Exhibition lifts lid on navy’s role at Gallipoli

Gallipoli: Myth and Memory is a brand new exhibition at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.''Picture: Sarah Standing (150597-3221)
Gallipoli: Myth and Memory is a brand new exhibition at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.''Picture: Sarah Standing (150597-3221)
HMS Duncan has returned to Portsmouth after spending three months in the Mediterranean Picture:  L/Phot Louise George

HMS Duncan returns to Portsmouth after three months away at sea

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IT’S often seen as a desperate struggle by a handful of hardy Anzacs against the might of the Ottoman Empire, ordered by bumbling British brass who sat well clear of the action.

Now an exhibition at Portsmouth’s National Museum of the Royal Navy is seeking to challenge public perception of the Gallipoli campaign.

The fighting that took place on the Turkish peninsula in the First World War is the subject of Gallipoli: Myth and Memory, which has opened to mark the centenary of the conflict.

Museum strategic development executive Nick Hewitt said: ‘The exhibition is designed to put the Royal Navy back at the heart of the Gallipoli story. The importance of the navy’s contribution from Royal Marines, the submarine service, the Royal Naval Air Service and the surface fleet is too often overlooked by history.

‘We also try to explain why on earth Britain is at war with Turkey in the first place, which might seem illogical for a modern audience.’

Mr Hewitt said despite the myths surrounding the campaign, Gallipoli was an operation planned, and executed by British, French and Anzac commanders working in coalition. As well as telling the story of the conflict, the exhibition showcases items including diaries, models, uniforms and guns.

There is a half-destroyed periscope, a collection of chits for water collection and a ship’s anchor, and every object tells a story.

Mr Hewitt said: ‘This is the first exhibition we’ve done where we have been able to draw on resources from all five of the Royal Navy museums, which is exciting.’

The exhibition will coincide with the opening of gunship M33 to the public on August 6. The vessel is the only remaining ship that took part in the Gallipoli campaign and is being refurbished in a drydock at the dockyard.

Museum spokeswoman Jacquie Shaw said the exhibition was made up of more than 80 objects. She said: ‘The first thing people think about the First World War is that it was a trench war, but as this demonstrates it was worldwide conflict with a significant role played by the Royal Navy.’ The exhibition runs until January.