National Historic Ships UK Awards 2023 – Winners Announced

The winners of the Photography Competition, Marsh Volunteer Awards, Excellence in Maritime Conservation Award and Flagships of the Year were revealed during an Awards Ceremony filmed at The Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh and streamed online. 

National Historic Ships UK’s (NHS-UK) annual awards are a celebration of maritime heritage around the UK.  They encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with historic vessels through photography, volunteering, conservation, online activities, and skills-based training. Britannia was chosen as this year’s host venue as she celebrates two special anniversaries in 2023 – 70 years since her launch, and 25 years as a visitor attraction.  Guest presenters were historian and TV presenter Dan Snow and young Norfolk sailor and boat restorer Ash Faire-Ring.


NHS-UK’s Photography Competition is always hugely popular, with hundreds of entries each year from Britain and around the world.  This year’s theme was ‘In All Weathers’, and it attracted nearly 500 entries featuring historic vessels in all conditions from brilliant sunshine to stormy seas, or the still waters of the lakes and inland waterways.  The judging panel included Antiques Roadshow presenter and historic vessel enthusiast Paul Atterbury and award-winning sailing photographer Kos Evans.

There are four main Award categories:

  • Photographer of the Year – awarded to the photographer and image selected by the judges as the Overall Winner of the competition.  A Highly Commended prize is also awarded.
  • The Classic Boat Award – chosen by Classic Boat and awarded to the image most closely fitting the ethos of the magazine.  A Highly Commended prize is also awarded.
  • Newcomer of the Year
  • The People’s Choice Award – the only award voted for by the public.

The accolade of Photographer of the Year 2023 went to Sandy Miller from Chelmsford, Essex, for his stunning image Sallie and the Wolf Moon.  The winner of the Classic Boat Award was Jeff Welch from Ipswich, for his unusual drone shot Looking Down on Sailing Barge Cambria.  Wayne Starkey from Timperley, Cheshire, was awarded Newcomer of the Year for his image of the Clyde Puffer VIC 32.  Finally, the winner of the People’s Choice Award was Ian Southerin, from Crewe, Cheshire, for his striking photo of the Skye ferry, Crew Embarking the MV Glenachulish.

Image: Sandy Miller


The Marsh Volunteer Awards recognise outstanding volunteers in the conservation or operation of historic vessels in the UK.  Volunteers are the lifeblood of the sector with many vessels depending on them to keep going.  These Awards, run in partnership with the Marsh Charitable Trust, celebrate the hard work and achievement of the many diverse individuals and groups who volunteer in support of maritime heritage.  There are four Award categories: Group, Individual, and Shipshape project – for projects listed on NHS-UK’s Shipshape Network.

This year, the Group category was won by the Friends of Lady Daphne (Charlestown, Cornwall), and Colin Barton from The Excelsior Trust (Lowestoft, Suffolk) won the Individual category.  The Shipshape Award was shared jointly between two projects: the Volunteers of the Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company (Woodbridge, Suffolk) and Pilgrim of Brixham volunteers (Brixham, Devon).


In honour of NHS-UK’s late Director, Martyn Heighton, the Excellence in Maritime Conservation Award was launched in 2019 to mark best practice in the conservation of historic vessels.  The Award boasts a hand-carved trophy that was commissioned using wood from HMS Victory.

The 2023 recipient of this prestigious Award is Hull City Council, for their conservation work (carried out by Dunston Ship Repairs, Hull) on the 1924 lightship Spurn.  The team assessed the condition, history, and future use of the SpurnLightship against NHS-UK’s guidance manual Conserving Historic Ships, also being mindful of her status on the National Historic Fleet.  They took the conservation approach of ‘preservation’, working to keep as much original material and fittings as possible whilst ensuring the vessel was well-placed to survive continued exposure to the elements and operate safely as a visitor attraction.  Following Spurn’s conservation work, she is most likely in the best condition since she was first built in 1927.

The judges also commended Tim Loftus of Johnson and Loftus Boat Builders, Ullapool, Ross-shire, for his attention to detail in returning the 1910 Zulu St Vincent to operation by the most authentic methods possible.


HMS Caroline. Image: NMRN

The annual Flagship of the Year Awards provide an opportunity to demonstrate and celebrate the value of historic vessels to the wider public, through online activities, museum engagement, events, open days, and special tours.  Flagships promote the role of NHS-UK and ‘fly the flag’ as ambassadors for the UK’s maritime heritage sector.  This year, the judges were especially impressed by the high quality of applications, and therefore awarded Flagship status to a record three Operational and three Static vessels.

Marjorie R in Leeds Dock. Image: Peter Green
Lady of the Lake. Image: ULLSWATER_STEAMERS
LV21. Image: Fraser Gray
Swan. Image: Maurice Henderson


The Operational Flagships of the Year are the Shetland tall ship Swan; Victorian Lake District steamer Lady of the Lake; and restored lifeboat turned Whitstable trip boat The Chieftain.  The Static Flagships of the Year are Belfast museum ship and last survivor of the Battle of Jutland HMS Caroline; Kent lightship turned unique arts centre LV21; and Yorkshire coal barge turned floating bookshop, Marjorie R.

The Chieftain. David Stearne

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