Fred, participating in IWM's We Were There programme

9 Questions

  • Where do you call home?

    Home is currently the Isle of Dogs, London.

  • What conflict(s) do you discuss when volunteering for We Were There?

    I discuss my experience of 15 years in the Navy. I didn't join to fight, but for the engineering apprenticeship and adventure – I never fired a shot in anger.

  • How were you involved in that conflict?

    The Cold War was mainly cat and mouse stuff, it was very tense during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was on a destroyer warship in refit in Gibraltar. During the Borneo Crisis, on the same destroyer, we spent 4 weeks with a Gurkha platoon on board, sweeping the small islands of the Celebes for Indonesian insurgents. Possibly, the most stressful time, was when we spent 5 weeks anchored in the Maldives protecting the British Representative from angry locals.

  • How long have you been volunteering for WWT?

    I have been volunteering with the HMS Belfast Conservation Team for 6 years, and volunteering with the We Were There programme for 2 years.

  • What do you enjoy most about participating in WWT?

    Seeing how much visitors appreciate our service. Most visitor are amazed at how complex and crowded HMS Belfast is, particularly when I explain that with 700 crew on board it's like a small city isolated from the rest of the world – except for the radio when you are at sea. So have to do everything yourself – including fixing anything that breaks. Visitors then begin to understand what a different world it is from ferries and passenger ships.

  • Tell us your favourite moment so far during the sessions?

    I particularly like winding up former soldiers by saying ‘Army gunnery is easy’ and watching them bristle. But when I go into detail of HMS Belfast’s weapon systems they always agree. I had one young man ask me if I used to run around the deck to get exercise! But when I explained that HMS Belfast has 9 decks (i.e. a 9 story block of flats) and the only lifts were for shells and cordite, and that my work could be on any of the 9 decks, so like the rest of the crew, I was going up and down ladders all day – carrying tools and equipment, then he understood why I didn't!

  • What’s your favourite object in IWM’s collections and why?

    Obviously the ship in total is my favourite object in IWM’s collection. I am in my 20s again when I walk over the gangway.

  • What do you like to do in your spare time?

    Reading mainly naval history books, both fact and fiction. I also walk a lot, and volunteering with HMS Belfast and at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich – which I have been doing for the last 15 years. Being dyslexic I am not into films or TV, but prefer factual, documentary programs.

  • What is your favourite biscuit?

    My favourite biscuits are digestives.

Volunteers help bring to life the stories of our collections. Find out more. 

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A volunteer conservator dismantles a 4” gun.

Warship Conservation

HMS Belfast joined the Imperial War Museums collection in 1978, becoming a museum and also the largest item in our collection. As both a historical object and museum its needs are unique and it requires constant conservation work.

HMS Belfast arrives at the pool of London
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HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast at 80

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