This week’s postcard is a bit of a departure from the norm as it dates from the 1980s and is rather late for this blog. RAF Guttersloh opened as a Luftwaffe base before the Second World War and during the latter part of the war was used as a night fighter base. It was captured by the Americans in April 1945 and was turned over to the RAF when the sector of Germany it was in became part of the British Occupation Zone. As the base was situated right on the border with East Germany it was to become a vital forward airbase in the Cold War.
During its history as an RAF station, it was home to two squadrons of the English Electric Lightning F2/F2A – No. 92 Squadron RAF and No. 19 Squadron RAF from 1968 to 1976. These provided two aircraft for the Quick Response Alert, able to scramble within minutes. It then became home to No. 3 Squadron RAF and No. 4 Squadron RAF which flew successive variants of the BAe Harrier. After the Harriers departed, the RAF continued to operate helicopters, No. 18 Squadron RAF with the Boeing Chinook and No. 230 Squadron RAF with the Puma HC1.
This souvenir postcard dates from the 1980s and depicts a couple of the barrack buildings:The base’s badge is shown in the top right corner:And the postcard shows two different blocks on the base, one of which seems fairly modern:And the other looks like it might date back to the base’s construction in the 1930s:Oddly the postcard does not depict any flight operations, therefore I hope you enjoy this cracking shot of a Harrier taking off from RAF Guttersloh:We have an interesting account of operations on the base during the Cold War from one airman who followed in his father’s footsteps to RAF Guttersloh:
When my father was stationed in Gütersloh (Mansergh Barracks) the RAF had Hawker Hunter FGA9 s based at Gütersloh. In 1962 they deployed Lightnings – anyone who never saw a “reheat-takeoff” performed by Lightnings is missing one of life’s greatest spectacles!. When I was deployed in BAOR, there were Wessex HC2 s and Harriers deployed there. It must have annoyed the hell out of the Soviets during the runway resurfacing programme – the RAF rotated the Choppers and Harriers to the airfield under construction, using Gütersloh (the first in the programme) as the temporary home for the displaced squadrons . No airfield was therefore out of commission – a master stroke!
RAF Guttersloh transferred to the Army in 1993 before closing completely in 2016. The base is currently unoccupied.
As has been discussed on this blog before, sport was an important part of military life in India and this week’s photograph is a marvellous shot of the winners of the Madras Gymkhana Football Challenge Cup in 1920, The 2nd Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment:
The cup itself, officially known as the EK Chetty Cup, is seen in the centre of the photograph with smaller commemorative tankards for the players surrounding it:The team itself sits around their cup, most players wearing a dark shirt, white shorts and leather football boots of the period:One player has a lighter coloured shirt and is presumable the goalkeeper:Only one man wears military uniform, a lance corporal, who is possibly the coach:The Madras Gymkhana Club was founded in 1885 and in 1895 organised the first football cup in the city, with ten teams from across the country competing. The local journal ‘The Sketch , A Journal of Art and Actuality’ reported:
Last year, a few ardent devotees came together and decided to make a start. The game found support at once, and when, at the General Meeting of the Gymkhana Club a request was made for a Tournament Cup to be played under certain conditions, a uniform consent was accorded.
Lord Willingdon, Governor of Madras, was an important supporter of the football cup and attended all the finals between 1919 and 1924 so was presumably present when the team above won in 1920. The cup was won exclusively by military teams until 1933 when the first civilian team won, The Pachaiyappa High School.
