musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Hobbies and Interests

Three ships month

February has become known as a month where South Africa lost a number of men in shipping disasters. These are the three:

HMSAS Southern Floe. (11/02/1941)

One of four Southern Class whalers taken over by the Navy from Southern Whaling & Sealing Co. Ltd., Durban. The four ships were renamed  HMSAS Southern Maid, HMSAS Southern Sea, HMSAS Southern Isles and HMSAS Southern Floe. The four little ships, with their complement of 20-25 men,  “went up north” in December 1940. In January 1941, Southern Floe and her sister ship Southern Sea arrived at Tobruk to take over patrol duties along the mine free swept channels and to escort any ships through them.  

HMSAS Southern Maid. (SA Museum of Military History)

On 11 February 1941,  HMSAS Southern Sea arrived at the rendezvous two miles east of Tobruk where she was to meet Southern Floe,  but there was no sign of  her. A common enough occurrence as often ships would be delayed by weather or mechanical difficulties or even enemy action. However, a passing destroyer notified the vessel that they had picked up a stoker from the vessel, clinging to some wreckage. The stoker, CJ Jones RNVR, was the sole survivor of the ship, and he explained that there had been a heavy explosion on board and he had barely escaped with his life.  24 Men lost their lives; although never confirmed it is assumed that the vessel had struck a mine. 

SAS President Kruger (18/02/1982) 

One of three sister ships (President Steyn, Pretorius and Kruger),  was a Type 12 Frigate, acquired by the South African Navy in the 1960’s. Built in the United Kingdom, she was launched on 20 October 1960 from the Yarrow Shipbuilders, Scotstoun.

SAS President Kruger (F150)

On 18 February 1982, the vessel was conducting anti-submarine exercises with her sister ship the SAS President Pretorius, the submarine SAS Emily Hobhouse and the replenishment ship SAS Tafelberg. The President Kruger was stationed on the Tafelberg’s port side between 10 and 330 degrees, while the the President Pretorius had a reciprocal box on the starboard side. At approximately 4 am, the whole formation had to change direction by 154 degrees which would result in an almost complete reversal in direction. To maintain station the frigates would change direction first to maintain their positions ahead of the  Tafelberg on the new heading. President Kruger had two possible options: turn 200 degrees to port, or 154 degrees to starboard. The starboard turn was a much smaller one but was much more dangerous as it involved  turning towards the Pretorius and Tafelberg.  The officer of the watch elected to make the starboard turn, initiating 10 a degree turn. that had a larger radius and would take longer to execute than a 15 degree turn, Critically while executing the turn, the operations room lost radar contact with the Tafelberg in the radar clutter. An argument ensued between the officer of the watch and the principal warfare officer over the degree of wheel to apply, it was however too late and the bows of the much bigger Tafelberg impacted the President Kruger on her port side.

The President Kruger sank 78 nautical miles (144 km) south west of Cape Point, with the loss of  16 lives. 

HMT Mendi (21/02/1917)

The 4230 GRT Mendi (Official number 120875), was owned by the British & African Steam Navigation Company Limited. which was part of Elder, Dempster and Company. She was 370 ft long with a beam of 46 ft and was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons, Glasgow. She was fitted with triple expansion steam engines that gave her a maximum speed of 13 knots.

Model of the SS Mendi by Buddy Bacon, in Simonstown Naval Museum. Used with permission.

On 21 February 1917, South Africa lost some 607 African volunteers en route to the battlefields of France when their troopship:  HMT Mendi, was in a collision with the SS Darro off St Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight. Many would perish from exposure that night and the resulting death toll was high. Of the 802 SANLC troops on board some 607 men of the South African contingent perished, as did 30 members of her crew. 

———————————————————–

The deep sea is a place fraught with danger, made even worse by wartime restrictions and the ever present weather conditions that often hamper navigation and the safe operation of a ship. In the case of the Southern Floe enemy action was responsible for her loss, while the President Kruger and Mendi sank following a collision. The Mendi has only recently become important once again and we probably know more about it now than we did before. Sadly, there are none alive who can tell us how it happened.  It is however important that we remember these disasters, and the loss of lives that were the result. And, to remember the families of those who never saw their loved ones again. 

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

We Will Remember Them.

 
DRW © 2018. Created 10/02/2018. 
Updated: 10/02/2018 — 18:42

A last farewell

This post is one that I have dreaded for quite some time, and the time has finally come to make it. However, there is much more to it than a mere farewell, because it is really the culmination of many parts. It really starts way back in the in 1992 when I first saw the newly built RMS St Helena in Cape Town from the Canberra. Both of these vessels are legends, but at the moment we are more interested in the RMS. and this was the first photograph that I took of her. 

Because her prices were in £ she was very expensive to sail on, and a short cruise was not easy to get because she ploughed a long furrow between Cape Town, St Helena, Ascension Island and finally the UK. She was amongst the last passenger ships doing a dedicated line voyage and was also amongst the few ships left that flew the Royal Mail pennant. 

