Telling their Stories – An Exhibition on the Arctic Convoys of WW2

“Our ship had either hit mines, been torpedoed or both. I don’t remember how it happened, but I ended up in the water. I couldn’t swim but I had my life jacket on, and it kept me afloat. I kept thinking I was going to die… men died quickly in the water.”Stanley McKessock (Veteran of the Arctic Convoys)Stanley McKessock was only 18 years old when he was drafted into the Royal Navy as a gunner in 1941. Originally an army recruit, Stanley decided to switch to the Royal Navy and serve o...
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Meet the Team – Justin

Q1 – Can you introduce yourself?“I’m Justin and I build and restore the ship models on HMS Unicorn."Q2 – How did you get involved with the ship?“I got involved back in 1996 through the Department for Work and Pensions to help research an exhibition commemorating the Battle of Camperdown (1797) … and I have been helping ever since.”Q3 – How do you help on the ship?“My main responsibility is to look after the historic collection of models on HMS Unicorn and to construct ne...
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S.V. Lawhill: A Dundonian ‘Windjammer’

side viewOn Wednesday 24th August 1892 a brand-new ship slid effortlessly down the slip-ways of the ‘Caledon Shipbuilding and Engineering Co.’ yard of Messrs. W.B. Thompson & Co, Dundee (around 250 yds. From HMS Unicorn’s present berth). Her build designation was ‘steel sailer no.112’. She was a steel hulled, four masted barque and named Lawhill – after the 571 ft. hill which dominates Dundee’s skyline.She was of 6,400 tonnes displacement, 382 ft (116.4m) in length overall, 45ft (13...
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Meet the Team – Nicola

Q1 – Can you introduce yourself?“Hi, my name is Nicola and I help with learning activities on HMS Unicorn.”Q2 – How did you get involved with the ship?“My sister started volunteering on HMS Unicorn a few years ago and she really enjoyed it and so encouraged me to get involved as well. It was a perfect fit as I was interested in gaining more experience with learning and education in a museum environment.”Q3 – How do you help on the ship?“When it comes to learning, I help ...
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Brand New for Christmas – The HMS Unicorn Guidebook

A new guidebook for HMS Unicorn has just been released in time for Christmas.At 195 years young, the ship is one of the oldest warships still afloat in the world and continues to be a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.Thanks to our great team of volunteers, HMS Unicorn has got a brand-new guidebook for Christmas 2019. Our volunteers have been working hard over the past 6 months with writing, designing and illustrating the publication, which will be the perfect s...
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Meet the Team – Rhys

Q1 – Can you introduce yourself?“Hi. My name is Rhys and I help with photography on HMS Unicorn.”Q2 – How did you get involved with the ship?“I heard about volunteering on the ship through the Employment Unit in Dundee. They knew I was fascinated by ships, aircraft and other types of transport so it was a perfect match. I also help with photography at the Dundee Museum of Transport.”Q3 – How do you help on the ship?“I mainly focus on photographing the historic collection...
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Remembrance Day on board HMS Unicorn

For almost a century, HMS Unicorn served her country as the Drill Ship for the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in Dundee, and during both World Wars was used as the Headquarters of the Senior Naval Officer. The Naval Reserves played a great part in both wars, and the War Memorial on the Upper Deck commemorates those of HMS Unicorn’s company who went to war and did not return.The first memorial was unveiled on Saturday 4th May 1924 by Commodore the Marquis of Gr...
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Meet the Team – Louise

Q1 – Can you introduce yourself?“My name is Louise and I help with social media and online engagement.”Q2 – How did you get involved with the ship?“I started in November 2018 and was looking to gain more experience in museums and historic sites. I was particularly interested in places which related to the history of the World Wars and Unicorn has some amazing stories from both conflicts.”Q3 – How do you help on the ship?“I write lots of the social media and blog pos...
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The Duncan Guns

The Duncan Guns are a selection of weapons currently on display at HMS Unicorn, that belonged to Admiral Adam Duncan, Dundee’s famous naval hero of the Battle of Camperdown (11 October 1797). The collection consists of two 4-pound and two 6-pound bronze cannons which were originally held at Camperdown House; the Duncan family home. After conducting some new collection-based research, we have been able to uncover fascinating insights into the cannons, revealing secrets about their origins an...
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Meet the Team: David

Q1 – Can you introduce yourself?“My name is David and I help to do maintenance on HMS Unicorn.”Q2 – How did you get involved with the ship?“I found out about volunteering on the ship through The Inclusion Group in Dundee. I started helping out on the ship in 2014 and have kept helping out ever since.”Q3 – How do you help on the ship?“I help with in lots of maintenance areas around the ship such as clearing, tidying, constructing units, woodworking (particularly san...
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The Siege of Antwerp

