Category Archives: Inter-War

NCO’s Mess Dress Jacket

Last year we looked at an officer’s mess dress here. Tonight we have another mess dress jacket, but this time for a senior NCO rather than an officer. NCOs have similar mess dress uniforms to officers but frequently they lack certain features like shoulder straps (rank insignia being sewn to the sleeve rather than worn on the shoulder) and piping is likely to be absent or of a different style to the officers in the regiment. I believe this example dates from the late 1930s and is scarlet with deep green facings (although they appear black in these photos):

The lapels of the uniform are in the facing colour of the regiment and normally reflect that used on dress unfirms by the regiments predecessors before WW1. The same facing colours are often used on the collars as well, here piped in white:The bottom edge of this mess dress is piped in red, coming to a shallow point at the small of the back:The mess dress jacket is fully lined:And this example was made by Briggs and Co Ltd:Sadly I have been unable to ascertain exactly which regiment this mess dress was for as all the regulations I have access to only cover officers. Based on these I suspect this mess dress might have been for The Green Howards, The South Wales Borderers or The Dorsetshire Regiment- unfortunately none of these regiments lists white piping in the officer’s regulations but as this might just be an NCO affectation it is hard to get a positive ID.

Postcard of Madras Gymkhana Football Challenge Cup Winners 1920

As has been discussed on this blog before, sport was an important part of military life in India and this week’s photograph is a marvellous shot of the winners of the Madras Gymkhana Football Challenge Cup in 1920, The 2nd Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment:

The cup itself, officially known as the EK Chetty Cup, is seen in the centre of the photograph with smaller commemorative tankards for the players surrounding it:The team itself sits around their cup, most players wearing a dark shirt, white shorts and leather football boots of the period:One player has a lighter coloured shirt and is presumable the goalkeeper:Only one man wears military uniform, a lance corporal, who is possibly the coach:The Madras Gymkhana Club was founded in 1885 and in 1895 organised the first football cup in the city, with ten teams from across the country competing. The local journal ‘The Sketch , A Journal of Art and Actuality’ reported:

Last year, a few ardent devotees came together and decided to make a start. The game found support at once, and when, at the General Meeting of the Gymkhana Club a request was made for a Tournament Cup to be played under certain conditions, a uniform consent was accorded.

Lord Willingdon, Governor of Madras, was an important supporter of the football cup and attended all the finals between 1919 and 1924 so was presumably present when the team above won in 1920. The cup was won exclusively by military teams until 1933 when the first civilian team won, The Pachaiyappa High School.

Interwar Postcard of a Sailor and Marines enjoying a Beer

This week’s postcard takes us back to the period between the wars and depicts a sailor and marines relaxing ashore in tropical climes, most likely somewhere in the Mediterranean:The rating is wearing the tropical white uniform, with pith helmet and two long service and good conduct stripes on his sleeve:His companions appear to be Royal Marines, presumably from the same ship. They wear KD service dress uniforms with large white pith helmets, bearing a metal badge to the front:On at least one of the helmets you can just make out the brass ball worn on the top:In front of this group sits a small table, laden down with bottles of beer:The interwar period was the era of the Royal Navy cruises, flying the flag. These hugely popular cruises involved taking the fleet around either the Mediterranean, or once famously around the world, and calling it at various overseas ports to show off the might of the Royal Navy and hopefully score a few trade deals as well. For the crews of these ships there were ample opportunities to ‘run ashore’ with relaxation frequently consisting of imbibing the local beer. The Empire cruise was renowned for this, with sailors remarking of Port Swettenham “here the men can obtain beer and refreshments also cigarettes, free of charge”. Whilst for one sailor, Frederick Bushell he wrote of Australia “I think most of the ship’s company are feeling the effects of the late nights and “bonza” times we’ve been having

Photograph of HMY Victoria and Albert

This week’s photograph is of HMY Victoria and Albert:skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copyThis royal yacht was the predecessor of HMY Britannia and served from 1901 throughout the reigns of Edward VII, George V and George VI. Built at Pembroke Dock and launched in 1899, she was completed in the summer 1901, seven months after the death of Queen Victoria.

The vessel measured 380 feet (120 m) in length by 40 feet (12 m) in the beam with a tonnage of 4,700. She was powered by Belleville water boilers, which exhausted through two elegant round funnels:skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-copyThe ship had a particularly elegant prow, reminiscent of late Victorian sloops, the curves implying an impressive turn of speed:skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-copy-2The total cost of the ship was £572,000, five-sevenths the cost of the battleship HMS Renown. During fitting-out the yacht had significant extra weight added including concrete ballast and even a large traditional capstan so the Queen could be entertained by watching the sailors work. This extra weight proved to be beyond the original design parameters and resulted in the ship tipping over when the dock was flooded – causing significant damage to the ship.

Victoria and Albert was commissioned at Portsmouth 23 July 1901 by Commodore the Hon. Hedworth Lambton, who hoisted his broad pennant. Nearly all the ship’s company of 230 men of the old HMY Victoria and Albert II were transferred to the new yacht, which with an additional 100 men had a total ship’s company of 336.

