The National Museum of the Royal Navy Spokespeople
‘HMS Hear My Story’ & ‘Racing to War: The Royal Navy and 1914’
Curatorial/project: Matthew Sheldon
Matthew Sheldon is the Project Director responsible for leading the National Museum of the Royal Navy's team and for the overall delivery of exhibitions. His current projects are Hear My Story, covering the last 100 years of naval history, The Great War at Sea 1914-1918 and the restoration of M33, the only surviving motorboat from WW1 one of only two surviving Royal Navy ships from WWI.
Curatorial: Bob Mealings
Bob is the Head of Collections for the National Museum of the Royal Navy and has led the conservation project to save HMS Alliance.
Submarine Commander & Director: Commodore Chris Munns
Director at the RN Submarine Museum, formerly a CO of Cold War submarine HMS Courageous and the submarine commanders “Perisher” course
Learning: Deborah Hodson
Deborah is the Learning Manager for the National Museum of the Navy, HMS Victory and Explosion Museum.
For the HMS – Hear My Story project Deborah has led on the identification of target audiences as well as the development and delivery of the Activity Plan in order to maximise community engagement and participation. This has involved establishing focus groups and audience consultation, managing projects with various community groups and stakeholders, creating elements of the gallery interpretation and interactives, and devising the Learning, Family, Adult and Community programmes.
Royal Navy Veterans HMS Hear My Story
Interviews available on request
Falklands veteran Ray Metcalfe
Joining the Navy in the 1960s, he was a Chief Petty Officer Writer during the Falklands on board HMS Fearless. He remained in the Royal Navy until 1984.
WREN Dorrie Thomas
Dorrie joined the WRENS as a telegraphist in 1942, aged 17. She was at an advantage as she could already read morse code after learning as a Girl Guide. Her father, who was a signaller also taught her to hone the craft.
She took the naval course in telegraphy over six months, and along with six girls in her class, she was posted to Aberdeen on the Artic Convoy and Chanel Fleet communications, where she’d remain for two years. She was trained in communicating with ships, aspects of electronics and coding and decoding messages.
Whilst on duty VE Day was declared and she was the single telegraphist that sent the message to all Her Majesty’s ships ‘Splice the Mainbrace!’ Which to a sailor means ‘have an extra tot of rum’! In other words…a celebration!
After the war she married, and her training as a WREN served her well, as she went on to join Sperry Gyroscope, a company specialising in Electronic Navigation equipment, as a technical librarian.
A family featured in the HMS Dragon film
Henry Gunner along with his three children Alfie, Thomas and Megan. Henry is a househusband, and his wife is a Writer serving on HMS Dragon.
Veteran WW2 - a family member of Captain Johnnie Walker
Captain Frederic ‘Johnnie’ Walker was the Navy’s greatest submarine killer. The groups he commanded from 1941, sank 21 German U-boats. For two weeks before D-Day he led 40 ships that stopped U-boats entering the Channel to attack shipping. Days after his return, he died from over-work and war weariness
Veteran WW1 – family member of Vice Admiral Victor Crutchley
Victor Crutchley was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry, for the second raid on Ostend on 10 May 1918. In addition to both Ostend raids he also served in HMS Centurion at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. During the Second World War he commanded HMS Warspite at the 2nd Battle of Narvik in 1940. He retired as a Vice Admiral in 1947 and became Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Dorset.
Royal Navy Veteran Submariners
Bill Handyside: HMS Alliance veteran
Engine Room Artificer
HMS Talent / HMS Seneschal / HMS Alliance
Handyside joined the Royal Navy in 1947 as Engine Room Artificer apprentice and in 1953 drafted into submarines. Using his own words this was the best thing ever happened to him.
In 1956 he joined Alliance when he was in refit and did the 100-foot tank when it had just been finished. He operated in the freezing weather of Halifax and Quebec (Canada), then was in Gulf Stream (Bermuda), and worked during the Alliance's trip to Jamaica too.
Bill’s memories are about hard work on the propeller in the engine room, duty work on steam flange taking asbestos lagging off, meticulous attention because “you might spring a leak” and the fight against the cold with only small heaters.
But they recall also conversations about Jamaican music, films in the mess every night, the religious ritual of Rum mixed with water, the turmoil at dinnertime, when there was no dinner because food tasted of diesel, but you cannot complain to the Officer of the Watch because the answer was: 'do you eat the food for the taste or calorific value?' And when the boat came into harbour the crew use to sit all in a circle and sing songs. “Elvis Presley was very popular at the time” but you could chose to either sing a song or tell a joke.
A great reader and always interested in twentieth century history Bill become a history teacher and taught until 1963 when he was 65. He left The Navy in 1968.
Terry Fearnley: HMS Alliance veteran
HMS Astute / HMS Alliance / HMS Grampus
Terry Fearnley served on HMS Alliance from 1968 until 1971 as a stoker and he is now a guide in the RN Submarine Museum.
Terry was on board on the 29 September 1971, when a fatal explosion occurred whilst in Portland. The explosion went off in the battery compartment, directly below where 48 junior ratings were sleeping. A naval rating was killed and 14 others were injured. Terry has a vivid recollection of the tragedy: the smoke spread everywhere, the help to stretch off the casualty not being able to see very well, the rest of the injured able to walk off. He don't know if he had passed away until up top, “nobody realised at the time what had happened”.
Despite the shock after the explosion he decided to stay onboard. He had more ties on that submarine than he had with the houses he had lived in and loved everything about submarines “even the bilge diving!”
Terry is still touched when he remembers the day he got his submarine badge on Alliance: they were the first crew to get them - the Americans had had it for years - and he felt very proud to wear it ashore.
Feet problems he had always live with on service, finally lead to being invalided from Navy in 1977.
Michael Lindsay Coulton “Tubby” Crawford –WW2 submariner
HMS Sealion / HMS Upholder / HMS Unseen / HMS Oberon / HMS Tireless
Captain Crawford joins the Navy in 1931 and he was nicknamed “Tubby” by his fellow partly from his comfortable frame, but also from the wide and friendly grin with which he greeted the world.*
First Lieutenant in HMS Upholder, in 1943 he was awarded of his second Distinguish Service Cross (DSC) for seven war patrols from Malta.
The island had become a key point in the struggle for supremacy in the Mediterranean (in March and April 1942 more bombs were dropped on Malta than on London during the entire Blitz)* and the service of the HMS Upholder contributed to deny Rommel vital supplies and troop reinforcements.
Following his times in Upholder “Tubby” Crawford was sent home to train as a future commander and when he then returned to patrol the waters of Mediterranean he was in command of other 3 great submarines: HMS Oberon, HMS Elfin and HMS Tireless.
*(Supreme Courage: Heroic stories from 150 Years of the Victoria Cross, Peter de la Billiere).