Rum, Buggery and the Lash

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For Pride Month, I wanted to think about the countless hundreds of unnamed gay and lesbian sailors who lived and worked on board Navy ships in the days before our rights were broadly recognized and respected. I owe them so much as an out and proud American citizen! Their honorable service and their refusal to stay silent anymore contributed heavily to the ultimate court decision that gave us our rights.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Winston Churchill’s quip that British Royal Navy tradition consisted of nothing but “Rum, buggery and the lash”! It appears that Sir Winston himself denied he ever said it, saying when asked about it that “I wish I had said it!” It also appears that the origins of the expression itself are lost in the annals of naval lore.   Read more

Jamestown 1907 Exhibition

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Edward Hungerford Collection, 02506 and 02514

The year 1907 marked the 300th anniversary of the founding of the settlement at Jamestown and a grand exhibition was hosted in Norfolk to mark the occasion. Globe-trotting journalist Edward Hungerford was one of those in attendance and The Mariners’ Museum Library has recently digitized some of his works in our possession about the event.

The Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition ran from April 26 – November 30, 1907. This impressive model city was built at Norfolk’s Pine Beach with the idea to capitalize on the craze in American popular culture at the time for pageantry and have something like a World’s Fair for Hampton Roads. Today Pine Beach is part of Norfolk Naval Base and some of the grounds have since given way to a golf course and other functions for the base. However some original buildings still remain having been re-purposed into the officers’ club and admiral’s quarters.   Read more

The convict ship Success

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Screen grab from “Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World’s Fair at San Francisco,” digitized by Library of Congress

Imagine the cruelty of being trapped on a prison ship to Australia, your sadistic captors torturing you on the rack or lashing you with the cat o’ nine tails as undulating seas heave and pitch. The convict vessel Success was one such ship of horrors… Step Right Up! Pay a fee, and you too can see the show!

If all this sounds a little bit like a huckster trying to get you into a circus sideshow, then you’re right. It is!   Read more

Merrill’s Marauders

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Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation Collection
Kneeling, left to right: Pvt. Frank L. Pruitt, Pvt. Patrick J. Muraco, Pfc. Angelo O. Pomotto. Standing, left to right: Pvt. Fred E. Nalley, Pfc. Joseph J. Colaci, Pvt. Samel J. Rayner.

Counted among the heroes of World War II are a few whose exploits became the stuff of legend, there you will find Merrill’s Marauders. Officially known as the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), but best remembered by their catchy nickname given them by a war correspondent, the unit’s special mission was to unite with Chinese and British allies in Burma, east of India, in order to harass and disrupt the Japanese Army’s offensive.  The conditions in Burma were unbelievably harsh, not only were they out manned and outgunned by the Japanese, but they had to contend with exceptionally rugged terrain and tropical disease.

The six men pictured below were part of the 5307th and survived the brutal Burma Campaign. A Signal Corps photographer shot this photo as the men passed through Hampton Roads on their way home, December 26, 1944. The caption on the print labels them, “suicide outfit.”   Read more

Calling former library and archives interns and volunteers

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If you previously volunteered or interned at The Mariners’ Museum Library and have gone on to work in the museum or library field, we would love to hear from you.  Please send a brief email to Bill Barker  (bbarker@marinersmuseum.org) with an update on your career.  Thanks, and we look forward to hearing from you.