Category Archives: postcard

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Postcard

This week’s postcard is a fine colour study of three Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from just before the Great War: SKM_C284e17103010000The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had been formed in 1881 by the merging of the 91st (Argyllshire Highlanders) and 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) regiments. This regiment would go on to have an illustrious career until finally being merged with other regiments to create the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006. The regiment though had expanded to fifteen battalions during the Great War and nine during the Second World War.

In this postcard the highlanders are wearing the full dress uniform in use before World War one. Each wears a kilt of Government Sett (Government No 2A) tartan: SKM_C284e17103010000 - CopyNote also the bayonet in the white leather frog. The men wear a Scottish style regimental doublet in scarlet with yellow facings: SKM_C284e17103010000 - Copy (2)Again it is worth noting the white leather ammunition pouches being worn on the waist. Their feather bonnets are in black, with a red and white diced band and a white plume: SKM_C284e17103010000 - Copy (3)The other rank’s sporran is made of black horsehair with six white tails, known as the ‘swinging six’: SKM_C284e17103010000 - Copy (4)White spats are worn with red and white diced hose:SKM_C284e17103010000 - Copy (5) All the men appear to be carrying Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifles, indicating the postcard dates from no earlier than 1903: SKM_C284e17103010000 - Copy (6)This postcard was manufactured by Valentines and very brief information on the regiment is printed on the back: SKM_C284e17103010001It is clear from the style of the postcard, they were trying to emulate the hugely successful ‘oilette’ postcards from Tuck.

Pre-war home service dress uniforms are always very impressive, and Highland regiments doubly so. It is easy to see why so many mourned their loss in the wake of the Great War, practicalities though would have to triumph over aesthetics.



Trench Railway Postcard

This week’s postcard is a delightful colour painting of a trench railway from World War One:SKM_C45817100313480The conditions on the ground in France during World War One could be pretty horrendous, with heavy mud and poor roads making it difficult to bring up shells and supplies very quickly. Most rail heads were situated several miles from the front and what was needed was a way of transporting goods right up to the front quickly, safely and reliably. The answer was miniature light railways running on rails of just a two foot gauge. These railways were provided in pre-made track panels of approximately 16 feet and unskilled labour could quickly lay them on roads and smooth surfaces to form a railway network. Their lightweight and modular construction made them easy to repair and replace if hit by enemy shell fire.

These railways used a variety of motive power, but the most common were small petrol driven tractors:SKM_C45817100313480 - CopyBritain pioneered the use of petrol powered, 4-wheel synchromesh mechanical drive locomotives for daylight use within visual range of the front. In 1916 the War Office required “Petrol Trench Tractors” of 600-mm gauge that were capable of drawing 10 to 15 tons at 5 mi (8.0 km) per hour. Early tractors weighed 2 tons. Behind them they hauled a variety of rolling stock including bogie wagons and little side tipping hopper cars such as the ones seen here:SKM_C45817100313480 - Copy (3)Although stylised, it can be seen that these hoppers, when not needed for supplies, were also frequently used as a form of transport for the men to save exhausting them too much going into or out of the trench:SKM_C45817100313480 - Copy (2)The value of these trench railways was recognised at all levels and on 24th July 1916 Winston Churchill wrote:

The foundation of a good trench line is a system of light railways far more extensive and elaborate than anything we have at the present time. It is only by means of light railways that all the enormous varieties and quantities of trench stores necessary for the making of a solid line and keeping them in repair can be conveyed to the Front, such as pumping machinery, steel dugouts, revetting material; and all variety of trench stores can only be brought in sufficient quantities to the front by a very elaborate and extensive network of railways and light railways.

Unusually the back of the card in this case is as interesting as the front:SKM_C45817100313481This reveals that the postcard was one of a series produced by A M Davis and Company of London to raise money for National War Savings. There were twelve cards in the set, of which this is the fourth, and they are all emblazoned with slogans encouraging people to buy War Bonds.

Military Hospital Postcard

During World War One there was a great need for more hospital beds to treat wounded soldiers, many schools and public buildings were requisitioned and turned into hospitals. Tonight’s postcard is of one of those buildings, the Langworthy Road Military Hospital in Salford, Manchester:SKM_C45817092908111The school was one of five in the area that were offered up for conversion into hospitals. At the time it had about 1100 pupils of all ages and these were moved to Sunday Schools in the area, having half days of teaching throughout the week to free up the building. Looking at our postcard we can see that a large sign has been added over one entrance listing it as a military hospital:SKM_C45817092908111 - CopyWhilst a flag pole in the grounds flies both the Union Flag and the Red Cross Flag indicating it is a hospital:SKM_C45817092908111 - Copy (2)The hospital had 154 beds for other ranks patients. One interesting story with a link to the Langworthy Road Military Hospital was related in the Salfordonline newsite as part of their 100th anniversary coverage of World War One:

It was January 1916 when Mr Thomas Howard, or Jackson as he often called himself, appeared at Salford Magistrates Court charged with larcency and acting under ‘false pretences’.

