Tonight’s photograph was a very generous birthday present from my brother, the original photograph a very impressive 18 inches by 14 inches and mounted on card. The photograph depicts the winning team from the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards at the 1929 McCalmont Cup:The cup itself can be seen in the centre of the photograph, with a miniature version in front:I believe this cup would have been for a shooting competition as the men are posing with Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifles:Interestingly one of the officers, with a particularly fine chest of medals, has a rifle as well:All the men in the photograph are experienced soldiers, with a multitude of proficiency badges on their sleeves:And the man sat on the front at the far right has an impressive four long service and good conduct stripes on his sleeves:These stripes indicate that this private had eighteen years of good conduct. As befits a Guards regiment the men’s uniforms are spotless, with brightly polished regimental buttons rather than General Service pattern examples. Each has a pair of white on red embroidered shoulder flashes with the regimental name:This affectation has remained with the Grenadiers to the present day, still being worn on the sleeves of modern Number 2 dress uniforms. They are also wearing regimental forage caps with gilded peaks, rather than a standard khaki service dress cap:The officers also show regimental insignia, with the distinctive elongated pips of rank peculiar to Guard’s officers:I have tried to identify anything further about the McCalmont cup and I believe it was run at the Pirbright Ranges by the London and District Rifle Meeting. As ever if anyone can help provide some more background get in touch.
This week’s photograph is a little bit different to the usual ones we look at, being both post war and in colour! This photograph depicts cadets at a summer camp at an army barracks, practicing first aid on a ‘ressusci-annie’:Having spoken to some who served in the cadets, our best guess is this photograph was taken in the early 1970s. The wooden buildings in the background are barrack accommodation and again although I have no way of being certain, it looks very much like the old Deverall Barracks at Ripon (of which I have had some personal experience many years later). The barrack blocks are large wooden huts, each holding approximately thirty men:In the foreground we can see the training dummy, used to practice mouth to mouth resuscitation:An adult instructor is leaning over demonstrating to the cadets how to use it:The cadets wear olive green uniform, with a number of styles and varieties worn, most wear beret:One though wears a jungle boonie hat:Interestingly he also wears a woolly pully over a shirt, with a 37 pattern belt round his waist. Other cadets seem to be wearing a version of a 1960 combat smock:Or shirt and lightweight trousers:This cadet seems to have some sort of mustard scarf around his neck as well! Then as now, cadet forces had very limited funds and items had to be ‘scrounged’ or purchased from a variety of sources with a somewhat hodge-podge result in many cases. Nigel Dickinson was a cadet and recalls:
That’s the kit I was given in 1975 or so, only to have it taken away almost instantly and replaced with DPM trousers – cadet pattern – and proper woolly pullies… If you wanted a smock, hard luck. There was a horrible pullover anorak thing, or of you were lucky, you got a Jacket, Overalls, OG.
Cadet photographs are pretty rare, so this informal personal snap is a very nice find, especially as it illustrates the variety of the uniform worn in this period.
This week we have a second photograph from the collection belonging to Major Stevenson, this image is a fine shot of the ‘India Gate’ war memorial in New Delhi:The India Gate was designed by the prominent architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and commemorates the 82,000 Indian troops who died between 1914 and 1920. The foundation stone was laid on 10th February 1921, being completed and inaugurated in 1931 by the Viceroy. The memorial is deliberately designed to be secular with no overt religious symbols, a key consideration in a religiously diverse country such as pre-partition India.
TO THE DEAD OF THE INDIAN ARMIES WHO FELL AND ARE HONOURED IN FRANCE AND FLANDERS MESOPOTAMIA AND PERSIA EAST AFRICA GALLIPOLI AND ELSEWHERE IN THE NEAR AND THE FAR-EAST AND IN SACRED MEMORY ALSO OF THOSE WHOSE NAMES ARE HERE RECORDED AND WHO FELL IN INDIA OR THE NORTH-WEST FRONTIER AND DURING THE THIRD AFGHAN WAR
The gate is also covered in the names of 13,218 Indian war dead. The top of the gate has a large bowl, where it was planned oil could be placed and burnt on special occasions, although this has rarely ever been done:Overall the memorial stands about 137 feet tall, dwarfing the people in the foreground:These seem to be mostly military personnel with a few civilians mingling amongst:In the background can be seen a small canopy:This originally held a statue of King George V, but this was removed in 1961 and the canopy is currently empty. I believe this photograph might date from the VJ Day celebrations as a number of fighter aircraft can be seen flying overhead in formation:The India Gate War memorial still stands in New Delhi and remains a national focus for military remembrance to this day.
