musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Portsmouth and Gosport

Nelson’s last stand?

Recently there was a spate of “statue bashing” in the United States, mainly centred around statues pertaining to the American Civil War. We are no stranger to  statue bashing in South Africa, and I would hate to think that it originated in South Africa. The dilemma is that one man’s statue is another man’s enemy, and as usual the PC mob is ranting and raving and foaming at the mouth about the whole issue. I can understand their “grievance” up to a point but what I do find irritating is that they really want to expurgate history of what they perceive as the “bad guys”. Whether we like it or not the bad guys shaped the world and enriched themselves and their cronies at the expense of their fellow man. It is history, it happened, we cannot do anything about it but we need to know about it or we end up repeating it.  

The PC mob was also at it in the UK, centred around Trafalgar Square, and Nelson’s Column where Admiral Horatio Nelson peers into the distance from his lofty perch. 

Trafalgar Square is one of the many icon’s that you find in the UK, it is on the same level as The Tower of London, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye and a few other things too numerous to remember. In fact, having lived in London for a month is 2013 I got used to seeing the column, so much so that I never really took too many contextual images of Trafalgar Square. I do know that there were lots of people there all talking on their phones, so I tried to avoid passing through it. 

Unfortunately there are those who want Nelson removed because he may just offend somebody. The reality is that he probably doesn’t fit in with their sanitised version of history. A quick glance at the headlines leaves you with the following “….should be torn down because the 18th Century naval hero was a ‘white supremacist’….. ” I kid you not. Incidently, the building on the right trying to hide behind a lamp post is South Africa House,  it is the South African Embassy in the United Kingdom. 

The one thing I like about the British is that they tend to embrace history, warts and all. Nelson probably would turn a blind eye at the frothing and foaming tirade about him being torn down. Personally I would like to see him brought down a bit closer to where you can see him, but that ain’t going to happen. In fact if the bulldozers did rock up the chances are they would be attacked by little old ladies brandishing brollys bedecked in the Union Flag and champing their choppers energetically as they chant “Do not mess with our history!”

Nelson is probably more concerned about the pigeon population than anything else. 

In fact it was the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar recently (21 October) and besides Nelson there is one other remnant of that Naval action by the Admiral. HMS Victory still exists in Portsmouth and she is well worth the visit, and will leave you in awe of the men who fought and died in that battle. Unfortunately she is sans her upper masts and yards so was somewhat of a sorry sight when first I saw her in 2013. I am surprised the PC mob haven’t had a go at her too. 

However, one thing that this statue bashing incident did remind me of was another obtuse reference to Nelson’s Column that I found in Portsmouth when we were there in April 2013.

One of the places where we paused was Fort Nelson, and  one of the things we saw while traveling is this column seemingly in the middle of nowhere. In fact it is surprisingly historical too. 

The handy dedication plaque gives us a bit more information.

Known as The Nelson Monument, it stands on Portsdown Hill about 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Portsmouth Harbour and Fort Nelson is named after the monument.  Work was started on 4 July 1807 and it was completed just over a year later. 

I am not sure how visible it would be as a navigation mark though because that was one of the intentions, certainly I was not able to spot it from Portsmouth Historical Dockyard, but that was probably because I did not know where to look. However according to one of the information boards it is used as a fixed point by which the Navy can check the deviation of a magnetic compass. 

When will this statue bashing cease? probably never; there will always be somebody somewhere that will be angry at something, The fact remains that in many cases they are in a minority, and I do respect the fact that they may have an opinion that differs from the majority of people. All advice I can give is for them to walk a different route, or close their eyes as they pass a statue, and if they are so offended then there are other avenues to explore, non-violence being one of them. Nelson would have taken no notice of them, he was too busy winning a battle to care about offending anybody. All he was interested in was expecting that England expected every man to do his duty. 

I do know one thing, if ever I get to London again I had better get more pics of that column before it is too late!

© DRW 2017. Created 02/09/2017. Updated 14/10/2017

Updated: 24/10/2017 — 07:57

Remembering the Mendi 2017

Every year around this time I commemorate the lives lost in the sinking of the troopship Mendi on the 21st of February 1917. This year is no different and each year I know more about it.

Earlier this month I discovered a new Mendi Memorial in the churchyard of St John The Evangelist, Newtimber, Sussex. The memorial is to  “Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase” who perished on the Mendi.

TQ2713 : Memorial to Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase by Bob Parkes

Naturally I wanted to know more and took a good long look at my Roll of Honour and drew a blank. The big problem with the ROH is that it is really inaccurate, and there are a number of reasons for that. I consulted with the local co-ordinator of the South African War Graves Project and he replied as follows:

“This whole Mendi RoH is troubling, it seems to me that there were initial errors made in some of the names, errors crept in as a result of “tweaking” the facts and a general misunderstanding of the history of the casualties (probably due to the unavailability of any documentary evidence.) Many of these errors are now on memorials and plaques and seem to be copied from one to the next (or sourced from the internet) and how do we address that? We have forwarded copies of the documents at the SANDF Archive  that list the recruitment details of these chaps and I hope that these will eventually be filtered through the system and the graves/memorials amended. Lets see…

Typical documentation for SANLC

Henry Bokleni:   (7587)  His father was Bokleni and he was Henry. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. It seems he was a Chief/Headman at the time.

Richard Ndamase:  (9389)  His father was Ndamase and he was Richard. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Dumezweni so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Mxonywa Bangani:  (9379)  )  His father was Bangani and he was Mxonywa. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Nongotwane so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Isaac Williams Wauchope : (3276) His father was Dyoba (also known as William Wauchope). Isaac was a learned man, holding the posts of a teacher and a clerk/interpreter to the magistrate and married his wife Mina as per Christian rites. He was a minister at a church in Blinkwater when he got sentenced to 3 years in Tokai Prison for forgery. He enlisted in 16 Oct 1916 as a clerk/interpreter and not as a chaplain (it is unlikely he would have got the chaplain post as he had a criminal record) The Chaplain job went to Koni Luhlongwana (9580), who also died on the ship.