Howard was serving as a private in the 3rd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers when he took it upon himself to use his acting skills and conmanship to prey on the vulnerable in his home town.

In the first case against him, the court heard from Richard Bowker, a tramguard by Salford Corporation. Howard approached the tram with his arm in a sling and his head tightly bandaged in white cotton: he was limping and telling anyone within earshot that he was a wounded soldier home on leave.

He asked the tramguard the best way to get to Bolton, it being late at night.

Mr Bowker, a sensitive chap by all accounts, took pity on the poor unfortunate and allowed Jackson to stay the night at his home, where he was fed and allowed to sleep on a couch downstairs.

The following morning Mr Bowker’s wife went downstairs to wake the war hero and Jackson was missing along with a shirt which had been hanging up in the kitchen.

The court then heard testimony from an unnamed barmaid from the Priory Hotel on West High Street in Pendleton.

She told how Howard had limped into the pub swathed in bandages, telling her that he was being treated at the nearby military hospital on Langworthy Road.

Her sympathy was aroused by the soldier telling her of his “great pain” in recovering from injuries suffered in France at the Battle of Loos.

She dutifully supplied him with free food and drinks in the pub, as they might for any other local lad who had laid down his life for his country. Howard then took from her a loan of four shillings – no doubt to treat his dear old mum – but was never seen again.

The final case against this shirker was the most serious of the lot.

A widow named Maude Perrill who lived at Gibson Street, Pendleton, fell for Howard’s somewhat dubious charms when he appeared to faint when passing her house, again swathed in bandages and crying out in ‘pain’.

Maude’s own teenage son had been killed at the Battle of Loos – the same that Howard pretended to have been injured in.

She let him into the house and gave him a tot or two of brandy which appeared to revive him.

Incredibly enough, Ms Perrill allowed the ‘wounded hero’ to stay at her house for nine weeks! He would leave her home every morning to allegedly have his bandages changed at the military hospital.

One morning, presumably when Howard had had his fill, she noticed that her son’s watch and gold chain were missing from the nightstand.

She called in the local police, including Detective Inspector Clarke, who would later support her in court.

His team found that Howard wasn’t receiving treatment at the military hospital on Langworthy Road – nor at the temporary hospital at Worsley Hall, as he had claimed.

Further enquiries revealed that he had also visited several shops in Pendleton ‘collecting’ bandages for the apparently short-stocked hospitals overrun with casualties.

It was never discovered whether he was using all of these donated gifts to dress his ‘injuries’ daily, or whether he simply sold them on the street – his record could indicate either, as it turned out.

Howard was eventually arrested in Salford wearing a dummy sling for his arm and soiled bandages.

At the time it was revealed that he was a deserter from his regiment and had a shocking miltary record for theft, among other petty and more serious crimes.

The army asked the court to deal with him on the larcency charges and they would deal with him for desertion.

The Magistrate ordered Howard to be remanded in custody for a week and agreed with the army’s wishes.

Sadly, there appears to be no record of what punishment this rascal received, but you can guarantee that he would receive a warm reception when he arrived back at the barracks of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers!

HMS Warrior Postcard

Today we are familiar with the 1860s HMS Warrior, moored up as a museum ship in Portsmouth Harbour. However after this ship was decommissioned another vessel bore the same name and this cruiser was to take part, and be fatally hit, in the Battle of Jutland. This week’s postcard is a fine image of this cruiser:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (2)The ship displaced just over 13,500 tons and was laid down at Pembroke Dock in 1903, being launched in 1905. The ship had a length of 505 feet and was powered by four cylinder, triple expansion steam engines which gave her a maximum speed of 23.3 knots. These engines were powered by 19 Yarrow water tube boilers and six cylindrical boilers, venting out through four central funnels:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (6) - CopyThe ship was armed with six breach loading 9.2 inch Mk X guns, one on the centreline forrard:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (2) - CopyOne on the centreline aft:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (3) - CopyAnd four on the corners about the funnels:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (4) - CopyHer secondary armament was four 7.5 inch guns in turrets, between the four centrally mounted 9.2 inch guns, two per side:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (5) - CopyThe weight of this armament made the ships of this class very stable for gunnery purposes. As with other ships of her era, the deck of Warrior is fairly sparse, with an open bridge to conn the ship from:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (7) - CopyBoats are carried amid-ships:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (8) - CopyWith a derrick on the rear mast to move them if required:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (9) - CopyNote the spars for the anti-torpedo netting along the side of the hull:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (10) - CopyThe back of this card reveals it was sent by one of the ship’s crew from Invergordon- then a major naval anchorage:SKM_C45817091209240 - CopyWarrior was ordered as part of the 1903–04 naval construction programme as the first of four armoured cruisers. She was laid down on 5 November 1903 at Pembroke Dockyard, launched on 25 November 1905 and completed on 12 December 1906. On completion, Warrior was assigned to the 5th Cruiser Squadron in the Channel Fleet until 1909, when she was transferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. On 15 September 1909 one of Warrior‘s boiler tubes failed during firing practice, and she was repaired at Devonport Dockyard. In 1913 the ship was transferred to the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Mediterranean Fleet. She was involved in the pursuit of the German battlecruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau at the outbreak of World War I, but was ordered not to engage them. Warrior participated in the Allied sweep which led to the sinking of the Austro-Hungarian light cruiser SMS Zenta during the Battle of Antivari in August 1914. A few days later she was ordered to Suez to defend the Suez Canal against any Turkish attack and remained there until 6 November when she was ordered to Gibraltar to join a squadron of French and British ship to search for German warships still at sea off the African coast. This was cancelled on 19 November after the location of the German East Asia Squadron was revealed by survivors of the Battle of Coronel.

