Category Archives: postcard

HMS Buzzard on the Embankment Postcard

This week’s postcard is a fine image of the Embankment in London, looking down the River Thames:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (8)The large stone walls of the Embankment can be seen on the left of the image:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (8) - copyOf rather more interest though is the sloop, HMS Buzzard, moored a short distance away:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (9) - copyHMS Buzzard was a Nymphe-class composite screw sloop and the fourth ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name. Developed and constructed for the Royal Navy on a design by William Henry White, Director of Naval Construction, she was launched at Sheerness Dockyard on 10 May 1887. The Nymphe-class sloops were ideal for service in the far distant outposts of the British Empire, and Buzzard was employed on the North America and West Indies Station. In early April 1902, under the command of Commander L. F. G. Tippinge, she left Bermuda for home waters, calling at Faial Island, before she arrived at Devonport on 20 April. She was paid off at Chatham on 13 May 1902. In 1904 she was converted to a drill ship for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at Blackfriars, London as reported in the Daily Mail:

HMS Buzzard arrived on the Thames yesterday and took up her new station at Blackfriars, there to form a training depot for the Metropolitan Division of the Royal Naval Volunteers, called by the irreverent the “Blackfriars Buccaneers.”

Large crowds lined the bridges to watch the passing of the warship, and thousands were on the Embankment during the mooring operations.

The Buzzard, which was launched in 1887, would in the ordinary course have been sold out of the Navy, but she has now been thoroughly modernised and equipped with quickfirers.

The Captain of the Buzzard described the training on the refitted ship:

In the training given on board the Buzzard each company in turn furnishes a ship’s crew, whose duty it is to carry out the routine of the ship for a fortnight at a time. During this period the men live on board, going ashore daily to their occupations in office or workshop. Thus some idea of life on the lower deck is gained and the men are familiarized with the different parts of a man-of-war. Coming on board after his day’s work, the amateur sailor is taught to man a boat over the lower boom; he becomes familiar with such commands as “Away starboard whaler,” or in the case of an imaginary fire, “Pipe fire quarters,” and last but not least “Stand by Hammocks,” “Clear lower deck,” and “Pipe down,” when your clerk or workshop hand has a chance of learning how to sling a hammock and, with a little practice, how to sleep in one. In the morning comes the least popular command, “All hands lash up and stow,” and the men turn out to “Scrub and wash decks” before going on shore.

In 1911 Buzzard relieved HMS President (formerly HMS Gannet of 1878) as headquarters ship, being renamed HMS President on 1 April 1911. As President she served until 23 January 1918, when she was lent to the Marine Society. She was sold to C A Beard for breaking on 6 September 1921, and was later re-sold to Dutch ship breakers.

hms_buzzard_(1887)

RAMC Memorial Aldershot Postcard

This week’s postcard depicts the Royal Army Medical Corps’ Boer War memorial in Aldershot:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (7)This memorial was unveiled in 1905 by King Edward VII and consists of a central, granite obelisk:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (7) - copyA small bronze sculptural plaque is fitted to the front of the obelisk:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (8) - copyramc_memorial_aldershot_groupThe names of 314 officers and men of the Corps are recorded on 14 bronze name plaques arranged in a semi-circle behind the monument:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (9) - copyThe memorial was designed by Robert Weir Schultz, whilst the sculpted group was by the Welsh sculptor William Goscombe John. In 2010 the memorial was listed, the reasons for this designation being given as:

The Royal Army Medical Corps Boer War Memorial of 1905 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Design Interest: As an elegant memorial of good quality workmanship and materials by a known sculptor and known architect. * Historical Interest: As commemorating the fallen of the Royal Army Medical Corps in the Boer War, and as a remembrance of the work of the Corps and as a visually distinctive reference for those who serve or have served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, embracing the tradition of service and the regimental bond.

Postcard of Dalhousie Barracks, Calcutta

This week we return to India again for our weekly postcard, which this week is a fine study of Dalhousie Barracks in Calcutta:skm_c30819010312060I believe this postcard dates from around the time of the First World War and the building still stands today as part of the Indian Army’s Fort William. This description comes from a book called ‘Fort William Calcutta’s Crowning Glory’ by M.L. Augustine:

As soon as one enters the Fort through the East Gate, a massive structure of a four storeyed building captures one’s attention. Constructed during the period of Lord Dalhousie (Between 1848-56), this triangular building is named after him. It is the only building of its type in India that can accommodate an entire infantry battalion with its stores, arms, ammunition, and officers. A thousand bodies live, eat, sleep and train themselves for war on its premises. On the ground floor there is a temple. Ironically, next to the temple are the Quarter Guard, the armoury of weapons and the prisoners’ cells. It is said that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was once incarcerated in this building before he fled to Japan, though there is no documentary evidence to support this in any manner.

