Category Archives: Royal Navy

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.


Royal Marines Practicing with a Lewis Gun Photograph

This week’s photograph comes from between the wars and depicts a small group of Royal Marines under instruction on a beach:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (2)The men can easily be identified as marines by their cap badges:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (2) - CopyIn front of them is a Lewis gun with a number of spare magazines:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (3) - CopyAnd an ammunition box tucked underneath the bench:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (4) - CopyThey are clearly in the tropics as they are wearing KD shirts and shorts:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (5) - CopyIn the background can be seen a group of sailors wearing tropical whites, milling about on the shore:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (6) - CopyA set of Lee Enfield rifles can be seen stacked up in a rifle ‘tepee’ on the sand:SKM_C45817083008150 - Copy (7) - CopyThis all suggest the marines are part of a detachment on board a ship who have taken the opportunity to come ashore to get in a bit of weapons practice where they have more space. It was rare for a ship smaller than a cruiser to have a marine detachment so they have probably come off of a cruiser or a battleship. The islands look Mediterranean so it seems likely that they were part of one of the cruiser squadrons that made cruises of the islands in the eastern Mediterranean in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Lewis gun was ideal for the Royal Marines at this period in history. They were often deployed in small groups ashore as landing parties; rifles were portable but had a limited rate of fire whilst the Vickers although offering high rates of fire was far too big and bulky to deploy quickly and easily from a boat. The Lewis was man portable but could lay down far higher rates of fire than a traditional rifle allowing a small party to have a disproportionate effect in a skirmish. It was also used as a close in anti-aircraft gun, with ten being the standard issue to capital ships in 1933. They were fixed to special mountings that allowed them to be fired into the air and traversed quickly to follow the biplanes of the era.

HMS Sovereign Launch Commemorative Cover

This evening’s post is a commemorative stamp cover from the launch of HMS Sovereign in 1973:SKM_C45817091212480HMS Sovereign was a Swiftsure class nuclear submarine in service from 1973 until 2006. This cover was issued on board the submarine on the day of her launch, as witnessed by the ink stamp from her executive officer:SKM_C45817091212480 - CopyThe envelope features a photograph of the submarine on the slipway:SKM_C45817091212480 - Copy (2)A card inside the envelope has a picture of the submarine’s badge and some facts about the boat:SKM_C45817091212490The reverse tells something about her builders, with a picture of their yard:SKM_C45817091212480 - Copy (3)In July 1990 the Navy News did a special feature on the vessel:

About to work up with Captain Submarine Sea Training, HMS Sovereign is part of the Second Submarine Squadron based at Devonport.

She was launched in February 1973 by Lady Ashmore, wife of Admiral Sir Edward Ashmore, the then CINC-FLEET, and commissioned the following year.

Second of the Swiftsure class of fleet submarines, the Sovereign is powered by a uranium 235 reactor. Controlled nuclear fission heats pressurised coolant water, which is fed to the steam generators.

Here the coolant water transfers its heat to a secondary water circuit which boils, producing the steam which is fed to the main engines for propulsion. There is also a back-up diesel electric drive system.

As a hunter-killer whose main wartime role would be to track and destroy enemy submarines. HMS Sovereign has an impressive array of sonars: active sonars to locate targets through sound transmission and passive sonars for listening to noise in the sea.

She is also fitted with an underwater telephone to communicate with other units while dived. A number of echo sounders are fitted to establish water depth below and ice depth above.

The Sovereign has two periscopes- a search periscope for longer range work and an attack periscope for close range. Between them, these provide a sextant for astronavigation and the ability to take photographs while dived.

The submarine’s five torpedo tubes are capable of discharging the RN Sub Harpoon anti-ship missile and Tigerfish, an electrically powered, wire guided torpedo. Ground mines can also be laid. The maximum weapon load is 25.

HMS Sovereign has a ship’s company of about 100, of whom 12 are officers. The company is divided into operations, marine engineering, weapon engineering, supply and medical departments.

Displacing about 4,500 tons, the submarine can dive to depths in excess of 500 feet. She dives by flooding external ballast tanks and surfaces by blowing the same with air. She is capable of speeds over 25 knots and of sustaining a patrol for over 70 days.

