The Edwin Fox

From ‘Shaw Savill Line, One hundred years of trading’, Sydney D Waters. Whitcombe & Tombs, 1961. (Abridged)

[One of] the many remarkable ships owned by Shaw Savill & Co. was the Edwin Fox, whose hulk, now 105 years old, has been lying for many years at Picton, port of Marlborough [New Zealand]. She was built of the best Burma teak-wood in 1853 in Sulkeali, a province of Bengal. She was laid down to the order of the Hon. East India Company, but while still on the stocks was sold to Sir George Edmund Hodgkinson of Cornhill, London.

Edwin Fox 1-2

Originally a full-rigged ship, later a barque, Edwin Fox carried troops to the Crimean War, convicts to Australia, and passengers to India.

The ship continued to trade to India and the Far East until 1873 when she was chartered by Shaw Savill & Co. …. After clearing the Channel she was damaged in a gale in the Bay of Biscay. The crew broached some cases of spirits and became so drunk that the passengers had to man the pumps as the ship was leaking badly. She was towed into Brest and there repaired.

The Edwin Fox was purchased by Shaw Savill & Co. in 1875 and during the next decade she made a yearly voyage out to New Zealand, firmly establishing her reputation as a ‘slowcoach’. …. in 1880 she arrived at Lyttelton with twenty saloon, twelve second-class and seventy-seven steerage passengers, all of whom were full of complaints about their accommodation. In the following year she was 139 days on passage from London to Bluff.

Some years later the rapidly growing frozen meat trade gave new employment to the ship.

Edwin Fox 2-2

In 1885 The Edwin Fox was fitted with refrigerating machinery and, stripped of her rigging but with lower masts still standing, was used as a freezing hulk in various New Zealand ports.

Finally she was towed to Picton under engagement to freeze for the Wairau Freezing Company. In 1899…. she was converted into a coal hulk and loading stage and moored at the foot of the hill on which the freezing works stand. There she lies, a relic of a past era and a never-ending source of interest to sightseers.

Edwin Fox 4-3

The Edwin Fox in Shakespeare Bay, Marlborough Sounds, in 1983.

This story has a happy ending. Twenty-five years after Mr. Waters published his book and three years after these photographs were taken, the hulk of the Edwin Fox was saved from total disintegration. It is now housed in its own covered dry dock on Picton waterfront, only a few minutes walk from the Cook Strait ferry terminal, and is still a never-ending source of interest to sightseers.
Read full details of the ship’s fascinating career on this page from the New Zealand Maritime Museum.

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A Survivor’s Story

E_Hilder's hospital

Hilder’s Military Hospital, Haslemere, England, photographed in 1915.
Postcard by Francis Frith.

Dear Pat
This is the hospital I am in [at] present. I am still in bed Nov 11th 1918. But getting on alright.
Jock

It was Armistice Day and John (a.k.a. Jock) Eastwood of ‘A’ Company, 3rd Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade had survived the Great War. Damaged but still alive.

Jock didn’t fit the popular modern image of a WWI soldier – a naive 20-something who thought it would be an adventure and all over by Christmas. It was 1917 when he pulled on the uniform by which time all such romantic notions had disappeared, along with the supply of 20-somethings to recruit or conscript. Armies involved in the conflict had been forced to raise their age limits. Jock was a 37 year-old self-employed “merchant” when he was called up.

Described as having fair hair, blue eyes and standing 5 ft 7 inches tall, he was a bachelor who lived with his unmarried sister (two years his senior) in Collingwood Street, Ponsonby, Auckland. She was not his “dependent” so may have been a partner in the business. Her given name was Martha but Jock always greeted her as Pat.

In an undated postcard of Featherston Camp he wrote, We were marched to Featherston on Saturday for shower bath. We have had no leave yet.

E_Featherston

At the time of writing it is blowing like the devil. The place is the last created. The food is very good. We expect to leave here in 2 weeks.

Jock had been passed “fit for service” on 8th June with no problems except for his teeth. Their condition was stamped “For Treatment”, a fairly common ammendment to army medical forms at the time.

