The 6th June 1944 is a Royal Marines memorable date for obvious reasons. The invasion of Normandy was a key moment in history, its’ effects on the rest of the 20th Century are well documented in many places. It’s interesting to reflect on the popular perceptions of D-Day as well, perhaps most recently expressed in Stephen Spielberg’s film ‘Saving Private Ryan’.
On the 5th June this year we welcomed the Royal Marines Commando display team to the Museum. Quite rightly they see a significant part of their heritage in their predecessors in those Commando Units which went ashore in Normandy on D-Day, or shortly thereafter.
On behalf of the Royal Marines Museum we'd like to offer Doug Richards a huge thanks for his donation today. Twelve months ago Doug started BMF (British Military Fitness) on the Common in Southsea. Since then he's lost 4 stone and is now says he feels the fittest he's ever been in his life. On 26th March Doug ran his first 10K race and did it in a very impressive time of an hour. Doug presented his cheque to Royal Marine Capt Jonas Salter. .
The Museum has over 250 flags in our collection. These range from modern unit flags to historic flags captured in battle. One of the challenges for us as a museum is to make sure these are cared for so that they can be preserved for future generations.
Textiles are one of the trickier museum objects to store and each flag has to be individually stored based on their needs. If the flag is made of natural fibre we have to consider that they might be eaten by pests such as beetle and moth. Textiles are also vulnerable to fading and weakening of from light. Synthetic materials which are plastic can crumble and go brittle. The size of the flags is also a challenge, with some over 2 metres wide.
Readers of this blog will know the importance of collecting to the Museum. We are constantly building and shaping the collections here to try and represent the history of the Royal Marines.
It’s a highly subjective process. What’s important to one person will not seem as important to another. This can often make acquisition a contentious process. We have a Collecting Policy, which helps guide what we collect, but there are always factors which either open up huge potential areas for collecting and others which limit what we can do.
Napoleon once described England as a ‘Nation of Shopkeepers’
Napoleon once described England as a ‘Nation of Shopkeepers’. The rise of the multiples and ‘Carbon copy High Streets’ might have put paid to that; it does remain true that the Nation seems to be obsessed with shopping. Of course it’s not always buying in shops, it’s also on-line, not only in the conventional sense, but on-line auctions too.
The traditional auction is still very much alive as well, bolstered in recent years by access to catalogues, which most auctioneers are presenting through web sites which enable potential buyers to view items in which they are interested, in auction houses all over Britain and abroad.
The Museum has used auctions to acquire material for its’ collections since it was first formed; indeed before the Museum even existed Officers of the Royal Marines purchased medals at auction which they would present to their Mess Collections.
A military museum is an oddity in the fact it goes around collecting well used objects. Our curators often turn their noses up at items taking straight out of the military stores which have only seen the inside of a factory. Instead what we really love are objects that have had a life of their own. When visitors walk round our museum they usually aren’t there to look at the aesthetics of uniforms and objects, instead they want to uncover the personal stories behind the objects.
The Royal Marines keep making history, meaning we have to keep up to date not only with our collecting, but updating our displays. We installed our Afghanistan displays in our galleries last year, but they are already looking out of date, thanks to new Multi-Pattern Terrain (MTP) camouflage the Royal Marines now wear. This means a project is underway to update the Afghanistan gallery in the Mueum
On 3rd April 1945 in the Battle of Comacchio, Cpl Tom Hunter of 43 RM Commando's was killed, yet for his actions attracting enemy fire away from his troop he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. At twenty-one, he was the youngest Royal Marine to earn the medal. His medal group is on display at the Museum.
The Museum receives a large volume of enquiries every year in relation to matters relating to the Royal Marines. One has just been answered from someone who has just purchased a Second World War Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery
This morning I spent time going round the galleries changing batteries. Not really the job you’d expect curators to be doing, but its all part of looking after the objects in our care.
We have small telemetric boxes located around the museum galleries and stores which send a signal to a computer giving us readings of the temperature and relative humidity in that location. These readings are really important for us to monitor what is going on in the galleries and prevent damage.
One of the daily tasks undertaken in the Museum is the recording of information relating to our collections. It is of course extremely important that we know what we’ve got, where it is, and record as much information as possible about an item as we can.
There is a catch of course. We have to make sure that the way we record all of this information is consistent, enabling things to be found. For example do we record objects from the Second World War as that or ‘WW2’, or ‘World War 2’ ?
The Royal Marines have a long tradition of remembering their fallen comrades by holding kit sales in their memory. The Marines sell off the kit and uniform belonging to the Royal Marines who has been killed and give the proceeds to his family.
We’ve recently been donated two jungle green shirts and a holdall belonging to Corporal Joe Hind who was killed in action at Sarawak, 1964 during the Borneo conflict. Marine Brian Davison purchased the objects at Cpl Hind’s kit sale. Cpl Hind was one of the fifteen Royal Marines killed in the conflict.