By some weird piece of luck I heard about spaces being available on board her for the voyage to Tristan da Cunha  that was happening in  1993, and I took a chance and booked passage. It was not cheap by any means and I am thankful for my travel agent who helped me with my booking and the associated flights to and from Cape Town.

Naturally sailing day was a long drag away. I was stuck in a dead end job with a company I loathed, and was only too glad to get away from them for awhile. Around about the same time I picked up issues with my health and ended up having to lug a stash of pills on board with me. There was no way in hell I would be stopped by aches and pains. The report of my voyage exists on allatsea so I am not going to repeat it, suffice to say I enjoyed it thoroughly; Tristan was a fascinating destination, but the ship was so much better. She is really a hybrid passenger and cargo ship and of course does not have the glitz and glamour of the modern cruise ships, if anything she really came from a much nicer era of travel. Her crew were composed of a mixture of “Saints” and ex Union-Castle staff and of course that meant that I was experiencing just a tiny piece of the legacy of the glorious  Union-Castle mail ships. 

I was very fortunate to get that opportunity of a voyage and I kept an eye on her as much as was possible in the intervening years. At some point she stopped calling in the UK, and she was managed by Andrew Weir Shipping as opposed to Curnow Shipping. Work was started on an airport at St Helena and that was really the death knell of my favourite ship, although it was still a number of years away. 

A number of years have passed, the airport was ready to open and it was announced that the RMS would make one final voyage to the UK, arriving in June 2016. At first I thought “Who do I know that can get me pics?” And then I decided I would get them myself and set out for London  on the 7th of June to see the RMS for the last time.   I have told that story before and you can read about it on the blogpost.

The airport was not without its problems though and the RMS was granted a reprieve for another year and a half. 

A year and a half has passed, and sadly the RMS has sailed from Cape Town on her last voyage. The moment that all of her many fans dreaded has finally arrived. 

What of her future? she is came into service in 1990 so is already over 27 years old and is already in the zone where a replacement should have been on the table. She has always had engine issues, and recently had to return to drydock for repairs in Simonstown. The odds of her finding a reputable buyer is really very small, and the odds of her becoming a static hotel in St Helena is even smaller. Unless a buyer can be found she will make one last voyage to the beach, and that will be incredibly sad. However, rather she gets broken up than stuck in some backwater and left to rot.  I am a realist, and preserving ships in a very costly business, even one as small as her. 

I remember many years ago a print advert for Union-Castle that showed the inside of a jet aircraft and a view from the window. It more or less said: “From (date unknown) this is the view you will see when you go to England (or South Africa).” That is now also true of those who wish to visit St Helena Island. 

She will be sadly missed, there will never be another like her. 

The end of the era has come.

Glenn Kasner took photo’s of that last sailing and these images are copyright to him. I am using them with permission.

Sadly she had somewhat of a poor send off, but thanks to the tug for showing some respect. 

**Update 2018**

10/02/2018. The RMS sailed from St Helena for the last time. The ship, which has supplied the island since coming into service so long ago was expected to reach Cape Town on the 15th of February (Since revised to 17 Feb) where they will disembark the last passengers who sailed on the ship. Thereafter she will go into lay up or alternatively head off to her next destination, whether it is the beaches of Alang or a new career. The Master was unable to reveal what the final destination of the vessel will be as he would only find out while en route for Cape Town. Once I know more I will post it here too. 

Farewell RMS, fair weather for your final journeys. Thank you for the experience of real sea travel the way it used to be. 

DRW © 2018. Created 25/01/2018. Final 3 images are by Glen Kasner © 2018 and are used with permission, updated 15/02/2018

Updated: 15/02/2018 — 19:38

Lost at Sea: HMY Iolaire

This past year I have been busy with shipping disasters that tie into the First World War, and this post is about one of them. This particular tragedy occurred on the 1st of January 1919 and concerns HM Yacht Iolaire. I originally wrote this in October 2017, but am moving it to the 1st of January to commemorate the disaster. 

During the September and October 2017, while adding information to Lives of the First World War I encountered the grave of a crewman from HMY Iolaire that went down in the early hours of New Years Day 1919. I had bumped into the name of this vessel before so I decided to do some looking further and I was shocked by what I found.

The Iolaire was a former private yacht that had been pressed into naval service in the Outer Hebrides, and on old years eve 1918 she was hurriedly loaded with over 200 members of the Royal Naval Reserve to take them to the Island of Lewis.  That passage is fraught with danger for those who do not know these waters; rough seas, an unforgiving coastline and submerged reefs are all just waiting for the right moment to spring their deadly trap. The RNR men were all inhabitants from this area, most had served and survived through the war years, often serving in minelayers or small craft that performed a very necessary function, but without the glitz and glamour associated with a much larger vessel. Their own knowledge of the sea meant that these experienced seamen were much in demand by the Royal Navy, and they performed admirably in the roles they filled. It was almost the beginning of a new year and they had survived the war and the flu epidemic and Hogmanay was looming. The Iolaire would take them home to waiting families, and there were more men than spaces on that ill-fated vessel.  Crowded with happy reservists she would sail into destiny from the pier at  Kyle of Lochalsh. 

