HMS Hercules and the Blitz

HMS Hercules model, Imperial War Museum Great War galleries, London. The model is the large grey vessel on the diagonal. (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

HMS Hercules model, Imperial War Museum Great War galleries, London.
The model is the large grey vessel on the diagonal.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

WWI Exhibition with WW2 Story

In December 2015 I made my way through the new First World War galleries at the Imperial War Museum, London. At the time, I was ingrained with all that was new to see. However after my wander, I felt I preferred the earlier exhibit to this one but…after a few visits I realized that this new exhibit held the visitors for some while. Many of these interested persons likely came to visit because of the Great War centenaries and I recognized many were unlikely to be students of the conflict. These visitors were here, at the IWM Great War, because their parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and so on has been there…wherever they served. They knew their own family stories…they came here for additional context and to share their remembrances of their families in times of conflict. It was wrong for me to impose any interpretation above this. The exhibit was for those that served and those who remembered them.

As one walks up the ramp into the gallery I saw some model ships on exhibit below the explanatory video that plays on the glass.  One of these models is of HMS Hercules which, until 2024, I had not realized…that the model…had been a victim of the London Blitz. Originally this scaled down version of the actual ship was first exhibited in 1936 in the Naval Gallery of the Imperial War Museum. On 31 January 1941 the model was considerably damaged when the gallery suffered a direct hit from a German bomb. The gallery was ruined but the Hercules in its blitzed state was retained.

Of the Naval Gallery’s artifacts, several ship’s badges were later found outside with the surrounding park of the IWM as well as on the building’s rooftop. Much of the Hercules ship model required repair as its showcase was destroyed and the subsequent flying debris taking its toll on the model. In 2010 the Imperial War Museum decided to restore the model which is now in the first exhibition gallery in the Great War Gallery. I should also like to learn the identity of the ship’s badges that suffered at the same time. Perhaps I will make an enquiry?

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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