 It does not seem that he used his father’s name as surname at all during his lifetime and so the use of “Dyoba” is incorrect. The reasoning behind the attempts to ‘africanise’ his name remain a mystery.

New Memorial to the Mendi :  There is also a problem with the 670 (it was 646, including the crew) who died. We have identified the home provinces of some of the casualties – Transvaal (287), Eastern Cape (139), Natal (87), Northern Cape (27), OFS (26), Basutoland (26), Bechuanaland (8), Western Cape (5), Rhodesia (1) and SWA (1) so not all were from the Eastern Cape.”

The reality is that the memorial contains incorrect information, and it is perpetuated as there is no real way to correct many of the errors. I am relooking my own RoH and correcting it to conform with the data that SAWGP has.  

However, in spite of the errors, the fact remains that people have not forgotten the Mendi, in fact we probably know more about it today than we did way back in 1917. 

This year, apart from the Services of Remembrance being held at Hollybrook and Milton Cemeteries in Hampshire, a South African Warship, SAS Amatola, (a Valour Class Frigate) will lay a wreath at the site of the disaster.  On board her will be some of the relatives of the soldiers who died on board that ill fated troopship.

The Mendi has not been forgotten, it is now prominent in the military history of South Africa, The men who lost their lives have not been forgotten, the sea has claimed them, but their spirit and courage still resonates 100 years after they died. However, we need to broaden our vision and recognise that all of the men of the battalions of the SANLC and NMC who volunteered to serve overseas are remembered too, because the non combatant role that they played was equally important to the ending of the “war to end all wars” 

© DRW 2017. Created 21/02/2017.  Image of Newtimber Memorial © Copyright Bob Parkes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:22

Photo Essay: Cemetery Cats and other wildlife

The nice thing about gravehunting is that you don’t only see graves, you see so many other things too, as well as small wildlife or animals. The one animal that I tend to spot quite often in cemeteries are cats. Realistically they are the perfect environment for a hunter like the cat because of the abundance of rodents and insects that make the local cemetery their home. I always photograph them whenever I see them because they usually park off and keep a beady eye on you, sometimes they disappear into the undergrowth or sometimes they just continue doing what they do best.

These are some of the cats I have seen, and that I can remember seeing. There are others, and I will add to this collection as I find the pics.

This pair I spotted in Arnos Vale in Bristol

This beauty was in Holy Souls Cemetery in Bristol.

While this friendly moggy came to see what I was up to at Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery

and this black and white moggy gave me the gimlet eye in Highgate East Cemetery

This stunning fellow was a bit shy and would not come close. I was fortunate to get the image that I did. I photographed him in St Johns Terrace Cemetery in Chasetown.

This puss I photographed at the old Baptist Chapel burial ground in Tewkesbury.

One of my work colleagues sent me this one from Tewkesbury Cemetery. Thanks Graham.

Of course it is not only cats that I encounter, but dogs too. Cemeteries make a perfect place to walk your faithful mutt.  There was this really stunning dog at Abbey Cemetery in Bath

Then there were these two doggies out on their walkies in Holy Ghost Cemetery in Basingstoke

and this nice mutt in Brompton

and I saw Fred Bassett in Sarum St Martin in Salisbury. Ok, maybe it was a distant relative of Fred

Oddly enough I have almost no images of cats in South African cemeteries, although do recall seeing this doggie in the New Roodepoort Cemetery

and I have been lucky to see foxes on two separate occasions. The first time in Tower Hamlets

And my next encounter was in West Norwood

and there was a bunny in Belgrave

I have seen deer in 3 separate cemeteries but have never been able to photograph them, and of course squirrels and birds galore. So far though no elephants have been spotted, but that is because they are past masters of camouflage. I would hate to have to bump into one hiding in a tree, it could be dangerous.

Cemeteries are really mini ecosystems of their own; they provide shelter for small critters and bring a touch of greenery to the city. And, they are fascinating places to visit.

I rest my case

© DRW 2017. Created 27/01/2017 

Updated: 10/12/2017 — 14:33

Farewell HMS Illustrious

Tonight when I logged onto Facebook I saw the images of HMS Illustrious sailing on her final voyage to the breakers in Turkey. She is the last of her line, there will never be another like her. She is one of a multitude of ships that have come and gone over the years, become firm favourites with crew, family, friends and admirers. They exist for so many years and then one day that make that final voyage. Her sister, HMS Ark Royal made her final voyage on 20 May 2013, and when she sailed it was just a matter of time for Illustrious to follow.

I saw “Lusty” on 28 September 2014 when I was in Gosport and she was being destored prior to being laid up for possible further sale. The hope was that she would become a museum ship, but we all knew that it would never happen. Ships are expensive to preserve, and a ship her size would have really cost a packet. 

 
I was fortunate enough to have seen both Ark Royal and Illustrious, but sadly I never saw them when they were the pride of the fleet, only when they were at the end of the line. 
 Fair weather for your final journey fair maiden, thank you for your courageous service to your country and crew.  You will be missed. 

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 07/12/2016. 

Updated: 14/12/2016 — 19:49

Looking for Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel looms over the transportation system of Southern England, his influence left a legacy that can still be seen today, many years after his death. His influence on the Great Western Railway (GWR) is easy to find if you know where to look. 

I suspect the first real discovery I made was when I found his grave in Kensal Green Cemetery in London in 2013 

Image from 2016

Image from 2016

My travels took me to Southampton, and inevitabley to Portsmouth too, and it was there that I found a monument to the engineer; that was unveiled on 7 April 2006 to commemorate the bicentenary of his birth on 9 April 1806 at Portsea. 

From Southampton I moved deep into GWR territory and relocated to Salisbury where I used GWR trains quite regularly.  The current station at Salisbury is not a Brunel building, however, the former GWR station still exists, albeit in a different role as the Railway Social Club.

A blue plaque proclaims the heritage of this small easily overlooked building.

One of my expeditions took me to Bristol in January 2014. And it was in this city that I encountered one of the very tangible relics of Brunel.

