Category Archives: Photograph

Parachutist in Training Photograph

This week’s photo is a fascinating little snap of a British paratrooper in training:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (6)On his head this paratrooper wears the distinctive training helmet which had a large ring of sorbo rubber under a khaki drill cover with a pair of ear flaps come chin straps coming down either side:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (7) - CopyThis trainee also wears a khaki drill step in oversmock that appears to have been issued primarily to those training at Karbit in Egypt or the Indian Parachute School at Willingdon Airport, New Delhi:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (6) - CopyIt is often forgotten that many men trained to jump by parachute in both Egypt and India. Ted Tegg learnt how to parachute in India:

On joining the army, I was first posted to the Royal Berkshire Regiment, after going through Primary training in Ballykinlar in N.I. and subsequent Corp training in Colchester I was posted overseas to India, primarily to join the Royal Berks in Burma.

It was there that I volunteered to join the Parachute Regiment and was posted to Rawalpindi, which was the training centre at that time.

There followed 7-8 days of intensive ground training in which we learnt about the parachute, how it worked, how to use it and more importantly, how to land safely.

I think more time was spent on landing technique than any other aspect of the parachute, to ensure as far as possible, a safe landing on the ground.

The second week started with two acclimatization flights, to get us used to flying and to try and minimise the air sickness problem.

Carried out in Douglas Dakotas, mostly over some of the foothills of the Himalayas, these were pretty rough flights. The RAF were responsible for the entire training program and our instructors were two flight sergeants.

The first drops were made by two people going out on each circuit of the aircraft, jumping from a height of 800-1000ft and landing on the DZ (drop zone), which was a fair size ploughed field.

Nobody had any idea what the first drop would be like, and speculation was rife.

In the event, each person had his own experience.

My own experience on leaving the aircraft, was to blackout momentarily, not losing consciousness or feeling any sense of falling, but I did lose my sight.

All senses returned , when with a slight jerk, the parachute canopy opened.

The first thing we noticed was the almost complete absence of sound, but we all got a rocket, after we returned to Barracks, for shouting at each other on the way down.

The remaining drops, one on each day, were doubled up to 4,8,16 and so on until it reached 20.

Standing in line in the centre of the aircraft, we hooked up to the wire overhead and moved along with the left foot forward on each step.

We did a right turn on reaching the door, and placing the instep of your left foot over the edge of the door, you kicked out with your right foot.

Hitting the slipstream, you did the smartest left turn of your life (probably the reason for my blackouts), and glided downwards on your back, the parachute opening as it went, due to the static line pulling the parachute out of its pack.

We did two drops in one day, one of which was at night.

This was something different as the only light was four green lights, placed one at each corner of the DZ.

Trying to assess the direction of drift in these conditions was difficult, and it was almost the last minute before you could get any idea where you were going, but we did make it.

I think it was the 5th or 6th drop that things went wrong, and i almost had a serious accident.

Leaving the aircraft with the parachute opening in the usual way, or so i thought, i found that i could not move my head or control the parachute in any way.

the reason for this was that the lift webs, the four straps which connected the parachute rigging lines to the harness surrounding the body, had become crossed and was jamming my crash hat on my head.

Not being able to look down to the ground to assess my drift, together with the loss of control, i had to take pot luck on how I landed.

I didn’t realise at the time that I was descending far faster than normal, and landed in quite a heap, with the parachute all around me.

I was one of the last to leave the aircraft, but the first one to hit the ground.

A number of observers on the ground were watching the descents, as they were made, and an Officer and a Sergeant approached and asked if i was alright.

I was fairly shaken, due mostly to hitting the ground so hard, not being aware of any injuries at that time, the Officer said, “You had a pretty rough time on your way down, you had better have a look at your parachute.”

Between us we spread the canopy evenly over the ground, and what I saw was quite frightening.

The canopy is divided into 28 sections, each called a gore. Each gore is divided into four panels.

The damage consisted of the four panels in one gore, each being badly torn, and two others being similarly damaged, plus a number of small holes scattered here and there.

