Category Archives: Pre WW1

HMS Warrior Postcard

Today we are familiar with the 1860s HMS Warrior, moored up as a museum ship in Portsmouth Harbour. However after this ship was decommissioned another vessel bore the same name and this cruiser was to take part, and be fatally hit, in the Battle of Jutland. This week’s postcard is a fine image of this cruiser:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (2)The ship displaced just over 13,500 tons and was laid down at Pembroke Dock in 1903, being launched in 1905. The ship had a length of 505 feet and was powered by four cylinder, triple expansion steam engines which gave her a maximum speed of 23.3 knots. These engines were powered by 19 Yarrow water tube boilers and six cylindrical boilers, venting out through four central funnels:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (6) - CopyThe ship was armed with six breach loading 9.2 inch Mk X guns, one on the centreline forrard:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (2) - CopyOne on the centreline aft:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (3) - CopyAnd four on the corners about the funnels:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (4) - CopyHer secondary armament was four 7.5 inch guns in turrets, between the four centrally mounted 9.2 inch guns, two per side:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (5) - CopyThe weight of this armament made the ships of this class very stable for gunnery purposes. As with other ships of her era, the deck of Warrior is fairly sparse, with an open bridge to conn the ship from:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (7) - CopyBoats are carried amid-ships:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (8) - CopyWith a derrick on the rear mast to move them if required:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (9) - CopyNote the spars for the anti-torpedo netting along the side of the hull:SKM_C45817091209230 - Copy (10) - CopyThe back of this card reveals it was sent by one of the ship’s crew from Invergordon- then a major naval anchorage:SKM_C45817091209240 - CopyWarrior was ordered as part of the 1903–04 naval construction programme as the first of four armoured cruisers. She was laid down on 5 November 1903 at Pembroke Dockyard, launched on 25 November 1905 and completed on 12 December 1906. On completion, Warrior was assigned to the 5th Cruiser Squadron in the Channel Fleet until 1909, when she was transferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. On 15 September 1909 one of Warrior‘s boiler tubes failed during firing practice, and she was repaired at Devonport Dockyard. In 1913 the ship was transferred to the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Mediterranean Fleet. She was involved in the pursuit of the German battlecruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau at the outbreak of World War I, but was ordered not to engage them. Warrior participated in the Allied sweep which led to the sinking of the Austro-Hungarian light cruiser SMS Zenta during the Battle of Antivari in August 1914. A few days later she was ordered to Suez to defend the Suez Canal against any Turkish attack and remained there until 6 November when she was ordered to Gibraltar to join a squadron of French and British ship to search for German warships still at sea off the African coast. This was cancelled on 19 November after the location of the German East Asia Squadron was revealed by survivors of the Battle of Coronel.

Warrior joined the Grand Fleet in December 1914 and was assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron under Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Keith Arbuthnot. At the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916, the 1st Cruiser Squadron was in front of the Grand Fleet, on the right side. At 5:47 p.m., the squadron flagship, HMS Defence, and Warrior spotted the German II Scouting Group and opened fire. Their shells felt short and the two ships turned to port in pursuit, cutting in front of the battlecruiser HMS Lion, which was forced to turn away to avoid a collision. Shortly afterwards they spotted the disabled German light cruiser SMS Wiesbaden and closed to engage. When the two ships reached a range of 5,500 yards (5,000 m) from Wiesbaden they were spotted in turn at 6:05 by the German battlecruiser SMS Derfflinger and four battleships who were less than 8,000 yards (7,300 m) away. The fire from the German ships was heavy and Defence blew up at 6:20. Warrior was hit by at least fifteen 28-centimetre (11 in) and six 15-centimetre (5.9 in) shells, but was saved when the German ships switched their fire to the battleship HMS Warspite when its steering jammed and caused Warspite to make two complete circles within sight of much of the High Seas Fleet.

Warrior was heavily damaged by the German shells, which caused large fires and heavy flooding, although the engine room crew – of whom only three survived – kept the engines running for long enough to allow her to withdraw to the west. She was taken in tow by the seaplane tender HMS Engadine who took off her surviving crew of 743. She was abandoned in a rising sea at 8:25 a.m. on 1 June when her upper deck was only 4 feet (1.2 m) above the water, and subsequently foundered.

