CALL FOR PAPERS – The State of Maritime History Research

CALL FOR PAPERS

University of Greenwich, 9 September 2017

Over the past few decades there has been significant debate as to the place and shape of maritime history. In January 2008, the Council of the American Historical Association approved unanimously to add ‘Maritime, including Naval’ to its taxonomy of academic specialties. But since then, it has been suggested that the field has been marginalised.  Or does the growth of new areas of interest – such as the study of port towns, the ‘Atlantic World,’ Coastal History, and the role of gender in maritime history – suggest a flourishing, if more diverse, environment? What is the state of health in other research-orientated maritime activities such as public history and heritage?

The Greenwich Maritime Centre and the Society for Nautical Research are excited to announce a major conference to be held at the University of Greenwich to consider these questions. The conference will bring together key contributors from within the broad field of maritime history, as well as those who write on maritime and coastal topics, but do not consider themselves maritime historians. Papers and key discussion points will be published in hard copy and/or online by the Society of Nautical Research.

Proposals are invited for papers on any of the following aspects, or on other related and relevant themes. The principal criterion for acceptance will be the extent to which a paper provides a broad overview of the current situation in a specific field, and of the prospects for the future, rather than narrow, descriptive accounts of a particular period of history or historic ship (to give two examples).

  • The study of maritime history in the university and school sectors
  • The state of maritime research in particular geographical regions and countries
  • The state of particular sub-disciplines within maritime history and research, e.g. naval history, nautical archaeology, port towns, coastal studies
  • The health of the maritime museums sector, and current and future challenges for it
  • The state of the historic ships and craft sector
  • ‘Sea blindness’: fact or fiction?

Proposals of 500 words, together with a short biography of no more than 150 words, should be submitted by 1 June 2017  to  https://tinyurl.com/SNRConference2017

NB: There will be a nominal fee of £25 for the conference. Please book  at  https://maritimeresearch.eventbrite.co.uk/, registration will open on 1 June 2017.

Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta

Last week saw the arrival of the Tall Ships festival in Greenwich. The University of Greenwich hosted a stand at the festival, held within our campus at the Old Royal Naval College, and here are a few photographs.

You can find out more information about the Tall Ships Festival here.

Dr Cathryn Pearce working with National Maritime Charity to Shed Light on Shipwreck Survivors.

Dr Cathryn Pearce

A major research project has been launched into the 175 year history of national charity the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society.

Dr Cathryn Pearce, Research Fellow in the Lifesaving and Shipwreck Group at the University of Greenwich has begun an eight month project looking into the history of the Society as part of a planned investigation into lifesaving and coastal communities around Britain between 1700 and 1914.

Commodore Malcolm Williams, Chief Executive of the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, said he is delighted that Cathryn is taking the time to go through the archives to shed further light on the historical work of the Society.

Malcolm explains: “Losses from shipwrecks in the 19th Century were staggering. In 1859 – a particularly bad year – 1,416 British owned merchant ships and fishing vessels were lost around Britain’s coast and with them 1,645 lives. In 1882, a more typical year, only 445 vessels were lost! Typically in the middle years of the 19th century the Society would be helping 12-13,000 people every year, including 8,000 widows, orphans and aged parents and 4,000 seafarers.

“Fortunately the Society doesn’t deal with shipwrecks on the scale it used to but our work remains as important, providing financial support to those in need, albeit in a much changed world. While our name is now more of a metaphor for what we do sadly we still deal with losses at sea, usually of single-manned fishing vessels”.

Dr Pearce said the idea for the project came out of her doctoral research, which was ultimately published in 2010 as ‘Cornish Wrecking, 1700-1860: Reality and Popular Myth’.

On the project, she commented: “After the research I began to ask questions about lifesaving and communities, such as what happened to the victims and how were they cared for? How did those communities cope with shipwreck victims who landed on their shores and the loss of their own menfolk? And what was the role of the charities, as opposed to that of the Coastguard and other governmental agencies?”

This led Dr Pearce to the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, which was founded in 1839. The Society provided financial assistance to the widows and families of fishermen and mariners who were lost at sea while for survivors it offered clothing, food, accommodation and paid for travel home.

