The National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth brings history to life. It showcases treasures from the past 350 years and examines the common threads which link the sailor of England’s ‘Wooden Walls’ to the professional crews of today.
The Royal Navy has helped to shape the world. It made Britain a dominant sea power, protected its trade in troubled times and defended Britain from invasion or carried the attack overseas. The Royal Navy has touched the lives of millions of people worldwide, affected servicemen and women and the families of those who built, serviced and supplied its ships and influenced the lives of communities overseas.
Explore the museum
The museum’s major gallery Hear My Story opened in 2014 and tells the undiscovered stories from the ordinary men and women of the ships which have shaped the Navy’s amazing history over the last 100 years, the century of greatest change. Hear My Story brings you closer than ever before to the real Royal Navy; cutting edge interpretation lets you see and hear the stories of the Navy in war and during peacetime.
The Sailing Gallery shows the realities of fighting at sea in the age of sail, the Nelson Gallery examines Nelson’s colourful, crowded and short life and the Sir Donald Gosling Victory Gallery explores the history of Britain’s most famous warship from the laying of her keel to her significant battles. Visitors can walk through the multi-media show the ‘Trafalgar Experience’, meeting Nelson and his great foe Napoleon, feeling the blast on the main gun deck during the Battle.
As HMS Victory undergoes her most extensive refit since Trafalgar, the exhibitions will share the forensic analysis changing our understanding of Victory’s past and the scientific investigations showing new ways of securing her future.
Jolly Roger: A Symbol of Terror and Pride
Tales of piracy are brought to the fore in The National Museum of the Royal Navy's newest exhibition, Jolly Roger: A Symbol of Terror and Pride. The new exhibition tells the story of the skull and crossbones flag, commonly known as the Jolly Roger, which has been associated with pirates for centuries.
Known for its bright colour and deadly reputation, the Jolly Roger flag features a skull and crossbones design, striking fear in to all that see it. However, the history of its use by the Royal Navy who started flying the flag from First World War submarines is lesser known.
The tradition began in 1914 in response to a comment that submariners should be ‘hung like pirates’ because of their role in sinking civilian ships. The unofficial practice of flying a Jolly Roger on return from wartime patrol took hold and has continued into the 21st century. Over time the basic skull and crossbones design has evolved, supplemented with additional symbols which record what happened during their patrol. These flags are an imposing visual record of the submarine’s activity as well as striking pieces of folk art.
Featured within the exhibition are several examples of these iconic designs including the Jolly Roger of HMS Turbulent, flown on return from patrol in the Gulf. These are displayed alongside artefacts which relate to some of the incidents recorded on the flags.
The exhibition also seeks to give a wider context to the submarine pirate tradition. An introduction will sketch the history of the Royal Navy and piracy and features a Jolly Roger seized from pirates by the Royal Navy in the 1790s belonging to Admiral Richard Curry who captured the flag during a battle off the North African coast.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is temporarily not accepting walk up ticket purchases, so make sure you buy your ticket and book your time slot in advance!