105 years ago, on the 28th September 1914, the Siege of Antwerp began. It was a massive victory for the German Army during World War I as Antwerp was - and still is - the most important port in Belgium.On the night of the 27th September the German troops, led by General Alexander von Kluck, launched an artillery bombardment in the southern sector of the outer ring of fortifications which protected the city. They fired over 160 heavy guns, including four 42cm (16.2”) howitzers. The British...
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Meet the Team – Bob

Q1 – Can you introduce yourself? “My name is Bob and I help with guiding and cleaning on HMS Unicorn.”Q2 – How did you get involved with the ship? “I have always been interested in ships and I saw an advert in the local paper looking for volunteers to join the team at HMS Unicorn. That was back in 1984 so I guess I have been with the ship for 35 years… Can’t believe it’s been as long as that!”Q3 – How do you help on the ship? “Well I do guiding and cleaning. I love doing the guidi...
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Navy Blue: Uniforms of the Royal Navy

Why do we wear uniforms? It’s not just a naval thing. Wearing uniform is something all organised bodies have in common. It serves to identify our place and our rank – which organisation we belong to, and where we belong in that organisation. Donning a uniform also shows that we are playing a role or performing a function; we put on a suit to go to the office, or a high viz vest to work on a construction site, but when we are off duty we probably wear something rather different. In short, unifor...
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Black Tot Day

#OnThisDay in 1970 the Royal Navy stopped its daily rum ration, also known as the daily tot, and the 31st July has been known since as Black Tot Day. To commemorate this historic moment, we have a free rum tasting and tour today at 11.30am. Learn more about maritime history and have a wee tot!The tradition of a daily rum ration began in 1655, when Jamaica was taken from the Spanish and rum became a staple on Royal Navy ships. It was implemented initially to boost crew morale and maintain hi...
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Harold Wyllie

On this day in 1880, artist Harold Wyllie was born. A renowned marine artist, he painted in oil and water colour as well as etching and sculpture, with work exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of Marine Artists. His images of HMS Unicorn are available in the shop as postcards.The cabin doors found on the gun deck were donated by Wyllie for the HMS Unicorn museum.Wyllie was the eldest of 9 children born to artist William Lionel Wyllie (known as W.L Wyllie, 1851 –1931) and Ma...
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Training Ship Mars

Launched in Chatham Dockyard on the 1st July 1848, HMS Mars was an 80-gun, four deck man-of-war. In the 1850s she was a supplier in the Crimean War (1855 – 1856), and later became a screw steamer commanded by Captain James Newburgh Strange R.N in 1859. On the 17th August 1869 HMS Mars was lent for use as a training ship and was moored in the River Tay at Woodhaven harbour, Fife.1. Training Ship Mars (c) Dundee Central LibraryThe idea of HMS Mars as a training ship grew from the Ragged S...
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Volunteers Week at HMS Unicorn

This week (1st – 7th June) has been Volunteers’ Week: a chance to celebrate the contribution made by volunteers across the country. Here at HMS Unicorn there are over 30 volunteers on board in a range of roles; from maintenance to photography (to even writing these blog posts!) All play an important role in keeping HMS Unicorn open. Here are only a few of the amazing people on the ship.1. Model of HMS Unicorn (c) Rhys BoyleRhys Boyle does photography on board.  'What I enjoy about the U...
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Design Blog: Gun Manufacturing

Cast cannon (Fig. 1) such as those which would have formed the main broadside battery for Unicorn  were manufactured is a series of stages as follows (see: www.wrexham.gov.uk/english/heritage/bersham_ironworks/jw_wales_wider_world.htm & www.wrexham.gov.uk/english/heritage/bersham_ironworks/boring_for_britain.htmFigure 1. CannonA sand mould would be created from a wooden pattern and lowered into the casting pit alongside the furnace.Once all the moulds were in place, the furnace...
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The People VS Jack The Ripper

William Henry Bury, the last man hanged in Dundee, was on trial again as part of the talk ‘People Vs Jack the Ripper’, hosted by ex-investigative reporter Michael Mulford as part of Crime and Dundee upon HMS Unicorn.Bury, a sawdust merchant, was hanged for the murder of his wife Ellen Elliot on the 5th February 1889. The Times, published on 29th March that same year, wrote about the trial: ‘(Bury) was often drunk; and was always demanding money from the deceased. He ill-treated her (…) Other wi...
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Accessioning HMS Unicorn’s Collections

Documentation is an inalienable part of museum work, and is crucial in the management of at-risk items, collection-based research, collaboration between museums and the fulfilment of the Museum Accreditation criteria. No collection can be researched if the information accompanying its objects cannot be accessed, nor can a temporary exhibition be planned if no documentation is available to identify the contents. According to Carl Guthe, author of ‘The Management of Small History Museums’ (1994),...
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