She continued: “Initial research is bringing to light the sheer number of shipwrecks that occurred yearly on Britain’s shores in the 19th century and the need for assistance that ensued. In 1860 alone, for example, the Society helped 7,247 shipwreck victims, both British and from overseas. The Charity’s impressive history highlights the importance of public giving, philanthropy and humanitarianism that began in the nineteenth century and which continues to this day.”

Dr Pearce will be sharing her research with fellow academics, the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society and local historians, as well as with the general public, in the hope that it will raise even more awareness of the Society’s work both today and in the past.

The research into the Society’s archives is being funded by Greenwich University, with a view to securing additional funding from the Art and Humanities Research Council for the larger project.

Nowadays, the Society’s primary purpose is providing financial support to retired seafarers struggling to make ends meet or who are of working age but unable to work due to ill health, an accident or for compassionate reasons. Last year, the Charity helped in over 2,200 cases of need amounting to an expenditure of £1.4 million. It received over 600 new applications for assistance.

Article Source 

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The Shipwreck, Turner, 1805 – source

HMS Bulwark The Edwardian Battleship that exploded at Sheerness 26/11/1914. Why? Can anyone help? by Trevor Ware

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 As a result of helping research and write a book commemorating eleven men on our Church War Memorial who died in World War 1, www.theunforgotten.net , I discovered tragic and suspect evidence surrounding the explosion on board H.M.S. Bulwark with the loss of 51 officers and 740 other ranks. As I studied this evidence and the conclusions from both the Court of Enquiry and research published by Stuart R. Ball,  Mariners Mirror Vol. 72 Issue 2 1986 ‘ Life and Death of an Edwardian Battleship – A case study of HMS Bulwark’, the cause of the explosion and the death of so many trained and experienced seamen suggested to me that the Admiralty were either misled or else chose to deliberately disguise the true reasons. Since my research also uncovered ammunition explosions on board Royal Naval capital ships during the first world war, HMS Queen Mary, HMS Invincible, HMS Defence at Jutland and HMS Vanguard and HMS Glatton at Scapa Flow and Dover respectively, I decided to interrogate findings from the Bulwark enquiry to see whether common factors existed.

 

The Bulwark disaster see Conclusions of Court of Enquiry, 28 November 1914, PRO ADM 116/1370 found that the storage of ammunition in the cross passages of the battleship,which was not against regulations, had created conditions for a chain reaction when cordite packages ignited. The cross passages used for moving ammunition from the magazine hoists up to the gun turrets had no protective fire doors. The dead gunnery officers were blamed for allowing the cordite packages to be kept in the passages near to bulkheads heated up by adjacent boiler rooms. The cordite, becoming unstable and producing a volatile gas was then ignited by a spark off a shell case or some other metal object. The preliminary explosion leading back immediately into the main magazine.

 

The initial report of the Court of Enquiry proposed that the explosion started in the main magazine but Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, rejected its findings. The final report pinned the blame directly on the actions of the ships crew and gunnery officers apparently discounting the fact that a high proportion of Bulwark’s ammunition, only taken on board between May and July 1914, was as much as 14 years old. The predicted life of this type of 6 ” and 12” ordnance was 30 years but only under certain conditions especially a stable temperature. The details of the shells supplied to HMS Bulwark from Lodge Hill  (1914) is given in  David Evans. Arming the Fleet. The development of the Royal Ordnance Yards. 1770 – 1945. English Heritage 2006.  Evans comments that ‘all previous tests were of necessity only conducted on random samples and could not guard against the possibility of a poorly manufactured batch against the rest’. Some of the randomly tested samples of the ammunition taken by Bulwark was under the 10 minute limit test which was used to establish remaining life. These were retested. The findings then showed that even these samples had ‘adequate’ future life and were thought to be ‘satisfactory’.The age of the ordnance and the imperfect methods of establishing safe life as well as the probable inconsistencies caused by supply from different ordnance  factories (6) makes a suspicion quite reasonable that some proportion of the ammunition was unstable before it was even loaded onto the ship. The shortage of ammunition for both the Army and the Navy during the opening months of the war surely meant that some batches even when considered dubious, would have been passed through the system if possible.