The SS Great Britain was one of the many ships I had read about as a child, I even remember seeing photographs of it on it’s way back to Bristol for preservation.  Standing on the decks of this grand old lady was really something, It is however one thing to read about a ship like this, and a totally different thing to stand on board her.  I have been hoping to get back to the ship, and almost got there in 2015 but got distracted along the way. 

Bristol is also home to Bristol Temple Mead Station, yet another Brunel creation. However, the current building is not the original Brunel station.  I have still to investigate the Brunel station, although it seems to be perpetually under renovation. The glorious wedding cake of a station that is currently in use was expanded in the 1870s by Francis Fox and again in the 1930s by P E Culverhouse. Brunel’s terminus is no longer part of the operational station. It stands to the left of the current station façade (where the coaches are). I do not have images of the entrance of the station yet, but hopefully one day. 

Bristol also houses yet another Brunel creation, the magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge that I visited in August 2015.

Between Bristol trips I was somewhere else, and while I was there I paid a visit to “Steam, Museum of the Great Western Railway” in Swindon. It was here that GWR had it’s locomotive workshops. You can also come face to face with the great man and one of his broad gauge creations. 
Actually those drive wheels are from Brunel’s broad Gauge Locomotive “Lord of the Isles”, built in Swindon in 1851. They are 8 feet in diameter and weigh about 4 tons. Brunel was just over 5 feet.

Inside the museum I came to a replica of  the 1837  “North Star”, and it is really a comparatively simple loco when compared to the machines that rule the rails 100 years later.


The original was purchased by GWR and ran one of the first trains between Paddington and Maidenhead in 1837. There is no consideration for crew comfort in this machine, although I am sure these locos did not break too many speed records. This locomotive was not a Brunel design though, but it was modernised to run on his Broad Gauge (7 ft (2,134 mm), later eased to 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm)). Unfortunately Broad Gauge was not too good an idea and was not universally accepted and GWR had to change all of its rolling stock and relay its track down the line.

Leaving Bristol the train passes through Bath Spa, and the station there is also attributed to Brunel.

In June 2016, travelling South East from Cheltenham I passed though Swindon, Reading and finally into London Paddington Station which is where GWR terminated. The station today is quite a hodge podge of design, having to cater for the massive expansion of rail into the capital.

If you known where to look you will even encounter Brunel seated on a chair watching the comings and goings. What would he have to say about what they did to his station?

And if you tarried long enough in London you could always retire to your hotel that was a part of the station.

This imposing building is the London Hilton Paddington, or, as it was known: The Great Western Royal Hotel and it was opened in 1854. 

And that sums up my Brunel discoveries for now, I know there are others, because most GWR stations had a hotel attached to it, and I am quite sure that Brunel was involved in at least one of them, but that is another exploration for another day.

Brunel was an engineer. He was a man who could turn his mind to bridges, ships and tunnels. He left behind a legacy that has endured, and his work will probably be here long after this blog has closed down. He created and designed and influenced, he was an inspiration, and the world sadly has been replaced by accountants who create nothing, or managers who could not manage their way out of paper bags, and directors who dip their hands into tills with alarming frequency. Where did we loose the engineers?  why do we not have engineers that create on a scale like this? Brunel made mistakes, but his success outweigh his failures. He was a man of legend and we are so much richer because he was in the right place at the tight time.

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 01/11/2016  

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 19:43

The Battle of Jutland

The anniversary of the Battle of Jutland is one that is rarely remembered, because the war at sea was far remote from the realities of the slaughter of the trenches in France. The clash of the Grand Fleet and the High Seas Fleet sent many sailors to their deaths, often trapped within the ships that they fought, or drowned as the cold waters of the North Sea closed over them.

 

The Royal British Legion produced an information pack to commemorate the battle and I have drawn heavily from that pack to produce this post.

I have never really understood this Clash of Titans, my interest is more related to the ships themselves than the physical act of battle. However, it is 100 years since the thunder of guns was heard in those distant waters, and it is fitting that tribute be paid to those who lost their lives in or after the battle, and to remember them as being part of one of the largest and most costly fleet engagement of the First World War. The battle, which took place over Wednesday 31 May and Thursday 1 June 1916 and the 100th anniversary provides an opportunity to commemorate the sacrifices and contributions made by all those from the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy, fishing fleets, shipbuilding towns and coastal communities who continue to guarantee The United Kingdom’s security in peace and war.

A Short History and Reflection.

Jutland will always be remembered for the huge sacrifices that our naval personnel made. Britain is an island nation with no town more than 75 miles from the sea. Many families therefore have relatives who served at sea and this is the perfect moment to reflect, not only on the sacrifices made during this sea battle but also to commemorate the maritime contribution and the sacrifices that have been and continue to be made by all those from the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy and coastal fleets who serve to ensure the nation’s security.

In 1914, Britain had the biggest and strongest navy in the world. Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (1849–1930) greatly expanded the size and quality of the Imperial German Navy, until the German Navy grew to become one of the greatest maritime forces in the world, second only to the British Royal Navy.

After the British success at Dogger Bank in holding back the German attack in January 1915, the German Imperial Navy chose not to confront the numerically superior British Royal Navy in a major battle for more than a year, preferring to rely on its lethal U-boat fleet. However, in May 1916, with the majority of the British Grand Fleet anchored far away at Scapa Flow, Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer believed the time was right to resume attacks on the British coastline. Scheer ordered 19 U-boats to position themselves for a raid on the North-East coastal town of Sunderland, using air reconnaissance craft to keep an eye on the British Fleet. Bad weather hampered the airships, however, and Scheer called off the raid, instead ordering his fleet to head north, to the Skagerrak, a waterway located between Norway and Denmark off the Jutland Peninsula, where they could attack the Allied naval interests and with luck, punch a hole in the stringent British blockade.

Unbeknownst to Scheer, however, a newly created intelligence unit in Britain had cracked the German communication codes and warned the British Grand Fleet’s commander, Admiral John Rushworth Jellicoe, of Scheer’s intentions. Consequently, on the night of 30 May, a British fleet of 28 battleships, nine battle cruisers, 34 light cruisers and 80 destroyers set out from Scapa Flow, bound for positions off the Skagerrak.