This week’s postcard takes us back to the period between the wars and depicts a sailor and marines relaxing ashore in tropical climes, most likely somewhere in the Mediterranean:The rating is wearing the tropical white uniform, with pith helmet and two long service and good conduct stripes on his sleeve:His companions appear to be Royal Marines, presumably from the same ship. They wear KD service dress uniforms with large white pith helmets, bearing a metal badge to the front:On at least one of the helmets you can just make out the brass ball worn on the top:In front of this group sits a small table, laden down with bottles of beer:The interwar period was the era of the Royal Navy cruises, flying the flag. These hugely popular cruises involved taking the fleet around either the Mediterranean, or once famously around the world, and calling it at various overseas ports to show off the might of the Royal Navy and hopefully score a few trade deals as well. For the crews of these ships there were ample opportunities to ‘run ashore’ with relaxation frequently consisting of imbibing the local beer. The Empire cruise was renowned for this, with sailors remarking of Port Swettenham “here the men can obtain beer and refreshments also cigarettes, free of charge”. Whilst for one sailor, Frederick Bushell he wrote of Australia “I think most of the ship’s company are feeling the effects of the late nights and “bonza” times we’ve been having”
This week’s postcard has a naval flavour and shows a parade at HMS St Vincent in Gosport in World War Two:Forton Barracks was the home of the Portsmouth Division Royal Marine Light Infantry from 29th March 1848 until 1st August 1923. The Barracks was converted to a new entry boys training establishment in 1924 and was commissioned as HMS St. Vincent, a Naval training establishment, 1st June 1927.
When World War Two started the Boys training task relocated to The Isle of Man and the site was taken over by the Fleet Air Arm to provide new entry and pre-flight training of RNVR Air branch officer cadet ratings. During this period Officer Cadets were dressed as ratings, but had a plain white band around their caps to indicate their cadet status:Note also that these cadets are wearing the high naval anklets (see here), belt and bayonet frog typical of ratings on parade at this period. They are presenting arms with SMLE rifles with fixed bayonets. In front of the body of men is an officer, who looks to be a lieutenant, with sword in hand:A Wren’s drum group stands behind:In the background can be seen one of the buildings of HMS St Vincent, complete with the crystal glass veranda in front of the wardroom- this was moved to HMS Collingwood’s wardroom following the closure of the base:Tony Inman was one of those who went to HMS St Vincent in the war as part of his Fleet Air Arm Training. He remembers:
This was a stone frigate – that is a naval barracks. It was one of the places that in peacetime had been used for training boy seamen and there were traces of this still about: for example the washing area where the lavatories were didn’t have doors on so it would not be possible for naughty sailors to get up to rude things with these boys. Embarrassing at first, but when you are young and amongst a lot of people you get to accept this sort of thing and after a while we thought no more of it…
On Saturday morning we had block cleaning. The blocks were three stories high, the top two were dormitories and the ground floor was the mess where you lived when you were not in the dorm, had meals and sat around and talked. The meals were prepared in a central galley and that part of the duty watch designated as mess cooks would go off to the galley and stagger back with these great big ‘fannies’ as we called them – containers – and you would cluster round with your plates and they would dish it out to you. Anyway Wilmot was going to explain what block cleaning was so he leaned back and said: “On Saturday mornings you will see that you are block cleaning. I will explain this”. Then he shouted with great delight: “Naval airmen, if left to themselves, would live in filth and squalor! So this is what we do so you don’t live in filth and squalor”. Block cleaning seemed to consist of going up to the top floor and pouring water onto the floor, then with stiff brooms brushing it all out of the dormitories so that the water cascaded down the concrete steps to the first floor where it was repeated, water all over the floor then all swept out with these stiff brooms – mobs of you pushing and shoving and sweeping the water out so that it all cascaded down the steps again. That was block cleaning.
This week’s postcard takes a sentimental tone, with this image from the First World War:The verse on the front of the card reads:
Together in Thought
I look into your eyes and say,
Though from you I must go away,
Yet with you, dear, my heart will stay,
Until we meet again some day.