 

The blame for the accident could be placed on the crew of Bulwark without raising difficult questions about ordnance manufacture and current methods of testing and  handling cordite in particular. The findings of the Court of Enquiry were not released to the public and were embargoed for 60 years. This suggests that the Admiralty wished to avoid debate or criticism of their munitioning practices. After the Battle of Dogger Bank in 1915 the protection of magazines and the safe handling of ammunition on Royal Naval battlecruisers had still not been addressed although on the German  High Seas Fleet, due to the damage to the Seydlitz and the loss of the Blucher partly from ammunition explosions, an overhaul of routine handling practices and the fitting of fire doors between hoists and magazines was instigated..  See Kennedy Hickman. World War 1 ; Battle of the Dogger Bank (1915).http:// militaryhistory.about.com. It is arguable that had the British fleet also taken the same steps it would have suffered fewer losses amongst the battlefleet at Jutland one year later.

 

If the supply of poor quality and unstable cordite to Bulwark was a major contributor to the disaster how many other ships were exposed to a similar risk? As the storage of ammunition below decks in the cross corridors often close to bulkheads adjoining boiler rooms prevailed and the laborious routine checking of all cordite ‘packages’ on board overlooked, the results, both at Jutland and in other fleet actions even at Coronel later in 1914, was seriously prejudiced from the outset.

 

I am anxious to find advice from historians who have studied ammunition supply to the Navy in World War 1 and the Royal Ordnance controls over cordite quality and stability. Also the procedures for checking shells and cordite on board Royal Naval ships in the first 3 years of the war.

 

I contacted Guy Sclater R.N. Ret’d the grandson of Captain Sclater who was in command of the Bulwark when she exploded. He explained that his late mother could never talk about the tragedy or the death of her husband, although he felt certain that she considered the verdict of the 1914 Court of Enquiry unfair. For his sake and the relatives of the other officers and men blamed for the accident I would like to establish substantial evidence of the munitioning supply problems at the start of the war and the impact these might have had on the naval engagements that followed.  My e mail address is,

Trevor.Ware@btconnect.com

 

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The Greenwich Forum announces winner of Undergraduate prize 2014

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The Greenwich Forum would like to offer their congratulations to University of Cardiff student Lucy Taylor, the winner of the Undergraduate Prize 2014.

This prize was set up by The Greenwich Forum to encourage students to pursue current maritime/marine questions in their degree work, in whatever discipline, and to reward the best of that work, the Forum has established an annual prize of £500 for the best undergraduate final year project/dissertation.

The panel of judges had the hard job of selecting the best undergraduate dissertation which has been awarded a First Class mark.

There were 8 excellent nominations for students at Cardiff, Greenwich, Hull, King’s College London, Newcastle and Southampton.

The prize was awarded to Lucy for the outstanding undergraduate dissertation entitled ‘An assessment of the relationship between Posidonia oceanica morphology and the invasive Caulerpa racemosa in the eastern Aegean’.

The deadline for applicant submission for the next annual prize is 1st August 2015 and The Greenwich Forum looks forward to seeing entries from further topics.

Click Here to find out more about The Greenwich Forum

 

Calling all New Researchers in Maritime History

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new researchers

The twenty-second New Researchers in Maritime History Conference will be hosted by the University
of Greenwich in the historic Old Royal Naval College. The conference provides a unique opportunity
for emerging scholars to present their work to a supportive audience in one of the world’s most
iconic maritime settings.

Applications to present will be accepted from both research degree students and by independent
scholars. The organisers welcome contributions that address all aspects of maritime history.

Paper Proposals

Those wishing to offer a paper should please complete the from http://tinyurl.com/qglnfg5.  The deadline is 12th January 2015.

Delegate Registration

Anyone interested in attending the conference without presenting a paper is warmly invited to register via our booking site . http://newresearchersmaritimehistory2015.eventbrite.co.uk

Registration Information

The registration fee includes a welcome reception including keynote address on the Friday evening;
lunch and refreshments throughout the day on the Saturday plus conference materials.

£35 standard fee; £30 student fee; presenters attend for free.

Contact the conference secretariat at: +44 (0)20 8331 7612 or maritimehistory@gre.ac.uk

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