Category: Question

Call for Assistance – ERA Woodhead

From Fabian Hiscock
I’m on the trail of ERA1 Alf Woodhead, 1918-1998. He served in (and survived the loss of) HMS PRINCE OF WALES, and a friend is preparing a package (which includes his No 1 uniform) for the upcoming commissioning of the ship.
He joined submarines in (I guess) 1942, and we believe he served in L23, which was I guess in a training role at the time, and then in AMPHION. He was in Hong Kong in 1946, but I don’t know in which boat or depot ship, although it seems AMPHION was in the Med in late 1945 or 46 (see below), so she may have been on her way there.
And this is where the expertise of the Friends might be helpful! We’d love to know whatever we can about him while this package is being put together.
I attach a scanned sheet of photos – NB the Senior Rates’ Mess Dinner (very smart) in HK in 1946, which looks to me like a depot ship do. The ones of him on the casing and on the afterplanes of a boat in 1946 are interesting – are they an A-boat? I just don’t know (I can probably get better copies if they would help).
A tale (true dit) is included in the fid that we have, written we believe by his son. I wonder if there’s any other record of it? It reads:
‘Not sure where this happened, but I guess it would be in the Mediterranean and Dad was on Amphion.
Apparently the skipper allowed the guys to take a swim in the sea (saves on showering). Lookouts were posted in case any enemy ships/planes came into view. [note by FH: AMPHION was actually commissioned too late to see any hostilities).  After a while a lookout shouted a warning, not enemy but a large turtle, so the guys quickly swam to the boat and climbed aboard. The turtle was chasing one of the swimmers and as he grabbed a line (rope) and was pulled to safety the turtle rammed into the boat.
It had rammed one of the torpedo tubes and was stuck! The guys tried to release it but failed, so the Gunnery Officer said try to blast it out by firing the tube (compressed air ejects a torpedo); they tried this method and it worked – the turtle shot out, but sadly was killed in the attempt.
The ship’s cook was on deck watching and cried out, ‘get the turtle’. Two sailors dived in and they eventually hauled the turtle onto the deck. The meal that night was Fresh Turtle Soup.’
Anyway – I’d be glad of any help that might be available!

Website Upgrade

I know surveys are becoming the bane of our lives but hear me out! We plan to update the website this year and have set aside a sum of money to do this.  We need to determine how easy or difficult you find navigating the site and if you use the search facility. Your answers will ensure we spend your money to best effect.

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Snowy Quiz

Which boat is pictured on the ship lift at VSEL below?

Call for Assistance

Can you help identify these items from the Museum archive?  They are listed as a pair of measuring tubes, a Wilson’s cloud chamber and a spectroscope.  What were they used for?

Wait for me!

Our thanks to ‘PK’ Pitkeathly for sending in this excellent snap which just cries out to be a Caption Competition for all to enter.

Tattoo Tales

The following is an appeal for help from the NMRN:

National Museum launches appeal to serving personnel and veterans for stories behind their tattoos

  • In the past sailor’s tattoos mapped journeys on the sea and through life.
  • They symbolised to others where you have travelled, your job and who you love- a walking biography on your body

On the eve of a major new temporary exhibition Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed  which opens on 30 June 2018 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, The National Museum of the Royal Navy want to see if the traditional symbols of anchors, swallows and more are still being used.

The exhibition is on a national tour and was curated by the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

Research published almost 50 years ago by Naval Surgeon Captain R.W.B. Scutt “Tattoo History and Information from Art, Sex and Symbols: The Mystery of Tattooing”  suggested that the catering arm of the navy was the most tattooed. Is this still the case?

Do the people wearing them have a naval connection and are they aware of the symbolic meaning behind the image?

Tattoos tell a story about the person; where they’ve been, what or who they love/hate, it is a map of who you are and who you want to be.

Joanna Valentine, community outreach officer at The National Museum of the Royal Navy explained:

“We want serving personnel and veterans to tell us their tattoo stories and send us photographs. It doesn’t matter how long ago the tattoo was made. We would love to hear why they got their tattoo? Why it is important and what do you think is a traditional navy tattoo?”

The images and tales will build on research collected at naval family fetes and will be used as part of the exhibition outreach sessions working with community groups talking about the custom. It will also be included as part of the interactive part of Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed exhibition in the Historic Dockyard and will be shared on an online gallery on Facebook.

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Who, When, and Where?

The photo below was found scrunched up in the staff rest room at the Museum. Can anyone help answer these questions:

Who are they?
When was this taken?
Where was this taken?

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1 May 18  – Update –  For a complete answer by Philip Marsden click here