Film by British Pathé, ‘Vivid Demonstration’ (1936), shot at Eastleigh Aerodrome (later Southampton Airport) on 26th March, 1936. Film features Vickers Long Range Bomber and a Spitfire prototype. This was the Spitfire’s 2nd test flight. Film also shows pilot Jeffrey Quill getting into the Spitfire. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.14.
Saturday 5th March will be the 80th anniversary of Spitfire’s first test flight from Eastleigh Aerodrome (later Southampton Airport), Hampshire which took place on 5th March, 1936. The first Spitfire test flight lasted 8 minutes. Southampton Airport will be marking this momentous occasion, a Spitfire will take-off from there on Saturday on an 80th birthday flight.
It will first fly close to the resting place of its Chief Designer R. J. Mitchell (1895-1937). Continuing along the river Itchen to Southampton Water where it will pass near to the site of the old Supermarine factory in Woolston where many thousands of the aircraft were built. Onwards to Portsmouth harbour before flying back on itself to Southampton Airport.
According to Southampton Airport’s website, the Spitfire should be visible, around the Solent, between 11 am and 12 noon on Saturday 5th. Subject to weather conditions, there will be good vantage points along the River Itchen, Weston Shore, Hythe, Royal Victoria Country Park, Lee on Solent and Cowes (Isle of Wight).
Afterwards, head down to the brilliant, hidden gem that is Solent Sky Museum, Southampton (Twitter: @SpitfireSolent). On Saturday 5th, this multi-award winning Museum will be open from 12.30pm (admission charges apply) for a packed afternoon of activities to commemorate the Spitfire’s 80th anniversary. A new exhibition will also open on Saturday, ‘Southampton and the People’s Spitfire’, containing over 100 photographs documenting Southampton’s Blitz.
This exhibition will focus on Southampton’s role producing the Spitfire in ‘Southampton’s Blitz’. During the Battle of Britain, in 1940, Southampton was heavily bombed and the Supermarine factory was destroyed. Spitfire production was dispersed to any local site with enough floor space to produce Spitfire components. The exhibition also commemorates the heroic efforts of local residents to maintain Spitfire production at all costs.
The Spitfire production line at the Vickers Supermarine Works in Southampton, 1940.
There were 20, 531 Spitfires built, the last one rolled off the production line in 1947. Surviving examples are extremely rare (there is one in Solent Sky Museum – Mk24 PK683). The first Spitfire prototype was originally called “The Fighter” F.37/34 but subsequently this changed to prototype K5054.
Captain Joseph “Mutt” Summers (1904-1954) piloted the first Spitfire test flight in 1936. Mutt joined Vickers Aviation Ltd in June 1929, a year later he became chief test pilot at Supermarine Aviation Works. Jeffrey Kindersley Quill (1913-1996), piloted the second test flight on 26th March, 1936 (see film at top of article). Jeffrey was known as “Mr Spitfire” and was Mutt’s assistant. In January, 1936, he began working at Vickers and its subsidiary Supermarine.
‘Solent Sky Museum Seeking Stories Recalling World War Two’ by Shan Robins (That’s Solent TV) featuring an interview with Museum Director Sqn/Ldr Alan Jones MBE CRAeS RAF Rtd. Alan also introduces some special Spitfire related artefacts from the Museum’s deep archives. Uploaded to You Tube 13.2.2016.
I recently assisted on and participated in several films made by Shan Robins (Senior Broadcaster at That’s Solent TV) shot on location at Solent Sky Museum. It was a wonderful opportunity to find-out more about some of the Museum’s most famous exhibits.
‘The Schneider Trophy’s Influence on the Design of the Spitfire’ film by Shan Robins (That’s Solent TV) featuring Museum Director Sqn/Ldr Alan Jones MBE CRAeS RAF Rtd. Uploaded to You Tube 4.2.2016.