On 31 May, a British naval force commanded by Vice Admiral David Beatty spotted a German squadron of warships and confronted them some 75 miles off the Danish coast. The two squadrons opened fire on each other simultaneously. This lasted around 55 minutes, during which time two British battle cruisers (HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary) were destroyed with the loss of 2,000 sailors. The remainder of the German fleet then joined, so Beatty was forced to fight a delaying action for the next hour, until Jellicoe arrived with the rest of the Grand Fleet. Both fleets faced off in their entirety, and a great battle of naval strategy commenced. As sections of the two fleets continued to engage each other throughout the late evening and the early morning of 1 June, Jellicoe manoeuvred 96 of the British ships into a V-shape surrounding 59 German ships. The German flagship, Lutzow, was disabled by 24 direct hits but was able, before it sank, to sink the British cruiser Invincible.

Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe,

Admiral of the Fleet John Jellicoe,

Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty

Admiral of the Fleet David Beatty

The German fleet withdrew under cover of darkness at 18:30 on 1 June, thus ending the battle, and cheating the British of the major naval success they had envisioned.

The Battle of Jutland engaged a total of 100,000 men aboard 250 ships over the course of 72 hours. The Germans claimed it as a victory for their High Seas Fleet. At first the British press agreed, but it was not so clear-cut. The German navy lost 11 ships, including a battleship and a battle cruiser, and suffered 2,500 casualties; the British sustained heavier losses, with 14 ships sunk, including three battle cruisers, and 6,000 casualties. Ten more German ships had suffered heavy damage, however, and by 2nd June 1916 only 10 ships that had been involved in the battle were seaworthy. The Royal Navy could have, however put 23 ships to sea at this point. On 4 July, Vice Admiral Scheer advised the German high command that further fleet action was not an option, and that submarine warfare was Germany’s best hope for victory at sea. Despite the heavy losses, the Battle of Jutland had left British naval superiority on the North Sea intact. 

 

 

Many of the casualties from HMS Queen Mary, HMS Black Prince, and HMS Invincible are remembered on Portsmouth Naval Memorial, where around 10,000 sailors of the First World War are commemorated.

Key Facts

  • The Battle of Jutland was fought over 36 hours – from 31 May to 1 June 1916
  • There were a total of 250 ships in the battle; 151 British Grand Fleet and 99 German High Seas Fleet
  • There were 100,000 sailors overall engaged in the Battle, of which 1 in 10 were wounded
  • More than 8,500 were killed in total; 6,000 British, 2,500 German
  • Death was sudden and on a huge scale – Queen Mary 1,266, Indefatigable 1,017, Invincible 1,026, Defence 903, Black Prince 857 (German: Wiesbaden 589, Fraulenlob 320)
  • One thousand men lost their lives when a magazine exploded on the British battlecruiser Indefatigable
  • The British Grand Fleet was under the command of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, who after the war became one of the founders of The Royal British Legion
  • There was no clear winner in this battle, but it did convince the Germans never again to challenge the British Navy in the North Sea
  • This was the first time in history that a carrier-based aeroplane (from HMS Engadine) was used for reconnaissance in naval combat
  • There were four Victoria Crosses awarded after the Battle. (Jack Cornwell (HMS Chester), Francis Harvey (HMS Lion), Edward Bingham (HMS Nestor) and Loftus William Jones (HMS Shark)). 
  • HM The Queen’s father – George VI, the then Prince Albert, Duke of York – took part in the battle, and was mentioned in despatches for his action as a turret officer aboard Collingwood
  • The last surviving veteran of the battle, Henry Allingham, a British RAF airman, died on 18 July 2009, aged 113, by which time he was one of the last surviving veterans of the First World War
  • The British losses amounted to 113,300 tons sunk. (Battlecruisers: Indefatigable, Queen Mary, Invincible. Armoured cruisers: Black Prince, Warrior, Defence. Flotilla leaders: Tipperary. Destroyers: Shark, Sparrowhawk, Turbulent, Ardent, Fortune, Nomad, Nestor.)
  • The German losses amounted to 62,300 tons sunk. (Battlecruiser: Lützow. Pre-Dreadnought: Pommern. Light cruisers: Frauenlob, Elbing, Rostock, Wiesbaden. Destroyers (Heavy torpedo-boats): V48, S35, V27, V4, V29

The Battle of Jutland also caused a rethink about the way capital ships were designed and fought, and some of the flaws in the British ships were addressed. Unfortunately the vulnerability of the battlecruiser design would be once again exposed when HMS Hood was lost to KMS Bismarck in 1941

The most famous Battle of Jutland VC recipient was Boy 1st Class Jack Travers Cornwell, aka “Jutland Jack”.  

John Travers Cornwell, Boy 1st Class (RN) was born on 8 January 1900, at Leyton. When the First World War broke out his father promptly joined the Army, and Jack joined the Royal Navy. He went through preliminary training at Devonport from 27 July 1915 and became a Boy 1st Class on the light cruiser HMS Chester for active service in Admiral David Beatty’s 1st Battlecruiser Squadron.

A few months after Jack Cornwell joined his ship, Admiral Beatty came to grips with the German High Seas Fleet near Jutland on 31 May 1916; he was mortally wounded in action, and died two days later in Grimsby hospital. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross [London Gazette, 15 September 1916]:

“Mortally wounded early in the action, Boy, First Class, John Travers Cornwell remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders, until the end of the action, with the gun’s crew dead and wounded around him. His age was under sixteen and half years.”

The Times’ History of the War records that Cornwell “had been brought ashore, he had died at Grimsby of his wounds, and through one of the stupid blunders which are inseparable from officialdom he had been buried in what was no better than a pauper’s grave. No sooner was the truth known of the lad’s last hours of life and the manner of his death than public opinion demanded a befitting reinternment. Accordingly the body was exhumed, and there was an impressive funeral in Manor Park Cemetery. A picture of the boy, standing by his gun, with Admiral Sir David Beatty’s report of the incident, occupies a position of honour in more than 12,000 schools.”

