musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Portsmouth

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

Portsmouth Cemeteries, a retrospective

This morning, while editing my Victoria Cross grave collection, I realised that I had not done a blog post on my visit to Portsmouth Highland Road and Milton Cemeteries, although I had done one on my flying visit to Kingston Cemetery.   This retrospective post is to rectify the matter so that I can carry on with my editing.

Portsmouth is not too far from Southampton, but I never really saw too much of it because I always ended up at the Historical Dockyard,  my first visit happed in April 2013, and it was really a taste of this great naval city and its large chunk of maritime history. My visit to Milton and Highland Road were for a different reason though. There are 9 Mendi Casualties buried in Milton Cemetery, and I really wanted to pay my respects. Fortunately one of the Hamble Valley and Eastleigh Heritage Guides was willing to take me to the cemetery to see the graves. 

I also had a map of the two cemeteries in my camera bag, and it showed the location of the Victoria Cross and George Cross graves in the cemeteries. I wanted to photograph as many of them as I could while I was there.

The day was not too sunny, but only rain would have deterred me in this quest. Our first port of call was Milton Cemetery (Google earth:  50.798967°,  -1.060722°). The cemetery is really closer to Fratton than Portsmouth, and when I had first checked it’s location I had considered it was do-able on foot from Fratton Station. 

Milton Cemetery Chapel

Plaque attached to the chapel

The cemetery  was opened in 1911, and contains 426 graves from both World Wars. The 1914-1918 burials are mainly in Plot 1, while the 1939-1945 War burials are widely spread throughout the cemetery.

8 Mendi casualties are buried in this row

Being a Royal Navy base and manning port, it is inevitable that many of the graves do have a naval connection, although Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery in Gosport contains the majority of naval graves in the area that I am aware of.

To be honest, Milton was not a very interesting cemetery, it was a bit too modern for my tastes, although there were a lot of interesting finds to be made in it. There are two Victoria Cross graves (Sidney James Day VC and John Danagher VC) and one George Cross grave (Reginald Vincent Ellingworth GC) in it. John Danagher VC was serving with Nourse’s Horse (Transvaal) during the first Boer War when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 16 January 1881 at Elandsfontein, near Pretoria.

The Cross of Sacrifice is also present in the cemetery, but I did not photograph any of the military graves apart from ones that interested me. It was really a fleeting visit as I did not want to take up too much of my host’s time. Fortunately he has an interest in cemeteries and is a member of the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery.

Random Images from Milton Cemetery

   
   
   

And then it was time to go and we headed off to Highland Road Cemetery which is about 1,5 km away as the crow flies. (Google Earth:  50.786022°,  -1.067228°).

Those heavy clouds did nothing to make the chapel stick out more, Oddly enough the Google earth image shows a marker in the middle of the graves tagged as “St Margaret C of E Church”. I do not know whether that tag is supposed to relate to the chapel. There is one more building in the cemetery and I suspect it may have once been the Dissenters Chapel or a Mausoleum. The history of the cemetery may be found on the Friends of Highland Road Cemetery website.

Highland Road Cemetery was definitely the nicer of the two cemeteries. It was opened in 1854 and contains war graves from both world wars. The 1914-1918 burials are spread throughout the cemetery while the 1939-1945 War graves are widely scattered.

There are eight Victoria Cross graves in the cemetery and I am pleased to say I found them all. (John Robarts.VCHugh Shaw. VCWilliam Temple. VCHenry James Raby. VC. CBHugh Stewart Cochrane. VCWilliam NW Hewett. VCIsrael Harding. VCWilliam Goate. VC.)

