HMS Iron Duke was a dreadnought launched by the Royal Navy in 1912 and commissioned into the fleet in 1914. She was to serve throughout the war and remained in service as a training ship and then a headquarters ship through until the end of the Second World War. She was armed with ten 13.5″ guns as her main armament and it is these guns that dominate the view in today’s postcard:
Here sailors can be seen relaxing on the stern of the ship, dwarfed by her massive armament. The photograph was clearly taken from atop the X turret looking rearwards and the white cap covers and working uniforms suggest it was taken in the summer and probably in peacetime. The men sitting on the top of Y Turret are looking back at the cameraman:
Other sailors crowd the stern, looking over the rails at the ship’s wake:
The relaxed nature of the men suggests that this is a ‘make and mend’ afternoon. Make and mend is the term used in the Navy for an “afternoon off”. It is derived from the time of sailing ships when sailors would, occasionally but regularly, be allowed time to “make and mend” their uniforms, which were not then supplied by the Royal Navy. Some sailors were, nevertheless, “on watch” to work (sail) the ship. The designated watch of sailors were still required to “turn to” if the ship’s officers had to change the arrangement of the sails or rigging.
As Iron Duke’s Y Turret was removed in 1931 as part of her conversion to a training ship, this photograph dates to before that time and I suspect it was taken in the 1920s when the battleship had an active career including a period as the Mediterranean Fleet’s flagship.