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Coastal forces exhibition is launched

By Connor Steel / Photograph by Naval History Museum

GOSPORT’S popular Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower will unveil a new permanent gallery display to the public today, Saturday, October 9, which has been dedicated to a relatively unknown but crucial division of Coastal Forces across both 20th century world wars.

Entitled ‘The Night Hunters: The Royal Navy’s Coastal Forces at War’, the exhibition is set to tell the story of those who manned the craft used to attack German convoys, carry out military raids and pick up secret agents in mostly overnight operations.

The operation was deemed to be the closest experience to hand-to-hand fighting, The National Museum of the Royal Navy  partnering with Coastal Forces Heritage Trust and Lockheed Martin to fund / develop the exciting new gallery to show this part of history.

The division first saw action in 1916 and continued until being decommissioned in the 1950s, participating in over 900 missions worldwide including the raid on Dieppe, France, in 1942, and D-Day, 1944. Crews had an average age of 21, with highly trained soldiers completing dangerous tasks – the majority paying the ultimate price during their service in the Royal Navy.

Famous names have also completed service inside the Coastal Forces Division including the second Doctor Who star, Patrick Troughton, and future Avenger, Patrick Macnee. The gallery will furthermore pay tribute to Robert Hitchens who died in 1943 after he led successful operations against Germans in the North Sea and English Channel.

OMore than 3,000 gallantry awards were presented to the division for their service, which included four Victoria Crosses. Some of these will feature in the exhibition alongside rare artifacts such as sketches, photographs, and notebooks of the crew. Organisers hope they will capture the intensity and risky nature of the operations through the darkest of times.

Arguably, a highlight will be the centrepiece of two historic boats from the Second World War, the Coastal Motor Boat CMB331 and Motor Torpedo Boat MTB71, making an amazing contribution to naval warfare as they were dubbed ‘Spitfires of the Seas’ by people serving in the Royal Navy. Visitors will also see an audio display that recreates drama and adrenaline of an MTB night attack on a convoy, alongside other features that aim to bring history to life.

Entry to The Night Hunters and Explosion Museum is included in the ticket for Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The joint ticket gives extraordinary access to world-class attractions based across the Portsmouth and Gosport sites including the Royal Navy Submarine MuseumHMS Victory, the Mary Rose Museum and HMS Warrior.

For further details about tickets, including the Ultimate Explorer Ticket which gives 12-month entry to all attractions, visit www.historicdockyard.co.uk. One day attraction tickets for entry can also be purchased for £24 online for adult; whilst reduced prizes will be available to children, senior and disabled visitors.

Visitors should be aware of the opening times for this exhibition at Explosion Museum, which is only open Wednesdays to Sundays during the regular week. On these four days the exhibition will be available for viewing from 11.30am until 3.30pm, with the building based in Priddy’s Hard area of Gosport.