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.
This week’s postcard is a nice studio shot of a soldier from, I believe, the Great War:From his cap badge he appears to be a member of the Royal Engineers:And he is wearing a greatcoat over his service dress:He has the three stripes of a sergeant on this great coat:These are repeated on the opposite side with a crown and bomb in brass above them:The brass bomb was a distinctive feature of Royal Engineers in the Great War, whilst the crown above three stripes was used to indicate company, battery, squadron and troop sergeant majors. Below this rank insignia, and virtually obscuring the last stripe, is a two coloured arm band. It is hard to tell its original colours, but my best guess is that it would have been blue and white indicating a signaller:Signallers were amongst some of the most vulnerable troops in the Great War, as described in this extract from an article in the Bradford Telegraph and Examiner:
In the First World War, being a signaller usually meant you were close to the frontline troops, providing signals communications back to your Battalion HQ…Second Lieutenant Thomas Maufe from Ilkley was awarded the highest honour of all, the Victoria Cross, for the action he took on June 4, 1917, at Feuchy in France. Maufe wasn’t even a signaller.
He was serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery. During an intense German bombardment of high explosive and shrapnel, Maufe single-handedly repaired a damaged telephone wire connecting the front line and the rear, which enabled the British to return enemy fire.
Three years before at the start of the war telephone wires were few and far between. Flags were still being used for signalling but this practice quickly died out as the war years advanced and the technology of war changed rapidly. Where possible wired telephones were used but this involved laying landlines which was a hazardous job due to enemy shelling, mines and the risk of being picked off by a camouflaged sniper.
Tricia Platts, Secretary of Bradford’s World War 1 Group, said: “Where it was not possible to lay landlines then many forms of visual signalling were used which made use of light either from sunlight flashed by mirrors in day time or by Lucas lamps at night. “Messages were sent in Morse code, one man operating the signalling device and one man using a telescope (where distances were great) to read the message sent back. “The standard field telephone used with landlines consisted of a wooden box containing two dry cells, a magneto generator, polarised bell, induction coil testing plug, and a Hand Telephone C Mk.1. Towards the end of 1916 these were being replaced by the Fullerphone.
“Signallers were also used in forward positions with the Forward Observation Officer (FOO) to relay information on enemy targets and assist the artillery in ranging the guns. “In these, often isolated, positions the signaller became vulnerable to enemy sniping and machine gun fire, and many signallers lost their lives.”
An old joke from the period reflects the gallows humour of the front line, necessary for survival. A front line officer dictates a message to be sent back, perhaps by Morse, to staff officers at the rear.
The message was ‘Send reinforcements, we are going to advance’. The message received was rather different: ‘Send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance’.
This week’s postcard comes from the Second World War and is a rather nice painting of a pair of Curtis H-75 Cl aircraft:This aircraft is better known to British readers as the Mohawk. As observant readers will have realised, the aircraft in the postcard are wearing French markings. The French bought 100 machines in 1938 and despite making up only 12.5% of the French Air Force in the Battle of France, they accounted for nearly a third of aerial kills. Following the fall of France the remaining stocks of French aircraft on order from Curtis in the United states were diverted to RAF use and in total the RAF ended up with 229 of the aircraft. Many were used in India and Burma as the RAF considered them obsolete in Europe. Here we can see a Mohawk in India in January 1943:The South African Air Force also made use of the aircraft in the East African campaign and for training. By 1944 though the aircraft was long past obsolescence and relegated to training and local defence roles.
This postcard though was produced in the UK and sent in 1941, as can be determined from the back of the card where there is a nice clear postmark:I admit the UK link with this week’s postcard is a little slim, however i thought the image so dynamic that readers would forgive this slight detour and enjoy it regardless!
This week’s postcard is another corker from the age of Empire. In this image, which probably dates from between the wars, a group of soldiers pose in front of a pair of wooden barrack huts:There is no location for this image, but it is clearly in the tropics and it is likely it was taken in India or perhaps somewhere in the South Pacific or China. The figures in the photograph are split into two distinct groups. Immediately in front of the buildings can be seen six men who are most likely other ranks:Note the collarless grey back shirts and stable belts each appears to be wearing. The two seated figures seem to be peeling potatoes into metal dixies:These metal dixies were to remain in use for decades, with stainless steel examples being manufactured well into the 1980s at least. A wooden bridge crosses a water channel in the foreground:Stood on this are three men who I am assuming are officers or civilian administrators:It is interesting to note that whilst the two figures on the left and the six men in the back ground are wearing Wolsley helmets, the man on the left of the bridge has the more modern solar topee- this helmet being larger but lighter and more comfortable to wear. The outer figures again wear military style stable belts.
The buildings in the back ground are made of wood, with pan tiled roves and seem to have corrugated iron attached under the eaves to help deflect rainwater away from the walls. A raised section at the apex of the roof helps ventilate the interior: