This week’s postcard is a delightful image from before the First world war depicting an officer with a party of ladies at a summer camp:The officer is wearing the 1902 pattern Officer’s Service Dress with a high rise and fall collar, with the flaming bomb collar dogs of the Royal Artillery:The cap badge is again that of the Royal Artillery and he has the pips on his cuffs for a lieutenant.
Behind him can be seen a number of white canvas bell-tents:The officer is surrounded by a large number of ladies and young girls, presumably his mother, sisters and aunts. They are wearing typical dresses for the Edwardian era and are clearly fairly wealthy by the high quality and fashionable nature of their clothing:It was quite common for pre-World War One summer camps to have an open afternoon when the friends and families of the soldiers and officers would visit and be shown what the men were doing. This tradition continued after the war, as reported by the Daily Mail in 1928:
Friends Day in Camp
It was “Friends Day” at the big Territorial Army training camps yesterday, and in most cases fine weather succeeded Saturday’s downpour.
Thousands of wives and mothers inspected with interest the cooking arrangements made for their menfolk, while sons and brothers watched the sports and examined the weapons of the various arms of the Service.
It is interesting that the paper assumes the women were only interested in the cooking facilities and the men in the sports and weapons!
This week’s photograph is a delightful family grouping including a naval rating:This photograph was taken at the very end of the nineteenth century and the women are wearing particularly fashionable dresses that first come into vogue about 1895. They are clearly a family of means and they would seem to be a middle class or at least upper working class group. The sailor has a cap tally for HMS Theseus:This enables us to date the photograph to after 1896 when this cruiser was commissioned. It is highly likely that the subject of this photograph was on board the ship when it was involved in a punitive expedition to Benin in a now forgotten colonial spat.
The Punitive Expedition to Benin lasted nine days and was to see the end of the Benin Empire and the burning to the ground of Benin City. The origins of the expedition are complex, but came down to a number of factors:
- A trade embargo imposed by Benin on the lucrative supply of palm oil.
- An increased military presence by Benin on her borders.
- The rulers of Benin had a reputation for treating slaves harshly and displaying large quantities of human remains in public. This gave a moral ‘justification’ for any campaign.
The trigger point for the Benin Expedition came after a British column, ostensibly on a trade mission, were ambushed and massacred leaving just two officers alive. In response to this a punitive expedition was sent to the country under the command of Rear Admiral Harry Rawson. The force consisted of a naval element of which HMS Theseus was a part and the country was soon subdued. The crew suffered badly from malaria whilst on campaign and when HMS Theseus was refitted in Chatham later that year the opportunity was taken to disinfect the ship thoroughly. It is certainly tempting to imagine the sailor in our photograph as part of this expedition.
Also of note in this photograph is the small boy sitting in the foreground:He is dressed in a miniature replica of the sailor’s suit, complete with collar and cap. This style was particularly popular for children of the middleclass at the end of the nineteenth century, illustrating the pride the country felt for its navy and the self-confidence of the later Victorian in his nation, Empire and military- it would also likely to have been even more popular if a family member was in the Royal Navy.
This week’s photograph is unusual in having a date attached to it; this rather fine photograph of an officer and his motorcycle dates to June 18th 1914 just before the outbreak of war:The officer is stood at the top of an embankment:Note the white band on his arm indicating he is probably taking part in a military exercise. At the foot of the bank is his motorcycle and sidecar:Motorbikes were very popular with young men before the war. Although still expensive, they were far more affordable to a man of reasonable means than contemporary automobiles. When war was declared the military took advantage of this pool of trained motorcyclists and encouraged them to enlist as dispatch riders, the bikes being far quicker than going on foot or by horse and much more manoeuvrable than a car.
One motorcyclist recalled how he enlisted:
Early in the morning I started for London to join them, but on the way up I read the paragraph in which the War Office appealed for motorcyclists. So I went straight to Scotland Yard. There I was taken to a large room full of benches crammed with all sorts and conditions of men. The old fellow on my right was a sign writer. On my left was a racing motorcyclist… The racing motorcyclist and I were passed one after another, and, receiving warrants we travelled down to Fulham. Our names, addresses, and qualifications were written down. To my overwhelming joy I was marked as “very suitable”. I went to Great Portland Street to buy a motorcycle, and returned home.
He was destined to spend the war as a dispatch rider, and despite the dangers was probably luckier than if he had been in the infantry.
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: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:The ship was armed with six breach loading 9.2 inch Mk X guns, one on the centreline forrard:One on the centreline aft:And four on the corners about the funnels:Her secondary armament was four 7.5 inch guns in turrets, between the four centrally mounted 9.2 inch guns, two per side:The 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:Boats are carried amid-ships:With a derrick on the rear mast to move them if required:Note the spars for the anti-torpedo netting along the side of the hull:The back of this card reveals it was sent by one of the ship’s crew from Invergordon- then a major naval anchorage:Warrior 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.