With military training behind him and, evidently, minus several teeth, he boarded the troopship Tahiti on 16th November 1917 and left Wellington as part of convoy 97 next day.

E_Tahiti

Alls well
Having good trip. Have not been sea sick. Getting teeth when we land.

The voyage lasted seven weeks and Tahiti disembarked her passengers at Liverpool on 7th January 1918. They went straight to Brocton Camp in Staffordshire, which was no great improvement on Featherston if these postcard images are any indication.

E_Brocton 2

Jock wasted no time sending this card to his sister, posting it on the day he arrived.

E_Brocton N

Both cards look like they were produced quickly and cheaply. No message on either, just his name, army number – 62527 – and new address.

This would be luxury accommodation compared to what lay ahead. Jock was sent to France in late March, “attached Strength” at Abeele, and assigned to ‘A’ Company on 5th April. Ten months after signing up, he had finally arrived at the front.

Six months later, on 8th October, Rifleman John Eastwood suffered a gunshot wound to the head and was evacuated to the 83rd military base hospital at Boulogne where he was put on the danger list for over a fortnight. When judged well enough to travel, he was transfered to Cambridge Military Hospital at Aldershot in England. Hilder’s isn’t mentioned in his army record but it was an auxiliary hospital under the control of Cambridge and we know from Jock’s own hand that he was there when peace broke out.

Hilder’s had been a private house before the war, the residence of Lady Aberconway who donated it for the benefit of war casualties. She converted her London home to a hospital as well. Ironically, given the Ottoman Empire was on the enemy side, that building now houses the Turkish Embassy.

Jock was moved once more, to Walton-on-Thames in December, before being sent home on the ship Maheno in March 1919. His official discharge papers didn’t arrive until August, bearing the standard rubber stamp “No longer physically fit for war service on account of wounds received in action”. It seems like a heartless way to end the relationship. A simple “thank you” or “we appreciate your sacrifice” would not have gone amiss, but in 1919 Rifleman Eastwood was seen as just another British subject who had done his duty for the Empire.

Jock and Pat tried to return to normal life, now in a different house a couple of blocks away from Collingwood Street, at 34 Franklin Road. It was not to be. Pat died there on 27th December 1921, aged 44.

Jock died at Auckland Hospital on 7th July 1941 “in his 62nd year” leaving two brothers, a niece and two nephews to mourn his loss.

John/Jock Eastwood, and others like him, is unlikely to feature in history books. He was one of the faceless thousands given a number and a rifle and shipped off to a battlefield on the other side of the world, to endure conditions most of us can’t even imagine. A middle-aged man literally minding his own business who was plunged into a nightmare.

Jock was one of the lucky ones who managed to cheat death, but should be no less remembered for that on Armistice Day.

Text © Mike Warman.

Sources: NZ Army records, 5 postcards in my collection, Auckland Star and New Zealand Herald of various dates.

Note: Jock was a stranger to punctuation, and capital letters popped up at random. I have edited his words to make them easier to follow.

 

 

Sacrificial Horses

So overwhelming has been the thought of human suffering in Europe, so anxious has the world been to relieve it, that little thought has been bestowed on the dumb sufferers. Various war photographs have shown us the novel sight of the dogs of Belgium impressed into service for dragging the smaller guns; but all contestants use horses, and when we reflect that the average life of a cavalry horse at the front is not more than a week, if that, we gain some idea of the sacrifice of animals which modern warfare demands.

H_Albert

King Albert of Belgium at the Front, 1914. Image from a vintage postcard.

One of the pleaders for the horse is John Galsworthy, the English novelist, who gives in the London Westminster Gazette this moral aspect of the use of the horse in warfare, with the attendant obligation:

H_cavalry“Man has only a certain capacity for feeling, and that has been strained almost to breaking point by human needs. But now that the wants of our wounded are being seen to with hundreds of motor ambulances and hospitals fully equiped, now that the situation is more in hand, we can surely turn a little to the companions of man. They, poor things, have no option in this business; they had no responsibility, however remote and indirect, for its inception; get no benefit out of it of any kind whatever; know none of the sustaining sentiments of heroism; feel no satisfaction in duty done. They do not even – as the prayer for them untruly says – ‘offer their guileless lives for the wellbeing of their countries.’ They know nothing of countries; they do not offer themselves. Nothing so little pitiable as that. They are pressed into this service, which cuts them down before their time.”

