27 September 2012
Year 5 ventured to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard as part of our historical study of Nelson’s navy. The weather was kind and the pace of the day frenetic. The tour around HMS Victory was superb and to stand in the very spot where Nelson was shot provoked many questions from why he wore his full Vice Admiral uniform to how long it took him to die. Following this rather gruesome trend, the Orlop which boasted a full array of primitive surgical instruments, proved as popular as ever and the boys were delighted to be able to distinguish the saw used to amputate a leg from that used to cut off an arm. We may well have some budding surgeons in our midst.
As part of our workshop on the life of young boys in the Georgian navy, the boys explored an array of artefacts used by the affluent Midshipmen and the less fortunate ship’s boys. The latter spending much of their time scrubbing decks, washing clothes in urine and emptying the tobacco infused saliva from the ‘spit kid’ buckets. Not a vocation any of our boys felt was for them!
A visit to the original sail cloth, complete with battle scars from HMS Victory, was made all the more poignant with the film shown which depicted ship life in October 1805. Napoleon ruled Europe and the only thing that stood between him and England was the navy. The boys were captivated by the filmed re-enactment of the Battle of Trafalgar – so much so that some groups stayed to watch it twice.
The museum taught us more about Nelson’s personal life and the boys enjoyed tracing over his signature and admiring replica medals and uniforms.
We also managed to squeeze in some sketching and, of course, a trip to the shop. The boys behaved beautifully and they were justifiably proud to receive an array of comments to this effect both from the Dockyard staff and from tourists.
A superb day that will fuel our historical studies and investigations over the coming months.