On 23 March 1917, a large company witnessed at the Mansion House the presentation to the Board of Admiralty of Mr. Frank O. Salisbury’s picture, ‘John Cornwell, V.C., on H.M.S. Chester.’ Sir Edward Carson, the First Lord, received the picture and paid a high tribute to the dead lad’s courage and example. “I ask people who grumble if they ever heard the story of John Travers Cornwell… I feel that this boy, who died at the post of duty, sends this message… to the people of the Empire: ‘Obey your orders, cling to your post, don’t grumble, stick it out”.

The 5.5″ gun from HMS Chester that Jack Cornwell had manned during the Battle of Jutland is on display at the Imperial War Museum.

 

A lot has been written about the mistakes made at Jutland by those in command, but so little has been written about those who manned the magazines or who operated the engines or who fed the crew. When I was young there was a quizz programme on Springbok Radio, and I recall that one of the contestants was being quizzed on the Battle of Jutland. At the time I thought that he was incredibly knowledgable about the battle, but that it was not really a subject that somebody like myself would ever understand. I still do not understand it.

The Battle of the Somme was famous for the carnage that was inflicted during the campaign, but at sea it was a different story altogether. Once the ships had passed and the wreckage was dispersed there was nothing left to see, it was as if nothing had ever happened, but those who were there will tell you that it was a battle like none seen before, or since, and those who were in it would never forget it.

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 30/05/2016. Most of the information on this page comes from the Royal British Legion Information Pack on the battle of Jutland. I have also used links to Wikipedia and of course Victoriacrossonline  

 

Updated: 15/12/2016 — 07:21

A Rapid Visit to Havant, Fratton and Kingston Cemetery.

On Thursday I had a job interview at Havant, and most people haven’t an idea where Havant is. It is slightly East and North of Portsmouth, and is on the rail line to Brighton and Gatwick airport (in a roundabout way).  Getting there wasn’t too complicated, a direct train to Fareham, and then a change to a train going to Brighton, stopping at Havant. Fortunately my rail woes seemed to be over and I did the train trip reasonably painlessly. 

Havant Station

My interview was close by and I did not bring my camera with (which I regret), in fact I was not really intending to take any pics but just get everything over and done with. Unfortunately my mapping app had been upgraded and was now incomprehensible. I have no idea why these apps need permission for 90% of the things that they do, it is a very worrying scenario, and while I block as much as I can there is still way too many things out there that are a cause for concern. 
My first jolt happened two blocks from the station when I walked slap-bang into the war memorial. Situated on a busy corner it was a very difficult one to photograph given the angle of the sun and railings and traffic.  
St Faith's Church

St Faith’s Church

The memorial is placed in front of St Faith’s Church,which was a really pretty building with an outstanding graveyard and I was beginning to regret not bringing my camera. My phone has quite a good camera on it, but I find it difficult to use in certain light conditions, and in certain orientations. Unlike my camera; landscape or portrait does not matter, social media will display it how I place the image. With the phone social media decides how it will display my image irrespective of how I rotate it. I therefore try to only take landscape orientated shots.
havant066
 
 
My interview went well, and I will be going to a further one on Tuesday, and now that it was over I could look around a bit more. I was tempted to spend some time here, but the return trip to Basingstoke was a bit more complicated. I had to catch a local to Fratton, and from Fratton catch the Portsmouth train to Basingstoke. The timing was a problem though, there were not too many locals. Still, I had to get to the station first.
 
 
 
Actually, parts of it remind me a lot of Salisbury, there were lots of these really old buildings hiding in odd places. 
 
Once at the station my local train came in reasonably quickly. The train was a class 313 Coastways branded local  and it was quite an interesting set, dating back to the mid-70’s.
It was a quick run to Fratton, and I had been past it before, in fact, when I had first done the navigation for the Mendi Graves at Milton Cemetery I had considered going to the cemetery via Fratton, but that had not happened as I had gotten a lift instead.
Fratton is close to two major cemeteries in Portsmouth: Milton and Kingston, and both are in walking distance of the station. I weighed the odds, and decided  that seeing as I had some time to spare I would head off to the closest of the two, which you could see from the train. 
 
It was not a very long walk, the road runs parallel to the railway line, although you do need to make a bit of a detour to get to the road first. The area was residential, lined with a row of terrace houses, curving away into the distance on either side of the street.
  
Fraton had also been a large railway depot, so many years back these houses and area would have been the homes of blue collar workers, and the air pollution would have been formidable. Today the air is probably much cleaner, although now there are cars lining the street. 
 
The cemetery was easily reached, and the entrance I went in has a very nice gate and lodge, and my intention was to photograph those on my way out again. .  
 
Almost immediately I spotted the two chapels, and they were in a wonderful condition. It is always nice to see intact chapels, far too many of them have been demolished over the years.
  
My intention was to photograph as many graves as I could and go as far into the cemetery as was feasible in roughly an hour. I had no idea how many CWGC graves there were, but I was going to try get at least 100 in the short time that I had.  The standard of graves was varied, although a lot in the area where I was had old stones, and many of them were of poor legibility. I was not too interested in photographing headstones though, only the CWGC graves and they were scattered all through the cemetery
The cemetery was laid out reasonably easily in that there were pathways and that made things easier because I could work my way through an area and did not have to remember if I had been there before or not.

 
As I walked the lines I realised that an hour would not even get me close to the 567 CWGC graves in the cem, in fact this was a major expedition type cemetery rather than a quick photography session.  I was taking two shots of each grave just in case my focusing skills were bad, I had found that my camera occasionally struggled to focus on the more rough standard white headstones so I always tried to get two shots of each stone and then choose which was the better image. 
 
And like Southampton, Portsmouth had lost a lot of its property and citizens during the wartime bombing of the city. A memorial commemorates those who lost their lives in the bombing.
  
It is quite sobering to look back on this period in England and the effect that the bombing had on the country. Southampton and Portsmouth were big targets for the Luftwaffe and Portsmouth is home to the Naval Dockyard and it was a major target, unfortunately bombs often ended up hitting civilian targets and that is why memorials such as this exist.
  
