EXHIBITION: HQS Wellington, The Embankment – South Asian Seafarers: In War and Peace

November 2021

 

 

 

25 July–31 October 2021, open Sundays and Mondays from 1100–1700

There is still so much that we do not know about the service of South Asian seamen on merchant and naval ships during the First and Second World Wars. Their essential service on passenger liners is also fast fading in popular memory. Even people of South Asian heritage in Britain are not always aware that earlier generations of their family served at sea. For this exciting new exhibition, the Wellington Trust has drawn on existing research, teamed up with experts from the University of Portsmouth and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and done important work with families of South Asian heritage in London to bring personal histories to life. The exhibition spans 400 years and sets personal stories in a broad historical context, looking at the contribution South Asian seafarers made to British shipping over this long period. South Asian seamen, formerly known as ‘lascars’, worked on ships of the East India Company from the seventeenth century when they helped to sail vessels back to England. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries they served on passenger liners, notably for P&O and British India shipping companies. Commonly, several generations of the same family worked for these companies, who had no trouble filling crew vacancies. And yet lascars received less pay than British or European sailors, lived in cramped accommodation, and often worked in difficult conditions. The contribution of South Asian seamen in both twentieth-century World Wars has yet to be fully acknowledged. This exhibition offers valuable insights into their service and helps to raise awareness of forgotten histories. Unusually, the role of the Women’s Royal Indian Naval Service during World War Two is also detailed in this exhibition. For more information and booking details https://www. thewellingtontrust.org/whats-on/south-asian-seafarers-exhibition/

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