Marines launch £5m fundraising drive for new museum

Royal Marines need up to £5m of your money to fulfil their dream of opening a new museum in Portsmouth.

For three years the story of the elite naval infantry – who trace their illustrious history back to 1664 – has gone untold as their old museum in Portsmouth closed... in preparation for a new one opening in the city’s historic dockyard.

They were counting on a handout from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help with the £10m cost of the move – but 18 months ago the bid for lottery cash was rejected, leaving the museum in limbo.

Museum bosses hope to pay for the majority of the move by selling the former museum building at Eastney – plus a second, hopefully-successful for lottery funding.

But that still leaves them at least £1.1m short (or £5m short if the lottery application fails a second time) - prompting the big push for donations.

Marines past and present have lent their support to the fundraising drive, including Afghanistan veteran Mark Ormrod, now a motivational speaker/life coach/athlete/author and charity fundraiser after losing both legs and his right arm to an improvised explosive device a decade ago.

He wants the public “to celebrate, commemorate and also enjoy our prestigious history. There are so many stories which need to be told, not only to honour those Royal Marines who’ve gone before us, but also to inspire the Royal Marines of the future.”

The museum closed in April 2017 as the 150-year-old building was no longer suitable for displaying the Corps’ vast historical collection - more than two million artefacts going back to the birth of the marines more than 350 years ago - maintenance was proving prohibitively expensive and it could not properly accommodate people with disabilities.

We want to create a museum fit for modern audiences something that is really vibrant, that engages people, not just a ‘regimental museum with display cases

Simon Williams

On top of that, the location of the former officers’ mess in Eastney meant the museum pulled in fewer than 40,000 visitors every year... whereas tourist numbers in the historic dockyard have doubled in the past decade to nearly one million.

The plan is to take over Boathouse No.6 overlooking the Mast Pond, and replace the Action Stations exhibit which has been housed there for 20 years, although the iconic Yomper statue in front of the site and the Royal Marines’ memorial garden will remain in place and continue to be maintained.

A five-strong team of experts is cataloguing, scanning, assessing the condition and finally safely storing everything from the smallest medal to cannon.

But the broader move is on hold until the funding gap can be plugged.

In addition, the new museum - like the old one - will serve as a venue for reunions and commemorations, plus performances by the RM Band Service.

“We also want to use the cinema/auditorium for functions, we want the boathouse to host functions, school visits and activities, to use the building as a community hub,” explained Mr Williams, heading the fundraising drive for the National Museum of the Royal Navy - the parent organisation for the Senior Service’s four principal museums.

The fundraising is aimed both at corporate sponsors, trusts and foundations as well as individual donors; one initiative is to encourage people to ‘adopt’ objects in the collection - an idea similar to crowdfunding whereby lots of small donations help towards a much larger goal.

“This year marks the 80th anniversary of the first commandos forming - today’s Royal Marines inherited their legacy - so this is the right time to get the marines’ story back out there,” Mr Williams added.

“There is so much to learn from the Royal Marines - their spirit, their ethos, their approach to life.”

If the fundraising and lottery bid prove successful - the museum will learn this spring if it has cleared the first hurdle, resulting in a more detailed application being submitted - work can begin converting the boathouse next year with a goal of opening the new museum in early 2022.

Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/campaign/newroyalmarinesmuseum and you can learn more about the new museum at www.newroyalmarinesmuseum.co.uk.