The photography was going well, although time was marching and I really needed to start heading back to the station, and this is where it gets difficult. The quandary is that often you may never come this way again, and those remaining graves may never be photographed. Yet realistically the odds of grabbing them all in such a haphazard way was very small. Ideally you need a list and to work your way through the cemetery, ticking off as you go. Private memorials would always be problematic though, and they would need extra time. As it is I did manage to find two pm’s that were not on the list, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many more. Portsmouth was a naval town, and Haslar Military Hospital and Cemetery was not too far away, there were a lot of sailors living in this town. 
 
 
At some point I reached an area where the flowers were blooming in the first throes of spring, and it was very pretty. I spotted two lines of graves and headed towards it, deciding that there would be the last I would take before heading home. I grabbed my pics, said my farewells and headed to the entrance. I was not even halfway through the cemetery, but I had to call it quits. I had a train to catch.

As I walked to the gate I snapped pics, grabbing some interesting memorials to look at later, it was actually quite a pleasant cemetery, and one that I would have liked to see completely, but maybe I shall get to do that if my job interview was successful.

 

It was also getting chilly, and my shoes were in danger of falling apart too. I would have to make a plan in that regard when I got home.

 

When I crossed the street I took one last pic of the gate and headed towards the station. There was a nice looking church in the distance but I did not really have time to go see it.

 
And that is when I realised there was a problem. A warning message was flashing on my screen, complaining about running out of storage. By my reckoning I had taken roughly 200 images, and I had a lot of space on the memory card. I would have to check this when I was on the train.  By default my images are saved to the sd card and not the internal storage of the phone, but there was ample space on the card, even my camera has not been able to fill up the 8GB card it has. Upon investigation it turns out the the camera was disregarding the setting and doing its own thing, filling up the internal storage instead of the external as it was set up to do. This could be disasterous.
 
When I got home I pulled all the images off the phone and discovered that not too many images had been lost, although the last two graves of the row of 20 had not come out and anything after that was missing. I had managed to get over 80 of the graves anyway, which is far short of the 567 in the cemetery. I do not know why the camera had not used the sd card like it was set up to do. Surprisingly enough the images had come out very well, and if it wasn’t for this possibility of loosing the images I would use the phone again, although the camera is easier in the long run.
 
It had been a great visit though, and I am determined that at some point I must try to return to Portsmouth to grab more graves. The city has a lot of casualties listed on memorials, the Naval Memorial at Southsea has 24598 names on it, and there is still the war memorial as well as three cemeteries in the city.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial viewed from the Solent

I have always wanted to explore the city more, but never did, apart from my occasional visits to the dockyard. I had been to MIlton and Highland Road Cemetery too, and the latter was a great experience because it had a lot of very historic headstones in it, that alone makes it an attractive destination.  Maybe one day?
 
© DRW. 2015-2017. Created 14/03/2015. Images migrated 27/04/2016
Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:43

Return to Gosport

In July this year I headed off to Gosport and Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, unfortunately between then and a month ago I somehow hurt my ankle and any large scale expedition became problematic. That also explains the lack of blogposts this past month. I have literally been laid up. However, I am on the mend so I headed off once again to Haslar to see how many more graves I could photograph of the potential 700+ that I was still missing.

I also wanted to try for a harbour cruise as I wanted to get photographs of HMS Illustrious who was being decommissioned in Portsmouth.  She is really the last of her class and is quite a famous vessel in her own right. The harbour cruise was only running much later so I decided to return to it on my way back; so I headed to the Gosport ferry terminal.

Towering above the dockyard was the ship I wanted to photograph, and on that short ferry crossing I got my pics.

Satisfied, I headed off to the cemetery which isn’t all that far away, but that ship kept nagging away in the back of my head. I really needed to see her from the dockyard.

 
 
Haslar really has two major groupings of graves, the first being the World War 1 graves and the second being the World War 2 graves. The later is easy to identify because of the headstone, the former is categorised by the use of the Admiralty pattern headstone as pictured alongside. The problem with these headstones is legibility, the inscriptions are small and you really need to go up close to see what they say. 
I was fortunate that the caretaker told me that the WW1 graves had all had their headstones replaced a few years back and they tended to stand out a bit more. The “E” Plot where most were is quite a large area and covers the era from roughly 1904 – 1938. Armed with this information I would be able to be a bit more selective of which graves to photograph and which to skip. The grave pictured is outside of my date range, but the mix of colours and textures on it is wonderful. I had roughly 700 graves to photograph and with a cloudy sky it was not too uncomfortable. 
 
I worked my way through the graves reasonably quickly, and by 13H30 I was finished and ready to head back to the ferry terminal. There are a lot of images to process and I will be busy doing that for quite awhile. My train was scheduled to depart at  14h23, so I decided to rather try for the 15H23 train instead and go have a look around the dockyard.  As I approached the marina I spotted movement, and it turned out to be a container ship inbound. It was quite odd seeing such a large ship moving through the channel, but then Portsmouth is not only a naval dockyard, there is also a ferry, cruise ship, and cargo terminal. Unfortunately I was still a bit too far away for a great pic of the vessel, Had I walked faster, or not paused at…. these thoughts do tend to go around in the head when you miss a shot like this.
 
I also stopped to have a look at the Holy Trinity Church which is almost a landmark on its own. Unfortunately the graveyard that I was hoping for did not exist, although there was one grave related to the clergy from the church. The War Memorial was a nice plus though, but that tower really dominated the space.
 
Then it was ferry time…. and in the distance was HMS Illustrious once again.
 
Once ashore I headed off to the dockyard. I had been there before in April last year, so did not want to do the touristy stuff, however the queue for the harbour cruise was way too long so I decided to give that a miss. You can still access parts of the dockyard without being on a tour, and that was my aim.
 