Back home on Lewis; parents, wives and children were preparing to welcome home their men, it would be a festive occasion because Hogmanay is very much an important part of the people around Scotland and these islands. Some of the men had not been home in a long time, and with the war over all that was left was demobilisation and a return home. There were brothers and neighbours on that ship from a small community that worked hard and who lived an often precarious existence. On board the yacht some of the men slept, some talked, others swapped yarns and compared their military service with men that they did not know. The master of the vessel was Commander Richard Gordon Mason and once they had sailed the commander went below, presumably to sleep, leaving  Lieutenant Leonard Edmund Cotter in charge. These were not amateur seamen but experienced men who knew how to handle ships. 

The Beasts of Holm is a rocky outcrop near the harbour and Iolaire was driving towards it, with seemingly nobody in charge attempting to rectify the situation.  To make matters worse the weather was starting to get rough, and the darkness compounded the problem.  It also emerged that there was no lookout stationed in the bows of the vessel, although given the darkness and how little time there would be to make course corrections it was really a moot point. 

Below the men had no way of knowing the calamity to come, and when the ship struck the rocks they were all in immediate danger. The chances are that many died almost immediately, but for others it was the beginning of a life or death struggle. Many were encumbered by their heavy uniforms and unfamiliarity with the ship, To make matters worse she did not have life-saving equipment for them all, the lifeboats were few, and in the heaving seas trying to launch them successfully would be almost impossible as the ship plunged and ground her iron plates on the rocks. There was also a lack of guidance coming from the bridge although Lt Cotter remained on it but very little is known of the whereabouts of Commander Mason.

The tragedy was unfolding almost 20 yards from land, but nobody on land was aware that a ship was dieing on their doorstep, and that the men had very few minutes to save themselves. Some tried to swim for safety but in the cold wild waters almost none would make it. One brave man managed to get ashore with a rope and a hand over hand crossing was established, but the sea would clear that vital rope of its cargo on more than one occasion, but men were getting ashore,  often battered and bleeding but alive.

On the bridge rockets were now being fired but these lacked the percussive element that would alert the people on the land, the rockets that were fired from the ship were taken as part of the celebration of the first year of peace, and a lookout on land reported a blue light as a “request for a pilot”. There were really many things that went wrong on that night and the end result would devastate the small community of Lewis

Once the alarm had been sounded on land things moved at a frustratingly slow pace; people had to be woken up, keys had to be found, horses found, cars hired and so on. By the time all of it had been coordinated it was too late, the ship had gone down, those who could reach safety had, although one man still clung to the mast. The morning light revealed the carnage, dead men washed up on the shore, or drifting in the sea, exhausted survivors looking for help and trying to find their friends or family that may have survived. The full horror was still to come as the islanders tried to take stock of what had happened. Isolated families were notified and the festivities of Hogmanay would be forgotten as married women found that they were now widows while their children were unable to understand the magnitude of the tragedy that was unfolding around them.

Aftermath.

The dead were gradually gathered in and taken to a hastily evacuated ammunition store that now served as a mortuary. Small boats scoured the area looking for and recovering bodies, while parties on shore walked the jagged coastline, hoping to find survivors, but the sea had not given up all of it’s dead.  Of the ship there was little trace, and a number of bodies were invariably trapped within its flooded compartments.

The community where this disaster had unfolded was never the same again, families would grieve for many years, while those who had lived through it would suffer from “survivors guilt”. A commission of inquiry was set up but it could find no real reason for why the ship ended up on the Beasts of Holm in the first place. There was nobody alive who could explain the sequence of events that had led to the ship hitting the rocks, and naturally scapegoats would be sought so as not to throw the spotlight on high ranking officers or the Admiralty. 

A further inquiry was launched to establish more facts and possibly apportion blame, and generally it seemed to do a reasonable job given the difficulties involved, but no real reason behind the accident was ever found. Those that knew went down with the ship.  

The dead are buried in many places. I found a crewman buried in Portsmouth while a search at CWGC under 01/01/1919 will bring up a long list of men who are buried in a number of cemeteries in the community and surrounding settlements, while some are commemorated on the Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham Naval Memorials. There is a memorial to those who lost their lives on the Island of Lewis, but is is a rarely visited memorial because the story is almost forgotten.

The Iolaire Memorial, Holm Point, near Stornoway, Lewis

Young children would grow and watch as the world plunged once again into a mad war, some would following in the footsteps of the previous generation and serve their country, and once again women would mourn those who never returned. The story of the sinking of the Iolaire is more than a story about a small ship foundering, it is about complacency and negligence and about a community ripped apart in the early morning of a new year. 