The parachute was then gathered up and taken to the edge of the DZ, where the Officer and Sergeant discussed the possible cause.

As far as I know, there wasn’t any enquiry into this accident, but i would assume the Officer would have made an appropriate report, if only to justify the damaged parachute, which was an obvious right off.

With training over, I was posted to the 16th South Staffs Parachute Battalion, part of the 44th Indian Airborne Division.

Photograph of an Armoured Car Column, North West Frontier Province, 1937

The interwar period saw the increasing use of modern technology to police the tribal regions of the North West Frontier of India. Budgets between the wars were being squeezed, but aircraft and armoured cars offered a seemingly cheaper way of controlling the tribesmen of this region rather than traditional ‘boots on the ground’. Road building had been prioritised since the start of the twentieth century, but new roads were emphasised throughout the interwar period and these revolutionised British operations. They allowed men and supplies to be moved to troublesome areas quickly and, when supported by armoured cars, relatively safely. This week’s photograph is a fantastic image of a road convoy taking a break in the NWF in 1937 during the Faqir of Ipi’s rebellion:SKM_C30819021407550 - Copy (5)The back of the photograph indicates that this was taken at Tanai Fort ‘en-route for Manzai (and Delhi) from Wana. Wana was a fort in Waziristan whilst Manzai was in Baluchistan.

The part of the convoy seen here consists of an armoured car:SKM_C30819021407550 - CopyNote the British soldiers taking a breather around the armoured car, each is wearing khaki drill with Cawnpore style solar topees. Behind this armoured care are a four wheel and a six wheel truck:SKM_C30819021407550 - Copy (2)And three further armoured cars:SKM_C30819021407550 - Copy (3)Also in the picture is a dispatch rider’s motorcycle:SKM_C30819021407550 - Copy (4)The armoured cars seem to be Crossley type cars rather than Rolls Royce designs. The domed turrets were particularly Indian in design and sported Vickers machine guns that could be slotted into four different sockets to provide all round fire. On top of each turret sits an armoured cupola for the car’s commander to sit in and control fire from. This example is preserved and on show at the Tank Museum in Dorset:imageEven with armoured cars, these convoys could be perilous:

On the early morning of 9 April 1937, a convoy set out from Manzai fort destined for the garrison at Wana carrying supplies and some officers and men returning to their units at Wana. The convoy was a large one, comprising forty-nine lorries, an ambulance, and three private cars, all escorted by four armoured cars, with infantry and a detachment of Sappers and Miners in lorries. One of the armoured cars was at the front, another at the rear, and two more were amongst the transport. Similarly, the infantry in their lorries were distributed along the length of the convoy. The long snake of lorries wove its way uneventfully past Jandola and then westward onto the Jandola-Wana road. At about 7.40 am it was ambushed in the Shahur Tangi, a narrow, steep-sided, three-mile long gorge, eight miles west of Jandola. There, having been slowed by camels let loose on the road, the convoy was attacked by a large party of Mahsuds and Bhitannis, who had occupied positions on the precipitous hillsides.

The leading armoured car and first three trucks, having passed out of the gorge, were not attacked directly and sped to the next manned outpost, carrying news of the attack. Meanwhile, the lorries at the front of the convoy in the gorge were disabled when their drivers were killed, trapping the others behind. Raiders hidden in the rocks close to the road attacked the convoy along its length causing very heavy casualties but, although some trucks were looted, the armoured cars, the infantry escort and the other troops with the convoy fought most gallantly and prevented the convoy from being overrun. An aircraft providing support overhead was badly damaged and forced to land. Reinforcements arrived later in the day and fighting continued sporadically until nightfall. In the evening as the firing lessened the lorries that could be moved were either sent on to Sarwakai or back to Manzai and the wounded were evacuated. By the following morning the raiders had gone…In total, the attack claimed seven British officers and two other ranks (Turner and Davies) killed, five officers and one other rank (Bowkett) wounded, 20 Indian other ranks killed and 39 Indian all ranks wounded.

