HMS Despatch Photographs

A couple of weeks ago we looked at a photograph of HMS Despatch’s ship’s band. This photograph was part of a wider group of images and today we are going to look at the rest of the photographic grouping. HMS Despatch was a Danae class light cruiser and she spent much of the 1920s on the China station where these photographs were taken. The first pair of images are of the ship itself, her sleek yet powerful lines being well displayed in this photographs:

The grouping also includes a shot of her commanding officer:

As the photographs seem to have been taken in 1926, this is either Captain Robert C Davenport or Captain Douglas B Le Motee as the commander of the ship changed in this year. Another photograph in the series shows the ship’s rifle team, complete with SMLEs displayed in front of the men:

Not all the photographs are of work related activities and some show the ship’s crew at leisure. A popular pastime was ‘hands to bathe’ where the ship’s company could cool off by swimming in the sea:

Sport was also popular and there is a photograph of one of the ship’s sports teams, here for football:

And some games activity that involves teams racing whilst carrying telegraph poles:

The ship clearly achieved some success at sport as the final two photographs show some of the trophies won by members of the ship’s company in 1926:

The largest trophy here is the Yokohama Bowl won by the ship. This trophy was the subject of a report in the Navy News in 1980:

The mystery of the Yokohama Bowl has been solved – or so it seemed when Navy News received a letter from Surg. Capt. (D) K. E. J. Fletcher, R.N. (retd.), of Anstey Cross, Dorchester. Readers had been wondering what happened to the Bowl, and Capt. Fletcher wrote saying that correspondents should have their minds put at rest.

“This trophy” he said “was brought home to Portsmouth on May 17, 1939 and to my knowledge is now in the wardroom of H.M.S. Nelson. The Bowl was won by H.M.S. Suffolk in 1937 with 364 points to the Capetown’s 355 and Danae’s 306. In 1938 the Suffolk won again, with 187 ½ points to the Dorchester’s 146 and the Birmingham’s 144 ½ “

Signing himself “Toothy” Capt. Fletcher refers to some of the Suffolk’s competitors and adds: “One must of course send one’s regards and sincerely hope their fillings are still in place.” Alas, Capt. Fletcher, while the fillings may still be available for inspection, the Bowl is not. As far as the H.M.S. Nelson trophy store is aware, the Bowl is not on the premises.


Another correspondent about the Yokohama Bowl was ex-Chief Stoker W. L. Collins, aged 85, of Cricklewood, London, “an ardent reader of Navy News who at last found a topic upon which he could be of some enlightenment.” His letter was most welcome, explaining that in 1920 he was serving on board H.M.S. Marazion attached to the Fifth Submarine Flotilla. During the Fleet’s summer stay at Wei Hai Wei ( Hong Kong) the Yokohama earthquake occurred, and in recognition of the services rendered by the Royal Navy, the ladies of Yokohama presented the Bowl to the China Fleet,

In 1925 the Bowl was aboard H.M.S. Hawkins, adorning the wardroom, and having two “duties”. First it was used as the “highest points” regatta prize, and secondly as the “trophy” for the officer with the biggest wine bill,


It seems to be generally believed that the Bowl was won by H.M.S. Dorsetshire just before the war, and that the trophy was probably on board the cruiser in 1942, when she was sunk by enemy action in the Indian Ocean.

Although only a few photographs, this little grouping gives us a tantalising taste of life aboard the ship in the Far East in the mid-1920s and shows the men at work and play.

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