Category Archives: postcard

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.

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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

HMS Bedford Postcard

This week’s Sunday night image is a fine Edwardian postcard of the cruiser HMS Bedford:SKM_C45817070409340 - CopyThis shows the ship dressed for some occasion, with bunting flying from her masts and an awning on her quarterdeck. This card was sent in 1905, as seen from the postmark on the back:SKM_C45817070409341I particularly like the message pencilled on ‘We saw lots of boats like this yesterday. Plymouth April 23rd’. HMS Bedford was a Monmouthshire Class armoured cruiser, launched in 1901.

Bedford was designed to displace 9,800 long tons (9,960 t). The ship had an overall length of 463 feet 6 inches (141.3 m), a beam of 66 feet (20.1 m) and a deep draught of 25 feet (7.6 m). She was powered by two 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines, each driving one shaft, which produced a total of 22,000 indicated horsepower (16,000 kW) and gave a maximum speed of 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph). The engines were powered by 31 Belleville boilers. Bedford was fitted for partial oil burning as an experiment and sported three elegant tall funnels:SKM_C45817070409340 - Copy - Copy (4)She carried a maximum of 1,600 long tons (1,626 t) of coal and her complement consisted of 678 officers and enlisted men. Her main armament consisted of fourteen breech-loading (BL) 6-inch Mk VII guns. Four of these guns were mounted in two twin-gun turrets, one each fore and aft of the superstructure:SKM_C45817070409340 - Copy - CopyThe others positioned in casemates amidships:SKM_C45817070409340 - Copy - Copy (2)Six 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 with their 100-pound (45 kg) shells. Ten quick-firing (QF) 12-pounder 12 cwt guns were fitted for defence against torpedo boats. Bedford also carried three 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns and two submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes. The ship carried a number of boats:SKM_C45817070409340 - Copy - Copy (5)And in the foreground can be seen a steam launch:SKM_C45817070409340 - Copy - Copy (6)The ship’s waterline armour belt had a maximum thickness of four inches (102 mm) and was closed off by five-inch (127 mm) transverse bulkheads. The armour of the gun turrets and their barbettes was four inches thick while the casemate armour was five inches thick. The protective deck armour ranged in thickness from .75–2 inches (19–51 mm) and the conning tower was protected by ten inches (254 mm) of armour. She was controlled from an open bridge, typical of the period:SKM_C45817070409340 - Copy - Copy (3)Bedford, named after the English county, was laid down on 19 February 1900 by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering at their Govan shipyard. She was launched on 31 August 1901, when she was christened by Charlotte Mary Emily Burns, wife of the Hon. James Cleland Burns, of the Cunard Line shipping family. In May 1902 she was navigated to Devonport for completion and trials. She was completed on 11 November 1903 and initially assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Channel Fleet. Bedford was briefly placed in reserve at the Nore in 1906 before being recommissioned in February 1907 for service on the China Station. She was wrecked on 21 August 1910 at Quelpart Island in the East China Sea with 18 men killed. The wreck was subsequently sold for breaking up on 10 October 1910.

Captured German Guns Postcard

On Monday 11th January 1915, The Daily Mail published a letter from a Violet Bryce that read:

Sir- I see an announcement that about 150 of the captured German guns, including field guns, machine guns, howitzers and mortars are at present stored at Woolwich and that the authorities intend distributing them through the country as marks of appreciation of local success in recruiting.

An exhibition of these trophies of war before distribution would attract an immense number of visitors, and if a moderate entrance fee were charged a very large sum of money might be collected for the benefit of our soldiers and sailors.

Miss Bryce was actually very prescient, and in October 1916 the same paper reported, arrangements are being made for some of the guns captured form the enemy to be exhibited at home.

Tonight we are looking at a postcard of some of those German artillery pieces, captured and on display for the public:SKM_C45817041112510This card was an official photograph by the Daily Mail and was presumably sold at the location where the guns were on display as a souvenir for visitors.

