Royal Navy's role during the coronavirus pandemic to be chronicled by national museum

HERITAGE chiefs are seeking to immortalise the experiences of naval families during the coronavirus pandemic to record the crisis for future generations.
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The National Museum of the Royal Navy wants to hear from sailors, Royal Marines and their families about how the pandemic has affected them.

Historians want to chronicle both the Senior Service’s role in the coronavirus crisis – and its impact on everyday naval life.

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Hundreds of sailors and commandos have been activated as part of the Covid support force, running mobile test centres, providing logistical support, assisting British citizens at home and abroad.

Royal Navy personnel from HMS Prince of Wales operate a mobile testing unit in Hampshire. Photo: Royal NavyRoyal Navy personnel from HMS Prince of Wales operate a mobile testing unit in Hampshire. Photo: Royal Navy
Royal Navy personnel from HMS Prince of Wales operate a mobile testing unit in Hampshire. Photo: Royal Navy

Royal Navy doctors and nurses have been on the front lines in hospitals and medical centres, working side-by-side with the NHS to treat the ill.

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While scores of university officer cadets have volunteered in care homes, hospitals or simply delivered shopping to those cut off from the world.

The museum, which has a main base in Portsmouth, wants to capture this experience through a collection of images, videos, documents, art work and artefacts.

The Royal Navy has been providing support across the globe during the coronavirus pandemic and is still operating overseas during the crisis. Photo: Royal NavyThe Royal Navy has been providing support across the globe during the coronavirus pandemic and is still operating overseas during the crisis. Photo: Royal Navy
The Royal Navy has been providing support across the globe during the coronavirus pandemic and is still operating overseas during the crisis. Photo: Royal Navy
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For the first time, the project will also capture the digital responses to the crisis and how the Royal Navy has communicated with the public about its work.

‘Historically museums have captured the experiences of our service personnel through letters, physical, photographs and written documents,’ said Nick Hewitt, the museum’s head of collections and research.

‘We have excellent examples in our collection of the Royal Navy’s effort throughout history to offer support in times of crisis.

‘A twitter feed may be forgotten in 100 years’ time - in a digital age we seek to capture new materials and maximise on the incredible content being created using digital tools.

One Royal Navy sailor dressed in full PPE helping at a hospital. Photo: Royal NavyOne Royal Navy sailor dressed in full PPE helping at a hospital. Photo: Royal Navy
One Royal Navy sailor dressed in full PPE helping at a hospital. Photo: Royal Navy
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‘It is important that researchers can explore our collection and understand what the Royal Navy was doing in 2020. By retaining the content, we can preserve this memory and pay tribute to those who served.’

The museum also wants the wider naval community to support the initiative by visiting their website and registering interest in the project at nmrn.org.uk/covid19-collection

‘Our ambition is to also collect materials from the forces families, charities and support services which represent the shared experience of the Covid-19 period,’ added Nick.

‘We know that beyond our service personnel, extraordinary support networks exist and we would love to be able to collect examples of family memorabilia, messages of support, care packages and so on, which reflects how important this support is.’

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Meanwhile, medical staff from the Institute of Naval Medicine, in Alverstoke, have been bolstering hospitals like Queen Alexandra, in Cosham, during the pandemic.

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