During the First World War, both Britain and Germany relied on imports for food and vital raw materials, much of which came from the Americas via the Atlantic Ocean. Britain and Germany both tried to blockade each other, using their war ships to block the merchant ships from reaching their home ports. The British Royal … More British merchant losses in WWI
The term ‘Merchant Navy’ includes all commercial UK-registered ships and their crews. They fly the Red Ensign flag and are regulated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The Merchant Navy is not one of Britain’s armed forces, unlike the Royal Navy. But commercial ships were awarded the title of Merchant Navy by George V, in … More Introducing the Merchant Navy
The Abandon Ship! project is currently seeking volunteers to help with the development and delivery of the exhibition and events programme. … More Help Wanted !
As the Abandon Ship! exhibition focuses on two ships that sank, it was always going to be difficult to find objects to tell their story, as these now lie at the bottom of the ocean. As well as free, fun family activities every Sunday afternoon in August, to help visitors understand a little more about … More Experience abandoning ship!
During the Second World War, propaganda was a weapon almost as important as guns. On both sides, terrible stories were spread, making it easier to see the people on the Other Side as the enemy. In the summer of 1942, British newspapers had reported that German uBoats had opened fire on lifeboats. However, in reality … More Propaganda v Truth
Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. That very evening, the first merchant ship to fall victim to the war was sunk. The steam passenger ship Athenia was torpedoed without warning in the Atlantic, west of Ireland. The U-boat captain had believed the ship was an armed cruiser. Most of the 315 crew … More British merchant losses in WWII
Over the distance of time, the stories of the First World War become fainter and it is easy to think of it as ancient history. However, the memory of those who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice is still alive. Captain Archibald Bisset Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the … More The Otaki story lives on
The San Hilario The Abandon Ship! exhibition includes a model of the San Hilario, whose crew abandoned ship after being attacked by a German U-Boat in the First World War. The San Hilario was built in 1913 by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The ship was owned by the Eagle Oil Transport Company … More
The signal to Abandon Ship! is only given in dire straits and it was almost always followed by the sinking of the ship. In wartime, of those who survived the initial attack, it was not certain they would live long enough to be rescued. Sailors of the Merchant Navy were aware of the risks when … More Abandoning ship
The Abandon Ship exhibition features the story of Captain Archibald Smith who won the Victoria Cross while commanding the SS Otaki in 1917. Two years earlier another captain, Frederick Parslow, had won the first VC ever awarded to a member of the merchant navy. On the morning of 4 July 1915, HM Horse Transport … More VCs for the Merchant Navy
Our exhibition deals with the tragedy of ship losses during both world wars – along with the hardships suffered by merchant seamen in the process. In both of these wars, this suffering was caused by the new tactic of unrestricted submarine warfare – which enabled civilian vessels of all types to become subject to unprovoked … More The sinking of the Laconia “The Tragedy that changed the Battle of the Atlantic”
There were two crew members from the Isle of Lewis on board the Richmond Castle. One, Angus Murray, was responsible for saving the lives of many of his fellow crew, with his ingenuity and steadfast spirit. He was later awarded the British Empire Medal and – many years later – was reunited with fellow survivors … More Sailors from Lewis
“Abandon Ship!” – the fearful cry that Violet Jessop must have heard several times during her working life. She was an ocean liner stewardess and nurse who survived the disastrous sinkings of both the RMS Titanic in 1912, her sister ship, the HMHS Britannia in 1916, and she had also been on board the RMS Olympic , the eldest of the three sister ships, owned by the … More Violet Jessop