HMS Collingwood Heritage Collection throws open its doors

Members of the public have been given rare access to HMS Collingwood’s collection of radio, sonar, navigation and radar equipment during a Heritage Open Day visit.

Small groups of visitors were shown around the collection which houses equipment and instruments taken from ships and establishments across the fleet, alongside many other interesting artefacts.

The history of the objects was brought to life for the visitors by Honorary Curator of the Collection, Clive Kidd.

The Collection originated in a building near the Base piggeries in 1953 but now, situated over two floors in Marlborough Building, it boasts 1800 different items and over 2000 photographs, together with approximately 500 linear feet of archive material including system handbooks and pamphlets.

Equipment in the Collection spans the earliest years of military communication from the 1880s when it was discovered that ships could not discern approaching allied torpedo boats from enemy ones, to modern communication systems.

It was a fantastic tour, really interesting. I knew about a lot of this kit but had no idea before today how any of it worked or what it actually did

Neil Spurgeon, visitor

They tell the story of the development of radio, sonar and also radar systems which, in the late 1930s, increased the range an observer could spot aircraft from approximately 6 miles to 70 miles.

The artefacts have been acquired through various means; some are redundant pieces of teaching equipment, others were donations from the private collections of deceased enthusiasts and some were acquired through close liaison with other MOD staff.

Clive and his team have travelled extensively rescuing various pieces of equipment that would otherwise be dumped or destroyed.

These artefacts still have much to teach interested civilians and today’s sailors alike, not to mention bringing back fond memories for ex-sailors of all ages.   

One of the visitors Neil Spurgeon, an ex-Chief Communications Yeoman trained Officers from Saudi Arabia through his work at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

He said, “I’ve been trying to get on this tour for years because it fills up so quickly but I finally managed it. It was a fantastic tour, really interesting. I knew about a lot of this kit but had no idea before today how any of it worked or what it actually did.”

Marilyn Lewis also enjoyed her visit to the Base. She said, “My husband wanted to come and I wanted to know what he’d be talking about when he came home so I thought I’d come along too. I didn’t think it was going to be my thing really, but it’s been really interesting.”

The Curator of the Heritage Collection welcomes donations of old and unusual documents and equipment relating to Naval Weapons Systems.

The Collection can be viewed by interested civilians by prior arrangement and by serving personnel whenever the building is open, providing a valuable teaching aid for all levels of staff. 

The Collection also opens to the public during HMS Collingwood’s Open Day in June.