That the European war threatened to deplete the stock of horses even in the United States is emphasized by a careful computation which fixed at 185,023 the number of horses shipped to the warring nations from July 1, 1914, to March 31, 1915.

Buyers representing the British, French and Russian governments were reported as searching the country for more, and, according to estimates made by shippers, at least 120,000 animals were to be shipped to Europe during the summer of 1915.

Shippers were deeply interested when it became known for a certainty that the German government had representatives purchasing horses in the West. Wood Brothers, the largest horse dealers in Nebraska, were asked to bid on a 25,000-head shipment. Ruling prices for the grade of horses desired by foreign buyers have ranged from $175 to $200 per head.

H_munitions

A German postcard of a munitions train.

The last step before placing the horses on shipboard was to adjust special halters to them, so that, as in the case of many horses purchased by France, it was only necessary, when the animals reached the other side, to snap two straps to his head-stalls and make him instantly ready to be hitched to a gun limber or a wagon of a transport train.
‘Earl Kitchener and the Great War’, Captain Logan Howard-Smith. John C. Winstone Co., Limited, Toronto Canada. 1916.

The Liner that sank a battleship

Cigarette card image of the White Star ship Arabic.“The twin-screw steamer “Arabic,” 16,786 tons, is engaged in the White Star Line service from Mediterranean ports to Boston and New York, and is the largest liner regularly plying in this trade. This ship is noted for her graceful lines. She is 590 feet in length, and has a breadth of 69 feet. The “Arabic” public rooms are features of architectural splendour and luxurious furnishings. She has a verandah cafe and a photographic darkroom, which latter is of special service to camera lovers cruising the Mediterranean.”

This caption from a cigarette card printed in the 1920s doesn’t mention that Arabic began life as the Nordd. Lloyd’s s.s. Berlin. Best not remind the White Star company passengers that their luxury ‘British’ liner once had a short, but very successful, career as a German minelayer in the First World War.

Arabic 37479v

ggbain 37479 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.37479
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Built in 1909, the Berlin worked the Genoa to New York service until the outbreak of war when she was fitted out as a minelayer for the German navy. On the night of October 23rd-24th, 1914, she laid a large field off the Ulster coast and headed home around the north of Scotland where she was damaged in a storm. The ship took refuge at Trondheim in neutral Norway and, unable to complete repairs and leave in the required 24 hours, was interned for the rest of the war.

Meanwhile, on the morning of 27th October, the almost new dreadnought battleship H.M.S. Audacious was preparing for gunnery practice off the Irish coast, along with 2nd Battle Squadron, Royal Navy, when she side-swiped one of Berlin’s mines.

Audacious

© Imperial War Museum (Q 75212)

The explosion blew a hole in her port side near the engine room and she began to take on water. The initial suspect was a torpedo from a U-boat so the squadron scattered until the real culprit was confirmed. Then a rescue flotilla, including the White Star liner Olympic, descended on the stricken ship despite the threat of more mines. For the rest of the day, while all but essential personel abandoned ship, there were attempts to tow Audacious to shore, but all lines snapped as the heavy battleship wallowed in the swell.

audacious sinking

© IWM (Q 75584)

Eventually, in the darkness with no one left on board, Audacious turned over and, 45 minutes later, an explosion in the magazine sent her to the bottom. You can read a more detailed account on this Royal Navy site and a short, vivid, eye-witness description by Lieutenant Thomas Galbraith is worth your time. He writes about the “horrible feeling” when the engines stopped – “one felt she was dying”. Which underlines an odd quirk of human nature.

Anyone who has ‘been to sea’ for more than a ferry trip will come to regard “their” ship as a living entity and they’ll experience an emotional response to it, sometimes bad but most times good if luck holds. Size doesn’t matter. It can be a fishing trawler or a bulk carrier. Aircraft, trains, and cars “crash” and are written off. Ships “die”, and it’s a difficult thing to watch.

But I digress.

