Now’s the time to find your sea legs and get down to the Wellington at Temple Stairs. The ship’s latest free exhibition, ‘Abandon Ship! Surviving the Wartime Atlantic’ has opened. It features dramatic accounts of the sinking of two merchant ships by enemy action, and tells how crew members survived.
The first ship, SS Otaki, was sunk by a German surface raider in 1917. Her captain refused to leave his post and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. The second, MV Richmond Castle, was sunk by a German U-boat in 1942; the U-boat captain generously surfaced to give survivors some supplies before departing. Afterwards, a young seaman from Stornoway, Angus Murray, improvised a sail from two blankets and steered one of the ship’s lifeboats for nine days until he and 17 others were rescued.
The exhibition features a vivid, 12-minute film, which explains Britain’s reliance on the merchant navy during the two world wars. It also has recordings of survivors’ stories, a display of their key possessions, and activities for children.
The Wellington itself is a floating treasure. The UK’s only surviving example of a Second World War escort ship, it has been moored on the Thames at Victoria Embankment since 1948. It offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore a vessel of this type and there are fascinating ship models and memorabilia on board.
The current exhibition programme has something for everyone: live performances, family history events, lunchtime talks and evening lectures.
‘Abandon Ship!’ is open until 6 November, Sundays and Mondays only, 1100 to 1700. Full details of the exhibition programme can be found at https://abandonship.blog/