Sailors on HMS Egmont Postcard

This week’s postcard is a rather nice group shot of a number of sailors on HMS Egmont at the time of the First World War, the ship’s name being helpfully displayed on the life ring they hold in front of them:

HMS Egmont had a somewhat curious, and very long lived history. HMS Egmont had originally been launched as an armoured cruiser called HMS Achilles as long ago as 1863, part of Britain’s ‘Black Fleet’ of ironclads. She served until 1885 and was then paid off in the usual manner. A full fifteen years passed until she was reactivated, this time as a depot ship at Malta where she remained until 1914. In 1902 she was renamed Hibernia to release the name Achilles for a new cruiser and she became HMS Egmont in 1904. She was renamed HMS Egremont in 1916 when she returned to the UK and to HMS Pembroke in 1919, spending much of World War One as a submarine depot ship, before finally being sold for scrap in 1923. The story gets more complicated, though, as a new depot ship in Malta was commissioned in 1916, the former St Angelo Fort. The image above is clearly on board a ship however so this can be discounted.

This then allows us to date the photograph to between 1904 and 1916. Most of the men in the image wear white cotton duck working uniforms:

Note the trade badges on the arms, indicating that these men are stokers. A couple of men, however, wear the dark blue woolen uniform:

There were many such depot ships throughout the Great War, older warships that were too long in the tooth for combat, but still serving an important role as a place to repair and replenish smaller vessels such as submarines or destroyers. They boasted technical staff and workshops to make repairs and accommodation and recreation facilities for the crews of the smaller vessels to relax and recuperate in.

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