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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.

Northern Ireland Belt Kit

On patrol in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles, British troops had very strict rules of engagement and were only permitted to carry very small amounts of ammunition- normally two SLR magazines, each with eighteen rounds- one in the gun and one in a pouch. Troops also wore body armour so there was a move away from large traditional equipment sets to more minimal belt kits. This example is a representative set like those put together by troops on Operation Banner:imageAs can be seen the set consists of one 58 pattern ammunition pouch and two water bottle pouches on a 58 pattern belt:imageThis set up emphasises the need for hydration during grueling foot patrols, with minimal ammunition needed. One ex soldier describes what he carried in Northern Ireland:

First tour 75 country Tyrone, dress was boots dms with puttees, trousers lightweight, kf shirt, woolly pully, combat jacket with yellow card in breast pocket, green waterproof, sometimes a parka, beret and blacked out badge.
Belt order with ammo pouches and water bottle only, although it was a bit of a waste as we only had 20 rounds. So lots of room for sweets and choccies.

Bardic Lamp

In the 1960s British Chloride introduced a heavy duty hand held battery operated lamp. It was to prove popular with British Railways who ordered them in silver, with ‘BR’ embossed in the casing, and the army who had them produced in a deep bronze green:imageThe lamp is made of a cast body, with a top mounted carry handle. A large reflector and bulb are fitted to the front:imageAnd a metal loop on the back to allow the lamp to be secured to brackets:imageA rotating black plastic knob on the top turns the lamps on or off:imageThe base of the lap is secured with two wire clips, with a black plastic slider that allows them to be released:imageMoulded into the metal on one side is the NSN number 6230-99-193-3331 and the /|\ mark indicating military ownership:imageRemoving the base plate reveals the internal workings of the lamp and a large space for the battery:imageThe lamps used Ever Ready AD28 batteries, a large square box battery. This attaches with a circular fitting which has two brass prongs:imageNote also the manufacturing label stuck to the inner side of the lamp indicating it was produced in 1982.

The lamps were not universally popular, one user described them the lamp as follows:

It was unwieldy, took a non-standard battery that corroded faster than a Land Rover Discovery chassis and emitted a beam weaker than a stream of p**s.

Others had a better opinion of the lamp:

They were darned brilliant and worth their weight in gold if you ask me, Many RMP members had them in their vehicles as they were brill for doing traffic control at night as you could single handedly act as a set of traffic lights at the scene of an RTA as there are 3 coloured lenses that rotate over the bulb plus a gap for white light.

This account raises some interesting questions as mine does not have coloured lenses, so it suggests there were at least two different variants in service. Other examples can be found in bright yellow, used by British Telecom and in blue for use in flammable environments and I am sure other civilian examples were produced for different companies.

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.

Diver’s Gloves

Not every item used by the British military has been bought through a specialist military contract, sometime commercial items are bought off the shelf for military use- normally these are unusual items where it is not worth the expense of setting up specialist contracts for such small numbers. These items are often still allocated an NSN number, but this is not normally marked on the item itself but on the packet it is held in whilst in a store. Tonight we have one such item, a pair of specialist black neoprene gloves for use by divers:imageHere we can clearly see the NSN number on the label, and details of size, manufacturer etc. Inside the packet is a pair of diver’s gloves:imageThese have raised bumps on the palms to aid grip under water:imageThe cuffs have a strap with a plastic buckle:imageAnd a Velcro tab to secure them tightly:imageInterestingly the design of glove has been manufactured with a separately attached pair of fingers:imageQuite why these fingers in particular were chosen to be separate pieces is unclear, but might have something to do with ensuring maximum dexterity under the water for the wearer.

Here a mine clearance diver can be seen getting his final checks before entering the water, on his hands he wears the black neoprene diver’s gloves:diving1_20090223160419

RAF Opthalmascope

Good eyesight is a requirement for pilots today as it was during the Second World War. Therefore all prospective recruits to the RAF during the war were subjected to eye tests to ensure that pilots had 20/20 vision. These were performed by RAF doctors, using eyesight charts. If they needed to take a closer look at a patients eyes however they could use an opthalmascope, a small instrument to look into the back of a person’s eyes to see if there are any defects. A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to come across one of these instruments, in an elegant leatherette covered box:19250547_10154637772618045_2002613271174023683_oAs can be seen this has an embossed crown and AM indicating Air Ministry ownership. Opening the case we can see it is fully lined and holds the opthalmascope in a purpose made fitting:imageA maker’s mark is printed on the silk on the underside of the lid:imageThe contents themselves are the body of the opthalmascope, the head, and three spare bulbs:imageThe body would hold several large cell batteries, the head attaches to the body, with a small screw to hold it tight:imageThe head consists of two overlapping discs, one of which can be rotated to change the size of an aperture used to look through into the patient’s eye:imageOn the rear can be seen where the small bulb fits, giving illumination straight into the retina to check for damage:imageThis is clearly a high quality medical instrument and was almost certainly bought off the shelf by the RAF, as the only ownership markings are on the case. For instruments such as this it was not worth the Air Ministry putting in their own specialist contracts considering that comparatively few were required, therefore only the case is marked as this was easily done by the manufacturer.

As might be expected some men were desperate to fly and a way around an eyesight test could be found, Martin Lunn describes how his father Sergeant Denis Lunn managed to get through:

My father, in his early twenties, was desperate to join the RAF, but was very much afraid that he would fail the eye test as he was considerably short-sighted. He therefore asked someone to copy out the eye chart for him so that he could learn it off by heart. He passed the eye test and went on to be awarded the Defence Flying Medal for rescuing nine Allied airmen in the Messina Straits in the first air-sea rescue operation from Sicily since the day of the invasion.

Camp Post Postcard

This week’s postcard is dated on the back 1913 and was sent from a Boy’s Brigade summer Camp in Grange over Sands. The image on the front though is clearly inspired by the summer camps operated by the Territorial Army before the Great War.SKM_C45817041112510 - CopyThe postcard is entitled ‘Camp Life, The Daily Post’ and has a cartoon of soldiers in khaki rushing to get their letters, with bell tents in the background. The Daily Mail in 1909 recorded the summer camp for London Territorials:

There was a great exodus of Volunteers from London on Saturday for the annual camp training.

Most of the London corps are being gathered in camps on the South Coast, and a very large proportion of them in Sussex, where for the time they come under the direction of General Lord Methuen, a large portion of whose regular troops of the Eastern command are already gathered for manœuvres in the country.

The Sussex camps for the London Volunteers have been formed at Brighton, Seaford, Worthing, Bexhill and Newhaven; while in Kent there are an extensive camp for London men at Shorncliffe and smaller ones at Sheerness, Lydd, and near Canterbury. In Hampshire a very large body of metropolitan Volunteers have gathered in camp in the New Forest, become in recent years an increasingly popular training ground; and Essex has London corps at Shoeburryness, Harwich, Clacton and Frinton.

In all the paper recorded that 25,000 men had left the capital for their annual training that August.