Discover hidden artefacts and things you might have missed

Discover hidden artefacts and things you might have missed

8 things you might have missed

24 January 2019

If you arrived to see our big guns like HMS Victory and Action Stations you might have missed things which are equally as historical and epic. Our ‘8 things you might have missed’ guide gives you some great hints on what you could see next time you visit. From spectacular statues with stories to tell to must-see museums packed full of heritage - you’ll be surprised with what there is to discover.



1. The memorial of Captain Scott

 Statue edited

On your arrival into the dockyard, you may notice a tall statue located close to the walled garden. The memorial commemorates the efforts of Captain Scott and his crew. On the base of the statue, the inscription reads: 'During his return from the South Pole in his journal found 8 months later he wrote the gale is howling about us we are weak writing is difficult but for my own sake I do not regret this journey which has shown that englishmen can endure hardships.'

Described as one of the ‘best-conducted and most successful expedition that has ever entered the Polar regions, Artic or Antarctic,’ by Sir Clements Markham for scientific observations from those who served onboard Discovery. The memorial is a fitting tribute in the spirit of discovery, innovation and endurance - a must-see for those inspired by adventure.

2. View the Taliban motorbike

Bike edited

When visiting the Hear My Story exhibition, you’ll soon discover the extraordinary accounts of those of who have served in the Royal Navy. One inspiring artefact that symbolises the bravery of Royal Marine Sergeant Noel Connolly is the Taliban motorbike.

Sergeant Connolly rugby tackled the rider and discovered that it was packed with explosives. Now, the bike is displayed inside the Babcock Gallery in Hear My Story. He received the Military Cross for his bravery.

3. The story behind the cockleshell canoe

Canoe edited

A short distance away from the Taliban motorbike sits the cockle canoes used as part of Operation Frankton. No object quite sums up the sacrifice of naval heroes than the ‘cockleshell heroes’ during the Second World War.

Used during the daring mission on Bordeaux harbour, Royal Marines would place mines against enemy ships. This successfully destroyed one ship and damaged four more. This astounding story of heroism can be seen inside the Hear My Story exhibition, where you can see a cockle canoe which was used as part of the operation.

4. See Lord Nelson’s life mask

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Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson is one of the most decorated naval figures in history and he continues to inspire. When visiting the Nelson Gallery, you might have missed what Nelson actually looked like.

Over 40 paintings were painted of Nelson during his lifetime however no two of them are alike. Each portrait shows the different aspects of his personality but the absolute truth comes from Nelson’s life mask. Scholars have examined the mask and determined his personal appearance which is highlighted in the exhibition itself.

5. See the scale of a Chevron warhead


A new exhibition opened in anticipation of the Royal Navy’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Continual At Sea Deterrent (CASD). Silent and Secret, at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, reveals the hidden world of the Royal Navy Submarine Service. 

For the first time, the stories of Royal Navy submariners are told in vivid detail through first-hand accounts. As you walk into the new exhibition, you’ll instantly spot the Chevron missile head used in test simulations alongside a firing panel. See the scale and ingenuity behind this naval technology when you discover our new permanent exhibition, Silent and Secret.


6. Don’t miss the rare Jolly Roger flag

Jolly Roger

When you visit the Sailing Navy gallery, look out for the rare Jolly Roger flag to your right. The 18th century flag features a skull and crossbones design to frighten passing ships into surrendering without a fight.

The red background signifies the pirate’s intention to spare no life if a battle broke out during a ship’s capture. During the restoration, gunpowder and small holes with charred edges were found on the flag.

7. Visit First World War survivor HMS M.33


Whilst everyone loves HMS Victory, don’t forget to visit HMS M.33 alongside her. This ship is the sole remaining British veteran of the Dardanelles Campaign. This fascinating ship has been used as a floating gun platform to defend coastal forces during the First World War and more.

On her return to England, M.33 was laid up until May 1924 when she was converted for mine-laying duties at Pembroke Dockyard. Re-commissioned on 3rd February 1925 and renamed HMS Minerva, she became a tender at HMS Vernon, the Portsmouth school of torpedo and anti-submarine warfare.

Lovingly restored inside dry dock no.1, the ship was reopened in 2015 and features a fully immersive experience showing recreated scenes from the bloody Gallipoli Campaign.

8. See midshipman John Dalling's portrait by George Henry Harlow

Daling portrait

While art often depicts the most famous of heroes from history, this piece within our collection takes us into the lower ranks of the Royal Navy. The portrait is located inside the Victory Gallery. 

This fine portrait shows John Windham Dalling (1789-1853) as a 16 year-old Midshipman in the Royal Navy. It was painted, probably in late 1805, by George Henry Harlow. Midshipman (later Captain) Dalling RN served aboard the 74 gun-ship-of-the-line HMS Defence at the Battle of Trafalgar, the heavily armed warship would have been a crucial target for the enemy. Dalling’s story is a classic example of courage and loyalty.

The artists was, at 19 years old, only slightly older than his very youthful sitter. Harlow died young and surviving examples of his work are rare.


And there’s more to discover…

We’ve chosen eight things you might have missed but there’s plenty more to see and do at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. With a Full Navy Ticket, you can revisit us for a whole year and explore our historic ships and museums. Book online and save 20% today!

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