Sadly the men of the Iolaire are mostly forgotten now, occasionally someone like me will stumble on the story and ask the same questions that were asked almost 100 years ago. We will not find any answers either. Unfortunately a number of difficulties facing anybody who is researching the disaster is trying to make sense of the Scottish naming conventions that often leave a researcher with multiple occurrences of the same name. There is also a lack of information in general as to the men who served in the Merchant Navy as well as the Royal Navy Reserve,  most of these me were members of the latter. Fortunately somebody has done the work for me and there is a Roll of Honour that I found very useful. 

There is not a lot of information out there. A good place to start is the The sinking of H.M.Y. Iolaire – 1 January 1919 page, as well as the Wikipedia page and of course the relevant CWGC pages for individual casualties. I bought a very good book called: “When I Heard the Bell: The Loss of the Iolaire” by John MacLeod (Edinburgh: Birlinn Press. ISBN 978-1-84158-858-2.), and it went into aspects that I had not even considered before. 

The Iolaire was built in 1881 by Ferguson of Leith. (634 tons) and her original name was Iolanthe. This was later changed to Mione, and later, to Amalthaea. She is however not to be confused with the  Iolaire that was owned by Sir Donald Currie. In 1915, the luxury sailing yacht Amalthaea was commandeered by the Admiralty and converted and armed for anti-submarine warfare and coastal patrols. Her owner was Mr Michael Duff-Assheton Smith, who later became Sir Michael Duff. He had bought her from the Duke of Westminster.

I am not finished with the Iolaire tragedy, so I do not consider this page as completed. There is still so much to find out, but even if I do not complete it be rest assured that the story of the loss of the Iolaire will remain with me for a long time.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 21/07/2017. Image of Iolaire Memorial is © Stephen Branley and is being used under the the Creative Commons  Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. Image has been cropped, darkened  and resized. 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 18:11

Connections: It’s a record!

As I said in a post awhile ago, “connections” is all about how things connect to form a link between one action and a result. It can be fascinating to work your way through a series and to tie it all together. I have been looking for a nice set of connections and today I found one. I call it “It’s a Record” and it is about gramophones, records and popular music.

This morning I was discussing something with the one manager and somehow we ended up talking about gramophones,  and he mentioned that he had a record from 1908 that he can play on his vintage gramophone but was not too sure about what it was about,  but he could make out something about “bells bells bells”. When I returned to my desk my brain would not let this go because in my music collection there is also a song about bells. Could it be a newer iteration of an old theme? Unfortunately the track I was after is not on my MP3 player but I know enough to be able to tie this into that most famous of poets Edgar Allan Poe.

I have read some Poe, and always found it somewhat dark and dreary to ponder this long forgotten pile of ancient lore, but I also have on my MP3 player an LP by one of my favourite groups: The Alan Parsons Project. The Project released a studio album in 1976 entitled “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”. To quoth the blurb at Wikipedia “The lyrical and musical themes of the album, are retellings of horror stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe.  The title of the album is taken from the title of a collection of Poe’s macabre stories of the same name, Tales of Mystery & Imagination, first published in 1908″.  This date is important, keep it in mind.

Now I have been listening to Parsons since 1981 after I was introduced to the music by some of the guys in our infantry company and I was hooked, and over the years bought the LP’s as they came out. But then the CD came into being and the record stopped being the dominant way to own music, and the CD took centre stage. I never liked how they foisted the CD onto us so I stopped buying music, instead I would listen to my old LP’s on my hifi until that was stolen in a series of burglaries in 1999.

I rediscovered The Alan Parsons Project in 2004 and found out that they had a whole wodge of stuff I had never heard before and I gradually acquired it all on MP3 and occasionally CD. Something however was missing from the official releases that I knew about and here my information is a bit uncertain. One of the original members of APP was Eric Woolfson,  who was executive producer, pianist, and co-creator of the Project. He was an accomplished musician in his own right, and somewhere along the line I heard about a project that he was involved in called “Poe: More Tales of Mystery and Imagination“. I heard snippets of it and started to hunt down a copy, but alas trying to find something as obscure in South Africa was incredibly difficult due to monopolies in the retail music trade, the exchange rate and the lack of suppliers. I eventually managed to pick up one track at a time from various sources, and some were totally amazing (“Tiny Star”, “Immortal” and “Wings of Eagles” comes to mind almost immediately), others were strictly of the “listen to once, never again” class of music. One of the tracks on this LP that did not exist was called “The Bells” (see where we are going yet?).

When I heard those words this morning I thought of this piece of music, it is not one of my favourites because it is so strange, however, the LP is about the works of Edgar Allan Poe, could this be the same one? A quick Google and voila! The mystery is solved. 

It turns out that our 1908 recording of “The Bells” is a reading of the poem by Canon Fleming of London, who seems to have been quite a regular performer of poetry readings that ended up on those new fangled gramophone records like the original 1908 record in the image below.  It is very possible that this was released to tie in with the first publication of Tales of Mystery & Imagination in 1908!  

