This new exhibition continues to be on display until the 25th March 2023.

The Old Royal Naval College explores the life and work of renowned 19th-century naval surgeon and physician, Sir William Beatty in fascinating – and sometimes grisly detail.

Having opened this month, this exhibition marks the 200th anniversary since Beatty took up the post of Physician to the Royal Hospital for Seamen in Greenwich – now the Old
Royal Naval College. Blood & Battle takes a deep dive into his exceptional career as well as the wider world of medical practice in Nelson’s navy.

Those visiting will be able to see the tools of the naval surgeon’s bloody practice and learn how Beatty saved the lives of an overwhelming number of sailors. It features a huge range of objects including a replica of Nelson’s life mask, as well as 18th and 19th-century surgical instruments, including Beatty’s own medicine chest. Elsewhere, visitors are able to experience what it was like to be in HMS Victory’s cockpit during battle, with an immersive recreation of the make-shift medical bay complete with sights, smells and sounds.

Beatty joined the Royal Navy at the age of 18, surviving a yellow fever epidemic and a shipwreck and working his way up the ranks to become the Ship’s Surgeon on the HMS Victory and, later, Physician of the Channel Fleet. Beatty performed life-saving surgery including amputations aboard HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar. Famously, Beatty tended to Vice Admiral Lord Nelson after his fatal injury during the battle. He later wore the musket ball that killed Nelson in a locket on his watch chain for the rest of his life. Visitors to the exhibition can hear Betty’s account of Nelson’s death in his own words with excerpts from his Authentic Narrative of the Death of Lord Nelson.

This new exhibition will allow visitors to discover more about medicine and surgery during in the Georgian navy. Equally, they will discover more about Beatty’s contributions to local life in Greenwich, including his involvement in developing the London – Greenwich Railway.

Given the nature of this exhibition, the Old Royal Naval College has advised parental discretion – with it being advised that this exhibition is not suitable for those aged 10 and below.

To find out more and to book tickets visit:


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