Life in the Royal Navy Cigarette Cards (Part 4)

Catapulting a Supermarine Walrus Amphibian

All modern battleships and cruisers include aircraft and catapults in their equipment. In this picture a Supermarine Walrus amphibian is being launched into the air from HMAS Sydney by a catapult which gives it an initial speed of considerably over 50 miles an hour. The first catapult ever used in a British warship was installed in HMS vindictive in 1925. Previously the only method of launching aircraft from ships unprovided with flightdecks or platforms was by hoisting seaplanes out by crane so that they might take off from the water. It is still necessary to use cranes for hoisting in catapulted aircraft on their return.

Cruiser Hoisting in Supermarine Walrus Amphibian

The aircraft which is being hoisted from the water on which it has evidently just alighted is a Walrus amphibian fleet spotter a biplane made by the Supermarine company and carried by most battleships and cruisers. It is propelled by a Bristol Pegasus VI, nine cylinder air cooled engine driving a pusher airscrew. The crew comprises the pilot, navigator, wireless telegraphist and gunner. As the machine is gradually hoisted from the water, an officer signals with a pair of red and green hand flags to the rating who is operating the crane, so that the latter may know when the aircraft is high enough to be swung in for landing in its birth on the ship.

Rating Pilots Donning Flying Kit

Here are seen two ratings qualified or qualifying as air pilots donning their flying kit. Since the Admiralty took over complete control of the Fleet Air Arm, naval ratings have been eligible to qualify as air pilots. They are selected mainly from the seaman, signal and telegraphist branches of the service and must be between the ages of 21 and 24. They are given a thorough training ashore for a year, followed by eight weeks in a training aircraft carrier during which time able seaman are rated as acting leading seaman. As soon as the full period of training has been successfully completed, they are advanced to the rating of petty officer.

Meteorological Device

In order to give aircraft pilots some idea of conditions in the upper air, it is necessary to take observations at heights greater than sea level. The balloon seen in the picture is designed to rise vertically at a known rate so that its height can be accurately measured according to the length of time it has been in the air. Directly it is released, observations are taken at intervals of a minute by means of a compass and sextant as shown in the picture. Having thus ascertained the distance and compass bearing from the ship, it can be quickly calculated by means of a specially prepared diagram what direction the balloon is taking in its ascent, thus giving the force and direction of the wind above.

In the Stokehold

A modern stokehold or boiler room is very different from the grimy inferno of the days when all ships were coal-fired. With oil burning boilers, the fires are seldom exposed to view, small apertures in the furnace doors making it possible to see whether the burners are working properly. In place of shovelling coal and raking out ash and clinker a Stoker today regulates the supply of oil to the fires and the admission of care to ensure combustion. To light up a boiler, the oil sprayers are turned on and a piece of lighted cotton waste inserted. With oil fuel, unlike solid fuel, there is no difficulty either in getting a full head of steam quickly or in maintaining the pressure.

Starting Platform of Cruiser’s Engine Room

In the foreground can be seen an engine room artificer (the figure on the left) and his mate a stoker. The various gauges visible show the pressure of steam in the main boilers, in the four turbines and in various auxiliary machinery such as the steering engine, feed pumps, evaporators and condensers. In the centre of the picture is the bridge telegraph repeating dial, which shows in bold letters each order given from the bridge of the ship. Apparently the artificer’s mate is engaged in opening a valve, possibly to put the engines over to half speed as shown on the dial. The only time when the engine and boiler rooms of HM ships are open to the inspection of visitors is during navy week.

Artificers at Work

The picture shows an electrical artificer (a chief petty officer) and a seaman torpedo man at work in the electrical artificer’s workshop of HMS Ark Royal. Every warship carries engine room artificers, ordinance artificers, and electrical artificers, who are not only the most highly skilled, but also the most highly paid ratings in the Royal Navy. In the picture the two ratings appear to be refitting the armature of one of the many electric motors which are used in HM ships for driving fans, pumps and allsorts of other machinery. The electrical Artificers, assisted by the semen of the torpedo branch (who are also trained as electricians) are responsible for the working of the electrical fittings in a ship.


The picture shows two telegraphists busy in the wireless room, one of the chief nerve centres of a warship. Nowadays there is a constant flow of wireless signals to and from every ship in a fleet so that the telegraphists are amongst the busiest men on board. Boys are selected in the training establishments for transfer to the telegraphist branch. Commencing as Boy telegraphists they can rise by way of the ratings of ordinary telegraphist, telegraphist, leading telegraphist, and petty officer telegraphist to chief petty officer telegraphist. Some of the smartest of these ratings are selected for the rank of warrant telegraphist, whence it is possible to climb still higher to commissioned rank.

Ship’s Butcher

Modern methods of refrigeration ensure an adequate supply of fresh meat to officers and men of the Royal Navy when afloat. Needless to say joints supplied to naval messes are of the best quality obtainable. In the old days, after a short time at sea ships had to fall back on preserved provisions such as the famed “salt horse.” This was beef or pork pickled in brine and packed in casks and probably kept for many years in store at one of the Navy victualling yards. A rating appointed for butcher’s duty is paid 3d. a day over and above his pay. In former days the ship’s butcher was also responsible for slaughtering, as required, the livestock placed on board at the beginning of a cruise.

Ship’s Bakery

The picture shows the bakery of HMS Courageous, an aircraft carrier of 22,500 tons. It will be observed that there are loaves of various shapes to suit individual tastes. This is very different from conditions in the old-time Navy, when the only form of bread available most of the time was ship’s biscuits, very hard and apt to harbour weevils. Every incentive is offered to ship’s bakers to turn out bread of the best quality, there being an annual competition on each station between all ships with bakeries, and a similar competition between smaller vessels lacking such complete facilities, with trophies to those turning out the best bread.

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