Category Archives: Royal Navy

Life in the Royal Navy Cigarette Cards (Part 3)

Naval Target

A target for heavy gun practice, as seen here, is a very substantial affair. It consists of a raft made out of massive balks of timber and cement surmounted by a lattice framework over which are stretched canvas sills. A target party has charge of each target, being employed after a shoot to effect the necessary repairs to enable a target to stand up to a further battering by 15 or 16 inch shells. Targets are towed at a fair speed, usually either by one of the special target towing vessels HMS Guardian or Protector or by a big fleet tug. A special camera is used to photograph the fall of every shot so that an exact record can be kept of every ship’s firing.

Launching Torpedo into Tube

When discharged from its tube a torpedo is capable of a long run of 7 miles or even more at moderate speed, or of shorter runs at very high speed. As a general rule long runs are only made when a mass of torpedoes is fired at a fleet a considerable distance away. When an individual ship is attacked every endeavour is made to get within short range so that the torpedoes maximum speed may be utilised and the chances of hitting increased. We show a 21 inch torpedo of the standard naval pattern weighing over 1 1/2 tons. A smaller type of torpedo, the 18 inch, is employed by aircraft and certain small surface vessels.

Adjustment of Torpedo Gear

The illustration shows a torpedo opened up for inspection and adjustment in a workshop. A torpedo includes much delicate mechanism in its internal construction such as the propelling engine worked by compressed air and surrounded by delicate control gear. At the tail end is the buoyancy chamber, containing a valve which can be set to sink the torpedo after it has ended it’s run; this is only used in wartime when the torpedo carries a heavy charge of explosive. The spinning wheel known as a gyroscope which keeps the torpedo on a straight course is also at the tail. Further forward is the balance chamber containing a heavy pendulum weight and a hydrostatic valve. Together these control the horizontal rudders at the tail.

Torpedo Firing Practice

The torpedo is shown in our picture leaving the tube from which it has been fired by a cordite charge. The tube is one of a group of three, mounted on a pivot so that torpedoes can be fired from either side of the ship. Most later types of destroyers have their tubes arranged in groups of either four or five. The torpedo illustrated is of the standard 21 inch type, with a practice head which carries in it a calcium light. This ignites after the torpedo has ended its run, and reveals the position by giving off white smoke, this enabling the destroyer’s boat to recover the torpedo.

Watching Depth Gauge in Submarine

The coxswain in charge of the after hydroplanes (horizontal diving rudders) of a submarine is shown carefully observing his depth gauge. From the reading of the dial it may be surmised that the submarine is just at periscope depth, or sufficiently near the surface to be able to observe what is happening above through her periscope. Perhaps 6 inches of the periscope may be above the surface, but this enables the captain of the submarine to get a clear view of any surface vessel that may be in sight. It will not do to show too much of the periscope above the surface, nor to expose it too often, since if the submarine is moving at any speed it will raise enough spray to attract the attention of an enemy ship.

Depth Charge Exploding

Depth charges are bombs usually containing 300lb of high explosive designed to detonate under water. They are exploded by means of a special device, actuated by the pressure of the water when a certain depth below the surface has been reached. The usual method of projecting depth charges from a destroyer or other vessel is by a simple type of howitzer, known as a depth charge thrower or by a simple dropping gear at the stern of the ship. In attacking submarines four depth charges are dropped at a time dispersed, in a diamond pattern. The explosion of a group of depth charges near a submerged submarine is bound to shake up and strain the vessel and dislocate her electrical arrangements, even if it does not inflict fatal damage.

Hoisting in Paravane

In appearance a paravane resembles a much shortened torpedo, and all warships carry a number of them. They are intended to be towed on either side of the ship’s bow when passing through waters likely to have been mined. While in tow, the fins with which they are fitted keep them streamed out at a wide angle on either side and intercept any mine that may be encountered, the mooring of which is cut by a device Incorporated in the paravane. The mine is thus brought to the surface where it can be exploded by gun or rifle fire. This contrivance was perfected during the Great War by the efforts of a number of officers, the leading part being taken by commander Sir Dennistoun Burney.

Hawker Nimrod Landing on the Flight Deck

Aircraft land on the spacious flight deck of an aircraft carrier in much the same way as they do on the surface of an aerodrome. But in order to check their way before they have run too far, a number of wires are stretched across the flight deck at intervals designed to engage in a hook at the tail of each machine as it lands and bring it up by gradual tension. The machine seen in the picture is a Hawker Nimrod, a single seat fighter biplane. It is propelled by a Rolls-Royce Kestrel 12 cylinder watercooled engine with a horse power of 550. During Navy Week visitors can see a squadron of aircraft of this type carrying out divebombing attacks on warships.

