H.M.S. President

Coming along the [Thames] Embankment from Westminster, we notice the change on the lamps, which now bear the City arms, and there is a medallion of Queen Victoria where the famous Square Mile begins. On the right we come to the training ship President, which rises and falls with the tide so that sometimes, walking down Temple Avenue, we see it rising up in front of us and at other times hardly see it at all.

HMS President 2

At times we may see an Admiral’s flag flying from this training ship, for every Admiral appointed to the Admiralty for any special work is officially appointed to H M S President, the nearest ship available.
‘London’, Arthur Mee. Hodder and Stoughton, 1937.

HMS President 1

You won’t see the President at all now, at any stage of the tide. This WWI submarine hunter, launched in 1918, was sold out of the Royal Navy in 1988 and after several years in private ownership was moved to Chatham dockyard two years ago. Since then a preservation society has been trying to save her from the breakers but, checking their website, it looks like their battle may have been lost and this historic ship will be reduced to scrap. Recent news is hard to find. The society’s last message on their Twitter account was posted in September.

Photos © Mike Warman, 1970.

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The Tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amen

Carter_S 1The First Inspection.
The discovery of the tomb of Tut-ankh-Amen thrilled the world, and Nov. 26th, 1922, when the tomb was entered by the late Earl of Carnarvon, his daughter, Lady Evelyn Herbert, and Mr. Howard Carter, proved one of the most exciting days in the lives of those renowned Egyptologists. A flight of 16 steps and a sloping passage 30 ft. long led to a sealed doorway. In this a hole was made through which the discoverers clambered. A first glimpse within the room (afterwards called the Antechamber) revealed an amazing collection of statues, couches, chests, vases, etc.

Carter_S 2Interior of Antechamber.
Although the room measured only 26 ft. by 12 ft., it was found to contain between 600 and 700 objects. Our illustration shows the northern end of the room with the two life-sized statues of the king, each with gold kilt and sandals and armed with mace and staff. The exquisitely decorated painted wooden casket on the right held many robes, one of which bore upwards of 3,000 gold rosettes. (After photo by Harry Burton, of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

Carter_S 3The Gold Coffin of Tut-Ankh-Amen.
The mummy of the Pharoah Tut-ankh-Amen rested within the innermost of three coffins of human form, which were enclosed within a carved sarcophagus of yellow quartzite. The two outer coffins are covered with sheet gold, the head and hands of the first being of solid gold. We show Mr. Howard Carter….at work on the third coffin, which is of solid gold. He is removing the consecration oils, hardened by age into a pitch-like material.

Churchman’s cigarette cards, Treasure Trove series, 1937.

Where no man ever stood before

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is said to be the best one-day hike in New Zealand and the route is walked by thousands of visitors each year. But, in the mid-19th century, it was uncharted territory for new settlers. The first man to climb Mount Tongariro, and only the second European to penetrate so far inland, was 24-year-old John Carne Bidwill. This is a (heavily) edited version of his detailed account.

March 3rd, 1839 – When I arose in the morning, I was astonished to see the mountains around covered with snow, except the cone, which was visible from its base to the apex, and appeared quite close. The natives said the mountain had been making a noise in the night, which, at the time, I thought was only fancy : there seemed to be a little steam rising from the top, but the quantity was not sufficient to obscure the view. I set off immediately after breakfast, with only two natives, as all the others were afraid to go any nearer to the much dreaded place; nor could I persuade the two who did set off with me to go within a mile of the base of the cone.

As I was toiling over a very steep hill, I heard a noise which caused me to look up, and saw that the mountain was in a state of eruption : a thick column of black smoke rose up for some distance, and then spread out like a mushroom ….. the noise, which was very loud, and not unlike that of the safety-valve of a steam-engine, lasted about half an hour, and then ceased, after two or three sudden interuptions. I could see no fire, nor do I believe there was any, or that the eruption was anything more than hot water and steam.

MA_I281750_TePapa_Ketetahi-Steam-Holes_full-2

 “Steam holes” on Mount Tongariro.

The cone is entirely composed of loose cinders, and I was heartily tired of the exertion before I reached the top. Had it not been for the idea of standing where no man ever stood before, I should certainly have given up the undertaking.

MA_I249512_TePapa_Summit-of-Tongariro-Shewing_full-2

One man and his dog repeat Bidwill’s achievement. c.1880s.

After I had ascended about two-thirds of the way, I got into what appeared a water-course, the solid rock of which….was much easier to climb than the loose dust and ashes I had hitherto scrambled over. It was lucky for me another eruption did not take place while I was in it, or I should have been infallibly boiled to death, as I afterwards found that it led to the lowest part of the crater, and from indubitable proofs that a stream of hot mud and water had been running there during the time I saw the smoke from the top.

The crater was the most terrific abyss I ever looked into or imagined. The rocks overhung it on all sides, and it was not possible to see above ten yards into it from the quantity of steam which it was continually discharging.

MA_I249826_TePapa_Ngaruahoe-Ruapehu-From_full-2

Tongariro’s summit crater with the cone of Ngauruhoe in the background and snow-capped Ruapehu beyond that.

I did not stay at the top so long as I could have wished because I heard a strange noise coming out of the crater, which I thought betokened another eruption. I saw several lakes and rivers, and the [surrounding] country appeared about half covered with wood, which I should not have thought had I not gone to this place.

I had not above five minutes to see any part of the country, as I was enveloped in clouds almost as soon as I got up to the top. As I did not wish to see an eruption near enough to be either boiled or steamed to death, I made the best of my way down….. I was half frozen before I reached the ravine, and thoroughly drenched by the mist; so that I was very glad when I found the place where I had left the natives and the fire. I got back to the tent about seven in the evening.
‘Rambles in New Zealand’, J.C. Bidwill, 1841. Reprint by Capper Press, 1974.

Photographs by Burton Brothers in the 1880s from the Te Papa Collection.

Note : Tongariro is better behaved today and, like its neighbours, is closely monitored by all kinds of scientific instruments. They can’t even sigh without their minders noticing. There are shorter walks available in the park if you don’t feel up to the Alpine Crossing.

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.

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.