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.
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.
This week’s postcard came from Huddersfield Secondhand Market on Tuesday for £1. It is getting harder to find postcards from WW1 for such small sums of money- even fairly typical portrait postcards are starting to fetch £3 or £4 now so it is always nice to find a more affordable card for the collection. Incidentally I store my WW1 postcards in a period postcard album and after nearly ten years it is almost full so I will need to keep my eyes open for another one…Back to this postcard however, this fine image depicts a soldier on horseback:I would date this image to around the time of the Great War. The subject is wearing a service dress cap, sadly it is no possible to get a clear enlargement of his cap badge to determine the regiment:He is wearing standard service dress, complete with puttees:And spurs:Note the hobnails of his boots, clearly visible. In his hand he holds a riding crop:There is no obvious signs of rank, so my guess is he is a private but sadly there is not a lot in this image to work with! The photograph seems to have been taken on the drive of a house, with the main road in the background. Unfortunately this image highlights many of the problems faced with interpreting these photographs. Without a message on the front or back of the image to place it and with the camera too far away to pick up the detail of the cap badge we are left with a lovely photograph we can say very little about! Whilst this is frustrating, it is a point worth making sometimes that further research is not always possible and we are left to enjoy the image for its own sake.
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.
This week’s postcard takes us back to the Royal Navy in the Edwardian era with a very striking ‘oilette’ painting of HMS Diadem:HMS Diadem was the lead ship in her class of 11,000 ton protected cruisers, launched in 1896. She was a member of the last protected cruiser class built for the Royal Navy, the type being replaced by armoured cruisers. The ships were designed for trade protection and were supposed to be more economical than the preceding Powerful class of ships. The ships had an indicated horsepower of 16,500 provided by Belleville boilers giving the ships a reputation for good steaming, the four funnels clearly being seen in the postcard:The ships had a mixed armament that was considered too light even when they were introduced. The main armament was 16 single quick firing 6 inch guns in ‘double deck’ casemates, the most forward of which can be seen just behind the bow, the hull being cut back to allow forward fire:Although the design allowed large numbers of guns to fire in broadside, the guns on the lower deck were unusable in all but the calmest conditions. Other armaments included 14x 12 pounder QF guns, 3 x 3 pounder QF guns and 2 x 18 inch underwater torpedo tubes.
Like most ships of the late Victorian era, she has an open bridge, with large bridge wings either side of her charthouse:Diadem was to have a long, if fairly uneventful career. She served in the Easter Division of the Channel Squadron under the command of Captain H. S. F. Niblett, and was briefly docked at Chatham in January 1900 to make good defects.
In March 1901 Diadem was one of two cruisers to escort HMS Ophir, commissioned as royal yacht for the world tour of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York , from Spithead to Gibraltar, and in September the same year she again escorted the royal yacht from St Vincent to Halifax, Nova Scotia. In January 1902 it was announced that she would be put out of commission due to “defects which will take some time to remedy”. She was paid off at Chatham on 11 February 1902, and in May transported to Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Glasgow for repairs to her hull and machinery.
The ship was reactivated and sent to China Station where Diadem became the flagship of the vice-admiral until 1907. The vessel then returned home and was paid off in April 1907. She was then assigned to the Home Fleet based at Portsmouth from 1907-1912 before transferring to the Third Fleet. The ship was refitted in 1909.
Diadem served in the First World War with her sisters. In 1914 the vessel was used as a stokers’ training ship, and was placed in reserve in October 1915. She was returned to being a stokers’ training ship in January 1918, and survived the war to be sold to Thos W Ward of Morecambe for breaking up on 9 May 1921.
Happy New Year and a warm welcome to 2017 to all our readers old and new. As today is a Sunday we have our obligatory Sunday postcard to look at and tonight we have another fine image from Tuck’s series of oilette postcards of military subjects. This one depicts a trumpeter of the 2nd Lifeguards in state ceremonial wear:
The date of the postcard can be determined by the style of Royal Cypher, here for Edward VII:This dates this particular card to between 1902 and 1911. In his hand he carries a silver state trumpet.These instruments are pitched to ‘E Flat’ and as they are valveless there is a limited range of notes they can play- making the work of composers difficult when coming up with new fanfares! The style of uniform dates back to Stuart times, when the Household Cavalry was raised by Charles II in 1660. The only major change was in the late eighteenth century when cocked hats were introduced, but the traditional jockey cap was reinstated in the nineteenth century and remains with us to the present day:Today the state trumpeters form part of The Band of the Household Cavalry, the only mounted band left in the British Army, following the amalgamation of the Band of the Life Guards and The Band of the Blues and Royals in September 2014. The Household Divisions website explains:
The Band continues the tradition of playing as a mounted band at occasions such as the Queen’s Birthday Parade, State Visits, Beating Retreat and the Lord Mayor’s Show. On occasions when a member of the Royal Family is present, or when they are in attendance on the Lord Mayor of London, the trumpeters and musicians wear state dress, comprising a gold state coat with the royal cipher at the front and rear, with a blue ‘jockey’ cap.