News

Was Jutland the battle that won the war?

• New date released for panel discussion

• “Question Time” panel debate on Battle of Jutland chaired by popular TV historian and broadcaster Dan Snow

• International panel confirmed

Following the centenary year commemorations for the Battle of Jutland last year, a clash considered the defining naval battle of the First World War, a “Question Time” debate chaired by popular TV historian and broadcaster Dan Snow has been rescheduled and will now take place on Thursday 2nd February.

The big debate, run by The National Museum of the Royal Navy, promises to get to the heart of a battle that has divided opinion for 100 years and takes place on Thursday 2nd February at 7pm in Action Stations, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

The battle was often considered a German victory due to the number of British lives lost, 6,094 to the Germans 2,551 however the British maintained numerical supremacy on the day.

Although the battle had a huge human cost, most British losses were tactically insignificant, with the exception of HMS Queen Mary, and the Grand Fleet was ready for action again the next day. One month after the battle the Grand Fleet was stronger than it had been before sailing to Jutland. By contrast, so shaken were the Germans by the weight of the British response that they never again seriously challenged British control of the North Sea.

The international panel will be chaired by British historian and broadcaster Dan Snow. He said: “Jutland was the climax of centuries of naval warfare, the last time two fleets of big gunned battleships contested control of the seas.”

Joining the panel is Stephan Huck, the Director of the German Naval Museum where he has curated several exhibitions including „Skagerrak. Seeschlacht ohne Sieger – Jutland. The unfinished Battle.“ Also on the panel is Naval historian Dr Andrew Gordon, author of The Rules of the Game, for many, the definitive book on the battle and Dr Laura Rowe, lecturer at the University of Exeter whose primary research interest focuses on the social and cultural history of the First World War and on the Royal Navy in particular.

The final panel member is Nick Hewitt, author, broadcaster and naval historian and the National Museum’s project leader for the blockbuster exhibition that opened in May at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard 36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War.

Director of the German Naval Museum, Stephan Huck said: “In the aftermath of the Skagerrakschlacht (The Battle of Jutland) it occupied an important place of remembrance for German society and particularly the German Navy. However it became largely forgotten in the second half of the 20th century. The centenary of the First World War led to a national recovery of the First World War in Germany and offered the chance to bring the history of the Battle of Jutland back to light.

“It gave the opportunity to describe the battle as an important turning point in the history of the First World War: despite the declared victory it prompted the decision to restart unrestricted U-boat warfare with the fatal consequence of the entry of the United States into the war.

“Now with the distance of a hundred years it is possible to objectively compare the British and the German view on the battle and the circumstances that led to it. This illuminates unexpected similarities in the navies on both sides of the English Channel at the beginning of First World War. Both exhibitions and events like this debate enable us to present both perspectives and to pay tribute to those involved.”

Nick Hewitt, curator of the National Museum’s exhibition 36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War said: “The Battle of Jutland is the Royal Navy’s defining moment in The Great War, and perhaps the largest sea battle in history. It’s the only event in the national First World War centenary programme which is wholly naval in character. As a naval historian, it’s a great privilege to be involved in a debate like this and I’m absolutely sure our visitors will be as engaged by this epic, tragic story as we are.”
Ticket buyers are being urged to submit their questions online for consideration before January 27th. The type of questions that may be posed include did the battle win the war? What of the social impact on Britain and Germany? Are blockades ever morally justified and why does Jutland matter today?

Tickets cost £10 (no concessions) are available online at www.historicdockyard.co.uk/jutland-debate or at the Visitor Centre at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard between 10am – 4pm daily.

Trombone artefact and medals of Royal Marine bandsman who fought at Jutland to be told at blockbuster exhibition

The story of a Royal Marine bandsman who fought at the Battle of Jutland a century ago is to be told at a blockbuster exhibition from The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN).

The fragment of a trombone played by Bandsman Frederick Charles Palfreman, his medals, a photograph and newspaper clipping are now on display at 36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War, the immersive new exhibition at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Bandsman Palfreman, born on April 1 1899 in Pimlico, London, fought on HMS Warspite at Jutland, the greatest naval battle ever fought which claimed the lives of nearly 9,000 sailors from Britain and Germany.

He played trombone in the Royal Marines Band having studied, it is believed, at the RM School of Music at Eastney, Portsmouth.