Fairey Swordfish being Manhandled into Position

A number of ratings are pushing a Swordfish aeroplane into position so that it may descend into the ship’s hanger by one of the big hydraulic lifts. Behind them is an officer of the Royal Air Force, borne in the Furious for instructional duties. The Fairey Swordfish is a biplane used either for torpedo dropping, spotting for gunnery practice, or for reconnaissance purposes. In the first case the crew would number two in either of the others it would number three. The machine is propelled by a 655/690 HP Bristol Pegasus III M nine cylinder air cooled engine. The argument includes one Vickers and one Lewis gun with either bombs or an 18 inch torpedo in addition.

Fairey Swordfish Going Down in Lift

Here a Swordfish aircraft is seen descending in one of the big hydraulic lifts which in all modern aircraft carriers give access to the hanger on the deck below. It will be observed that the wings of the machine have been folded back in order to occupy less space in the lift and hanger. Nowadays nearly all aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm have their wings designed to fold in this way. A number of ratings are accompanying the machine in the lift in order to run it off without delay, store it in its proper position in the hanger and effect any necessary lubrication and adjustments.

HMS Royal Oak Postcard

My thanks go to Owen Thompson who very kindly sent me this postcard of HMS Royal Oak:

HMS Royal Oak was a Revenge class battleship launched in 1914 and commissioned in 1916 in time to see service at Jutland. The fact that this postcard warns that the image has not been passed by a censor suggests that the postcard dates from early in the warship’s career when she was still a classified system. HMS Royal Oak is of course most famous for being torpedoed in Scapa Flow in the early months of World War Two. Before that however she had served in the Atlantic, Home and Mediterranean fleets in the interwar years and she came to worldwide notice in 1928 when she was part of the Mediterranean Fleet.

What began as a simple dispute between Rear-Admiral Bernard Collard and Royal Oak’s two senior officers, Captain Kenneth Dewar and Commander Henry Daniel, over the band at the ship’s wardroom dance, descended into a bitter personal feud that spanned several months. Dewar and Daniel accused Collard of “vindictive fault-finding” and openly humiliating and insulting them before their crew; in return, Collard countercharged the two with failing to follow orders and treating him “worse than a midshipman”.

When Dewar and Daniel wrote letters of complaint to Collard’s superior, Vice-Admiral John Kelly, he immediately passed them on to the Commander-in-Chief Admiral Sir Roger Keyes. On realising that the relationship between the two and their flag admiral had irretrievably broken down, Keyes removed all three from their posts and sent them back to England. Since this was on the eve of a major naval exercise, he was obliged to postpone it, which allowed rumours to fly around the fleet that the Royal Oak had experienced a mutiny. The story was picked up by the press worldwide, which described the affair with some hyperbole. Public attention reached such proportions as to raise the concerns of the King, who summoned First Lord of the Admiralty William Bridgeman for an explanation.

For their letters of complaint, Dewar and Daniel were controversially charged with writing subversive documents. In a pair of highly publicised courts-martial, both were found guilty and severely reprimanded, leading Daniel to resign from the Navy. Collard himself was criticised for the excesses of his conduct by the press and in Parliament, and on being denounced by Bridgeman as “unfitted to hold further high command”, was forcibly retired from service. Of the three, only Dewar escaped with his career, albeit a damaged one: he remained in the Royal Navy, but in a series of more minor commands. His promotion to rear-admiral, which would normally have been a formality, was delayed until the following year, just one day before his retirement. Daniel attempted a career in journalism, but when this and other ventures were unsuccessful, he disappeared into obscurity amid poor health in South Africa. Collard retreated to private life and never spoke publicly of the incident again.

Someone who knew the admiral later in life gives a greater insight into his character, which perhaps explains how the incident arose in the first place:

When I was growing up (if I ever did) during the war the long-suffering (I should think) Mrs Collard used to come round collecting money for savings stamps. A pleasant woman, goodness knows how she put up with her husband. She and ‘Sammy’ Collard lived about a quarter of a mile up the A3 from my home and latched onto the idea that I was going into the RN. I remember at age about 24 and a Lt he still used to lean out of his car and roar at me ‘When are you going to Dartmouth m’boy?’ He never had the patience to wait for an answer which saved me having to think up a polite one! Like all good gunnery officers he was deaf as a post anyway.