Artillery Column in India Photograph

This week’s photograph is a magnificent study of a British Army column on the move through rural India between the wars:skm_c30819010312040The column appears to be a light artillery unit and is entirely mounted, the officers leading on their chargers:skm_c30819010312040 - copyA small group of mounted troopers follows close behind:skm_c30819010312040 - copy (2)Whilst the main column trails behind. There appears to be a succession of guns and limbers, each pulled by four or six horses, with the gun crews either riding pillion or on the limber itself:skm_c30819010312040 - copy (3)The column stretches away into the distance, curving round behind the bridge and shrouded in dust from the horses’ hooves:skm_c30819010312040 - copy (4)In the background a native village sits next to the road, its peaceful slumber rudely awoken by the passing troops:skm_c30819010312040 - copy (5)Behind this column would have trailed a large gaggle of hangers on, everything from cooks and servants to prostitutes and acrobats, all trying to part the soldier form his cash. Marches typically set off early in the morning before the sun became too hot and an advance part was sent ahead of the main column to prepare the following night’s camp. The camp was usually pitched near a small village or town and by the time the slow moving column reached it, hot and dusty, it would be ready for them. Apart for a few sentries, most men were then free to relax and visit the shops if the settlement was small enough. Any large town usually led to an order to remain in camp overnight. The following morning the camp was squared away and the process repeated until the column reached its final destination.

HMS Campania as Festival of Britain Exhibition Ship Photographs

The Festival of Britain was a nationwide event in 1951 that tried to showcase the best of British arts, technology and innovation and provide a boost both to morale and the economy after the ravages of the Second World War. The main exhibition was based in London, however it was felt that there should be some way of bringing at least a flavour of this to those living in other parts of the country. The idea the government hit upon was to convert the World War Two escort carrier HMS Campania into a mobile exhibition centre, the ship’s flight decks and hangars being large and open and ideally suited to this task. The ship toured the country and tonight we have a set of three photographs from her time at Birkenhead. Firstly we have a snapshot taken from the Quay of the ship moored up:SKM_C284e18112111310 - CopyThe Festival Office’s resident designer, James Holland, considered that the vessel would “not convert easily into a showboat”, but with the massive demand for shipping to help rebuild Europe after the war, he and his colleagues felt lucky to have any ship at all.

Repainted white, the ship was decorated with skeleton masts and bunting. Officially named the Sea Travelling Exhibition, the exhibits were intended to reflect the main London Exhibition. Like the Festival’s Land Travelling Exhibition, they were divided into three sections, the “Land of Britain”, “Discovery” and “The People at Home”. Between 4 May 1951 and 6 October, the ship visited Southampton, Dundee, Newcastle, Hull, Plymouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Belfast, Birkenhead and Glasgow, staying at each port for 10–14 days. The ship was in Birkenhead from 4th to 13th September 1951.

The ship’s white hull and the aforementioned masts can be clearly seen in this view from the water:SKM_C284e18112111310Pat Kennedy toured the ship in Birkenhead:

Campania was berthed in Bidston Dock, Birkenhead during the Festival of Britain and was open to the public.
At the time, my parents had a boarding house, and we had three of the engine room staff from Campania billeted with us. Mr Owen 2nd engineer, who came from Morfa Nefyn in N Wales, Cyril Ferrier, Chief electrician who I think was a geordie, and a third bloke who I can’t remember. all pleasant chaps, who took me and my brother on a tour of the ship.

The final view is taken from the flight deck and shows the awning set up for visitors along with the park benches for them to sit down and rest:SKM_C284e18112111310 - Copy (2)The visiting of this ship to a port was clearly a major local event and the Eagle comic printed this helpful cutaway diagram of the exhibition ship for its readers:CaptureOnce the festival was over Campania was converted back into a naval role and helped support the early atom bomb testing at Bikini Atoll before finally being scrapped in 1955.