Life on board is made the more pleasant thanks to a fully equipped galley and laundry. A quantity of films, videos and games are carried to entertain members of the ship’s company off watch.Strategist-SUBMARINE-2

Royal Navy CPO Cook’s Trade Badges

In 1949 the Royal Navy introduced trade badges for its Chief Petty Officers. Although ratings and petty officers had long worn badges indicating their specialism, CPOs had not. These badges were thin patches that were sewn onto the upper lapels of a CPO’s fore and aft rig. Tonight we are looking at two of the earliest examples of these badges:imageThese are for a Chief Petty Officer Cook and both have a king’s crown on the badge, indicating they were in use between 1949 and 1952 (although they no doubt remained in service for a number of years after. One is in red for wear on everyday work uniforms:imageThe other is in gold wire work, for wear on the best parade uniform:imageThe backs of the badges reveal the complex stitching needed to produce such a complicated design:imageThe Chief Petty Officer Cook is a senior position and he or she would be in charge of the galleys on the very biggest ships or ashore. The badges seen above are still worn today, but only on dress uniform. Most CPO’s Cooks in the Royal Navy wear traditional chef’s whites to work in, with their rank on the shoulders. Here we see the CPO cook of HMS Lancaster wearing chef’s whites with the ship’s badge embroidered on his chest:MR15003316

Royal Navy Air Sea Rescue Badge

I am slowly building up a little collection of 1970s and 1980s pin badges relating to the Royal Navy. My latest find is this one for the Air Sea Rescue role:imageThe helicopter in the centre is a stylised version of a Wessex:wessex2The Wessex had replaced the Whirlwind in the Air Sea Rescue role in 1964 for the Royal Navy (the RAF continued using Whirlwinds until the mid 1970s). The Wessex had many advantages over its predecessor. In many ways it was a like a large Whirlwind in that it had a large main cabin suitable for casualty handling with a cockpit separated from and above it. However, it was a much more robust aircraft with a heavy-duty, tail wheel, tricycle undercarriage. It had two powerful Gnome engines with a very good single engine capability. It was significantly faster, it had a much greater lift capacity and an enhanced radius of action. Its only perceived disadvantage was that being heavier it needed to be hovered higher over the sea and was not quite as manoeuvrable as the Whirlwind. Conversely it had a good Auto-Stabilisation Equipment system which made it a stable winching platform and improved its ability for transit in cloud. Its ability to operate in poor visibility and at night was improved by fitting a radar altimeter; however, without a full Auto Pilot system, it was still not designed to be operated over the sea at night. The helicopters were painted yellow for visibility and were used in the Air Sea Rescue role for many decades, being supplemented and then replaced by the more powerful Sea King.

Whale Island Guardhouse Postcard

Whale Island is the oldest shore training establishment in the Royal Navy, located in Portsmouth Harbour. Whale Island is predominantly reclaimed land, material dredged from the harbour being used for its construction. Large numbers of Napoleonic prisoners helped in its construction and it was well established as a base by the end of the nineteenth century. Whale Island was connected to nearby Portsea Island sometime before 1898 by a footbridge. This footbridge is the subject of tonight’s postcard:SKM_C45817071907530This photograph seems to have been taken between the wars and depicts the guardhouse on the Island:SKM_C45817071907530 - CopyThis guardhouse was pulled down and replaced in the 1970s. The footbridge can be seen to the left of the postcard:SKM_C45817071907530 - Copy (2)With a sentry box and armed sailor on guard:SKM_C45817071907530 - Copy (3)In the distance can be seen the mainland:SKM_C45817071907530 - Copy (4)This wooden footbridge was replaced by a road bridge around the time of the Second World War and this is still in use today. Rear Admiral Gordon Campbell VC describes the guardhouse in his book “Life of a Q-Ship Captain”:

Whale Island is the actual island on which the gunnery establishments are built, and where a large number of officers and men are accommodated. It is connected to the mainland by a small bridge, alongside of which is a guard-house manned by bluejackets, where the usual guard duties are carried out.

RH Nicklin was stationed at Whale Island during the Second World War:

Whale Island is only accessible by a bridge and various jobs are allocated to the ship’s company, one that I liked very much was guard duty mostly on the bridge entrance and in the guard house at the opposite end of the bridge, but there was also guard duties on other parts of the Island especially at nights, this was to make sure that no one could make a landing of sorts. Every guard was armed and issued with live ammunition and knew how to use it after having lots of practice on the rifle range, but the guard on the bridge was my second best job night or day, your duty was to stop everyone entering the island ask for a pass and search all vehicles, when satisfied ring the guardhouse by phone to let them know that you had passed someone so that they would be ready to receive them, then the P.O. on duty would ask them their business and either let them through or send them back and then it was the guards duty to see they cleared the area.

Naval Detonators Tin

I am hoping some of our regular readers can help with a positive identification of tonight’s object. This is a naval detonator’s tin, made of sheet metal and painted red:imageIt turned up for £1 at the Yorkshire Wartime Experience and at that price I took a punt on it! Inside is a metal grid with holes in it for the individual detonators:imageA paper label is pasted onto the sides:imageFrom this we can see that it is naval in origin, via the ‘N’ stores code, and that it dates from 1982. The base of the tin has a circular strengthening piece stamped into it:imageIn the centre is a maker’s stamp for ‘B&SB’:imageWhat I have not been able to discover is exactly what this tin was manufactured for, or what the individual detonators were used with. If anyone can help with an identification, please comment below…