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The Sure Shield: a story of life on board a steam ship
Millitary medal
Britannia against the sea, emblazoned on the Sure Shield

The Sure Shield is Janet Clarke's contribution to A History of the World.

The front of this naval medal is embossed with the image of Britannia, against the sea with a ship, aeroplane and airship in the background.

The reverse bears the inscription Sea Services Commemoration 4th August, 1914-1919.

Behind the Sure Shield is the story of the First World War fought off British shores.

When Janet Clarke came along to Radio Humberside's A History of the World event at the Hull History Centre in February, she wanted to preserve a little piece of history for posterity and share what she knew about the medal which had been with her family for many years.

Janet's grandfather, Walter Hutton took to the sea at an early age and became a ships apprentice for a local firm in Cleethorpes. Later he joined The Great Central Railway Company (LNER) working on their steam ships, eventually becoming 'Master of the Boats'. He was based at Cleethorpes and Grimsby, taking passengers and cargo across to the continent and around the UK.

During the First World War, Walter took his family south to Portsmouth when his ship was requisitioned from Cleethorpes, along with others owned by The Great Central Railway Company.

Black and white photo of ships captain
He would blow his horn or send a certain signal so that [his wife] knew he was coming into dock.
Janet Clarke

One family story tells of Walter's journey to France with the first ammunition transport across the Channel. Walter worked on steam ships throughout the war, transporting munitions and other supplies across the Channel, although Janet confesses that her family never really knew very much of what Walter's job entailed.

The Hutton family remained on the south-coast, at Alverstoke, throughout the First World War. When the war ended, and the ships were released from naval service, Walter returned to Cleethorpes and civilian life.

The Sure Shield medal and his service at sea was not Walter Hutton's only mark on history. His long sea-faring career took him all over the world, including San Francisco, Sweden and to the Caribbean. But the most important visits were those to Hamburg and Rotterdam prior to the First World War.

Walter Hutton, served upon The Nottingham (owned by the Great Central Railway Company), taking her across to Hamburg and Rotterdam and returning with migrants from Europe, on their way to a new life in America.

The ports of Grimsby and Hull were a key point in the Jewish and Mormon transmigration across to Liverpool and onward to America. The steamers would bring back migrants along with bulbs, goods and other passengers from the continent.

The immigrants from Europe would then make their way by train across to Liverpool where grain ships would take them on to America.

After his naval service, Walter spent the rest of his working life on steam ships and retired in Cleethorpes. Janet says, she never knew him personally, but she does remember there was a large ships' flagpole in her grandparents garden - a reminder of his life at sea perhaps?

A History of the World is a partnership between the British Museum and the BBC. This year, thousands of people across the UK have contributed their own objects to the A History of the World website, helping to build an online museum which will chart a global history through man-made objects.

To see all the objects find out more, log onto 'A History of the World' .



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