Sailor Hensley introduces Sultan shipmates to black pioneers through history

Topic: PeopleRemembrance Storyline: Remembrance

Marine engineer Hensley Lewis is introducing shipmates at HMS Sultan to the rich contribution of black people to society and the Royal Navy.

And the senior rating is also using Black History Month to explain to colleagues at the Gosport training establishment how Britain’s Navy played a key role in putting an end to the slave trade in the 19th Century.

Chief Petty Officer Lewis started his educational drive with a display highlighting some of the contributions black people have made to the world and UK, and encouraged personnel to consider the historical achievements of black inventors, with inventions including gas masks, traffic lights, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems amongst the many items on display.

In 20 years’ service in the Royal Navy, Hensley has served in aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious and Invincible, the three first-generation River-class patrol ships HMS Severn, Mersey, Tyne and minehunters HMS Cattistock and Brocklesby, where he was the Damage Control Electrical Officer responsible for looking after the generators and maintaining power for the tasks that the ships required.

He says his work celebrating Black History Month had been eye-opening.

“Most of the inventions that are on display I never knew about and was very impressed to learn about the things black people have contributed to society,” he explained.

“What really got to me with Black History Month was learning about how the Royal Navy had contributed towards the abolition of slavery, such as HMS Daphne and a task group set up off the coast of Africa to intercept any ship dealing in the trade of slaves and to free the people. Where we are today is much better.

“One of the things I really like about the Royal Navy is its zero-tolerance approach to racism and that it encourages anyone to speak up and report it. I’m proud to be part of an organization which encourage you to look past the colour of your skin and to help honour the past and inspire the future of black history.”

Sultan’s Commanding Officer Captain John Voyce said Hensley had “created a fantastic exhibition and briefing on Black History which will educate both trainee engineers and staff alike within the establishment. I am grateful to him for providing such an excellent opportunity to reflect on Black British achievements and mark their accomplishments throughout history. We are proud to be part of this national celebration of Black History.”

One of the things I really like about the Royal Navy is its zero-tolerance approach to racism and that it encourages anyone to speak up and report it. I’m proud to be part of an organization which encourage you to look past the colour of your skin and to help honour the past and inspire the future of black history.

Chief Petty Officer Lewis