It seems the British government were slow off the mark in displaying captured guns, but once they had realised the public interest it became commonplace to show off this booty and indeed after the war many towns and villages were presented with examples. Most of these are sadly long gone, scrapped in WW2 for their metal. Guns were allocated based on the size of settlement- the bigger the settlement the larger the gun they were presented with. A 1922 publication recorded:

“The War Trophies Committee was formed in November, 1916, the terms of reference being “to deal with all questions in regard to the distribution of trophies and watch the interests of the Imperial War Museum.” ~

When a claim for a gun etc, had been substantiated, the unit in question was asked its views as to the destination of the trophy, with the proviso that it went to a Regimental Depot, a recognized public body, or museum; up to present some 3,595 guns, 15,044 machine guns, 75,824 small arms and 7,887 other trophies had been distributed.

Large numbers of applications were received for allotment from County Authorities, Mayors and Corporations of cities and towns, Urban and Parish Councils and other communities. The Committee decided that allotment of the trophies to which no claim had been substantiated, had to be recommended by the Lord Lieutenant of the County.

A small number still exist and after years of neglect are now being appreciated once more. This example of a German trench mortar at Honing in Norfolk has recently been restored:_85246254_85244222

Union Jack Club Postcard

This week’s postcard is a fine image of the Union Jack Club in London, probably taken just before WW1:SKM_C45817062012280 - Copy (2)The Union Jack Club had been formed in the aftermath of the Boer War- a Red Cross nurse Ethel McCaul had noted that whilst officers had their own clubs in London, enlisted men visiting the capital had to make do with inns and guest houses. £60,000 pounds was quickly raised and the foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales in 1904, the building opening by the end of 1904. This photograph was taken early in the club’s history, judging by the dress of those standing outside the main entrance who look Edwardian from the civilian dress and uniforms:SKM_C45817062012280 - Copy (2) - CopyThe main entrance is particularly impressive, with a statue of a knight (presumably St George) above a glazed toplight with the name of the club picked out in stained glass:SKM_C45817062012280 - Copy (3) - CopyThe building was made of red brick and had the name repeated above the ground floor windows:SKM_C45817062012280 - Copy (4) - CopyOther architectural details include a carving of St George slaying the dragon:SKM_C45817062012280 - Copy (5) - CopyAnd large domed towers on the roof:SKM_C45817062012280 - Copy (6) - CopyThe building had 208 bedrooms and extensive public rooms such as libraries and billiard rooms for use by NCOs and men. During the two world wars, membership was extended from British enlisted personnel to Empire personnel so Canadians, South Africans and Australians could all use the facilities. Families were also welcome, a separate block being available for them, as recalled by one man who stayed there after World War 2:

I remember staying at the Union Jack Club as a child in the late 1950’s. It was a family holiday to London, our first visit to the capital. My father had served in the forces in WW2, so we benefitted from the cheap but clean and suitable accommodation. Without access to the club my parents would not have been able to afford to take us to London ( from Yorkshire).

The building was heavily bombed in World War 2 and in 1971 was demolished to be replaced with a much larger concrete edifice, opened by the Queen in 1976.

This postcard was clearly produced for the club and sold for the use of its visitors, as witnessed by their logo on the back:SKM_C45817062012290The club is still in existence, offering cheap accommodation for serving and ex-service men and women in the heart of London.

Camp Post Postcard

This week’s postcard is dated on the back 1913 and was sent from a Boy’s Brigade summer Camp in Grange over Sands. The image on the front though is clearly inspired by the summer camps operated by the Territorial Army before the Great War.SKM_C45817041112510 - CopyThe postcard is entitled ‘Camp Life, The Daily Post’ and has a cartoon of soldiers in khaki rushing to get their letters, with bell tents in the background. The Daily Mail in 1909 recorded the summer camp for London Territorials:

There was a great exodus of Volunteers from London on Saturday for the annual camp training.

Most of the London corps are being gathered in camps on the South Coast, and a very large proportion of them in Sussex, where for the time they come under the direction of General Lord Methuen, a large portion of whose regular troops of the Eastern command are already gathered for manœuvres in the country.

The Sussex camps for the London Volunteers have been formed at Brighton, Seaford, Worthing, Bexhill and Newhaven; while in Kent there are an extensive camp for London men at Shorncliffe and smaller ones at Sheerness, Lydd, and near Canterbury. In Hampshire a very large body of metropolitan Volunteers have gathered in camp in the New Forest, become in recent years an increasingly popular training ground; and Essex has London corps at Shoeburryness, Harwich, Clacton and Frinton.

In all the paper recorded that 25,000 men had left the capital for their annual training that August.