A couple of weeks back I picked up a truly wonderful photograph album from a former British Army officer, Major Stevenson, who had spent much of the war in Simla in India. We will be looking at a selection of the photographs form this album in the coming months and start today with a lovely informal shot of British officers relaxing in the town towards the end of the Second Word War:This does not look like an officer’s mess, but rather one of the many clubs that existed in India during the time of the Raj. The prominent military club was the ‘Simla United Services Club’ which this may well be. The United Services club had opened in 1844 and was restricted to commissioned military officers, army or navy chaplains, members of the Indian Civil Service and judges. The club boasted tennis courts, billiards, an extensive library and reading room and other facilities for off duty officers to relax in.
Here a group of officers are sat enjoying afternoon tea, complete with cake:An Indian waiter stands behind, wearing a turban and cummerbund:The officers themselves are sat, relaxed, in Lloyd Loom chairs. The two closest to the camera appear to be a captain:And either a second lieutenant or major:These officers would either be part of the permenant staff in the town, or passing through on the way to and from other assignments further up country. To the right of the picture can be seen sofas and soft chairs; a more relaxed area for officers to sit and read the paper, play games or chat with their colleagues:
The United Services Club in Simla closed in 1947 with the coming of Indian independence, however other clubs remain across the sub-continent and are popular amongst Indian officers and business men alike. Although their membership is now far more inclusive than it ever used to be, these clubs are a lasting legacy of the British Empire in the region.
This week’s photograph is a truly splendid press photograph taken on board a British cruiser on convoy work:Press photographs are always a nice addition to the collection because the quality of the composition and subject matter is normally far higher than personal snaps and they usually have a detailed description on the back. In this case the back of the photograph reads:
Dramatic Air Attack,
A series of photos secured by our own staff photographer in a fight against a convoy in the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic. The convoy and its escort were attacked by U-boats and Focker-Wolfe (sic) 4 engined Courier Bombers. After a fight of some hours, both bombers and U-boats were driven off without loss. These scenes were secured on board a cruiser while in action.
Photo shows. The ship’s torpedo officer wearing anti-bomb protecting gear gives a running commentary of enemy aircraft movements to ship’s company below decks.
Allowing for press inaccuracies, my guess is that the aircraft referred to were FW2000 Condor long range bombers:These were frequently used for long range maritime bombing. The picture itself is very interesting, despite some damage. The officer in the centre is a lieutenant, as shown by the painted rank insignia on his helmet:He is wearing white cotton anti-flash gear over his uniform as one would expect in battle, with a hood:And gloves:Around his waist he has an inflatable life jacket, here a rarer white version (more commonly the RN used blue examples of the life jacket):Note also his gas mask bag slung on his hip. In his hand is a large microphone into which he is giving his commentary:He is stnding on the open bridge of the cruiser, we can clearly see a row of voice pipes allowing the bridge to speak to other parts of the ships:Other ships of the convoy can be seen in the background:Thomas Kay describes an attack on a convoy he was part of by Condor bombers:
Towards the end of February 1942 we sailed as part of a large convoy, with a warship escort which included for a period the battleships HMS Rodney and HMS Nelson.
I first saw action in the Bay of Biscay when two FW 220 (Condor) aircraft bombed the convoy. The Condors stayed circling most of the day until one of our planes, a Catalina Flying boat, came on the scene. After a brief dogfight, the ‘Cat’ chased the Condors off. One ship was damaged but fortunately most of the bombs missed as the Condors had to bomb from a great height because the anti-aircraft fire from our escorts was so heavy.
I don’t normally bother picking up negatives, they are usually not very interesting and can be problematic to get an image from. Sometimes however the image is of sufficient interest that I take a punt. Earlier this week I found a rather nice negative with an interesting subject matter for 25p and it came home with me.
