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HMS Holland 1 remained in service until 1913 when she had been replaced by far more capable designs.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.
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:This avometer was originally issued in a wooden box with a selection of accessories:Sadly 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:At the top we have a window with the scales for reading off voltage, amperes etc.:The 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:Underneath 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.On the rear is a printed panel describing how to use the instrument:A leather carrying handle is fitted to the top of the avometer:Underneath this is a removable cover to access the battery compartment:Note 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:The 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.
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!