Advertisements

Photograph of Lancashire Fusiliers Officers

This Sunday’s photograph is a rather lovely informal snap of a pair of junior officers, taken around the time of the outbreak of World War One:SKM_C45817083008150Both men are from the Lancashire Fusiliers, as can be seen from their cap badges:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (4)Whilst you cannot see the rank of the left-hand man, the chap on the right has the cuff rank of a lieutenant:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (5)Both are wearing officer’s service dress and the Sam Browne leather equipment set. The waterbottle of the left hand man is very obvious:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (6)A number of different water bottles were available for the officer to purchase, of varying prices, as seen in this period advertisement:imageThe man on the right has both sword:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (8)And a pistol ammunition pouch:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (7)Presumably he is also wearing a holster, but it is obscured by his arm. The officers seem to be on exercise, and their men can just be seen in the background between them:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (9)It is however the small boy muscling in on the picture on the left I particularly like:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (10)Assuming these officers are regulars and the photo is pre-WW1, they were part of the 2nd Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers- the 1st Battalion being in Karachi at the time. The 2nd Battalion was sent to France and spent the war on the Western Front, in which case it is highly likely these officers were to see service in France.

1888/91 Pattern Slade Wallace Belt

In 1888 the British Army replaced its 1870 pattern Valise equipment with a new design that has been known through history as “Slade Wallace” equipment after its designers Colonel Slade and Major Wallace. As can be expected for a set of leather equipment introduced over 125 years ago it is not easy to find original pieces. The easiest component to find is the belt, many surviving long after the rest of the set had been thrown away due to their smart appearance as parade belts. Last week I was lucky enough to pick up one of these belts:imageI must confess I originally thought that the leather must have been replaced due to the good quality it is still in. The leather is heavy duty and was originally produced in buff, being whitened for parade use. A bit of research has shown that the belt is in fact original, the three buckles at the back of the belt being a good indicator:imageThe design of the buckles dates from a minor modification to the design of the belt in 1891, as illustrated in Pierre Turner’s book on accoutrements:imageThe original design is on the left, the post 1891 modification on the right. By all accounts once the belts were relegated to parade use if the back panel needed to be replaced a plain piece of leather was substituted as the buckles were unnecessary without the rest of the set!

The buckle is made of brass, with the crown of Queen Victoria on the locket:imageThe motto ‘Dieu Et Mon Droit’ means ‘God and My Right’. Originally two chapes were fitted to attach the shoulder straps to, sadly only one is still extent:imageThis belt was originally issued to a Royal Marine, as indicated by the stamps on the back of the belt:imageThe ‘PL’ on his service number indicate he was from the Plymouth depot. The belt also clearly saw service later with the West Riding Territorial Army, as evidenced by their initials on the back of the leather safe:imageIncidentally on long marches the waist belt could be slackened by inserting the locket into the slot on the safe:imageThis belt is a great addition to the collection and they are becoming scarcer. I will display it with my 1913 pattern Home Service tunic which it will complement perfectly.

Cawnpore Etching

This week’s image dates back to the nineteenth century and is a fine etching of a group of Highlanders storming the guns at Cawnpore during the Indian Mutiny:SKM_C45817022215110In the mid nineteenth century printed etchings gave a way for art to be enjoyed by the masses. Photography was still in its infancy and true paintings were beyond the pocket of most. Etchings could be mass produced and were very affordable. The more wealthy had them framed and hung on the wall, emulating the paintings of the wealthy. The poor decorated their houses by pulling the etchings from magazines and sticking them to the walls, much like the posters of today. Most of these etchings were in fact copies of actual paintings, the engraver’s skill being to translate this image onto metal for reproduction. Consequently some etchings are crude, others like this one are remarkably detailed. As well as scenes from history and famous people, current events and especially British military victories particularly appealed to the Victorians. This particular engraving dates to 1860 and judging by the large number of copies for sale online was a very popular print.

The following stirring fictionalised account of the attack by the 78th Highlanders comes from VA Stuart’s book Massacre at Cawnpore:

The Highlanders of the 78th, led by their pipers, hurled themselves at the enemy positions, the sun glinting on the bright steel of their ferociously jabbing bayonets. The riflemen of the 64th flattened themselves to the ground, then rose, as one man, to advance firing. The 84th, with memories of comrades who had defended the Cawnpore entrenchment, took guns at bayonet point and neither they nor the Sikhs who fought beside them, gave quarter to any gunner who had the temerity to stand by his gun. In their famous blue caps and “dirty” shirts, the young fusiliers fought grimly…they had Renaud, their commander, to avenge and they had brought in blood, the right to call themselves veterans.SKM_C45817022215110 - CopyAnd always the order was “Forward!” Shells burst and round shot and grape thinned the advancing ranks; a 24-pounder held them until it was blown up by Maude’s guns from the flank; then a howitzer from the enemy centre ranged on the charging 78th, forcing them to take cover behind a causeway carrying the road.

Havelock himself rallied them, his sword held high above his head as a storm of shot and shell fell about him. “Another charge like that wins the day, 78th!” he told them and the red coated line re-formed at his bidding and stormed the howitzer’s emplacement, their pipes keening above the noise of battle and the shouts and oaths of the weary, sweating Highlanders.SKM_C45817022215110 - Copy (2)

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.

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.

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.