HMS Illustrious dominated the scene, she really stood out, but there was an intense sadness about her. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to say goodbye to a ship that you have served on for a long time, especially if you know she is going to probably make one final journey behind a tow. As usual people are crying for her preservation, but realistically that probably will not happen. Ships are expensive to preserve, each preserved ship is like a large hole that has money poured into it, although some do manage to survive against all the odds. If it was up to me they would all be preserved. (Sadly, HMS Illustrious was towed from Portsmouth on 07/12/2016 for the breakers)
  
Emerging from behind HMS Dragon (replete with bow art) was the ferry Mont St Michel, she was moving very slowly, and I considered trying to race her back to the station, but I have seen her many times before so decided to give it a miss. I strolled around and looked at some of the bits and bobs, although HMS Victory is a bit big to be called a bit or a bob. I am glad to hear that the monitor HMS M33 is eventually going to be opened to the public. She is an interesting vessel, albeit slightly spartan, and it does seem a waste for her to be taking up a drydock without being able to generate any income for her preservation.
 
HMS Victory is still sans her upperworks, although she really looks good and on board she is really a site to see. I have visited her, and I did a retrospective report on her. The image below I took in April 2013, and the sun was shining, unlike this grey day in September. 
 
Then it was time to mosey off to the station, I had seen most of what I wanted to see, and I was starting to get tired. The station is not too far away and between HMS Warrior and the station I would be able to see Mont St Michel passing. I also discovered the reason for her slow pace, a nice reefer: Crown Topaz,  was passing up the channel, followed by something that may have been a dredger
 
  
 
And then she finally came into view, although I have to admit she does not really appeal to me, with her short foredeck. I like my ships to look like ships, not like blocks of flats with pointy ends. 
 
And then it was time to go home. It had been a very fruitful sort of day, although only once I had processed all the images would I know where we stood with completion of Haslar Naval Cemetery. I expect that there are a few graves that I have missed, but that is just an occupational hazard when it comes to grave photography.  I don’t know when/if I will be down this neck of the woods again though, after all, I am still hoping to get back down to Bristol, although my ankle problem does negate that. 
 
© DRW 2014-2017. Created 28/09/2014, images recreated 20/04/2016 
Updated: 27/01/2017 — 19:30

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum

Another bucket list item, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum was the first stop on my trip to Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery in Gosport. I have never been on board a submarine before, although I was always curious about them. Come to think of it, I had been on board a semi-submersible boat before, but that doesn’t really compare.

 

The museum has three major submarines, the biggest being HMS Alliance, the oldest being the Holland 1, and the one that really makes you shake your head HMS X24

 
Submariners are a different breed of sailor altogether, and when you come up close and personal with their weapon of choice you can see why. These vessels are not for the feint hearted, and they do have a tendency to never return. The list of those vessels that were lost is a long one, and for each ship name there is a crew.

 

The first submarine (apart from HMS Alliance which is not easy to miss), is the Holland 1. And I have to admit I am glad I got to see her because she really does not look very much like the images I have seen of her.  Possibly because she is not submerged? It must have taken a lot of courage to make that first dive, and I expect you need to have a lot of confidence in your design too.

Her interior is accessed by a door cut into her hull, and admittedly there is not much to see inside her, but the emptiness is really dominated by her torpedo tubes and the lack of headroom. The image below is looking forward.I have no way of knowing what else was in this machine way back when, but I expect it was much more crowded.

And the image above is looking aft. Underneath the wooden deck is the battery, and the ladder goes up to the rather small “conning tower”.

 
My next port of call was HMS Alliance, she really dominates the museum. She recently underwent restoration, although I have no idea what was done on board her. 

 

Unfortunately you cannot just waltz on board and look around so I headed into the exhibition hall to book my spot. 

 

The hall really houses most of the balance of the exhibits, as well as a small souvenir shop and of course HMS X24. She is the only surviving X craft still existing (although the wrecks of them litter the ocean floor), and she is really claustrophobic (and I was standing outside her!). 

 

It really comes down to the men that sailed on these vessels, and the operations that they performed during the war. There is not a lot of space for all the bits and pieces that submarines need, in fact I expect it would easier to collect the bits together and build a hull around them, than building a hull and trying to fit everything inside afterwards.

 

I do think the latter choice was made. Bear in mind that 4 men lived in and fought these vessels, and their best known exploit was Operation Source, the attack on the Tirpitz.

 
Heading outside I was once again confronted by a memorial to those that never returned. The Americans call it “On Eternal Patrol”, and I think that is a fitting description of the many submarines that never came home. Many were lost in events that were not attributable to enemy action, and those vessels have never been found.
 
Then it was time for me to board HMS Alliance through a door cut into her side just behind the forward hydroplanes and torpedo tubes. 
 
Alliance is a member of the A-Class and was laid down towards the end of World War 2, she was finally completed in 1947. She is no longer in her 1947 disguise though, having undergone a lot of modification and changes since she first put to sea. She has been a museum ship since 1981.
  
There is not a lot of headroom on board, and I expect it must have been even more crowded when she was in service. There are quite a few period items on board her and she is really a time capsule of a different life on board one of HM Submarines 
 
The images I took do not really show just how small the space is,  apart from there being people behind and in front of me, there was equipment and machinery above and below, as well as on either side. Although generally forward of the control room there is accommodation and living areas, whereas aft of the control room was more dedicated to engines and machinery (and accommodation) . Storage space was everywhere. 
 
Of course the heads always interest me, and there are actually two on board (officers and other ranks). These are not your run of the mill porcelain telephone type either. The image below is of ratings heads and wash room. (Water is not plentiful on board, so any sort of shower was really impossible). The instructions on flushing them make for interesting reading:

Charge air bottle and open sea and NR valves (non return valves?)
Open flush inlet valve with CARE
Free (?) lever and bring to PAUSE
Bring lever to FLUSHING
Bring lever to DISCHARGE
Bring lever to PAUSE
Return lever to NORMAL and LOCK
Close all valves.

One mistake and you would probably be the most popular person on board.

  
Passing through the vessel I could not help think that many wartime submarines were much smaller than this, and their crews were still under the added stress of combat. I would be interested to see how she compares to a U-Boat, and she would be considered luxurious compared to the wartime U-boats.
 