When he left the sea he sent for an architect (Ernest Emerson, father of one of my godmothers). Emerson duly knocked on Collard’s door. ‘Want a house built, like a ship!’ Emerson asked if the admiral could explain that. ‘Want a house built, like a ship, with a forecastle and a quarterdeck of course!’ Emerson: ‘What you need, sir, is a jobbing builder’, turned on his heel and walked away.

At the R Oak Court Martial it was said that one of the lawyers asked ‘Is it true, sir, that you called the bandmaster a b@gger?’ ‘Yes it is, and what I want to know is, who called the b@gger a bandmaster?’

Collard had already had one mutiny under his belt – as a Lt he had the duty watch turned out in RNB in Portsmouth for whatever. In order to tell them what was wanted he gave the order (perfectly good drill book order) ‘Front rank, On the knee!’ thus ordering the front rank down so that the rear rank could better take in what was to be said. Unfortunately the watch included stokers who were not up with this and thought they were being treated less than courteously. Result a mutiny. Other result, corrugated iron sheets attached to the RNB railings on Queen St so that the general populace wouldn’t be treated to another circus like that. These plates only came down fairly recently. Bet most Pomponian passers-by didn’t know how they got there.

Life in the Royal Navy Cigarette Cards (Part 2)

Painting Ship

In a ship of any size, some part is almost always in the process of being scraped, rubbed down or painted. But at certain times it is necessary to do this on a larger scale, and the order “hands paint ship” is given so that the whole of the vessel’s sides and masts may be recoated in a single day. This necessitates the assembly beforehand, by the ship’s painter, of an ample supply of brushes and paint-pots. The whole ship’s company is placed “out of routine” while the painting is in hand, so nothing may interfere with the rapid completion of the work. British warships in home waters are painted a dull grey, but in the Mediterranean and further east, grey of a lighter and brighter hue is employed.

Manning Sea Boat in a Destroyer

In destroyers a whaler usually does duty as a sea-boat. It is a double ended boat (i.e. with both ends shaped alike), 25 or 27 feet long, pulling five oars. Disengaging gear permits the boat to be slipped from the falls while the ship is still making way through the water. On a sea boat’s crew being called away, they man their boats instantly and put on their life belts. Sea boat lower ears are told off to each fall. As she nears the water, the officer lowering the boat give the orders “out pins” and then, at the right moment, “slip.” The coxswain of the boat thereupon slips the “fore and after” of the disengaging gear, the boat drops into the water and the crew get their oars out and pull away.

Range Finder

Modern sea fights are waged at far greater ranges than formerly. To. Ensure that guns may hit their targets at the utmost limits of visibility, various mechanical devices are employed. One of these “gadgets” as the Navy calls them, is the range-finder. When using it, two partial images of the target are seen through a telescope, one above the other; by manipulation these are brought into line and the correct range them appears on a scale attached. Big range-finders require two me to manipulate them, one to align the images and read off the range and one to train the instrument. Range-finders vary in size from small portable ones to the enormous fixed instruments in the turrets of the battleships Nelson and Rodney.

Naval Diver about to Descend

The diver has just stepped out of the boat on to the rungs of a ladder from which he will descend into the water. Naval divers are trained at the Diving School at Whale Island, Portsmouth and, when qualified, draw extra pay according to rating. If a ship sustains serious under-water damage, divers are sent down to measure the size of the hole with the aid of plumb lines, so that a wooden patch can be made and affixed by them by means of bolts and nuts. Divers are also employed to locate lost objects under water, such as anchors or torpedoes. During Navy Week at Plymouth in August 1937 a diver recovered a handbag dropped into the dockyard basin by a visitor.

Seaman Gunner Polishing the Breech of 15-Inch Gun

The 15 inch gun is over 52 feet long, weighs 97 tons and fires a projectile weighing nearly 2,000 lb. Gins of this calibre constitute the main armament of the battleships Queen Elizabeth, Barham, Malaya, Valiant, Warspite, Royal Sovereign, Revenge, Resolution, Ramillies and Royal Oak, of the battle cruisers Hood, Repulse and Renown and of the monitors Erebus and Terror. In all these ships the guns are mounted in pairs, inside turrets. Loading of these huge guns is carried out entirely by machinery, operated by the crew of the turret, which numbers 63, including men in the shell room and magazine below.

