I hope to be in London in the next few weeks and fully intend to visit the exhibition “Forgotten Fighters: The First World War at Sea” which is being staged at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich from 2nd August 2014 - November 2018. The exhibition explores the naval and maritime dimensions of the conflict.
The horrors of the Western Front have long dominated our understanding of those years, and yet the war at sea was fought on an epic scale and with terrible human loss. Forgotten Fighters foregrounds the personal stories of those who participated through a wide range of objects including weaponry, photographs, medals and ship models. The gallery takes visitors from the heroism of merchant mariners to the shattering realities of naval battle, and from the Falkland Islands and the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and the North Sea.
The exhibition uncovers the individual stories of reservists, WRENs, pilots and submariners involved, illustrating the importance and impact of the Royal and Merchant Navy throughout the First World War on our nation. Despite their activities often being unseen or unreported, the men and women of the Royal Navy and merchant fleet were intrinsic to Britain’s contribution to WWI. Their war raged on the sea, beneath the waves, in the air and also on land.
The Royal Navy was at the forefront of new technologies in the form of submarines and aircraft during the First World War, neither of which had played a major part in conflicts before. The number of Royal Naval Air Service personnel grew to 55,000 from its humble beginnings of fewer than 1,000, involved in the spotting and attacking of German targets on land and at sea. Under the waves, German U-boats posed an increasing threat throughout the war, and yet for both British and German submariners, accidents and mechanical failures were often as hazardous as enemy attack. Fighting for the Royal Navy also spilled onto the land, with thousands of reservists and volunteers serving as infantrymen, as part of the Royal Naval Division. From 1916 through to the end of the war, the Royal Naval Division fought alongside their comrades on the Western Front, where their casualties made up a large proportion of the Navy’s losses.
To coincide with Forgotten Fighters, the National Maritime Museum will be hosting a dedicated events programme, including conferences, talks and remembrance events.
For those of you who have not visited the Royal Museums at Greenwich, they incorporate the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the 17th Century Queen’s House and Cutty Sark. Royal Museums Greenwich works to illustrate for everyone the importance of the sea, ships, time and the stars and their relationship with people. On my visits to London I always try to find time to visit the Royal Museums. You can spend a wonderful, enjoyable and informative day down there – I always try to get to Greenwich from the city centre by boat along the River Thames – a great experience!