A close up of Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Kellett's polar sledge flag (NMRN)

Successful campaign to save historic flag leads to UK tour

Image: A close up of Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Kellett's polar sledge flag (NMRN)

Excess funding from the campaign, which found celebrity support, will see the polar sledge flag go on tour to Belfast, Hartlepool and Portsmouth

​A ‘last-ditch’ campaign by the National Museum of the Royal Navy to save a historic flag from private ownership has been successful in its fundraising efforts.

£120,000 has been raised to save the rare polar expedition sledge flag, one of the earliest in existence, from passing into the hands of an overseas private collector.

Historian and broadcaster Dan Snow and actor Michael Palin were among the voices in support of the campaign, which launched in March.


Known as the ‘Kellett sledge flag’, it was secured with two essential grants of £98,170 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and £40,000 from Art Fund which was match-funded by the museum.

The museum not only secured the £120,000 to save the sledge flag from leaving the United Kingdom but managed to exceed the amount.

The museum said the excess funding will enable it to be put on display across three of the museum’s regional sites in Hartlepool, Portsmouth and Belfast. Plans are now underway to display the sledge flag, alongside artefacts from HMS Erebus, and dates will be announced soon.

The flag was owned by notable 19th century Irish naval officer Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Kellett and flown during the third of a series of expeditions to look for survivors, or evidence of bodies, of Captain Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition.

Arts and Heritage Minister, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, said: “I am delighted that this flag – an important link with our past, and a symbol of courage and curiosity – has been saved for the nation.”