After the war, Berlin was one of many German ships confiscated by the Western Allies to replace lost tonnage. Refitted and renamed Arabic, she took her first White Star sailing from Southampton in 1921 and was scrapped ten years later.

H.M.S. Audacious lies upside down on the seafloor at a depth of 200 feet and is considered an accessible wreck for experienced divers. She was the only British dreadnought sunk in World War One.
By a passenger liner.
Remotely.

The Great Air Race

air race 1934On October 20th, 1934, the eve of the Air race from England to Australia for a £10,000 prize, the King, the Queen and the Prince of Wales appeared at Mildenhall, where mechanics laboured to have the machines ready for the start at 6.30 the next morning. Seconds were so precious that special permission was asked for repairs to the D.H. Comet (flown by Cathcart Jones and Waller) to continue while the Royal party were shown round the sheds. The Queen – behind whom stand Mr. and Mrs. Mollison – had never stepped inside an aeroplane until this visit to Mildenhall.
‘The Reign of H.M. King George V’, W.D. & H.O. Wills. 1935.

The Comet in the background is ‘Black Magic’ flown by Jim and Amy Mollison. This was considered the race favourite but they were stopped at Baghdad by a seized engine.

DH88 Comet 2The third day of the great air race from Mildenhall (England) to Melbourne (Australia) for the MacRobertson Trophy given in connection with the Victorian Centenary celebrations finds the leaders, Scott and Black, in their D.H. Comet, actually in Australia and more than half-way across the continent to Melbourne, their arrival having been announced at Charleville, Queensland, 787 miles from Melbourne, at 8.42 a.m. Australian time. This is a magnificent performance.

Douglas DC2Some hours behind Scott and Black flies the majestic Dutch Douglas [DC2] airliner, piloted by Parmentier and Moll, and carrying three passengers. It is reported to have reached Darwin this morning.

The record of comparative freedom in this race from serious mishap to pilots has been broken unfortunately by the tragic deaths of Baines and Gilman, the first an Englishman who learned to fly in New Zealand and the second a New Zealander born and a popular officer in the Royal Air Force in England. They met disaster in the Apennines in Southern Italy. Their machine crashed and took fire, and both were burnt to death. [Corrected later to “killed on impact”.]
‘The Evening Post’ (Wellington, N.Z.), 23 Oct 1934.

United Press Association—By Electric Telegraph—Copyright. MELBOURNE, October 23.
DH88 CometBefore the gaze of a great crowd C. W. A. Scott and T. Campbell Black crossed the finishing line on Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, in their red de Havilland Comet, and claimed for Britain the £10,000 prize in the MacRobertson Air Race. The great race finished in torrential rain, at 3.24 p.m., Mr. Scott’s time for the Mildenhall-Melbourne journey being 70 hours 54 minutes, or 1 hour 6 minutes less than three days. After passing the finishing line the aeroplane went on to land at the R.A.A.F. depot at Laverton. One hundred and fifty thousand people gathered at Flemington to witness the finish of the race, despite the ominous clouds of an approaching thunderstorm.

As the Comet swept into view, swooped down and crossed the broad calico line of the finishing mark the crowd burst into cheers. The Comet rose, circled again, then swept away towards the landing ground at Laverton 10 miles away.

Interviewed, Scott said:— “A dreadful trip. That’s praising it. Neither of us had a wink of sleep. We had to be on the job all the time. We were feeling done in on the run down, but are better now we are here. We thank the people for the marvellous welcomes on our progress through Australia. We are jolly glad we have arrived. We received the scare of our lives when the port engine stopped, and prepared our lifebelts. The last two and a half hours to Darwin were a nightmare. Had the two engines kept going the race would have been mine earlier.”

At Charleville when the aeroplane was overhauled by mechanics for the last stage to Melbourne, it was found that a sticking exhaust valve on the port engine was causing the trouble.

CometMr. Geoffrey de Havilland said: “Scott and Black have done better than we expected. The machine was hardly ready for such a flight. There wasn’t time to try it out thoroughly. Actually it only had fuel consumption tests during the first hop to Bagdad. A little more time would have enabled us thoroughly to test the Comets and ensure that all three reached Australia. As it was, the Mollisons and Cathcart Jones had bad luck, but some of their troubles could have been avoided had we had more time.”
‘The Evening Post’ 24 Oct 1934.