Anti-Aircraft Gun Practice (HMS Rodney)

Our picture shows the crew of a 4.7 inch high angle gun at practice. It will be noted that the men are all wearing gas masks. This particular model of 4.7 inch gun is a semi-automatic quick firer, nearly 16 feet in length, which is mounted only in HMS Rodney, Nelson, Courageous and Glorious. The crew numbers 11, and the rate of fire is 10 rounds per minute. The projectile weighs nearly 50lb and is discharged with a muzzle velocity exceeding 2500 feet per second. The total weight of the gun, with its mounting is 12 tons.

Gun’s Crew Loading 5.5 inch Gun (HMS Hood)

The only ships in the Royal Navy which mount guns of 5.5 inch calibre are the battle cruiser HMS Hood, the world’s largest warship, in which they form the secondary battery, and the aircraft carriers Furious and Hermes, which carry them as their main armament. This gun, which is nearly 23 feet in length and weighs over six tons, fires shells weighing 85lb. This lighter projectile is more easily handled than the 100lb shell of the 6 inch gun. The crew numbers 9.

The Naval Kite

The naval kite shown in illustration is being flown astern of a destroyer for use as a Lewis gun target. The Lewis is an automatic machine gun weighing 26lb, with a rate of fire of 700 rounds a minute. The magazine holds 47 rounds, and weighs 4lb when full. The gun, which isn used mainly for landing parties and in anti-aircraft work, is worked on an ingenious principle utilising the pressure of the gas generated by the explosion of the charge, assisted by a return spring. The bullets are the same as those of a .303 rifle.

Anti-Aircraft Pom Pom

Here an ordnance artificer and his mate are seen at work adjusting one of the barrels of a multiple Pom-Pom. This is the most formidable weapon yet devised for dealing with aircraft that fly low to attack a warship. Acting somewhat of the principle of a scatter gun, the eight barrels of the multiple Pom-Pom discharge into the air a spray of small projectiles at an incredibly rapid rate, thus putting up a barrage which should prove deadly to any aircraft coming within its radius. An ordnance artificer is a highly skilled chief petty officer who has been through technical courses in the gunnery and torpedo schools. Numbers of these rating proportionate to the size of the armament are borne on all ships of the fleet.

Firing a Broadside (HMS Rodney)

Nine 16 inch guns in three turrets, all of which can be fired on either beam, are mounted in HMS Rodney. A broadside from these nine guns weighs nearly ten tons and can hit a target at a range only bounded by the limits of vision. Sometimes the target is a affair of canvas and wood, towed by another ship. At other times the wireless controlled target ship Centurion is used, but not in the case of big as the 16 inch, since the structural damage would be too extensive to be repaired readily. These are the biggest guns ever mounted afloat with one exception, the 18 inch, an experimental gun used in HMS Furious and certain monitors during the Great War, but since discarded for naval purposes.

Children’s Royal Navy ABC

In today’s politically correct world it seems odd to some how proud people were of their country and military in the past and how this message was used in everything from advertising to children’s books. Whether this is jingoism or well placed pride in the nation’s accomplishments is not for this blog to say, however it has left us some absolute corkers when it comes to surviving artefacts and tonight we have a wonderful child’s book of the alphabet from the Great War that celebrates the achievements of the Royal Navy:

The inside cover has a little verse:

Hurrah for the British Navy! Hurrah for our sailors bold!

The great gray ship’s of Britain, the lads with hearts of gold-

They bravely breast the billows; they keep us safe and free;

No foeman can affright us while they are on the sea.

While we are sleeping soundly, their sleepless watch they keep;

While winter winds are howling, they plough the stormy deep.

Their roaring guns are ready with steady hands to guide.

God bless the British Navy, our bulwark and pride.

What follows is a profusely illustrated ABC, with some truly excellent artwork:

The references to Jutland and the German Navy suggest that this book was published in 1917 or 1918. The rear cover shows a small child dressed as a sailor and a patriotic little verse:

The poetry in this book is hardly brilliant, but it’s patriotism is rather fantastic and it is done without a trace of irony. This has to be one of my favourite little finds of the year and might just get an outing teaching my three year old daughter her ABC!

