This week we have neither a postcard nor a photograph for you, but rather a late nineteenth century etching. This etching depicts two pieces of contemporary ordnance:The upper illustration is an Armstrong 12 pounder field gun:This gun was introduced in 1859 and the gun incorporated some advanced features for its day. It was one of the first breech-loaders: shell and gunpowder propellant were loaded through the gunner’s end of the barrel, rather than through the muzzle as in previous guns, allowing a higher rate of fire. The shells were coated with lead, which engaged spiral grooves cut inside the barrel (“rifling”) and caused the shell to spin rapidly in flight and hence imparted far greater accuracy and range than previous guns. The lead coating effectively sealed the gap between shell and barrel and eliminated the wastage of propellant gases, previously known as “windage”, and hence only half the amount of gunpowder propellant as previous was required.
The barrel was of wrought iron, “built up” of a tube with additional layers heated and then shrunk over it as they cooled. The result was a “pre-stressed” barrel: the interior of the barrel was under compression from the layers shrunk over it, so that the heat and pressure of firing did not stretch it. Hence the barrel was smaller and lighter than previous guns.The lower illustration is of an older and more conventional 32 pounder, unrifled gun and carriage:This is a much older principle and similar to the cannon used during the Napoleonic era. The carriage and weight of this gun indicate it was designed to be emplaced on a fortification rather than used in the field. It has however been updated form early designs by having cast iron wheels to the carriage rather than wooden ones:It is also worth noting that the gun fires shell rather than solid shot. This design of gun carried on in service for heavy weapons for longer than the lighter field pieces. Early breach loaders were not always very safe at the breach end with heavy charges- metallurgy at the time being limited. The heavier and more solid breach end of a muzzle loader was far safer for heavy charges. This illustration comes, I suspect, from a contemporary book or journal. I would like to get this one framed up at some point as it would look rather nice on the wall but my ‘framing pile’ seems to just get larger!
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 particularly early example, dating from the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 and depicts a young soldier:This style of commemorative postcard was very popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, indeed I have another one from Dublin in 1916. The photographers studio developed teh portrait onto a preexisting design the sitter could chose from. The design around this soldier is clearly very patriotic with a large Royal crown and cypher:Royal Coats of arms:And standards:The soldier himself is dressed in a typical uniform of the period:With a pill box hat:Elaborate lace frogging to the tunic:White facings to the collar:And a white sash:The white facings and the frogging on his chest indicate that this soldier was a member of the 13th Hussars- the frogging would have been yellow but early photographic techniques mean it appears as being black. The regiment had been raised in 1715 and fought in the Napoleonic Wars, Crimean and Great War before being amalgamated with the 18th Royal Hussars in 1922 to form the 13th/18th Royal Hussars. The following potted regimental history comes fomr the National Army Museum’s website:
On 23 July 1715, less than a year into his reign as king of Great Britain, King George I authorised 11 noblemen to form dragoon regiments. One of these regiments was Richard Munden’s Regiment of Dragoons, named after its founder, who had command experience from the War of the Spanish Succession 11 years earlier.
The new unit saw its first action on 12 November 1715 against a Jacobite roadblock in Lancaster during the Battle of Preston. It was given the numeral 13 in 1751 and by the end of the 18th century it had become a light dragoon regiment, fighting the forces of Napoleonic France at Albuera, Vittoria and Waterloo.
It then took part in the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimea in 1854 – its personnel there included Lance-Sergeant Joseph Malone, who won the Victoria Cross for his actions, and Troop Sergeant Edwin Hughes, who became the oldest survivor of the Charge, dying in 1927. Its Crimean engagements also included Inkerman and Sevastopol.
Soon afterwards, in 1861, it was renamed the 13th Hussars. It then served in India, where it was the first regiment ever joined by Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouting movement and later its regimental colonel.
Later it served in the Boer War and on the Western and Mesopotamian fronts in World War One – at Sharqat it made a mounted charge and then a dismounted one, less than a month before the Armistice. In 1922 it merged with the 18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary’s Own) to form the 13th/18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary’s Own).