Warrior joined the Grand Fleet in December 1914 and was assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron under Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Keith Arbuthnot. At the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916, the 1st Cruiser Squadron was in front of the Grand Fleet, on the right side. At 5:47 p.m., the squadron flagship, HMS Defence, and Warrior spotted the German II Scouting Group and opened fire. Their shells felt short and the two ships turned to port in pursuit, cutting in front of the battlecruiser HMS Lion, which was forced to turn away to avoid a collision. Shortly afterwards they spotted the disabled German light cruiser SMS Wiesbaden and closed to engage. When the two ships reached a range of 5,500 yards (5,000 m) from Wiesbaden they were spotted in turn at 6:05 by the German battlecruiser SMS Derfflinger and four battleships who were less than 8,000 yards (7,300 m) away. The fire from the German ships was heavy and Defence blew up at 6:20. Warrior was hit by at least fifteen 28-centimetre (11 in) and six 15-centimetre (5.9 in) shells, but was saved when the German ships switched their fire to the battleship HMS Warspite when its steering jammed and caused Warspite to make two complete circles within sight of much of the High Seas Fleet.

Warrior was heavily damaged by the German shells, which caused large fires and heavy flooding, although the engine room crew – of whom only three survived – kept the engines running for long enough to allow her to withdraw to the west. She was taken in tow by the seaplane tender HMS Engadine who took off her surviving crew of 743. She was abandoned in a rising sea at 8:25 a.m. on 1 June when her upper deck was only 4 feet (1.2 m) above the water, and subsequently foundered.

Whale Island Guardhouse Postcard

Whale Island is the oldest shore training establishment in the Royal Navy, located in Portsmouth Harbour. Whale Island is predominantly reclaimed land, material dredged from the harbour being used for its construction. Large numbers of Napoleonic prisoners helped in its construction and it was well established as a base by the end of the nineteenth century. Whale Island was connected to nearby Portsea Island sometime before 1898 by a footbridge. This footbridge is the subject of tonight’s postcard:SKM_C45817071907530This photograph seems to have been taken between the wars and depicts the guardhouse on the Island:SKM_C45817071907530 - CopyThis guardhouse was pulled down and replaced in the 1970s. The footbridge can be seen to the left of the postcard:SKM_C45817071907530 - Copy (2)With a sentry box and armed sailor on guard:SKM_C45817071907530 - Copy (3)In the distance can be seen the mainland:SKM_C45817071907530 - Copy (4)This wooden footbridge was replaced by a road bridge around the time of the Second World War and this is still in use today. Rear Admiral Gordon Campbell VC describes the guardhouse in his book “Life of a Q-Ship Captain”:

Whale Island is the actual island on which the gunnery establishments are built, and where a large number of officers and men are accommodated. It is connected to the mainland by a small bridge, alongside of which is a guard-house manned by bluejackets, where the usual guard duties are carried out.

RH Nicklin was stationed at Whale Island during the Second World War:

Whale Island is only accessible by a bridge and various jobs are allocated to the ship’s company, one that I liked very much was guard duty mostly on the bridge entrance and in the guard house at the opposite end of the bridge, but there was also guard duties on other parts of the Island especially at nights, this was to make sure that no one could make a landing of sorts. Every guard was armed and issued with live ammunition and knew how to use it after having lots of practice on the rifle range, but the guard on the bridge was my second best job night or day, your duty was to stop everyone entering the island ask for a pass and search all vehicles, when satisfied ring the guardhouse by phone to let them know that you had passed someone so that they would be ready to receive them, then the P.O. on duty would ask them their business and either let them through or send them back and then it was the guards duty to see they cleared the area.

