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Oral history project launched at Naval College

4 January 2016
One of the oldest surviving cadets from Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) has returned to Dartmouth to launch the Britannia Museum Trust oral history project.

Captain Anthony McCrum, 96, walked the corridors of BRNC for the first time since setting foot in the college 83 years ago. 

He met three 13-year old students from Dartmouth Academy, who asked him about his experiences at the same age as a young cadet and how he survived at sea during World War II.

Their conversation marked the official launch of the oral history project, which is designed to capture the memories of former cadets and understand more about life and training at the college since the 1930s.

It was bizarre coming back to the college after such a long time.

Captain Anthony McCrum

The project is supported by a £45,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Britannia Association.

“It was bizarre coming back to the college after such a long time,” said Capt McCrum. 

“I was a bit of a rebel back then.  So many things have changed since I left, and the place is much more relaxed than it was in those days. 

“And of course there are women cadets now, which there never were in the 1930s.”

Capt McCrum was interviewed by three pupils from Dartmouth Academy, watched by a crowd of invited guests – including the Commanding Officer of the College, Captain Henry Duffy, and the leader of Devon County Council, John Hart. 

Capt McCrum declared himself delighted with their questions, which he described as interesting and perceptive.

The project relies heavily on the involvement of the local community which includes local residents, school children, university students from the Universities of Plymouth, and Exeter (which both have strong Naval History departments) and others from further afield than Devon interested in oral history.

The records obtained from the former cadets, some now in their 80s and 90s, will help increase the public’s awareness of the importance of BRNC historically and currently, in preparing cadets as future Naval leaders when they will protect the UK’s interests, provide humanitarian assistance, prevent conflict and provide security at sea across the globe.

Around a dozen interviews have already been recorded by local volunteers, including an interview with Capt McCrum, which will form part of an archive at the museum for future academic study and analysis. 

If you are interested in getting involved in the project, please contact the project manager, Fiona Clampin, by email: [email protected]

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