We were now passing into the motor/engine rooms, and things were somewhat more open, but multiply that by the heat and sound of her diesels running and this could be a very noisy and uncomfortable place. But engineers have always been special, they really thrive on the heat and noise and without them the ship would  just be a steel box going nowhere.
 
And our tour ended at the aft torpedo tubes. I was ready to go around again, but the bottleneck was still stuck somewhere near the control room, so I gave it a miss. The fresh air felt good though,  and I came away with a whole new perspective of submarine warfare.
 
 
Then I made a quick circuit of the exhibition hall, and saw many things that I had read about over the years. Some were hard hitting, and all seemed to involve bravery and sacrifice. I was particularly glad to see that HMS Conqueror had not been forgotten
 
And that the infamous K-Class had not been neglected in the roll of disaster. Now they must have been interesting to see. Although if you think about it rationally, we have really returned to the age of the steam powered submarine, after all, nuclear powered submarines are really driven by steam turbines.
  
And one last reminder of disaster. HMS Thetis.
  
And then it was time for me to go, I had a cemetery to find, and it is probable that some of the men in that cemetery had a connection to the vessels mentioned at the museum.
 
The “Silent Service” is still one of the deadliest military forces around. They have become true submariniers since the advent of the nuclear powered vessel, and they can be anywhere, ready to strike at any time. As a surface vessel fanatic I have never really considered the impact of meeting a submarine would have. I think I have a whole new appreciation of them, and of course much to read about in my travels.
 
The museum is not a large one, but it is really a worthwhile one to visit. Gosport is easily accessible through Portsmouth, and it is worth taking the time to pay your respects. I know I will return one day.
 
 
© DRW 2014-2017. Created 24/07/2014, images recreated 19/04/2016
Updated: 13/12/2016 — 20:09

Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery

Part of the reason for my trip to Gosport was to take a look at Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery (aka Clayhall Royal Naval Cemetery), it is within walking distance of the ferry terminal, and equally close to Haslar Naval Hospital.   My curiosity about this site was piqued after watching a documentary about an investigation into the burial grounds inside the hospital which revealed that over 7000 individuals are buried there, mostly from the Royal Navy. Unfortunately I could not access the hospital as it was all locked and barred and there was nobody to ask any questions of. This is one place to bear in mind if ever I return to that area. The strange building in the photograph is a water tower according to the security guard that I met on my later visit.
 
The Cemetery I was after is a bit further along and it was a hot day, with scattered clouds and a bit of humidity. It was not uncomfortable weather, but I could see that I was going to take a lot of pummelling from the sun while I was photographing graves.  According to the relevant CWGC page, there are 1347 identified casualties here, and I really was going to go for the regular CWGC headstones on this visit. It may not seem like too many, but the logistics of photographing 1347 graves in one session is formidable.
 
 
The main entrance by the Cross of Sacrifice is locked, but access is via a gate by the sextons cottage (which is a site to see all of its own). The cemetery is an old one, with casualties dating back to long before WW1. It is an orderly cemetery too, with a block layout and very regular patterned headstones. The two biggest concentrations were what I was interested in, although I was really getting the smaller groups done before I headed in that direction.
 
I slowly worked my way along, sampling occasional headstones, but concentrating more on the CWGC headstones. 
 
To complicate things there were a number of non wartime graves with a headstone not unlike the regular CWGC headstone, they can usually be recognised by the different shape to the top of the headstone. In the image below, the headstone on the left is a non wartime death (1955) while the headstone on the right is a wartime death (1941). However, amongst the casualties in the cemetery it is likely that most died in the nearby naval hospital.
 
 
There are a number of group memorials, two of which were especially interesting. The first is to the crew of HM Submarine L55, which sank in 1919. The remains of 34 crew members were interred at Haslar in 1928.
 
 
The other memorial is to HMS Eurydice that sank in 1878 off the Isle of Wight with a heavy loss of life. It is a really imposing memorial, topped by the anchor from the vessel. 
 
The memorial to those who lost their lives when a boiler exploded on HMS Thunderer on 14 July 1876. 15 people were killed instantly, including her Commanding Officer; and around 70 were injured, of whom 30 later died.
  
 
In memory of those ranks and ratings 
buried in this plot whose names are recorded in
The Roll of Honour housed in the chapel
Mors Janua Vitae (Death is the gate to life)
 
And after all those distractions I started on the graves. 
 
I was fortunate that there was a bit of shade here, but it did not detract from the fact that there were roughly 64 graves in this group. The next group was even bigger, with over 400 graves in total. Between this group and the next was a huge plot of similar headstones that tie into the naval hospital.

And at this point I had a problem, it would be too much work to try identify each grave and decide whether to get the pic or not, it was much easier to get the pic and decide later, but there were a lot of these graves and I would prefer to leave them for another day. I was after those regular white slabs at this moment.

I lost count somewhere along the line, but I suspect I have about 650 graves from this cemetery photographed, but still to be sorted and labelled, only then will I have a final tally. I was ready to go home, and I slowly headed towards the entrance, on my way passing a small Turkish Naval Cemetery dating back to the 1850’s, and it took a bit of reading to explain this anomaly.

 
Apparently in November 1850, the Turkish warships: Mirat-i Zafer and Sirag-i Bahri anchored off Gosport on an extended visit. Some of the crew contracted cholera and had to be admitted to the nearby naval hospital where some of them died. They were subsequently buried here with other members of the crews that had died during training accidents. They are now sons of Gosport.
 
 
 
It was also time to head off back to Portsmouth to catch my train back to Salisbury, although I would be making a detour in Southampton to do some shipwatching.
 
It had been a great day, my visit to HMS Alliance was wonderful, and I will do a blogpost about it one of these days, but it was an equally tiring day, and I came away with 1175 images to process, that should keep me busy for awhile. But, I will return to Gosport, after all, somewhere along my route I may find my packet of biscuits that went missing.
 
*Update*
 I returned to Gosport in Sept 2014, completing the plot of graves that I had avoided this time around. I did not however find my missing boccies! 
 
© DRW 2014-2017. Images recreated 18/04/2016, added more images 07/02/2016
Updated: 07/02/2017 — 07:44
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