1977 marked twenty five years since the Queen had ascended to the throne. To mark. The Silver Jubilee the Royal Navy held a fleet review at Spithead. A fleet review saw many ships of the Royal Navy, plus vessels from friendly nations, come together at Spithead which was a large sheltered anchorage for the Queen to inspect. These events were becoming increasingly rare in the modern era and so a variety of commemorative items were produced for the sailors taking part to commemorate the event. Tonight we have an example of a china mug that was given out to some of the participants. Being the 1970s, an attractive brown colour was chosen!On the front is the official Silver Jubilee logo with the Queen’s head in the centre:This design is seen on many different Silver Jubilee items; more unusually however is the design of warships in the background.
This mug was produced with many different designs on the rear for different ship’s companies. In this case it has the badges for the Royal Navy hospitals on it:The mark on the base of the mug indicates it was manufactured by Lord Nelson potteries:My guess is that this firm specialised in making commemorative ware for purchase by Royal Navy ship’s companies.
The fleet review was a major event with the obligatory runs ashore, as remembered by one sailor:
wuz there – HMS Plymouth, bastard to get ashore, pubs rammed, loads of pissed septics and other nations, didn,t bother after that
The RNR were on the Rothesay next door and had pussers rum – went around there
Made you proud to be a matelot though……………………………….
The full programme for the review is available online here.
Since the dawn of metal ships, naval vessels have needed constant painting to keep them serviceable. Painting ships, outside of refits in a naval dockyard, was a task given to the crew. Painting the ships served a number of purposes. Sea water is incredibly corrosive to iron ship hulls, painting the ironwork provided a protective barrier that helped keep the hull intact. Painting helped keep the ship smart and gave a quick visual indicator of the efficiency of the captain and his crew. Finally chipping off old paint and applying fresh coats was a useful way of keeping men employed during quiet times that prevented them from loafing about below decks getting into trouble.
This week’s postcard is an Edwardian image of sailors painting the side of their vessel:The men are suspended over the side of the hull in bosun’s chairs:A bosun’s chair was simply a plank of wood, with ropes attached to each end, that gave a temporary platform for a sailor to sit or stand on whilst working on the side of a ship.
Here the men are observed from the deck above by officers and Royal Marines, wearing their dark blue service uniforms:The vessel itself is still painted in the Victorian colour scheme of black hull, with white or buff superstructure. The bow of this particular ship has an elegant gold scroll work clearly visible:This colour scheme was dropped in about 1907 and ships were progressively repainted into grey, the colour offering far better camouflage at sea than the dark hulls of the old scheme. This postcard was sent in 1909, but may well be based on an image taken several years before. The ship in question is unknown, but had a white superstructure, just visible to the right of the image:Even today, a century on from the Edwardian Navy and with far more resilient paints available, repainting the ship remains a constant chore for a ship’s crew and observers are quick to pass comment on a rust stained vessel!
This week’s photograph is a very charming World War One photograph of a sailor with a young girl, presumably his daughter:This card was posted in 1917 and it is hard to tell if it was a commercial image in the sentimental style of the day or a genuine portrait of a sailor and his daughter. I hope it is the latter, but of course it is impossible to say now. One item of interest however is the cap tally on the sailor’s cap worn by the girl:The name of the ship has been unpicked, just leaving the outline of the embroidery, whilst the initials ‘HMS’ remain. The reasoning behind this is unclear and again would be dependent on whether this is a genuine sailor’s issue cap or a photographer’s prop. If it is the latter then it has probably been unpicked to allow it to be used in portraits without any obvious connection to a vessel which could have proven awkward to the sitter. The alternative is that this is a wartime expedient for security issues, much like sailors in the Second World War had simple ‘H.M.S.’ cap tallies. If this is the case, which I suspect might be the real story, then the sailor becomes far more likely to be an actual sailor, the girl becomes his actual daughter and this is a sweet picture taken to send to relations- a far nicer story than a twee image taken just to sell postcards!
This week we have an Edwardian picture card of Royal Navy sailors sleeping around a warships gun:This is clearly a posed photograph, but does depict a common event when action was expected, by sleeping next to the gun, a crew could be on hand to fire the weapon within seconds if an enemy ship came into sight.
The gun itself seems to be a small quick firing model, mounted on the waist of the warship:This suggests it is the secondary armament of the ship and was of the light type of weaponry designed to protect a ship from attack by small, fast craft such as torpedo boats. These weapons were designed to fire rapidly and blow these lightly armed attack vessels out of the water before they came close enough to launch torpedoes that could damage or sink the larger ship.
The men are depicted sleeping on the deck covered simply in a blanket each to protect them from the chill of the night:Another sailor stands next to the gun awake and alert. It seems likely that he is representing the member of the gun crew who would remain awake in order to rouse his shipmates if needed:A selection of shells sits on the deck next to the gun:Again these seem to be posed, in reality they would be safely stowed in a ready use locker, far safer than being loose to roll around the deck or be detonated by enemy fire.
Although obviously posed, this is a fascinating and atmospheric image, with a great view of the working parts of the quick firing gun’s breach and elevating gear.