The photograph is clearly a studio shot, complete with studio props as the soldier is actually wearing the 1888 style leather bandolier, which was largely obsolete by this period:The postcard was sent in 1915, as witnessed by the postmark on the rear:The message is not the clearest, being written in pencil and subject to a hundred years of wear, but as best I can make out it reads:
Aug 19th 1915
Just a line hoping you’re all well as its leave time at present, I am just packing up to go to Swindon. I am going on ahead to the advance party so I shall be travelling all night as it is at the other side of London. All the others are coming on Friday. I was hoping to see you on Saturday but it cannot be helped. Tell old Wilson he is going to be with us as soon as ???? Best wishes your Harry.
It is always nice to get a postcard which has been used and helps tie down an exact date. These sentimental cards were hugely popular, but are largely ignored by collectors today- I rather like them as they reflect the senders emotions and feelings towards their loved ones in a way that often does not come across from other images and accounts.
The birth of the jet era saw a large number of different designs of aircraft developed, with many lasting only a few years in service before being made obsolete as technology advanced rapidly. The Supermarine Attacker was one of these short lived designed, but has its place in history as being the first jet adopted by the Royal Navy. Tonight we have a fine period postcard showing the aircraft in flight:The Attacker developed from a Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter jet project, under Air Ministry Specification E.10 of 1944 (the E for experimental). The design of the Attacker used the laminar flow straight-wings of the Supermarine Spiteful.The project was intended to provide an interim fighter for the RAF while another aircraft, the Gloster E.1/44 also using the Nene engine, was developed. The Nene engine had intakes either side of the fuselage in front of the wings:And exhausted through a single jet at the rear of the aircraft:An order for three prototypes was placed on 30 August 1944, the second and third of which were to be navalised. An order for a further 24 pre-production aircraft, six for the RAF and the remaining 18 for the Fleet Air Arm was placed on 7 July 1945.
Handling problems with the Spiteful prototype delayed progress on the jet-powered version, leading to the pre-production order of 24 being stopped, although work on the three prototypes continued. The Fleet Air Arm instead bought 18 de Havilland Vampire Mk. 20s to gain experience with jet aircraft. The RAF rejected both designs since they offered no perceptible performance advantage over the contemporary Gloster Meteor and the de Havilland Vampire, the RAF’s first two operational jet aircraft. Supermarine offered a navalised version of the project to the Admiralty. The prototype Type 392 serial number TS409 land version was first flown on 27 July 1946, by test pilot Jeffrey Quill. This aircraft’s ownership can clearly be seen from the large ‘Royal Navy’ painted on the fuselage near the tail:The Attacker suffered from deficiencies which led to it quickly being superseded; one being that the aircraft retained the Spiteful’s tail-wheel undercarriage (due to the extent of the re-tooling that would have been required to alter the Spiteful’s wing), rather than a nose-wheel undercarriage, thus making the Attacker more difficult to land on aircraft carriers. This same tail-down attitude meant that when operating from grass airfields the jet exhaust would create a long furrow in the ground that “three men could lie down in”. Also the new wing was apparently aerodynamically inferior to the original Spitfire elliptic one, with lower critical Mach number, leading to someone quipping that “they rather should have left the Spitfire wing on the thing”.
The first navalised prototype, Type 398 TS413 flew on 17 June 1947 flown by test pilot Mike Lithgow, three years after the Meteor had made its first flight. Production orders for the FAA were placed in November 1949. The first production aircraft to take to the skies was the F.1 variant in 1950, entering service with the FAA in August 1951 with the first squadron being 800 Naval Air Squadron. The aircraft had its cockpit high on top of the fuselage, giving the pilot good visibility:The F.1’s armament consisted of four 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk. V cannons, with 125 rounds of ammunition per gun. It was powered by a single Rolls-Royce Nene Mk. 101 turbojet engine.
The Attacker had a brief career with the Fleet Air Arm, not seeing any action during its time with the FAA and being taken out of first-line service in 1954. It remained in service with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) for a little while longer, being taken out of service in early 1957. The Attacker was replaced in the front line squadrons by the later and more capable Hawker Sea Hawk and de Havilland Sea Venom.