HMS Sutlej Postcard

This week we return to the pre-World War One Royal Navy and another fine postcard, this time of the Cressy class armoured cruiser, HMS Sutlej:SKM_C45817070409340 - Copy (2)Sutlej was designed to displace 12,000 long tons (12,000 t). The ship had an overall length of 472 feet (143.9 m), a beam of 69 feet 9 inches (21.3 m) and a deep draught of 26 feet 9 inches (8.2 m). She was powered by two 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines, each driving one shaft, which produced a total of 21,000 indicated horsepower (15,660 kW) and gave a maximum speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph). The engines were powered by 30 Belleville boilers with four thin and elegant funnels:SKM_C45817070409340 - Copy (5)On their sea trials all of the Cressy-class cruisers, except the lead ship, exceeded their designed speed. She carried a maximum of 1,600 long tons (1,600 t) of coal and her complement ranged from 725 to 760 officers and enlisted men.

Her main armament consisted of two breech-loading (BL) 9.2-inch (234 mm) Mk X guns in single gun turrets, one each fore and aft of the superstructure. SKM_C45817070409340 - Copy (3)They fired 380-pound (170 kg) shells to a range of 15,500 yards (14,200 m). Her secondary armament of twelve BL 6-inch Mk VII guns was arranged in casemates amidships.SKM_C45817070409340 - Copy (4)Eight of these were mounted on the main deck and were only usable in calm weather. They had a maximum range of approximately 12,200 yards (11,200 m) with their 100-pound (45 kg) shells. A dozen quick-firing (QF) 12-pounder 12 cwt guns were fitted for defence against torpedo boats, eight on casemates on the upper deck and four in the superstructure. The ship also carried three 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns and two submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes.

The ship’s waterline armour belt had a maximum thickness of 6 inches (152 mm) and was closed off by 5-inch (127 mm) transverse bulkheads. The armour of the gun turrets and their barbettes was 6 inches thick while the casemate armour was 5 inches thick. The protective deck armour ranged in thickness from 1–3 inches (25–76 mm) and the conning tower was protected by 12 inches (305 mm) of armour.

Sutlej, named to commemorate two battles on the Sutlej River during the First Anglo-Sikh War, was laid down by John Brown & Company at their shipyard in Clydebank on 15 August 1898 and launched on 18 November 1899. She was commissioned at Chatham on 6 May 1902 by Captain Paul Bush, to take the place of the HMS Diadem in the Channel Squadron, which she joined in late July after steam trials. She took part in the fleet review held at Spithead on 16 August 1902 for the coronation of King Edward VII. She was later re-assigned to the China Station and remained there until May 1906 when she became a boys’ training ship in the North America and West Indies Station. The ship returned home in 1909 and became flagship of the reserve Third Fleet until 1910. Whilst on manoeuvers off Berehaven, Ireland on 15 July, she had a boiler explosion that killed four men.

A few days after the start of the war, Sutlej was assigned to the 9th Cruiser Squadron (CS) for convoy escort duties off the French and Iberian coasts. She was transferred to 11th CS in Ireland in February 1915 for similar duties. Sent to the Azores in February 1916 and rejoined the 9th CS in September. She was paid off at Devonport on 4 May 1917 and became an accommodation ship. In January 1918 she became a depot ship at Rosyth and was renamed Crescent. She reverted to Sutlej in 1919 before she was sold on 9 May 1921 to Thos W Ward and laid up in Belfast. Sutlej arrived at Preston, Lancashire on 15 August 1924 to be broken up.

World War One Postcard of Soldiers Posing in Pith Helmets

This week’s postcard is an intriguing image with an unusual selection of kit on display. Dating from the time of the Great War, this postcard shows four soldiers standing in the mud outside a set of wooden barrack huts:SKM_C45817062711520 - Copy (5)The men are wearing woolen service dress, but three of them are also wearing Wolseley helmets which seem a little incongruous:SKM_C45817062711520 - CopyThe fourth man retains his service dress cap:SKM_C45817062711520 - Copy (2)The cap badges are clearly Royal Artillery, and this would also explain the 1903 bandoliers being worn:SKM_C45817062711520 - Copy (3)These were commonly issued to mounted and troops who were not infantry. The second man from left is wearing the double breasted mounted great coat:SKM_C45817062711520 - Copy (4)So what is happening in the photograph? I suspect that the men are about to go overseas and have just been issued with their new pith helmets, and like young soldiers of all generations they couldn’t help but pose for a photograph with their new headgear. Generally before shipping overseas, often for years at a time, a soldier would receive fourteen days leave and on his return would be issued his pith helmet and tropical kit before heading to the docks and a ship to foreign climes. Here we see men from the 2nd Battallion Grenadier Guards a few decades later being issued with Wolseley helmets before heading to Egypt in 1936:12002975_1058049424205637_7928923749095364454_n