Amazing unseen photos of Royal Navy legend Captain John Walker’s escort group attacking and sinking German U-boats will go on show for the very first time.
Merseyside Maritime Museum is putting them on display from this weekend (18 May) in time for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.
The remarkable images were taken by ship’s surgeon Dr Gordon Canti, then 26, who served aboard HMS Wren which was part of Walker’s support group.
One of the most significant moments caught on camera is of Capt Walker’s HMS Starling ramming and sinking an enemy submarine in mid-Atlantic on 24 June 1943.
Dr Canti recorded life at sea and documented life-and-death drama during the longest continuous military campaign of the Second World War. He created a makeshift darkroom aboard HMS Wren and kept the developed prints in an album.
Now photographs from this album, with commentary from Dr Canti, will be on show to visitors for the first time in a specially made film in the Museum’s Battle of the Atlantic Gallery.
Photography at sea during conflict was banned for reasons of national security but senior officers turned a blind eye to Dr Canti’s work.
Ben Whittaker, curator Merseyside Maritime Museum, said: “These are astonishing photographs. They capture action from the key moments of battle involving the legendary Captain John Walker. We are thrilled to put them on display for in time for Battle of the Atlantic commemorations.”
After the war Dr Canti went on to become an expert in lung cancer diagnosis. Now 96 and living in Somerset, he said: “I spent many hours developing these photographs in the sick-bay of HMS Wren. After all this time, it’s a pleasure to see them finally being shown to the public at Merseyside Maritime Museum.”
Liverpool is gearing up for a massive four-day commemoration of Battle of the Atlantic from 24 –28 May. Around 25 warships will arrive in the city from countries around the globe including Canada, Germany, Italy, Russia and USA.
Activities will take place at the waterfront and city centre including a cathedral service, veterans parade, a special band concert by Her Majesty’s Royal Marines at the Philharmonic Hall, a 40s themed party at St George’s Hall, a fly past and a James Bond-style display involving the Royal Marines. The Museum’s very own Brocklebank tugboat will also play a part in the event.
Merseyside Maritime Museum has a gallery dedicated to the Battle of the Atlantic which tells the story of the longest and one of the most crucial campaigns of the Second World War. Visitors can discover the vital role played by the Merchant Navy in keeping Britain alive in those dark days.
During 25-27 May dozens of events will also be taking place at Merseyside Maritime Museum, Museum of Liverpool, International Slavery Museum and Piermaster’s House on Albert Dock. See www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/riverfestival for details.
Battle of the Atlantic Commemoration weekend at Merseyside Maritime Museum:
25-27 May 2013, 1-4pm. Join us at the Maritime Museum as we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic - a vitally important part of Liverpool's past. This family friendly event includes talks, role-play and craft activities for all the family.
25 May 2013, 10.30am-4.30pm. Maritime Archives event: Did your grandfather serve in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War? Maritime archives staff will show you how to find out more in a special session looking at tracing seafaring ancestors. There will also be opportunity to see rare photos and documents from the Battle of the Atlantic. Drop-in, no booking required.
25 May 2-3pm. TV presenter Dan Snow lecture about Liverpool’s pivotal role in the campaign at sea during a free lecture on Saturday 25 May from 2-3pm. THIS IS NOW FULLY BOOKED.
Several images from Dr Canti’s album are available for press. Please ask.
Any images used must be credited: Copyright Dr Canti/Merseyside Maritime Museum.
The actual album has been donated to Merseyside Maritime Museum by Dr Canti. Visitors who want to view it can do so at the Museum’s Archive and Library Tuesdays to Thursdays 1-.30am-4.30pm by prior arrangement.
Unfortunately Dr Canti is unable to do media interviews.
National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic. We attract more than three million visitors every year. Our venues are the Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, UK Border Force National Museum, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery.
Merseyside Maritime Museum is situated in the Albert Dock. The Museum tells the story of the great liners such as Lusitania and Titanic. Galleries include: Art and the sea, Emigrants to a New World, Battle of the Atlantic and Life at Sea. A major exhibition: Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story, explores Liverpool’s links to the ship and continues throughout 2013. The Maritime is the second most visited in the country outside of London.
The Battle of the Atlantic gallery tells the story of the men and ships of Britain's merchant fleet, and why they were Britain's lifeline, the German threat - U-boats and surface ships, defending the line - the weapons, technology and tactics that kept the ships safe, Liverpool and the Battle of the Atlantic - Liverpool's role as Britain's most important port during the war.