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Kernel of truth: Life-sized nutcrackers reveal key moments in naval history

The 12 dolls have been decorated by different artists for the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

A series of life-sized nutcrackers are to go on display to illustrate key moments in the 800-year history of the Royal Navy.

The 12 dolls have been decorated by different artists for the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard with themes ranging from famous leaders Admiral Lord Nelson and Henry VIII to the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, tattooed sailors and the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS).

John Rawlinson, director of visitor experience at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, said: “The nutcrackers bring the story of the Navy alive in such an imaginative way.

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Life-sized nutcrackers of a Navy Wren, Lord Nelson and Henry VIII at the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. (Chris Stephens/PA)

“Each statue has its own unique story about the ordinary and extraordinary people who have been part of the history of the Royal Navy.”

Lois Cordelia, of the Wild in Art collective, has designed one of the nutcrackers based on the powder monkeys of the 19th century who were boy seamen employed to ferry gunpowder around the warships.

She said: “On the back is a portrait of one of the powder monkey boys from about 1864 based on one of the very few photos we have of that era to create, I hope, quite an atmospheric, quite haunting and evocative portrait.”

The dolls will go on show ready for the venue’s Victorian Festival of Christmas next weekend (December 1-3) before being auctioned in February for the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s SeaMore campaign.

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