Category Archives: Photograph

Photograph of British Troops sat on Captured FT17 Tank

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 sat 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 sat 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.

HMS Witherington Photograph

This week’s photograph is a nice study of the W class destroyer HMS Witherington:skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-6skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-2skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-2-copyThis 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:skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-2skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-2skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-2-copyThe 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:skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-4skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-2skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-2-copyShe 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:skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-5skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-2skmbt_c36416120815480_0001-copy-2-copyHMS 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.

Indian Troops Marching in the Desert Press Photograph

This week’s photograph considers a third and final press photograph of the Indian Army training in World War Two. The previous photographs can be viewed here and here, however unlike the last two images this one was not taken in India, but in the deserts of North Africa:skmbt_c36416120708301_0001The back of the photograph has the usual caption for the press:skmbt_c36416120708310_0001This reads:

Indian troops, which were the first of the Empire troops to take up their station in the Middle East, have soon settled down in their desert camp. The picture shows Indian troops led by British Officers, marching out of their camp in the desert.

And in the background of the photograph this camp can be seen, with a selection of tents:skmbt_c36416120708301_0001-copyAnd a single more permanent outhouse:skmbt_c36416120708301_0001-copy-2The men wear desert shorts and shirts with jumpers. Their equipment is simply a leather belt and pair of 03 pattern ammunition pouches:skmbt_c36416120708301_0001-copy-3A senior NCO marches at the head of the column with his swagger stick:skmbt_c36416120708301_0001-copy-4Note the different shade to his jumper, his collared shirt and that he wears what appears to be a Sam Browne belt without any shoulder straps. The two British Officers march in front of the main body of men:skmbt_c36416120708301_0001-copy-5Each wears the peaked cap synonymous with his status as an officer.

There was considerable interest in the Indian troops fighting in the desert, with visits to inspect them from various dignitaries. The Daily Mail of February 15th 1940 reported:

Units of the Indian Army massed in the desert outside Cairo this morning heard a message from the King-Emperor read to them by Mr Anthony Eden, Secretary for the Dominions.

Bearded Sikhs, Rajputs, Jats, Punjabis and Madrassis, dressed in Indian battle-dress of shorts, puttees and grey sweaters, and the varied turbans, cheered lustily at the end of Mr Eden’s speech.

A parade followed watched by Mr Eden, Sir miles Lampson, the British Ambassador in Cairo, and General Sir Archibald Wavell, commanding the British forces in the Near East.

Mr Eden said the whole Empire was grateful to the Indians. The unity of all sections of the Empire was the assurance of final victory.

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!

Troops in India on a Routemarch

Tonight we have the second in our trio of Indian Army press photos. Again this is a wonderfully taken shot and depicts a groups of recruits setting out from camp on a route march:skmbt_c36416120708292_0001The caption on the back reads:

A picture taken at an Army training establishment “somewhere in India” where Indians are undergoing training for Army life. Village boys joining the Army are given the opportunity of enjoying life on a wider scale, with good pay and many opportunities for advancement.

Photo shows:- Route March- out into the warm, sun bathed countryside the sepoys march. They are now fully-trained soldiers ready to carry on the tradition of the Indian Army. skmbt_c36416120708300_0001The main body of men marching out are all dressed in khaki drill uniforms with 08 pattern webbing and rifles:skmbt_c36416120708292_0001-copyAs on the last photo we had of Indian troops training, two distinct turban designs can be seen, those with a khulla being Muslim soldiers:skmbt_c36416120708292_0001-copy-2And those without being Sikhs:skmbt_c36416120708292_0001-copy-3A senior NCO marches beside his men, with his webbing set up to carry a revolver and binoculars, and a small cane in his hand:skmbt_c36416120708292_0001-copy-4A British officer can be seen further back keeping an eye on the column:skmbt_c36416120708292_0001-copy-5In the background can be seen the large sheds and workshops of the training base:skmbt_c36416120708292_0001-copy-6Route marches remain an integral part of military training. They help improve fitness and stamina, provide a good outlet for soldiers energy and help encourage ‘toughness’. They are also a good way for junior officers to practice map reading/getting lost without any major repercussions. Finally, perhaps the most important thing going for route marches is that they are very cheap! Always a consideration with tight military training budgets!

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

Indian Army Recruits practicing with Rifles and Gas Masks

This week’s photograph is a particularly nice shot of Indian troops practicing at a rifle range whilst wearing respirators:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001This image is particularly well taken, explained by the fact that this was a professionally taken photograph for press use. The label on the back indicates that it was taken for the Topical Press Agency and the description reads:

A picture taken at an Army training establishment “somewhere in India” where Indians are undergoing training in Army life. Village boys joining the Army are given the opportunity of enjoying life on a wider scale, with good pay and many opportunities for advancement.

Photo shows:- Accustoming the recruit to the rifle and gas-mask combined during rifle practice.

The men here wear Mk IV general service respirators like this one here:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copyThey also wear their traditional regimental headgear, with some wearing a simple turban:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copy-2And others wearing it with a khulla, a cloth cone worn at the centre of the turban:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copy-3There were numerous different ways of wearing the turban, as indicated by this diagram from between the wars:turbansIn the photograph above it is most likely that those with the khulla are muslim troops, and those without Sikhs. The trainees here each hold the Short Magazine Lee Enfield Rifle:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copy-4Note the white bands painted around the forestocks:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copy-5These indicate that these rifles are drill purpose examples for training and should not be used for firing. In the background can be seen the buildings of the training establishment:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copy-6And a large frame with ropes hanging down to practice rope climbing:skmbt_c36416120708290_0001-copy-7This is one of a series of three press photos I have picked up depicting training in the Indian Army, the quality and subject matter of these is far more interesting than many run of the mill personal snaps and we will be returning to the others over the coming weeks.