Category Archives: postcard

Gordon Highlander’s Memorial Post Card

This week’s postcard depicts the splendid war memorial for the Gordon Highlanders at the Scottish National War Memorial:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (2)The memorial includes the regiment’s cap badge at the top:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (3) - CopyTogether with their First World War battle honours and the wording, “To the memory of the 453 officers and 8509 warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the regiment who gave their lives for their King and Country in the Great War 1914-1919”:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (2) - CopyThis memorial is part of the Scottish National War Memorial in a chapel in Edinburgh Castle. Proposals for a Scottish National War Memorial were put forward in 1917, during the First World War, by John Stewart-Murray, 8th Duke of Atholl, and Capt George Swinton of Kimmerghame. Sir Robert Lorimer, one of the architects involved in the Imperial War Graves Commission, was appointed in 1919, but opposition to a large-scale monument arose from the Cockburn Association and others concerned with the castle’s heritage. A more modest scheme to remodel the North Barrack Block was finally agreed in 1923, and the memorial was formally opened on 14 July 1927 by the Prince of Wales. After the  Second World War 50,000 names were added to the rolls of honour. Names continue to be added from successive conflicts, however the memorial itself has been left unchanged.

The exterior of the building is decorated with gargoyles and sculpture by Pilkington Jackson, John Marshall and Phyllis Bone, whilst the interior contains elaborate wall monuments commemorating individual regiments. The stained-glass windows are by Douglas Strachan The original aim behind the Memorial was to commemorate Scots and those serving with Scottish regiments who had died in the First World War, from the declaration of war on 4 August 1914 to the Treaty of Versailles of 28 June 1919 (confirmed military suicides and those tried and executed excepted). Upon the altar within the Shrine, placed on the highest part of the Castle Rock emerging through the floor, stands a sealed casket containing the Rolls of Honour listing over 147,000 names of those soldiers killed in the First World War together with open lists within the Hall. After the Second World War the limiting dates were modified, with another 50,000 names inscribed on the Rolls of Honour within the Hall, and with further names continuing to be added there.

Postcard of HMT Rewa

This week’s postcard is a fine pre-World War One study of a troop ship, the HMT Rewa:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (3)HM Troopship Rewa was built by William Denny for the British India Steam Navigation Company, and launched in 1905, completed 1906. This postcard was sent in 1908 by a soldier setting off on board her for India. The postcard is franked on 16th December 1908 in Southampton, presumably just before she set sail:skm_c30819010312450The sender has written

This is the troopship Rewa which is taking us to India

In the days before telephones and instant communications, postcards were a quick and cheap way of sending short messages. This card, posted in Southampton on the 16th at 10pm could well have been delivered to the address in Nottingham the next day.

The ship, named after a region of India, was requisitioned by the Admiralty in 1914 and pressed into service as a hospital ship. She served in this role for a number of years until she was sunk by a German torpedo in the Bristol Channel in January 1918. The Daily Mail printed a letter from a Stoker on board the Rewa indicating the gallant rescue of the ship’s crew and patients:

Sir- At the request of several naval patients form the hospital ship Rewa, torpedoed and sunk in the Bristol Channel about midnight on January 4, I am writing this letter so that our thanks may reach the fleet surgeon and all the surgeons who acted in such a gallant manner towards the helpless.

As regards L lifeboat, we had a very eventful and serious experience. The lifeboat, which contained the black crew and also patients, had been lowered halfway to the water, when the after-fall jammed. The forward fall was let go, and the lifeboat swung upright, with her fore half under water and the after end hanging in the air.

The petty officer- himself a patient- who in boat drill was to take charge of the boat in the event of a disaster, climbed up on board Rewa, we think to clear the after-fall as the boat did not lower. I asked for a chopper, and, thank heaven, one of the coloured men found it. You can understand the awkward position when trying to chop three parts of rope. Being lowered with a bang, the lifeboat, which was already submerged forward, became three-parts filled. We saw no more of the petty officer and an army officer in the boat asked me to take charge and coxswain the boat.

One of the coloured men lost the tops of three fingers. Nobody else was hurt, though everybody was wet. Three patients were hard at work bailing the boat while we got along with four oars. I should like to thank the three Army officers and all the rest of the men, black and white, for carrying out the orders under trying circumstances. There are four men in particular I should like to shake hands with again, and one is a nigger [in the parlance of the time].