I am however very sorry I did not photograph the grave of Reginald Lee who is buried in the cemetery. He is remembered as being in the crows nest with Fred Fleet, on board the ill fated Titanic when the iceberg was sighted at about 11.40 p.m. on 14 April 1912, although it was Fleet not Lee who shouted the famous “Iceberg Ahead”. (Frederick Fleet is buried in Hollybrook Cemetery in Southampton)  

The Mausoleum above is for members of the Dupree family, 

I would have liked to have revisited this cemetery in better weather, but realistically it would have been a very long walk to get there. As hindsight always says “it is too late now”

Random Images from Highland Road Cemetery 

 
   
   
   

It was time to leave this place and head off home. It had certainly been a productive morning, and I liked those. I would revisit Portsmouth in the future, but I never managed to return to it’s cemeteries. 

© DRW 2013-2017. Retrospectively created 12/05/2017. With special thanks to Geoff Watts and Kevin Brazier. 

Updated: 24/05/2017 — 12:48

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

Dry docked.

While rooting around amongst my pics I remembered that I had some interesting ones that I took in Gloucester in August 2015. I was hoping to get back to the city at some point, but then other things intervened and I never did (since rectified).
 
This post is about dry docks and ships, and it is really a series of images that I took way back in the 1980’s when we were in Durban and got the chance to go down into the Prince Edward Graving Dock. There were two vessels in the dock on that day and it was quite a thrill to walk underneath those tons of steel. The ships were Mobil Refiner (top image) and Regina D (lower image)

Mobil Refiner

Mobil Refiner

Regina D

Regina D

For those that are interested in these things, the principal dimensions of the dock are:

Overall docking length 352,04 m Length on keel blocks 327,66 m
Length on bottom 352,04 m Width at entrance top 33,52 m
Width at coping 42,21 m Inner Dock 138,68 m
Outer Dock 206,90 m Depth on Entrance MHWS 12,56 m
Depth on inner sill MHWS 13,17 m    
You really get a sense of scale when you get to see how big ships actually are, and these two were relatively small vessels compared to what is floating around nowadays.
 
Unfortunately my images are not great,  The problem with taking pics down there is that there are patches of deep shadow and patches of bright daylight which really messed with the camera (and operator). Then the conversion process from slide to jpg further degraded the images. But, it is a great memory.

graving02

 

Cape Town has the Sturrock and Robinson Dry dock, and Clinton Hattingh was kind enough to send me these images of the latter showing the keel blocks 

The Robinson Dry dock is the oldest operating dry dock of its kind in the world and dates back to 1882. The foundation stone for the dock was laid by Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria.

Now wind forward to August 2015 and to Gloucester where there were two dry docks, and one was occupied by a sailing ship.
gloucester 548

I don’t think that caisson has been opened in many years, although in 2017 I revisited Gloucester Harbour and that dock was occupied. 

The vessel is the Den Store Bjorn, built n 1902.

Of course there are a number of these drydocks around in the the UK, The most famous one in Southampton is the King George V,  and it was the place where the really big liners were overhauled. Many images exist of the dock with one of the Queens in it but sadly the caissons have been demolished and the dock is now used as a wet dock. What a waste!

Southampton also used to have the Trafalgar dry dock which is close to the Ocean Terminal, it too was used by many of the famous liners, including a number of Union-Castle ships. It has been cut in half and the one half has been filled in while the other is a rectangular pool of water.

These facilities were built for the ship repair industry that the city once had, but that trade has moved offshore to Europe and today these spaces are only really known to those who have an interest in ships of the past.

There are two other dry docks of interest in Portsmouth, both inhabited by famous ships.

The first is the dock where the Monitor M33 is on display.

and the drydock where HMS Victory has been for so many years.

And finally, there are two more dry docks that I would like to mention, both with preserved vessels in them. The first houses the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

and the other houses the SS Great Britain in Bristol.

Both of these provide an interesting glimpse at the underside of ships, as well as the opportunity to marvel at their construction and how large they really are. 

When this post started out originally it was only really about the Durban trip, but it has grown into much more as I have experienced other similar docks, and what a fascinating journey it turned out to be.
 
© DRW 2015-2017. Images migrated 02/05/2016, more images added 04/06/2017
Updated: 30/06/2017 — 12:49

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

Heading back from Ryde

Carrying on where we left off….

