Nick Hewitt

Historian and Curator

I grew up surrounded by military and naval history, and it was probably inevitable that I read history at Lancaster University and then studied for an MA in War Studies at King’s College, University of London. At King’s I decided to specialise in naval history, thanks to the inspirational teaching of the renowned naval historian Professor Andrew Lambert. Ever since then I’ve been a passionate advocate for the often-overlooked stories of sailors in the world wars.

Thanks to my father, I grew up surrounded by military and naval history, and it was probably inevitable that I read history at Lancaster University and then studied for an MA in War Studies at King’s College, University of London. At King’s I decided to specialise in naval history, thanks to the inspirational teaching of the renowned naval historian Professor Andrew Lambert. Ever since then I’ve been a passionate advocate for the often-overlooked stories of sailors in the world wars.

In 1995, I joined the Imperial War Museum, and I became permanent historian on board HMS Belfast in 2002, when I curated my first exhibitions, as well as dipping my toes into broadcast work and writing my first book. I’m perfectly at home in specialist circles, but for me the real joy in working as an historian comes through public history, trying to inspire and engage those who may not otherwise have been remotely interested in the subject, and I’ve aways tried to be as open and accessible as I can, whether in print, in a gallery or on screen.

In 2010, I left to work for Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, running the family- friendly Action Stations interactive attraction in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, and Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower in Priddys Hard, Gosport. In the summer of 2013, Explosion became a branch of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, and I subsequently became NMRN’s Head of Collections and Research, responsible for consolidating, caring for and improving our understanding of NMRN’s 4.5 million objects, from photographs, buttons and badges, to warships, works of fine art and naval aircraft. I have also led NMRN’s six-year, £7 million project to salvage, relocate, restore and interpret LCT 7074, the last surviving tank landing craft to take part in the D-Day landings in June 1944.

I am a Council Member of the Society for Nautical Research, and over the years I have contributed to numerous historical publications, journals and newspapers. I’ve been a regular contributor to television and radio, most notably perhaps as a regular contributor and later presenter for the BBC’s Coast, specialist historian for Channel 5’s D-Day’s Sunken Secrets (2014) and presenter for the BBC’s Battle of Jutland: The Navy’s Bloodiest Day (2016). I absolutely love broadcast work, which strangely often employs the same techniques as curating exhibition.

I’ve written many articles over the years, and I’m the author of three works of naval history: Coastal Convoys 1939-1945 (Pen and Sword 2008); The Kaiser’s Pirates (Pen and Sword, 2013) and Firing on Fortress Europe (IWM, 2015). I’m currently working on a new naval history of the Normandy campaign for Yale University Press, which will be published in 2023.

Fun fact: I once tried (and failed) to herd goats for the BBC’s Countryfile, in the historic ramparts at Explosion Museum in Gosport. On approaching the animals’ accommodation, I unwisely made a very poor pun, ‘Goatel California’ (ouch), which made the final edit. This is the only piece of my broadcast work to which my kids attach any value…..!

Skills

  • Project Leadership
  • Interpretation
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Broadcast
  • Public Speaking
  • Policy Development
  • Collections Management
  • Advocacy
  • Change Management

Career

Head of Exhibitions and Collections, National Museum of the Royal Navy
July 2017 – Present
Head of Heritage Development, National Museum of the Royal Navy
June 2015 – July 2017
Strategic Development Executive, National Museum of the Royal Navy
August 2014 – June 2015
Head of Attractions and Collections, Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust
November 2010 – August 2013
Historian, Research and Information Office, Imperial War Museum
July 2008 – November 2010
Interpretation Officer, HMS Belfast (IWM)
June 2002 – July 2008
Temporary Exhibitions Officer, HMS Belfast (IWM)
June 2002 –September 2003
Project Co-ordinator, UK National Inventory of War Memorials (IWM)
December 1996 – June 2002
Research Assistant, Imperial War Museums
June 1995 – December 1996

Exibitions and Projects

  • Project Director for NMRN’s £6 million NLHF-funded project to save LCT 7074,
    the last D-Day Tank Landing Craft. (2014–2020)
  •  “Spitfires of the Seas: The Royal Navy’s Coastal Forces” (Ongoing to 2021, Project
    Director)
  •  “Jutland 1916: The Battle That Won the War” (2016, Historian and Project
    Director)
  •  “Gallipoli: Myth and Memory” (2015, Historian)
  •  “All Aboard: Stories of War at Sea” (2010, Historian)
  •  “Launch: Shipbuilding through the Ages” (2009, Curator and Project Manager)
  •  “Eyewitness Falklands" (2007, Curator and Project Manager)
  •  “Ghosts of Jutland” (2006, Curator and Project Manager)
  •  “A Shared Tradition: Commonwealth Navies 1939-1945” (2005, Curator and
    Project Manager)
  •  “Veterans” (2004, Curator and Project Manager)
  •  “Life at Sea” (2002, Curator)

Experience

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