The National History and Naval Museum is situated in the city of Mahebourg, which is the capital of the Grand Port District in Mauritius. It is located inside the Gheude Castle, which was built as a mansion by the French in 1770. There are three floors here, out of which only two are open for public. The ground floor displays the wreckage of ships, which fought in the Battle of Grand Port, along with cannons, cannonballs and weapons of Robert Surcouf – a French trader. Also displayed here is a large painting of Vieux Port, where the battle took place. It is a perfect place to visit and explore during Mauritius holidays.
Both the opposing admirals were injured and were nursed side by side in this building. They were deeply saddened by the loss of their men and entered into an agreement to end the war. Adding charm to the exhibitions of the French section are parts of the hull from HMS Sirius and wine bottles and cannons salvaged from HMS Magicienne, both of which were British frigates. A huge bell and Spanish coins from Saint Green – a ship that sank near the northern coast of the island – are also housed here. More exhibits include biscuits, which substituted perishable items, a blade and a cigarette tin, used to measure ration by those sailing in the ill-fated ship Trevessa.
The Dutch Section
This section has exhibits, which trace the history of the Dutch settlement in the region. Paintings of the extinct dodo bird and giant tortoise are worth seeing. The tortoise is depicted with two full-grown people on its back and its bones were found strong enough to carry humans. Artefacts include gold Ottoman coins made in Cairo in the 17th century, silver coins from the reign of Aurangzeb in India and Leopold in Austria and a brass sundial. Also showcased here is a fine collection of Chinese porcelain, from the time of King Wang Li of the Ming Dynasty. The objects were recovered from the sunken vessel Banda, under the command of Admiral Pieter Both. However, the best thing here is a bell, which was gifted to Napoleon Bonaparte after he defeated the Austrians in the Battle of Marengo. Carved on the bell is the Crucifixion of Jesus – a part of the Passion of the Christ.
The British Section and the Yard
This area throws light on the modes of punishment and exploitation, used by the British against their labourers. Various types of chains used by the colonists are parts of the exhibition. British Indian currency used in Mauritius can also be seen here by visitors. Also kept here is a miniature replica of a train carriage used in the country. The actual piece is kept in the courtyard, outside the building. People can also feast their eyes with portraits of eminent British personnel and artefacts depicting the rural and urban ways of living. On the first floor are a large bed, models of ships, maps and two palanquins, which were carried by slaves on their shoulders while their masters sat on them. Visiting hours here are from 9 am to 4 pm from Monday to Saturday and 9 am to 12 pm on Sundays and public holidays. People can visit the site and see its artefacts for absolutely no money.