to India when it was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine (or ‘U-boat’) in the Mediterranean. 

It wasn’t the only ship to meet this fate; throughout the First World War, millions of tonnes of merchant shipping were lost and nearly 15,000 merchant sailors were killed. 

An image for 'Model of the cargo vessel Springwell'

Join a tour

Gain a deeper insight into some of the Museum’s most prized – and lesser-known – objects on display with one of our friendly guides.

Daily tours are available when you visit, or you can choose to follow one of our dedicated audio guides and explore the Museum at your own pace.

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Visiting Forgotten Fighters

Where is the gallery?

Forgotten Fighters is a permanent gallery at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, located on the second floor. Entry to the Museum is free: book tickets online in advance to guarantee entry and receive updates before you visit.

Follow the gallery guide

Tours and audio guides

Forgotten Fighters features as part of the range of audio guides available at the National Maritime Museum. Listen to a free introduction to the gallery here, or find out more about objects on display by ordering a special Treasures Tour.


BSL is included as part of the National Maritime Museum audio guide. Large print guides are also available inside the gallery. For more information about accessibility at the National Maritime Museum, click here.

Gallery closures

Occasionally some gallery closures may affect your visit to the National Maritime Museum. Find details of upcoming closures here.

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