It was reported that when it was built, Dalhousie Barracks allocated 2000 cubic feet per man inside its building, equivalent to 111 square feet per soldier- at the time this was highlighted as being particularly generous compared to the overcrowded barracks used up to this point. It was also noted that as built ablution rooms and urinals were situated at the ends of the building on each floor for the use of the men, something that was again novel and new in military architecture.

The building has no doubt been refurbished many times over the century, but it remains in daily use by the Indian Army and is still a large and impressive building:capture

French Postcard Sent Back from the Western Front

This week’s postcard is a bit unusual as, whilst interesting, the image on the front rather falls outside the purview of this blog: it depicts a pair of French soldiers, an infantryman and a cavalryman:SKM_C284e18121008500 - CopyObviously French military history is not what this blog is interested in, so why is it included? The answer lies on the back where we can see that it was sent by a British soldier home to his wife in England:SKM_C284e18121008501He has written in pencil ‘On Active Service’ at the top:SKM_C284e18121008501 - Copy (2)And it has the stamps indicating that it has been checked by a censor for anything incriminating and that it has been handled by a field post office, the post mark dates it to 4th September 1915:SKM_C284e18121008501 - CopyLieutenant Harry Bundle explains the process of censoring soldiers’ mail:

Censoring is interesting at first but it rapidly becomes boring; no letter is allowed to leave without it having been read by an officer and franked by him on the envelope; fortunately my platoon do not write very long letters though they write very often. A typical letter starts like this. ‘My Dear Father and Mother, Ellen and Mary, I take pleasure in writing these few lines hoping that you are in the pink as it leaves me at present.’ Many of the men talk awful drivel about cannon balls flying around them, but as a general rule they are short and rather formal letters… The men always write very extravagantly after a spell in the front line – ‘All the ravines were full of dead Germans and Bulgars’, ‘It was absolute Hell!’, ‘I said more prayers then than at all of the Church parades I’ve attended’.”

The message itself is relatively banal, but the author does write to his other half with the best opener ‘Dear Wife’!SKM_C284e18121008501 - Copy (3)The message reads:

Dear Wife

Just a line. Hope you are well, give my love to all at home. Will write shortly. Hope you received the cheque okay.

Best Love Frank xxxx

The letter was sent to Mrs F Gregory of Sheffield:SKM_C284e18121008501 - Copy (4)Sadly, although following up on a few leads, I have been unable to determine who exactly this Frank Gregory was, hopefully he survived the war and was able to be reunited with his wife.

Salvaging a Warship Postcard

Raising a sunken warship, even in shallow water, has always been a very difficult affair. Even today this remains one of the most difficult tasks facing any navy, as witnessed by the difficulties the Norwegian navy are currently having raising the sunken frigate KMN Helge Ingstad which sank last year. Modern technology definitely helps in the salvage of sunken warships, but even a century ago there were commercial companies who specialised in salvaging ships and despite the work being dangerous, the rewards could be substantial. The Royal Navy did not really have any established salvage equipment or expertise until the First World War and so commercial companies were used when a ship needed salvaging. This image dates, I believe, from the Edwardian era and is printed on extremely heavy card stock. It shows a warship being raised by means of ‘camels’:SKM_C284e18121008500The camels appear to be a set of flotation bags. Divers would have placed cables under the keel of the ship attached to these bags. Compressed air would then be flooded into the camels which would rise and lift the ship with them:SKM_C284e18121008500 - Copy (3)This action appears to have been successful and tugs are waiting to pull the stricken vessel to safety:SKM_C284e18121008500 - Copy (4)Whilst the flotation bags have lifted the ship, the freeboard remains miniscule and water is washing over her decks:SKM_C284e18121008500 - Copy (5)A large gaggle of workers stand, watching the operations from the vessels upper deck:SKM_C284e18121008500 - Copy (6)Sadly I have no context on this image, I am pretty sure it is a British warship and the style suggests it is a late Victorian or early Edwardian warship of a decent size, but beyond that I have no information. Which vessel it is and where and when it was salvaged are a mystery and as ever if you can offer up more information please get in touch.