There was one thing I needed to see and that was the Portsmouth Naval Memorial at Southsea, it was designed not only as a memorial, but also as a leading mark for shipping. In the image below the memorial is the white tower with the greenish ball on top of it. It is a very impressive memorial, and one of three similar memorials that were erected to the casualties of the Royal Navy.
 
Shieldhall was now heading back to Southampton at a leisurely pace. The weather was hot and cloudy in places, and the water was calm. Perfect cruising weather really. The sun had discovered that there were areas of me that needed attention and I often had to head to a shade deck just to cool off.
 
My presumption as to why we were dawdling along was twofold. There was a small tug dredging in the approach channel, and we had to wait for her to finish, or the master was waiting for the cruiseships to emerge from Southampton so that he could regale them with the siren. Any cruiseship is fair game and often some merchant ships get the siren treatment too. It must be quite odd to be on the bridge of your sparkling cruiseship to be accosted by a small steam powered ex-sludge carrier with an often obscene siren. Cruise ship sailing time is around 16H30, and we were not quite ideally placed by the time they started unberthing and moving. Get a move on Smit Buffalo!!!
 
We also passed a few smaller vessels going about their business, and a host of power boaters and assorted water craft. Sand Heron was being followed by 3 of those water scooter type machines that were using her wake as a launching platform. I had seen this vessel in Weymouth awhile ago, and photographed her sister transiting the Itchen Bridge.
 
By now I could pick up the movement in Southampton at the further-est extent of the lens of my camera. (which reminds me, the lens extending mechanism does not sound very good). The leading vessel was Independence of the Seas, and I expected that because they are quite prompt in their departures, unlike certain other vessels……
 
And then we were waiting, siren at the ready… but would they catch the hint?
 
Independence of the Seas is a real beauty, she exudes size and efficiency and I have never seen her looking shabby or run down. She is also prompt, but her master chose to ignore our plaintive bleatings, parps and belches. 
 
I was fortunate enough to catch her as she turned into the Western Solent, and with the sun on her.
 
Emerald Princess on the other hand wanted to play along and we exchanged salutes with her (much to the amusement of everybody on board).
  
And finally Oceana also exchanged salutes with us.
 
As we passed the mouth of the Hamble I spotted a strange contraption festooned with lifeboats. I suspect it is some sort of training facility for ships crews, or maybe for scouts? it may be worthwhile finding out more about it. (Apparently this is part of Warsash  Maritime Academy)
 
Somebody was missing from the sailing list, Azura had also been in the harbour and she was not amongst the sailings. We had left her at Ocean Terminal when we had sailed, although she was berthed bow first instead of stern first like she usually does. Hopefully as we got closer we would pick her up. 
 
We picked up Whitchallenger on her way downstream, she is a bunkering vessel and may have been heading to top herself us as she was riding quite high.
 
We were also overtaken by two separate members of the Red Funnel fleet, and the Red Jets really left us rocking in their wakes, although Red Osprey just made us wobble a bit.
 
As we got closer to the harbour I spotted Azura being swung in the turning basin and soon she was bearing down on us. This was actually the second time I had seen her like this, the first being on my Cowes trip. 
 
You only get a sense of how big these ships are when they go past you, sadly though they do not really appeal to me, although I do recall that both her and Ventura were easy to work onboard from a baggage handling perspective.
 
and then we were alongside Hythe Pier
 
and I got to wave at Challenge, she is looking very lonely in that corner of the harbour. I really wish they would have her at a better spot because she is liable to be forgotten where she is now.
 
And then we were ready to come alongside, our trip completed. Shieldhall and her crew had brought us home safely.
 
I still had to get to the station and catch my train back to Salisbury, and I was tired. But it had been a different trip and I had enjoyed it. My only gripe was that there weren’t more ships to see on the trip. My next cruise will probably be one of the short harbour voyages that they have during the Maritime Festival which is being held on the 22nd and.23rd of  August. I will see you then Shieldhall. 
 