It was at this point my struggles began. I firstly tried scanning the negative through the flat bed scanner at work. Even after changing it back to a positive image and enhancing it on the computer, the image I was left with was pretty poor:After a chat with a photographer friend I took a different approach, apparently a scanner uses reflective light that is great for prints but not good for negatives. He suggested I take a photograph of the negative against a window so it had transmitted light. This was far more successful and even looking at the negative it was clear there was more detail:I ran this through an online programme to turn it into a positive image and played about with the contrast and brightness to give a workable image:The image itself depicts seven soldiers seated on a captured ‘German’ tank. They are all wearing tanker’s ‘pixie’ suits:And sporting what appears to be the leek cap badge of the Welsh Guards on their black berets:The combination of the tanker’s uniforms, black beret and cap badge suggests they are part of the Guards Armoured Division. The tank they are seated on has a clear German ‘Balkan’ cross painted on the turret:However it is clear that this is actually a WW1 vintage French FT17 light tank:Over 3000 of these tanks had been built and although it was long obsolete at the time France fell it was still in French Army inventory. The Germans captured 1,079 of the tanks and pressed them into service for airfield defence and internal security duties. By 1944 when this picture would have been taken they were completely useless and it seems likely this tank had been abandoned rather than lost in combat! Either way it makes an interesting and attractive image which has made the difficulty in getting a working image worthwhile.
This week’s photograph is a nice study of the W class destroyer HMS Witherington:This ship was laid down in September 1918 at Samuel White and Company in Cowes on the Isle of Wight and launched in January 1919. She was 300 feet long and had three White Foster water tube boilers, fuelled with oil and arrange of 3500 nautical miles at 15 knots. These boilers exhausted through two funnels amidships:The ship was well armed for its small size, she displaced just 1,140 tons, but was originally equipped with three breach loading 4.7 inch gun turrets:She was to lose one of these turrets, the ‘y’ turret during a refit in February 1942 to convert her into a short range escort, the extra space being used for depth charges.
She was originally commissioned with the pennant number of ‘D76’ but in May 1940 this had been changed to ‘I76’ for visual signalling purposes, and it is this pennant number she is wearing in our photograph:HMS Witherington had an eventful war, she had been laid up in Rosyth since the early 1930s and was reactivated in August 1939.
In September 1939 the ship was allocated to the 15th Destroyer Flotilla based at Rosyth (changed to Liverpool in 1940) in Western Approaches Command for convoy defence. Up to April 1940 she was employed in the North West Approaches area providing local escort for convoys leaving Liverpool (OB series) to a dispersal point in the Atlantic approximately 750 nautical miles west of Lands End. Periodically an OA (sailing from Southend)series convoy would sail and join up with the OB series. The merged convoy would change to an OG series (UK to Gibraltar). During this period she escorted 20 convoys, for a total of 436 ships with total losses of 3 ships (2 sunk by U-boats and 1 due to collision).
In April 1940 she was detached to Scapa Flow after the German invasion of Norway. From 11 April to 15 April she escorted military convoy NP001 to Narvik then on 24 April she escorted military TM001/1. She provided local escort for the arrival at Clyde for TC004 with two troopships carrying 2,591 troops.
In July 1940 she was returned to the Western Approaches for convoy defence and was mainly employed in the North-West Approach sector as a local escort until February 1942. During this time she escorted 13 mercantile convoys. On March 11, 1941, she was beached in Portsmouth after sustaining damage from a Luftwaffe air raid, to be later repaired and returned to service.
At the end of June 1943 she was transferred to the Mediterranean-based out of Alexandria in support of follow on convoys for the Allied invasion of Sicily. In November she was deployed to Gibraltar for Atlantic Convoy Defence.
On 1 November she took part in the sinking of U-340 with HMS Active, HMS Fleetwood and two Vickers Wellington aircraft of No. 179 Squadron RAF at position 35o33’N, 06o37’W. She was deployed in the South-West Approaches out of Gibraltar throughout 1944.
She was deployed in the South-West Approaches out of Gibraltar throughout 1944.
In 1945 she was deployed to the English Channel area to counter the threat of snorkel equipped U-Boats being concentrated or convoy formation areas. She remained in this deployment until VE-Day. Witherington was paid off into reserve after VE-Day. She was placed on the disposal list after VJ-Day. On 20 March 1947 she was sold to Metal Industries for breaking up. On 29 April while under tow to the breakers yard at Charlestown near Rosyth she parted the tow and was wrecked off the mouth of the Tyne in a gale.