Filming with National Historic Ships UK

Andy Jones

Sometimes a day’s filming goes by in a blur and it’s only later in the edit that you really appreciate where you’ve been and what you’ve done. Two ‘blurry’ days that stick in my mind were filming for National Historic Ships with Rob White. National Historic Ships is an organisation that gives advice on matters relating to historic vessels in the UK. The organisation also offers training in Historic Vessel Conservation and we’d been commissioned to create a series of films for an online training course. 

In those two days myself and Rob raced all over Portsmouth Historic Dockyard filming everything from Tudor woodwork to 1960s fiberglass. One of the highlights was filming onboard HMS Warrior, the great Victorian ironclad that guards the entrance to the dockyard.

The great Warrior is an icon today as much as it was one hundred and fifty years ago during the Age of Steam. In her time she was the largest and fastest of all Royal Navy ships.

Here we split up, Rob went on to film the freshly restored sickbay and I ventured down into the ships magazines. My guide was Bob Daubeney, at the time Warrior’s shipwright. The reason for filming the magazines was to show how original and unrestored they were as opposed to the rest of the ship. The entrance was via a trap door and narrow ladder. The magazine is a small space decked out with racks to hold the ammunition for the guns above. The original Victorian whitewash still adornes the woodwork and painted in an immaculate hand are the labels for the different types of shells stored there. It’s an eerie space that gives you an instant feeling of the ship’s age. It’s as if the air is the very same breathed by the crew a hundred and fifty years ago. 

Bob Daubeney, Warriors shipwright in the ironclad’s magazine.

I decided it would be good to see Bob coming down the ladder from inside so I asked him to climb out, close the trap door, wait and climb back in. From the deck above he pulled the heavy wooden door over and I was in darkness. I crouched there in the cold, thinking of the Victorian sailors who’d have struggled in and out of there with those heavy shells. For a few seconds I felt I was amongst them. All of a sudden a shaft of light broke through as Bob opened the door and climbed in. The shot worked well and Bob delivered a cracking piece to camera.

In total we filmed over ten different vessels for that project, the majority being over those two days in Portsmouth. It was exhausting work, but we did find time to lunch on board Trinity’s the former lightship turned restaurant.

The end of two days filming and looking forward to a late lunch. Andy Jones and Rob White with Victoria Wallworth from National Historic Ships.

 

For more information on National Historic Ships UK please visit: www.nationalhistoricships.org.uk

Author Andy Jones

Andy is a producer and director. He originally trained as a photographer and cameraman before stepping into a directing role, notably documentary programming.

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