Newspaper reports have been edited for length.

Scott’s Comet, ‘Grosvenor House’, is still flying as part of the Shuttleworth collection and the Mollison’s ‘Black Magic’ is being restored at Derby.

And the winners are….

A Friday Flashback to 1983 and those golden days when New Zealand was part of the World Rally Circuit.

Rally winners-2

Winners Walter Rohrl and Christian Geistdoerfer on the finish podium at Wellington. Rohrl was so famous he had a minion in the background to spray the champagne for him. (Just kidding, Walter).

R_Lancia rally car-3

Fans get a close look at Rohrl’s favourite rally car, the Lancia Rally 037, between stages.

Images © Mike Warman.

 

 

H.M.S. Victory

Although the Victory was ordered for the Royal Navy in 1759 and is still in commission as a flagship, she is for ever remembered for just one battle on one day; Trafalgar, 21st October 1805, and her association with one man; Admiral Horatio Nelson.

Victory

Still afloat at Portsmouth in the early 1900s.

V_Nelson…. “in his new flagship, the Victory, [Nelson] had one of the stateliest three-deckers ever built, a vessel in every way worthy to receive him [in 1803]. She had been laid down when he was still in his cradle, had been launched at Chatham in 1765, and had worn the flags of Keppel, Kempenfelt, Howe, Hood, St Vincent and other, lesser, admirals. She had just undergone a large repair which was practically a rebuilding, and was capable of a surprising turn of speed. Had Nelson been offered his choice, he could not have proposed a finer or a lovelier ship.

Such a ship was “tall” indeed, for her main-mast, with its top-mast and top-gallant, rose 175 feet above her deck. She mounted 104 guns, and with all her size and capacity there was not a corner wasted, from the depths of her hold with its ordered stores and well-stowed ammunition to the skid-beams on the spar-deck where the boats were ready for hoisting out by tackle at the word of command.”
‘A Portrait of Lord Nelson’, Oliver Warner. The Reprint Society, 1958. [Edited]

V_KGVThe Victory remained in service after Nelson’s death and the French/Spanish defeat at Trafalgar until paid off in 1812, and was afterwards moored at Portsmouth as either a receiving ship or flagship into the early part of the 20th century. Then, in 1922……

….. “it was discovered that Nelson’s famous flagship, the Victory, was sinking at her moorings in Portsmouth Harbour, and that the timbers of the hull were in perilous condition. She was accordingly moved permanently into dry dock, and thorough measures taken to restore her. A careful study of naval records has enabled the Victory’s appearance at the time of the battle of Trafalgar, and the Admiral’s quarters, to be reproduced.

On July 26th, 1924, before holding the Naval Review at Spithead, the King and the Prince of Wales went over the famous old man-of-war, and inspected the work of reconstruction.”
‘The Reign of H.M. King George V’, 1935. W.D. & H.O. Wills.

H.M.S. Victory

The restored H.M.S. Victory in 1928, the year it was opened to the public.

Victory gun deck

The lower gun deck. The crew slept and ate here too.

“Impressive as the Victory still is, in her meticulously preserved condition at Portsmouth, she is now but a shell of the sea fortress which dominated the Mediterranean. Her immense spread of sail, which gave her speed, has gone forever; her eight hundred and fifty men, who gave her power, are no more than memories.”
Ibid: Warner.

This impressive “shell” has managed to draw visitors by the million since 1928 and, with the help of some expensive, high tech care and attention should continue to do so for many more years.

It could be argued that Trafalgar was as important to Britain in the 19th century as the Battle of Britain was in the 20th, and for the same reason; they both foiled an invasion by a foreign power. Trafalgar Day will be commemorated this Sunday.

I had intended to write more about the ship, the battle, and the Admiral but Mike at A Bit About Britain did it first – and better – with his post on 24th August. I recommend you read it. In fact, if you’re planning to visit Britain, or just want to explore the place without leaving your chair, this blog is essential reading. (And he didn’t pay me to write that).