Unfortunately we do not have a handy gramophone at work, but a quick look found renditions of it available on Youtube. And, I rate it on the same scale of strangeness as hearing “Be British” sung by by Stanley Kirkby in 1912 following the sinking of the Titanic. These are really voices from the past of people long gone and an era that is very different from the one that we live in now.

Canon Fleming died in 1908, but his voice still exists on that round disk with a hole in the centre, and while his rendition of “The Bells” is somewhat melodramatic it really has to be taken in the context of the media that it was on. Families owned gramophones and would spend an evening listening to music or poetry readings on the gramophones (while their Fox Terriers listened at the bell end). I am currently reading Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, penned by the war poet Siegfried Sassoon and in it he describes how they used to listen to the gramophone in their dugout, and how they had a stash of records that were played over and over. We did a similar thing when I was doing my national service, only our gramophone was now a tape recorder or a portable radio. We certainly did have much more variety than those who rode out their time underground in the bunkers of WW1, and of course modern soldiers probably carry MP3 players or their music on their cellphones. The enjoyment of recorded media is common to us all. 

So, where did this all tie in together? It was really the remembering of that obscure piece on “More Takes of Mystery and Imagination” that rang the bells in my head, and of course had I not read Poe I would not have made the connection to the Alan Parsons Project, which I started to explore while in the army, listening to music to break the monotony, much like soldiers did in the trenches of battle. There you have it, another nice set of connections. 

As an aside  I really want to explore the portable music theme by finally posting images of two of the record players I have spotted locally in the one charity shop where I live. 

These are standalone record players that were used without a hifi or an amplifier. They usually had their own speaker attached, and most of the time that was in the detachable lid. 

The humble gramophone is a very nice collectable, and having a selection of records to go with it, whether they are tinplate, shellac or vinyl makes it a wonderful conversation piece, because most of us can relate to it from our past. Those odd crackly clicks and hisses from the speaker or horn gave those records an additional richness that is lacking in the digital reproductions of today. I know amongst my MP3 collection I had an MP3 that had been created from an audio recording of a vinyl record, complete with the attendant snaps and crackles from the original. There is something about that first touch of a stylus on a record that is missing from the MP3’s of today, not to mention that short burst of static that was a precursor to the actual music.  

Canon Fleming is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in London which ties into my own visits to the cemetery in 2013 and 2016, although I was unaware of him at the time (writes note to self to find grave next time). As for “Be British”; many years back when I was still interested in the Titanic I bought a set of items from the UK (and it was one heck of a rigmarole to do), and part of it was an audio tape that had some of the period tie ins to the disaster. “Be British” really stood out because it personified the arrogance of those who decided that a ship was unsinkable, and would only carry enough boats for its size and not for the amount of people it carried. 

And that more or less concludes this post about connections. I hope to find more in the future because they are always around us if we only just stop and join the dots. 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 30/10/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:02

Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival 2017 (3)

This page is for everything else! The problem is that there were so many great vehicles on show that I kept on finding more favourites. This is where some of them have ended up. Where I can ID a vehicle I will. Everything else is pot luck.

 

Austin 7 Chummy

 

1904 Mors 24/32 HP

   
 

1923 Amilcar C4

 

“Herbie” branded VW Beetle

 

Fiat 500

 

Singer Gazelle

 

VW 1600

 

Bristol 2 litre

 

Citroen 2CV6 Special

 

1929 Ford Model A

   

1976 William Fourgonette

 

Lomax 3 wheeler

 

Ford

 

Dune buggy

 

Auto Union DKW

 

Willys Jeep

1942 Willys Jeep

 

1932 Lagonda 2 litre

 

Morgan 3 Wheeler

 

1934 British Salmson

 

1957 Rover Sports Tourer

 

Morris Van

 

1963 Heinkel Trojan

 

Bugatti

Bugatti

   
   

There was also a display of motor cycles, but not too many of them were classics.

Wow, some of these may have been seen in South Africa, especially the pickups (bakkies). I will continue with more from the Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival, on the next page (page not completed yet)

forwardbut

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 22/08/2017. All vehicles were on public display. Special thanks to their owners for keeping them on the road for everybody to admire. 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:03

Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival 2017 (2)

Continuing with the Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival.

Of course the event was dominated by British cars of all shapes and colours, and many of them were seen in South Africa long before the emergence of the German and Japanese manufacturers. There was also a smattering of French and Italian cars, but they were definitely in the minority. That is also true in the case of the festival.  

As usual my identification skills are bad, but will do my best, In answer to the question: “why are they all facing in the same direction?” I tried to photograph with the sun behind my back so most of the images ended up facing in the same direction. 