Bandsman Palfreman second from left back row

Bandsman Palfreman, second from left, back row


His son David Palfreman sent in the artefacts. He said: “My father never spoke in any detail about his experience at Jutland except to say the noise and fires were indescribable, although the ‘going round in circles’ episode with all guns blazing and the Warspite rolling alarmingly as a result had clearly been, subsequently, a source of wry amusement.

“He died in 1987, aged 88, and since then, as I’ve got older, I have so regretted not talking to him about his experience in the Royal Marines - he was so young. I remember him marching rather than walking, in the way marine bandsmen do, and beating in time to any music that might be playing. He rarely became excited but the Royal Navy Field Gun competition was an annual exception.

“I’ve had the artefacts for many years but the 100th anniversary of Jutland made we wonder if they would be of interest to an audience outside the family. I’m surprised and very pleased by the interest but my overwhelming feeling is one of pride in my dad with thoughts of how I would have behaved aged 17 in the battle - I had just started my A Levels!”

Head of Heritage and Development at The NMRN, Nick Hewitt, said: “We were delighted and very grateful to be able to borrow this extraordinary set of objects, which together make up a very unusual Jutland tale.

“I think they really make two important points so well; that everyone on a warship was exposed to the same risk, even the band, and also that there were many participants on both sides who would today be considered children.”

Visitors wishing to visit 36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War can purchase a Jutland All Attraction Package. This allows the recipient to access the exhibition and ten other attractions at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, including The Mary Rose, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior 1860, and also the Harbour Tours, HMS Alliance at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower, both in Gosport. It also gets the ticket holder entry to the Royal Marines Museum in Eastney, Portsmouth.

‘Pioneers to Professionals: Women and the Royal Navy’ Special exhibition shares lost stories to celebrate women in the Royal Navy

18th February 2017, The National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard


‘Pioneers to Professionals: Women and the Royal Navy’ will open to the public 18th February 2017 and focus on the history of women working in the Naval Service. The exhibition will reveal some of the lesser-known stories of women dating right back to the Age of Sail more than 250 years ago when women’s contribution was disguised or unofficial.

The exhibition will open in the centenary year of the Woman’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) formation. Furthermore, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard will host an official launch of the exhibition on International Women’s Day 8 March 2017, a day which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Women working in an official capacity for the Royal Navy were disguised prior to the establishment of the first female uniformed service the Naval Nursing Service in 1884, later renamed the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service in 1903. The WRNS formed in 1917. A uniformed women’s involvement in the Royal Navy directly confronted gender equality issues that still profoundly affect us today. As such, this exhibition aims to highlight women’s involvement and impact in both world wars, the Cold War, integration of the WRNS with the Royal Navy and the continued efforts of female personnel today.

The objects in the exhibition will illustrate the role of women in the navy in the widest spectrum, ranging from a rare First World War Ratings uniform (only 5,500 women served during the 20 months the service operated in the First World War) to an oboe owned by a member of the Royal Marine Band Service. Key issues for women in the Navy are also addressed, objects such as a Naval Officer’s maternity dress indicate the key differences and concerns that women face whilst in service.

Earlier this year a time capsule was discovered, buried at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in 1974 by the then head of the WRNS, Commandant Mary Talbot. It contained everyday items that defined the life of a WRN including badges, descriptions of their trades, clothing and official documents. This discovery prompted a call for artefacts for the exhibition.

Curator Victoria Ingles said “Historically the work of naval women was rarely recorded and often overlooked, yet thousands have actively contributed to worldwide naval operations over centuries. During this time women have undertaken a huge range of jobs and have often confounded expectations about what they could do and this exhibition seeks to bring some of these inspirational stories to attention. We are also keen to highlight the everyday experience of naval women past and present and are encouraging visitors to contribute their own stories helping us to fully reflect the scale and significance of women’s work within the navy.”

The National Museum of the Royal Navy secures medals and log books of Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown for the nation

Statement from Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of The National Museum of the Royal Navy. November 25 2016

We are delighted to announce that The National Museum of the Royal Navy has been able to secure the medals and log books of Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown following the intervention of an incredibly generous donor. It is fair to say that Captain Brown was by many measures the Fleet Air Arm’s most significant pilot of the post-war period and we are thrilled and honoured to be able to class this collection as one of our own.