Photograph of HMS Crane

Tonight we have a photograph of the Black Swan class sloop HMS Crane:SKM_C284e18091908120HMS Crane was launched in 1942 and was to become one of the longest lasting ships of her class with the Royal Navy, only being broken up in 1965. Initially she was allocated the pennant number U23, but post war she was re-designated F123, and it is with this pennant number she appears here:SKM_C284e18091908120 - CopyThe sloops were designed for convoy duty, but were larger and faster than corvettes. Each ship had six quick firing 4” guns in three twin turrets. One on the stern and two on the bow:SKM_C284e18091908120 - Copy (2)Like all small ships of her era, HMS Crane has an open bridge:SKM_C284e18091908120 - Copy (3)A tall mast sits behind the bridge with her various radar and communications antennae:SKM_C284e18091908120 - Copy (4)By the late 1950s she was very out of date and serving in the far east, as one sailor who joined HMS Crane in 1959 recalls:

The first thing that struck me about my new ship, after the journey from HMS Terror to join her, was how old fashioned she looked and the amount of armament she carried…a Gunnery Ratings dream ship I would have thought!

     Having been detailed as to which mess we were to live in, I made my way forward to mine – number 8 mess – only about 20 or so feet long and about 15 feet wide. I believe there were about 17 of us billeted in this space. Down the ship’s side of our mess were a couple of cushioned seats about six feet long. Each of these converted into two sets of bunks. Between them and the other side of the mess was a wooden table of a similar length, bolted to the deck and alongside it a backless cushioned bench running the length of the table, but only about 15 inches wide.

     We newcomers were greeted by our Leading Hand Tony ‘Postie’ Derrett; so called because he was the ship’s postman. We were to get on very well and became run-ashore oppos (mates). What neither of us realized the whole time on that ship was that we were the two in the breast stroke race held 6 years previously at HMS St Vincent, and it wasn’t until we met again 50 years later that this came to light!

     Being a tall one, I was given the top bunk on the inboard side of the mess deck forward. There were three bunks up and two along on a false bulkhead, and this was the first time I had ever had a bunk on a ship.

      The cooling system in the mess, there being no air-conditioning in those days, was a table fan that would be set to sweep across the mess, and one punkahlouvre which could be directed to a particular spot. This directional asset of fresh air, though not cooled, was altered almost every time someone came into our mess, and at night the last person to turn in tried to direct it to his bunk, only to have it redirected by the next bloke. It was extremely hot and humid in Singapore, and this was even more so on the ship. Most of us learnt quickly that the only way to wander about in the mess, and to wear to bed, was to wear a cloth like a sarong around our waists.

     After having sorted out my bunk and locker the first thing I had to do was to get to my place of duty in the operations room. Just below and slightly aft of the open bridge, and raised up a couple of steps from the wheelhouse, it was quite small. I did note that it did have a bench seat in it the same size as my bunk down below.

     Opposite were the two LOP (local operations plot) tables. These were glass topped tables under which a compass rose was directed upwards, and with an attached scaled motor, meant that the ‘spiders web’ of the light, also to scale, would cross the table in relatively the same course and speed of the ship. Therefore reported contacts from the radar operator could be plotted onto the glass topped table (which was about 6 ft x 4ft) and either plotted on a long roll of tracing paper, or on square plastic sheets that fitted on the table. At the bottom of the forward seat was a the navigational 974 radar. The 293 PPI (plan position indicator) radar screen was stuffed in the corner, and also couple of clear plastic upright screens – one for aircraft plotting or general plots, and the other carrying information such as radio frequencies and their use in the Ops room.

Print of Hector MacDonald

Normally I scan in photographs and postcards with a high resolution scanner for our regular Sunday night spot. Tonight however we are looking at a fine framed print of a Victorian major general that is currently hanging in my entrance hall so you will have to make do with a photograph of the print!imageThe print represents Major General Hector MacDonald, a controversial character from the late Victorian army. He is in his full dress regalia as an aide de campe to King Edward VII:imageThis print was clearly framed around the time it was printed and may have hung in the mess of a regiment, it is an impressive and particularly large picture. He wears an impressive range of medals including the DSO and the aiguillettes of an Aide de Campe to the King. Hector MacDonald’s likeness is seen on a daily basis by millions of people who have no idea who he is. This is because he was the soldier who inspired the label on the famous Camp Coffee brand:Im200904WCL-CampHector MacDonald won the rare distinction of rising from the ranks to major general. The son of a crofter-mason, he enlisted as a private in the Gordon Highlanders at the age of 18. In 1879 Macdonald took part in the Second Afghan War, where he gained a reputation for resourcefulness and daring. By the end of the campaign, he was nicknamed “Fighting Mac” and promoted to second lieutenant. Returning to Britain by way of southern Africa, he saw action in the First Boer War (1880–81). At the Battle of Majuba Hill (Feb. 27, 1881) he was conspicuously courageous.