King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra visited their new yacht in early August 1901, and used it for the first time when crossing the English Channel 9 August 1901 to attend the funeral in Germany of the King’s sister, Empress Frederick.

King Edward later used the yacht for summer cruises most years of his reign, visiting various countries in Europe.

Victoria and Albert later served King George V, King Edward VIII and King George VI, and took part in two fleet reviews (in 1935 and the Coronation Review of the Fleet, 1937), but was withdrawn after the latter and decommissioned in 1939. She served as a depot ship during the Second World War; as an accommodation ship to HMS Excellent, and was broken up in 1954. In this painting from the National Maritime Museum we see the old yacht being towed away to the breakers, passing her replacement HMY Britannia:captureApparently the officer in charge of HMY Victoria and Albert on this voyage went out to salute the new yacht, and promptly fell through the deck as it was so rotten!

RAF Funeral, Palestine 1938

This week’s photographs are a rather sombre pair of images showing the funeral of two airmen in Palestine just before the outbreak of the war. The first image shows the pall bearers carrying two coffins into a graveyard:skmbt_c36416120913011_0001-copyEach is draped in the Union flag:skmbt_c36416120913011_0001-copy-2The back of this photograph has an official Air Ministry stamp and the description ‘Funeral of Sgt Sweeting and A.C.I. Crofts at Ramleh’:skmbt_c36416120913012_0001There is also a date indicating this photograph was taken in August 1938. Ramleh was the site of an RAF base, now long gone under urban sprawl. My thanks go to Bryan Legate who has provided more information on this. Sergeant Richard Herbert Sweetings and AC2 W H Crofts were killed when the Wellsley they were flying, L2634, crashed after losing a wing when recovering from a dive. The aircraft was one of an allocation of the type on the books of 14 squadron:9_8The 14 Squadron Association website notes:

The Fairey Gordon aircraft were replaced by Vickers Wellesleys in 1938: a monoplane with retractable undercarriage and a variable-pitch propeller, the new type represented a quantum leap in performance and capability over the previous biplanes. These aircraft were soon involved in counter-insurgency operations during the Palestine rebellion of 1938-39.

Odly 14  Squadron were not stationed at RAF Ramleh in 1938, so it seems likely that the aircraft crashed nearby and as the closest aerodrome the men were buried here. The second photograph is taken at the graveside:skmbt_c36416120913010_0001We can see a chaplain:skmbt_c36416120913010_0001-copy-2The pall bearers with bare heads:skmbt_c36416120913010_0001-copy-3And other members of the squadron in pith helmets, each wearing a black armband in mourning:skmbt_c36416120913010_0001-copy-4Interestingly this was not actually taken in a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery as the CWG did not take responsibility for casualties in peacetime. Therefore the graves of these airmen are not recorded on their website, and the other headstones in the photograph, although very similar, are not the standard pattern we are used to from WW1 and WW2 gravestones:skmbt_c36416120913010_0001-copy

Men Standing in Front of a Barrack Building In the Tropics Postcard

This week’s postcard is another corker from the age of Empire. In this image, which probably dates from between the wars, a group of soldiers pose in front of a pair of wooden barrack huts:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copyThere is no location for this image, but it is clearly in the tropics and it is likely it was taken in India or perhaps somewhere in the South Pacific or China. The figures in the photograph are split into two distinct groups. Immediately in front of the buildings can be seen six men who are most likely other ranks:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-copy-3Note the collarless grey back shirts and stable belts each appears to be wearing. The two seated figures seem to be peeling potatoes into metal dixies:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-copyThese metal dixies were to remain in use for decades, with stainless steel examples being manufactured well into the 1980s at least. A wooden bridge crosses a water channel in the foreground:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-copy-5Stood on this are three men who I am assuming are officers or civilian administrators:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-copy-4It is interesting to note that whilst the two figures on the left and the six men in the back ground are wearing Wolseley helmets, the man on the left of the bridge has the more modern solar topee- this helmet being larger but lighter and more comfortable to wear. The outer figures again wear military style stable belts.

The buildings in the back ground are made of wood, with pan tiled roves and seem to have corrugated iron attached under the eaves to help deflect rainwater away from the walls. A raised section at the apex of the roof helps ventilate the interior:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-copy-2

Indian Army Parade Postcard

This week’s postcard takes us back to the days of Empire and the Indian Raj, with this impressive view of a military parade that I believe was taken somewhere in the sub-continent during the interwar period:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001The parade ground is cordoned off, with civilians sat on chairs around the perimeter to watch the occasion:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-8The odd British officer, not required for the parade, sits with the audience to cast a professional eye over proceedings:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-7One member of the audience, disregarding the heat, has dressed in British formal wear, complete with top hat:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-9In front of them the main body of troops can be seen marching in formation:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-2Led by a mounted officer:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-3Behind can be seen what appears to be artillery, drawn by mules distinctly smaller than the other horses on show:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-5A pair of mounted officers watch from the side, their chargers looking particularly impressive compared to the smaller animals drawing the guns:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-6Finally a lone soldier stands at attention to one side, holding a standard:skmbt_c36416111609030_0001-copy-4Parades were a regular occurrence for troops in India, however in most cases it was merely a display of drill to practice the men, full dress parades such as this in front of an audience were less common.