HMS Holland 1 Postcard

Holland 1 was the Royal Navy’s first submarine in 1900. She was a tiny vessel weighing just 105 tons and with a crew of 8, but was used to give the RN its first experience of submersible vessels and as she was at the cutting edge of technology at the time, she naturally featured on picture post cards for the public to purchase:

The image itself is a very famous one, and has been seen in black and white in publications from the turn of the twentieth century until the present day, it is more unusual to see it colourised as in this example. The vessel was just 63 feet long, and when surfaced the top of the casing barely broke the surface of the water. Here two of the boat’s company can be seen on the top of the submarine, with an open hatch to the interior and various masts:

The tiny vessel was armed with a single torpedo tube, the main weapon of submarines throughout the technology’s lifespan.
The back of the card indicates that it was sent in 1907:

HMS Holland 1 remained in service until 1913 when she had been replaced by far more capable designs. She was being towed to the breakers in that year when she floundered in heavy seas, thankfully without loss of life. She remained on the seabed until rediscover and recovered in the early 1980s. After extensive restoration she is now on display in a purpose built facility and I was lucky enough to see her in person a few years ago. It is striking just how tiny she is, especially compared to HMS Alliance sitting just outside the building.

Admiralty 47A Avometer

In 1923 a Post Office engineer called Donald Macadie got fed up with having to use different instruments to check voltage, resistance and amperes so designed the first multimeter. This he named the Avometer, combining A for Amps, V for Voltage and O for Ohms, the measure of resistance. The Automatic Coil Winder and Electrical Equipment Company (ACWEECO), founded in 1923, was set up to manufacture the Avometer and by the Second World War was well established and supplying the instrument to British forces. The Admiralty bought the instrument at the start of the war in the form of the Pattern 40 Avometer. This was upgraded during the war and this led to the Pattern 47a:imageThis avometer was originally issued in a wooden box with a selection of accessories:imageSadly I only have the avometer itself, but it is a striking and impressive instrument. The front of the avometer has the important dials and gauges:imageAt the top we have a window with the scales for reading off voltage, amperes etc.:imageThe model number is printed at the top of the dial, whilst a serial number is marked at the bottom right of the dial, the last three digits indicate that this avometer was produced in June 1944:imageUnderneath this dial are the controls to set the instrument for different purposes, whilst the bottom two corners have the terminals to allow the instrument to be wired up to a piece of work.imageOn the rear is a printed panel describing how to use the instrument:imageA leather carrying handle is fitted to the top of the avometer:imageUnderneath this is a removable cover to access the battery compartment:imageNote also the loop to hold the two separate aluminium probes, sadly missing from this set. The avometer uses a small 1.5V dry cell battery, this looks like a post war example from the packaging, but is similar to the type used during World War Two:imageThe voltage range of these avometers is a little crude and looking online it has been suggested that they were for use with electronics such as engine starters and vehicle electrical systems rather than more delicate electronics such as wireless or radar systems.

HMS Devonshire Postcard

This week’s postcard is an image of the protected cruiser HMS Devonshire:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (3)This cruiser was laid down in 1904 and served with the Royal Navy during the First World War. She had a displacement of 11,000 tons and measured 473 feet from bow to stern. Her bow had a typical cruiser shape with a distinctive pointed slope:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (5) - CopyHer stern was also traditional in shape, with the rounded shape seen on many turn of the century cruisers:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (6) - CopyThe ship was powered by two four cylinder triple expansion engines that used fifteen niclausse and six cylindrical boilers, the smoke from which exited via the ship’s distinctive four funnels:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (3) - CopyThe ship had a crew of 610 men and was commanded from a large open bridge just forward of the main mast and boilers:SKM_C30819043011190 - Copy (4) - CopyThe ship was armed with four 7.5 inch guns on the main deck, one fore, one aft and two amidships. Her secondary armament was six 6 inch guns, four carried in case mates on the ship’s hull.

She was launched on 30 April 1904. She was completed on 24 August 1905 and was initially assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Channel Fleet. She was transferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet in March 1907 and was then assigned to the reserve Third Fleet at Devonport in August 1909. In 1913 the ship was assigned to the 3rd Cruiser Squadron of the Second Fleet together with most of her sister ships.

The squadron was assigned to the Grand Fleet in mid-1914 as the Navy mobilised for war. It spent much of its time with the Grand Fleet reinforcing the patrols near the Shetland and Faeroe Islands and the Norwegian coast where Devonshire captured a German merchantman on 6 August. She was refitted in September and again in February. Despite numerous sorties with the main body of the Grand Fleet, she did not see combat. She patrolled the Norwegian coast in April 1916 and was then assigned to the Nore. Devonshire was assigned to the 7th Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet before she was transferred to the Atlantic to protect Allied shipping in December. She remained there into 1919 and was listed for sale in May 1920. Devonshire was sold for scrap on 9 May 1921 and broken up at Barrow-in-Furness in 1923.