Postcard of Victoria Place, Hartlepool, after German Bombardment

A couple of weeks ago we looked at a postcard depicting the destruction of the Baptist chapel in Hartlepool, however it was not just public buildings that were damaged in this naval bombardment. Much civilian property was also destroyed and tonight’s postcard depicts the ruins of housing in Victoria Place Hartlepool:SKM_C284e18110611560 - CopyVictoria Place is on the headland at Hartlepool and this row of Victorian houses suffered heavy destruction at the hands of the German attackers. At 8.15 at the same time the Baptist chapel was being hit by shellfire, the houses of Victoria Place were hit and Salvation Army Adjutant William Gordon Avery was killed and buried beneath the rubble of the houses.

Censorship of newspapers had not yet been rigorously enforced, so the following day the Daily mail was able to run a detailed story outlining the attack on the town:

Hartlepool and West Hartlepool, two of the most thriving ports on the east coast, had today the unenviable distinction of being among the first English towns to suffer from a German bombardment.

They were attacked shortly after 8 a.m., and for forty minutes were subjected to a rain of heavy shells. Twenty-nine people were killed and 64 wounded, some very severely. Some damage was done to the town.

Official information is not to be obtained, and those who were manning the trenches and saw most of what occurred have been prohibited from giving any information, but the above figures are the nearest estimate I can make from careful inquiry in the two towns.

As near as can be made out, firing commenced at 8.04 a.m. and only ceased at 8.45. Various reports are current as to how many vessels took part in the bombardment, but the most careful sifting seems to indicate that there were certainly three warships, and possibly four.

Several shells landed in the battery at Hartlepool and one killed five men, but the guns were not put out of action and continued to fire until the enemy steamed away southwards.

The Hartlepools lie in a crescent-like formation, with old Hartlepool as the apex, and the German ships lay off this point and fired fan-wise, with the result that shells swept both towns for a distance of a couple of miles inland, striking most of the important buildings with the exception of the town hall and post office at West Hartlepool. The latter, however, was largely incapacitated from working by a large number of wires being down through the wrecking of telegraph poles or the actual cutting down of the wires themselves by exploding shells.

SEVEN “PALS” KILLED

There were many terrible tragedies, but three stand out pre-eminent. The seven soldiers killed were members of the Durham County “Pals” battalion. These seven were standing together on the front and a shell burst in the middle of them. Two other cases are those of civilians.

FAMILY OF EIGHT DEAD

A family resident in Dene-Street, whose name I have not been able to obtain, had a shell burst in their house, with the result that the father, mother and six children were killed instantly.

The third case was that of the Misses Kays, who live in the end house of Cliff-terrace, just behind the Lighthouse, at the point nearest to where the hostile vessels lay. The Misses Kays were aroused by the sound of firing. They let their maid servant out at the back and told her to run, and returning to their house went upstairs to gather some things. While they were in the bedroom a shell burst, carrying away the end of the house and killing both of them.

British Airship Postcard

This week’s image is rather a fun one, as these things go. This postcard depicts an airship off the coast with the phrase “Keep a Good Look Out. Don’t let this guy give you a fright. Just look inside it- we’re alright.”SKM_C284e18110611560 - Copy (4)This gives a hint of the cards novelty- the airship lifts up and a set of four tiny views of Richmond are hidden beneath:imageThe airship does not resemble the design of the German Zeppelins, and is far more the shape of the early British airships:SKM_C284e18110611560 - Copy (5) - CopyThis is backed up by the fact that the airship is flying the white ensign rather than a German naval flag! Early British airships were shorter and fatter than the long German craft:_59623058_ghw03_ns06Below the illustration of the airship can be seen a battleship:SKM_C284e18110611560 - Copy (4) - CopyThis postcard was sent in 1915 and balloons and airships were still very much cutting edge technology. Britain lagged far behind both France and Germany in the development of lighter than air craft, preferring to focus more of her energy on fixed wing aircraft. The airships the British did develop were designed far more as defensive platforms to patrol the seas of Great Britain rather than having an offensive element like those of Germany. German zeppelins were designed for long range bombing missions over enemy territory, British airships patrolled the North Sea looking for enemy ship and submarine movements that could then be reported by wireless to allow Royal Navy ships to be directed onto target.