 
© DRW 2014-2017. Created 27/07/2014, images recreated and links changed 19/04/2016
Updated: 13/12/2016 — 20:08

Heading down to Ryde

My ears pricked up when I read about the trip from Southampton to Ryde pier onboard the Shieldhall. I have done three trips on board her already, so she is not a new experience. However, there is something about this classic steamship that gets into your blood. Possibly because she is a real ship and not some floating gin palace? I did a general blog post about her in May last year, so there isn’t much to say about the ship that I haven’t said before. But, I usually find something new each time I go on board.
  
Southampton harbour was quiet, and the cruise ships in port were Independence of the Seas, Emerald Princess, Azura and Oceana. I was secretly hoping we would see them in Southampton Water on the way back. And, I was hoping to see lots of ships on the eastern Solent as we sailed along. 
 
The best surprise was the THV Galatea , she was berthed bow to bow with Shieldhall and was a very impressive vessel. 

And then we were off. Springing away from the quayside and turning our bows towards the stretch of water that reaches to the Solent. If you look at a map of that area you will see that with a lot of pushing the Isle of Wight would fit quite snugly into the area known as The Solent although the geology is a bit more complicated than that. The theory was that once we entered the Solent we would turn to port and sail towards Portsmouth. 

  
A major grouping of vessels is to be found at the refinery at Crawley, although mostly tankers, there is also a nice grouping of tugs to be found here.
 
These three (Ajax, Lomax and Phenix), are operated by Solent Towage Ltd. and are occasionally seen in Southampton Harbour assisting some of the cruiseships.
 
The next important area is Calshot Castle and I believe it is quite a good ship spotting venue, especially for afternoon sailings.
  
Once past the castle, we headed towards Cowes before turning to Port and sailing towards our destination. 
 
I had done the trip to Cowes once before with the Red Funnel ferry, and it was an interesting trip so it was not new to me. However, I had only been to Cowes, so far the rest of the Isle of Wight had evaded me. Ryde is easily accessible from Portsmouth as there is a conventional ferry service to the island as well as a hovercraft that does the run rather quickly.
 
Shieldhall was not unaccompanied in her voyage though. A swarm of yachts and small boats kept pace with us or came in close for a second look. She is a very popular vessel and I suspect getting a chance to see her sailing is one that you do not pass by. The Solent is also a very popular boating area and there were a number of people doing things in small boats. Unfortunately there were also a lot of those unattractive modern power boats that always seem to have a blonde draped languidly somewhere on the deck. The only real traffic we passed was the Hapag Lloyd container ship London Express that was heading into Southampton. 
  
As we got closer to our destination the Spinaker Tower in Portsmouth started to take on more definition, as did the Spitbank Forts and the ferries passing across our bows. I was really hoping we would get close to the forts but unfortunately never did.
 
Eventually we arrived at our destination which was Ryde Pier  and frankly from where we were it was not really very visible, and if the Master had not sung happy birthday we would probably have missed it. I cannot even show a pic as I do not have one that I can positively identify as “thats it!”. Suffice to say I need to physically go there and take pics on the spot, and that will give me an excuse to go on the hovercraft. 
 
And talking about hovercraft, that’s her, crossing our bows. 
  
We sailed a bit further to Bembridge , or I believe it was Bembridge, again I cannot be too sure. It didn’t really matter though because it is not always the destination that interests me, sometimes it is all about the trip to get there.

At this point we turned around and headed back in the general direction of Calshot, which was a pity because I really would have liked to have gotten closer to the Spitbank Forts, there was a Brittany Ferries boat heading away from Portsmouth that I was hoping we would get to have a look at but she was moving quite quickly and we would have never caught her anyway.

Our trip back towards Calshot was taken at a leisurely pace, and there were two possible answers to that question. But, we will have to turn the page to find out what they are.

 
© DRW 2014-2017. Created 27/07/2014. Images recreated 19/04/2016
Updated: 13/12/2016 — 20:09

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
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