MG TF1500

 

Austin Seven

Anglia

Ford Corsair

Morris “Woody”

Ford Escort 1600

Triumph

Austin A40

Jaguar

Ford XR3i

1956 Ford Anglia Deluxe

 

Lotus Esprit 2.2 Turbo

 

“E” Type Jaguar

 

1952 Alvis TB21 D/H Coupe

 

Austin Cambridge

 

Ford Zephyr

 

1958 Simca Aronde

 

Ford Capri

 

Austin Apache

 

Rolls Royce

As you can see the dominant player seemed to be Ford, and of course heaps of Austins. However, it may only be true of this particular show and not indicative of the state of motoring in the United Kingdom. A number of models that I had seen last year were not here this year, and of course there were so many cars I probably missed seeing quite a few.

The next batch are really odds and ends that caught my fancy and which were found in the UK in years gone by. Once again identification is not my strong point. 

VW Camper (Kombi)

Bedford HA Van

Morris “Police” car

1985 Ford Granada MKII

1927 Morgan Aero

VW Kombi (Fleetline/)

Vauxhall Cresta

Austin A35

Ford Escort 1300

Riley One Point Five

Rover 3500

Austin Healey

MG

Dellow MK2A

Alvis

Austin 7

 

forwardbut

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 20/08/2017. All vehicles were on public display. Special thanks to their owners for keeping them on the road for everybody to admire. 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:04

Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival 2017 (1)

This morning I headed down to attend the Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival, and I came back with 590 images. Regular readers will know that I also attended the event in 2016 and came back with an equally large amount of images. The problem is that many of the images are interchangeable between this year and last, and the self imposed limitations of the blog are that I can only really have roughly 40 images to a page. Its also important that I try show other aspects of the event, not just heaps of pics of Mini’s and nothing else (naturally we will need a whole page dedicated to the Mini).

 

Let us make one thing straight, I am not a car buff. I don’t know much about them, do not worship them and really see them as a means of transport and nothing else. However, I am a fan of nostalgia and many of these vehicles were around when I was young, and while the models may be differently named they are almost interchangeable between what was available in South Africa with what was available in the United Kingdom. 

At this juncture I would like to extend my thanks to the organisers and the many people who were there with their cars, they were really wonderful to see. Thank you!

Where to start? 

I think just for a change I will start with what I know as “Yank Tanks”. The large American cars that we very rarely saw in South Africa. I am not a boffin so can’t really Identify many of them, although I tried to get a pic of a makers badge or name wherever possible. The one car that I was quite surprised see was an Edsel, the only one I have ever seen (as far as I can remember).

The strange metal rods protruding from the front bumper in the first image was supposedly to warn when you were riding up the pavement! They were not connected to any sensors or warning lights so they are really quite useless if you think about it. 

The next vehicle is really a car from my past. My paternal grandfather had a Studebaker, but I do not know if this was the model that he had. Personally I really think they had the body the wrong way around.  This model is a Studebaker Commander.

   
   

And then there was this long monster of a car… It is a 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville and only has two doors (although they are larger than my last car was) and is 5,72 m long

That is a big car!  Go check out the webpage of the people who run her, they have some seriously large cars on it. 

And a Hudson Commodore

Other interesting oddities I saw were:

An Oldsmobile

A Packard.

 

Chevrolet

Chevrolet

 

Ford Falcon

Cadillac Coupe de Ville

 

Cadillac

 

1956 Plymouth Belvedere

 

Chevrolet Caprice Classic

 

Corvette Stingray

 

Buick Eight

 

Chevy Bel Air

 

Ford Mustang

 

Ford Mustang

 

Ford F100

 

A long and low limo…

 

Ford Galaxie XL

 

Chevrolet C10

 

Chevrolet 3100

 

GMC Apache 10

Wow, some of these may have been seen in South Africa, especially the pickups (bakkies). I will continue with more from the Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival, on the next page

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© DRW 2017-2018. Created 20/08/2017. All vehicles were on public display. Special thanks to their owners for keeping them on the road for everybody to admire. 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:55

Exploring the Domesday Book

When I heard about the “Doomsday Book” many years ago I was intrigued. After all, a book with a title like that sounded positively like something that could be the harbinger of the Apocalypse. Naturally I filed it away for future reference assuming we ever got to a point in our civilisation where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride forth. 

My first disappointment was the title. It is called the “Domesday Book” and not “Doomsday” as I always thought it was. In fact you can also buy it on Amazon, and in English too!  However, for those who were affected by the book and it’s contents it really was a disaster because from what I have read; once recorded in the book you were really up the creak sans paddle!

The book that I started to explore has its own webpage, quaintly referred to as “The first free online copy of Domesday Book”

To know what the book is about you really need to first read the appropriate Wikipedia page. and there you will find the answer to why it was literally doomsday for the people affected by its compilation. “The assessors’ reckoning of a man’s holdings and their values, as recorded in Domesday Book, was dispositive and without appeal.” By the way dispositive means “relating to or bringing about the settlement of an issue or the disposition of property.”