I think that during all this excitement I forgot I had a fractured knee till I was taken out of the boat after reaching the trawler three hours afterwards

JOSPEH HEWSON, Stoker

The sinking could have been far worse and in the end just two men died. The ship sits today on the seabed, sadly now collapsed in on itself.10568898_442692619204656_4614221515875929475_n10494569_442692645871320_4758843788378380908_n10383898_442692562537995_225179446605090653_n

Horse Guards Postcards

Horse Guards in central London was commissioned by King George II in 1745 to replace an earlier building of the same purpose on the site that had fallen into such a state of disrepair that it was dangerous to the cavalrymen billeted there. The new Horse Guards was designed by William Kent in the Palladian style and it is this building that is depicted in this postcard:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (4)The cost of the buildings was £65,000 and took nearly ten years to complete. The Household Cavalry moved into the northern wing of the uncompleted building in 1855; at that time, there was stabling for 62 horses compared to 17 today. Originally, the two wings were connected to the central block by single storey ranges; in 1803-5 a further two floors were added to these, giving the building its present appearance.The building also served as the offices for the various administrative departments responsible to the Secretary at War, which would eventually become formalised as the War Office. Also located at Horse Guards was the office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces. Two famous occupants of the office, a room originally intended for courts-martial, were Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1795-1809), popularly believed to be “The Grand Old Duke of York”, and the Duke of Wellington (1827-28 and 1842-52). The final Commander-in-Chief at Horse Guards was Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, who was so reluctant to move to the new War Office building at Cumberland House in Pall Mall that he had to be ordered to leave by Queen Victoria. Wellington’s desk is preserved in the same room, which is now the office of the Major-General Commanding the Household Division and General Officer Commanding London District. Horse Guards subsequently became the headquarters of two major Army commands: the London District and the Household Cavalry.

In this view the two large sentry boxes for mounted soldiers are clearly visible:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (4) - CopyThe building’s close proximity to the rest of London is clearly seen in the postcard, St Paul’s Cathedral in particular being visible on the skyline:SKM_C30819010312060 - Copy (5) - CopySadly the cranes of London’s docks are long gone today, Horse Guards is however largely unchanged, the parade ground behind the main building remains the centre of British ceremonial life and the site for trooping the colour to this day.

HMS Buzzard on the Embankment Postcard

This week’s postcard is a fine image of the Embankment in London, looking down the River Thames:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (8)The large stone walls of the Embankment can be seen on the left of the image:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (8) - copyOf rather more interest though is the sloop, HMS Buzzard, moored a short distance away:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (9) - copyHMS Buzzard was a Nymphe-class composite screw sloop and the fourth ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name. Developed and constructed for the Royal Navy on a design by William Henry White, Director of Naval Construction, she was launched at Sheerness Dockyard on 10 May 1887. The Nymphe-class sloops were ideal for service in the far distant outposts of the British Empire, and Buzzard was employed on the North America and West Indies Station. In early April 1902, under the command of Commander L. F. G. Tippinge, she left Bermuda for home waters, calling at Faial Island, before she arrived at Devonport on 20 April. She was paid off at Chatham on 13 May 1902. In 1904 she was converted to a drill ship for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at Blackfriars, London as reported in the Daily Mail:

HMS Buzzard arrived on the Thames yesterday and took up her new station at Blackfriars, there to form a training depot for the Metropolitan Division of the Royal Naval Volunteers, called by the irreverent the “Blackfriars Buccaneers.”

Large crowds lined the bridges to watch the passing of the warship, and thousands were on the Embankment during the mooring operations.

The Buzzard, which was launched in 1887, would in the ordinary course have been sold out of the Navy, but she has now been thoroughly modernised and equipped with quickfirers.

The Captain of the Buzzard described the training on the refitted ship:

In the training given on board the Buzzard each company in turn furnishes a ship’s crew, whose duty it is to carry out the routine of the ship for a fortnight at a time. During this period the men live on board, going ashore daily to their occupations in office or workshop. Thus some idea of life on the lower deck is gained and the men are familiarized with the different parts of a man-of-war. Coming on board after his day’s work, the amateur sailor is taught to man a boat over the lower boom; he becomes familiar with such commands as “Away starboard whaler,” or in the case of an imaginary fire, “Pipe fire quarters,” and last but not least “Stand by Hammocks,” “Clear lower deck,” and “Pipe down,” when your clerk or workshop hand has a chance of learning how to sling a hammock and, with a little practice, how to sleep in one. In the morning comes the least popular command, “All hands lash up and stow,” and the men turn out to “Scrub and wash decks” before going on shore.

