A University of Plymouth researcher has transformed a pile of records bought in an online auction into an unlikely treasure trove of 1930s naval history.
Dr Harry Bennett, Associate Professor (Reader) in History, stumbled across the artefacts on eBay and bought them thinking they might yield some interesting information.
After months of research he managed to uncover that they were in fact recorded letters sent home by Commander Robert Terence (Terry) Grogan, a Plymouth-trained officer sailing on board HMS Emerald between 1934 and 1936.
What they reveal is the nature of life at sea in the years between the two world wars, and some of the activities the men engaged in to keep both their minds and bodies sharp.
They also provide a fascinating insight into the career of an officer later lost in perhaps the greatest modern tragedy of the Royal Navy – the sinking of HMS Hood in 1941.
Dr Bennett, an expert in wartime and maritime history, said:
“The items were being sold as part of what I assume was a house clearance and I took a gamble that they might contain something interesting. The seller hadn't played them and didn't know much about them beyond what was written on the labels. But they are in fact possibly a unique collection and a kind of precursor to the vlogs we are now used to in the 21st century.”