Now the Domesday Book was not written in English, so it is not the sort of thing you can pick up and read,  as it was written in medieval Latin, and if that is not bad enough extensive use of abbreviations seemed to have been used too. The sheer scale of the compilation was an achievement all of its own. Technically somebody visited everybody and wrote down what they saw, it is literally a record of England at the time and the book’s colophon states that the survey was completed in 1086. Once that data had been compiled it is probable that a medieval bean counter then rubbed his hands together and worked out who owed the king/baron/local lord/boss and then had that cast in stone (or written on parchment). Reading between the lines one person was responsible for writing it in parchment, although others may have been involved in the writing thereof. At any rate they certainly did not use Times Roman size 10px as their font.

The nitty gritty.

Naturally I was curious to read what it said about the town where I live, and lo and behold there is an entry for it. I copied this “verbatim” from the Opendomesday website. 

11 female slaves?  It is an interesting question because slavery back then was “normal” but who they were is a mystery; captives from a war perhaps? or children sold to landowners? the local debtor? somebody that angered the church?  We will never really know.  Actually slavery still exists, the only difference is that it is much more hidden and does involve a people trafficking, drugs and all manner of exploitation. Technically all of those people are buried somewhere around here. 

The page looks like this… 

Tewkesbury is the listing on the bottom right hand side. The line through a name may be a way to mark a reference, I do not know if was like that originally, or whether it was added by the Open Domesday project. 

It is heavy reading, especially if you cannot read medieval Latin (or modern Latin). I suspect if you handed that page to your local pharmacist you could come away with a box of extra strength laxatives, 66000 large yellow pills and a bottle of something green. 

For me the fascination is having this glimpse into an era that we cannot even conceive. Conditions were primitive, people worked hard, children died young, men and women were always at the beck and call of those lording it in their expensive estates. As a peasant/working man you were considered to be property rather than humanity. The role of the church was large, and any person who lived in his wattle and daub hut next to his small field would always be in awe of the grand buildings that they would encounter on their visits to the local market/ale house.

 In 1087, William the Conqueror gave the manor of Tewkesbury to his cousin, Robert Fitzhamon, who, with Giraldus, Abbot of Cranborne, founded the present abbey in 1092. Building of the present Abbey church did not start until 1102. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tewkesbury_Abbey), That shows the great age of the Abbey and its surrounding settlements too. Vasco Da Gama rounded the Cape in 1497 and by then the Domesday Book was probably no longer in use, but strangely enough it still existed, and is usually housed in the  National Archives in Kew. (It may be in at  Lincoln Castle. at the moment). 

It may be viewed as the oldest ‘public record’ in England. 

I am glad I dabbled so briefly in the book because the weight of ages hangs heavily over its pages. It weighed heavily on those who it affected, and of course the fact that it still exists today makes it an immeasurable historical document. I often think that when the monks had completed their task they looked at it with pride, and never considered that many centuries down the line their work would still fascinate us, even though we do not know anything about who they were. Sadly they never signed their name at the end, although I suspect that somewhere in those ancient pages you will find a personal mark left behind; kind of like a medieval easter egg on a DVD or popular game.

I have to admit my curiosity may extend to me buying one of those copies just to have that tangible link to a world that has long gone, and to be able to look back and say “What an amazing book!”  

Of course credit is due too, and  The Open Domesday Project and the associated  images are kindly made available by Professor J.J.N. Palmer. Images may be reused under a Creative Commons BY-SA licence.  

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 15/08/2017. Image by Professor J.J.N. Palmer and George Slater

 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:55

Buried Him Among Kings

Last night, while reading about the Unknown Soldier, it struck me that I I had seen the graves of at least 3 kings. I am not a royalty fan as a rule, because a lot of the misery in this world was caused by their petty squabbles, minor wars, appetite for vast amounts of money and a generally “holier than thou” attitude. Fortunately Queen Elizabeth II has managed to  be a sensible monarch and that has helped a lot.

In this post I am going to root amongst my images and post the graves of “royalty”, and hopefully settle them in my mind because frankly I can never remember which one reigned when and where they ended up being buried. 

My first king is to be found in Worcester Cathedral

Tomb of King John. Worcester Cathedral

This is the tomb of King John, He was king of England from 6 April 1199 until his death in 1216. He is generally considered to be a “hard-working administrator, an able man, and an able general”. Although it is acknowledged that he had many faults, including pettiness, spitefulness, and cruelty, so much so that along with his crony “The Sheriff on Nottingham” he is the bad guy associated with Robin Hood. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John,_King_of_England)

Gloucester Cathedral is where Osric, the King of Hwicce, may be found. I have to admit I need to look up where Hwicce is (or was). It encompasses parts of Worcester, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire. Technically I live in Hwicce.

Osric also shares the Cathedral with Edward II, who reigned from 7 July 1307 – 25 January 1327, and he has been seen as a failure as a king, labelled as  “lazy and incompetent, liable to outbursts of temper over unimportant issues, yet indecisive when it came to major issues”, he has also been called “incompetent and vicious”, and “no man of business”. Like many kings he overspent, although he did inherit a lot of the debt from his father Edward I.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_II_of_England)

And, while we are in Hwicce we can stop at Tewkesbury Abbey where we will find the grave of  Edward, Prince of Wales, the last legitimate descendant of the House of Lancaster. 