In 1911 Buzzard relieved HMS President (formerly HMS Gannet of 1878) as headquarters ship, being renamed HMS President on 1 April 1911. As President she served until 23 January 1918, when she was lent to the Marine Society. She was sold to C A Beard for breaking on 6 September 1921, and was later re-sold to Dutch ship breakers.

hms_buzzard_(1887)

RAMC Memorial Aldershot Postcard

This week’s postcard depicts the Royal Army Medical Corps’ Boer War memorial in Aldershot:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (7)This memorial was unveiled in 1905 by King Edward VII and consists of a central, granite obelisk:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (7) - copyA small bronze sculptural plaque is fitted to the front of the obelisk:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (8) - copyramc_memorial_aldershot_groupThe names of 314 officers and men of the Corps are recorded on 14 bronze name plaques arranged in a semi-circle behind the monument:skm_c30819010312060 - copy (9) - copyThe memorial was designed by Robert Weir Schultz, whilst the sculpted group was by the Welsh sculptor William Goscombe John. In 2010 the memorial was listed, the reasons for this designation being given as:

The Royal Army Medical Corps Boer War Memorial of 1905 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Design Interest: As an elegant memorial of good quality workmanship and materials by a known sculptor and known architect. * Historical Interest: As commemorating the fallen of the Royal Army Medical Corps in the Boer War, and as a remembrance of the work of the Corps and as a visually distinctive reference for those who serve or have served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, embracing the tradition of service and the regimental bond.

Postcard of Dalhousie Barracks, Calcutta

This week we return to India again for our weekly postcard, which this week is a fine study of Dalhousie Barracks in Calcutta:skm_c30819010312060I believe this postcard dates from around the time of the First World War and the building still stands today as part of the Indian Army’s Fort William. This description comes from a book called ‘Fort William Calcutta’s Crowning Glory’ by M.L. Augustine:

As soon as one enters the Fort through the East Gate, a massive structure of a four storeyed building captures one’s attention. Constructed during the period of Lord Dalhousie (Between 1848-56), this triangular building is named after him. It is the only building of its type in India that can accommodate an entire infantry battalion with its stores, arms, ammunition, and officers. A thousand bodies live, eat, sleep and train themselves for war on its premises. On the ground floor there is a temple. Ironically, next to the temple are the Quarter Guard, the armoury of weapons and the prisoners’ cells. It is said that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was once incarcerated in this building before he fled to Japan, though there is no documentary evidence to support this in any manner.

It was reported that when it was built, Dalhousie Barracks allocated 2000 cubic feet per man inside its building, equivalent to 111 square feet per soldier- at the time this was highlighted as being particularly generous compared to the overcrowded barracks used up to this point. It was also noted that as built ablution rooms and urinals were situated at the ends of the building on each floor for the use of the men, something that was again novel and new in military architecture.

The building has no doubt been refurbished many times over the century, but it remains in daily use by the Indian Army and is still a large and impressive building:capture

French Postcard Sent Back from the Western Front

This week’s postcard is a bit unusual as, whilst interesting, the image on the front rather falls outside the purview of this blog: it depicts a pair of French soldiers, an infantryman and a cavalryman:SKM_C284e18121008500 - CopyObviously French military history is not what this blog is interested in, so why is it included? The answer lies on the back where we can see that it was sent by a British soldier home to his wife in England:SKM_C284e18121008501He has written in pencil ‘On Active Service’ at the top:SKM_C284e18121008501 - Copy (2)And it has the stamps indicating that it has been checked by a censor for anything incriminating and that it has been handled by a field post office, the post mark dates it to 4th September 1915:SKM_C284e18121008501 - CopyLieutenant Harry Bundle explains the process of censoring soldiers’ mail:

Censoring is interesting at first but it rapidly becomes boring; no letter is allowed to leave without it having been read by an officer and franked by him on the envelope; fortunately my platoon do not write very long letters though they write very often. A typical letter starts like this. ‘My Dear Father and Mother, Ellen and Mary, I take pleasure in writing these few lines hoping that you are in the pink as it leaves me at present.’ Many of the men talk awful drivel about cannon balls flying around them, but as a general rule they are short and rather formal letters… The men always write very extravagantly after a spell in the front line – ‘All the ravines were full of dead Germans and Bulgars’, ‘It was absolute Hell!’, ‘I said more prayers then than at all of the Church parades I’ve attended’.”

The message itself is relatively banal, but the author does write to his other half with the best opener ‘Dear Wife’!SKM_C284e18121008501 - Copy (3)The message reads:

Dear Wife

Just a line. Hope you are well, give my love to all at home. Will write shortly. Hope you received the cheque okay.

Best Love Frank xxxx

The letter was sent to Mrs F Gregory of Sheffield:SKM_C284e18121008501 - Copy (4)Sadly, although following up on a few leads, I have been unable to determine who exactly this Frank Gregory was, hopefully he survived the war and was able to be reunited with his wife.