From 1883 to 1898, Macdonald served in Egypt and the Sudan, taking part in the Nile expedition (1885) as a member of the Egyptian constabulary. Transferring to the Egyptian army as captain in 1888, he demonstrated an extraordinary talent for command during the Sudanese campaign (1888–91). When Kitchener undertook the reconquest of the Sudan in 1896, he placed Macdonald in command of an Egyptian brigade, which he handled so outstandingly at the critical Battle of Omdurman (Sept. 2, 1898) that he became a national hero and was given the thanks of Parliament. As a major general commanding the Highland Brigade in the South African War (1899–1902), “Fighting Mac” contributed much to Boer defeats at Paardeberg and Brandwater. In 1902 he was given charge of the troops in Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka). Confronted by an “opprobrious accusation” (apparently a charge of homosexual practices), he shot himself in a Paris hotel room.

Modern historians have treated Hector MacDonald more kindly than his contemporaries and it is today suggested by many that the rumours of inappropriate relations were spread by those in senior positions who were affronted that an ordinary man could rise through the ranks and become such a senior officer. Hector MacDonald remains a hero to many in his native Scotland and although his funeral was meant to be a small family affair, 30,000 turned out to pay their respects in Edinburgh.

This framed print appeared on the second hand market last year for just £7 and looks very impressive on the wall. Sadly due to its size my wife has relegated it to the back entrance hall but he now greets all visitors as they enter and leave!

Ship’s Mess Photograph

Photographs of crew spaces on board Royal navy ships are rare, especially candid pictures from the days before flash photography was easy and common. Tonight’s photograph is therefore unusual as it depicts crewmembers relaxing in their mess on board a Royal Navy warship in the 1950s or 1960s:SKM_C284e18080914500 - Copy (7)The men are clearly ratings, their caps being perched above the seating area:SKM_C284e18080914500 - Copy (3)By the 1950s most ships included a number of mess decks for their crews and although hammocks were still in use, more modern ships were beginning to have bunks and central areas with seating and tables where men could sit when off duty and play games, talk or generally relax. This photograph appears to be in the mess of a group of ratings who may have been stokers or other engineering ratings as one of the men is dressed in a boiler suit:SKM_C284e18080914500 - Copy (6)It is clearly somewhere in the tropics as two men are stripped to the waist, and at least one is wearing shorts:SKM_C284e18080914500 - Copy (5)That might explain why they seem to be enjoying their ice-cream cones so much! Despite the heat, it appears it might be Christmas as a row of cards is hung up on the bulkhead behind them:SKM_C284e18080914500 - Copy (4)As one would expect from the date, the men are all clearly smokers and packets of cigarettes and lighters can be seen on the table in front of them:SKM_C284e18080914500 - CopyOne interesting feature about the table is that it has a series of pull out ashtrays built into the edge of it, one of which can be seen open with a cigarette in it:SKM_C284e18080914500 - Copy (2)Life aboard ship in the 1950s, even with a ship’s mess for downtime, could be boring as recalled by Alfred Pickup:

The long evenings sailing across the Indian Ocean were spent mainly reading. I could get through a book a day on average; the odd evening I would spend in the mess with my mates playing cards and listening to the ship’s DJ on the SRE (Ships Radio Equipment). It almost made you wish you were in prison where there were no bouncy floors and you had snooker and pool tables, darts, table tennis, television, gymnasium, library, visit from loved ones, and best of all a whole room to yourself.