He lived from 13 October 1453 till his untimely death on 4 May 1471 during or after the Battle of Tewkesbury

Moving northwards to Staffordshire we can briefly visit Lichfield Cathedral which does not have a king buried within it’s walls, but rather we can look upon the mouldering statue of Charles II who lived from 1630 till 1685. His claim to fame is that he gave money and timber to the cathedral to restore it following the ravages of the civil war. In reality he is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey is the destination I was aiming for because this is where we find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that was buried among the Kings.

“They buried him among the kings because he

had done good towards God and toward

His House”

Could we say the same about the the kings buried in the sumptuous surrounds of the Abbey?

Unfortunately I never visited the interior of the Abbey, I was fortunate enough that a door monitor allowed me to briefly glimpse the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and I quickly shot 3 pics before being shown the door again. Thank you, whoever you were.

Unfortunately, Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral do not allow photography within the buildings so it was not really worth standing in the very long queue.  

The list of kings and their consorts buried in Westminster Abbey is quite a long one (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burials_and_memorials_in_Westminster_Abbey) 

Many other kings found their last resting place to be less than satisfactory.

Boudicca of the Iceni is reportedly buried between platforms 9 and 10 in King’s Cross station in London, although there is no evidence that this is true.

King Richard III was recently exhumed from the car park where he was buried. Of course at the time of his death that site was not a car park, but was “in the choir of the Friars Minor at Leicester”. After being identified through DNA he was reburied in  Leicester Cathedral in 2015.

King Henry I is supposedly buried in Reading Abbey. That unfortunate building is now a series of ruins, but investigations were conducted at Reading Prison which is next to the abbey. Reading Abbey was founded by Henry I in 1121 and was always known to have been the final resting place of the King and his Queen Adeliza. When I was there in 2015 it had been cordoned off because of falling masonry. Consequently my pics were taken through the fence.  The bottom right image in the group below is the gateway of the abbey and it is labelled as 16 on the diagram below

That pretty much concludes my brief visit to kings gone by. I hope to expand on this post at a later date as my reading takes me deeper into this aspect of history.

As an aside, Elvis “the King” is buried in the Meditation Garden at Graceland mansion at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, Just thought you would like to know. 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 11/08/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:55

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival 2017. Page 1

Tewkesbury is famous for 3 things: It has an abbey, It flooded in 2017, and holds a Medieval Festival once a year. I have attended it 3 times already, but never really stay the distance till the giant battle. There are just to many people there and I do not have the stamina to stick it out till the mini war breaks out.  on 4 May 1471 the Battle of Tewkesbury occurred and it was was one of many that happened during the “War of the Roses“.   The Tewkesbury Battlefield Society erected a monument to the battle in the form of two 5 metre sculptures of a victorious mounted knight and a defeated horse. It was created by Phil Bews out of green oak wood felled in Gloucestershire, and was dedicated on the anniversary of the battle in 2014.  Unfortunately trying to get a photo of these has always been difficult because they are in a strange place and I have only managed images from the local bus. 

In the abbey, set inside the tiles of the floor in front of the altar are a number of brass plaques, and one of them commemorates eighteen year old Edward, Prince of Wales, the last legitimate descendant of the House of Lancaster, who was killed either in the battle or during its aftermath and is buried in the Abbey.

On to the festival.

Realistically there is very little to say about what there is to see, in fact many images from all three festivals are interchangeable. However, I am constantly amazed at how the English go all out to participate at an event like this. It is also very well attended by people from all over Europe and the UK.  It is quite funny to see a period dressed soldier talking on a cellphone, or buying the papers at the local Tesco. 

Costumes and other people

Across the one stream was an encampment that had been set up where you could roam around and get a feel for how the people involved way back when may have lived when out fighting battles or on the hunt. It was not as crowded as the market area, and quite a few of the tents were occupied by ye lordes and laydys.​

   

It was a very interesting place because so many people had gone all out to “do their bit” and have a blast at the same time. That is one thing I can say about the Brits, when they go all out they really go all out! It becomes a family affair with men, women and children dressed to the medieval equivalent of the nines and doing their bit.

Weapons and things that go bang!  

I do not recall seeing canon last year, but this year there were quite a few on display, some of which can actually fire! I cannot really give a lecture on each one, but will add in the information board to the left of an image if I have it. The person who was explaining it was excellent, inspite of him being dresses in what could be described as a cut off muslim dress with a funny hat. The weapons were under “The Kyngs Ordynaunce” banner, a re-enactor society founded in 1991 portraying an artillery company of the late 15th century.  

At this point we will hit the pause button and continue on the next page 

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DRW 2017-2018. Created 09/07/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:56
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