‘Flying Boats: A Look Back at a Bygone Era’ by Shan Robins (That’s Solent TV) featuring an interview with myself made on location at Solent Sky Museum, which is also home to the ‘Beachcomber’, a flying boat originally built in 1943 as a Short Sunderland Mk3, but in 1947 was converted to operate commercial flights with passengers. Uploaded to You Tube 18.2.2016.
There are many exhibits at Solent Sky that fascinate me but the Beachcomber is by far my favourite. In 2012, I wrote an article about the Beachcomber. On my recent visits to make the above films, I made sure I spent some more time looking around this lovely vintage flying boat.
Flying Boats and Southampton
In the summer of 1919 (16th August), Supermarine operated Britain’s first commercial flying boat service from the Royal Pier, near Southampton docks. The first flights were local, to Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Isle of Wight, on a Channel Mk.1 aircraft. In September, 1919, Supermarine operated its first international flying boat service from its premises at Woolston travelling to Le Havre.
The service to Le Havre did not operate for long, starting-up again in September 1923 when flying boats serviced the route between Woolston and Cherbourg. In 1924, British Marine became Imperial Airways who continued to operate flying boat services from Woolston. Between the 1924 and 1958, Southampton became one of the busiest flying boat ports in the world.
Before the jet age really took hold, towards the end of the 1950s, flying boats were the popular, if most expensive, method of travel overseas. Only the wealthy could afford the ticket price as well as spare the time needed to complete the journey. Travelling to the other side of the world by flying boat could take eight days or more. Some of the journey would have to be made via ship or other modes of transport until flying boats were servicing more routes. Eight days may seem a long time now but actually, back then it was considered extremely quick!
Film by British Pathé, ‘Flying Boat – Sydney Aka New Empire Flying Boat Leaves Sydney For Southampton’ (1938).
Like the Spitfire, the flying boat is also celebrating a big birthday this year. On 3rd July it will be the 80th anniversary of Imperial Airways’ first Short C Class flight from Southampton which took place in 1936. Imperial Airways’ first revenue flight took place on 6th February, 1937 and henceforward, Hythe (near Southampton), became the airline’s home base. Only 42 of this type of flying boat were built.
In the new C Class ‘boats, passenger comfort took precedence. A smoking cabin at the front of the aircraft was fitted out like a lounge, with chairs facing each other around small tables. Behind this was a galley, where a steward delivered restaurant quality meals on china plates. Amidships was the “promenade” deck with large, high-placed windows where passengers could stand and see their sights. In all, 24 passengers could be carried.
All this luxury came at a high price, however. The round trip from Southampton to Australia cost as much as a small house in 1937…. Today, aircraft travel at upwards of thirty thousand feet, and frequently all that is visible is clouds. In the C Class, though, there was no pressurised cabin, so flying took place at low level for the whole of the journey. This enabled Imperial Airways to make scheduled flights almost into sight-seeing tours.
(‘Southampton: The Gateway to The Empire’ by Chris Smith, The Solent Sky magazine, Summer 2014, pp. 16-19)
This first C Class flight took place over Southampton Waters. Southampton was chosen as the location for an international “marine aeroport”, or “airport”. As the name suggests, the first airports were actually located at seaports, Southampton being one of the first.
Airports were originally not the landlocked complex of buildings and terminals that we know today. Historically, that type of airport would actually have been known as an aerodrome. In the 1930s, Southampton’s aerodrome was based at Eastleigh and is today Southampton Airport.
British Pathé film, ‘Empire Flying Boat (Imperial Airways) ‘Centaurus’ leaves for flight to New Zealand from Southampton’ (1937). Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.
Imperial Airways flying boat ‘Centaurus’ at Hythe, Hampshire with its five- man crew. The plane flew to Egypt, Iraq and Singapore bringing India to within 2 and 1/2 days air-travel from Britain. L to r Flt Clerk R Doel, First Officer A Richardson, Captain J Sheppard, Wireless Operator L F Mitchell and steward E W Rowcliffe. 1938.
In March 1937, Imperial Airways Limited (1924-1939) started their twice-weekly services to Alexandria and later that year to South and East Africa. These aircraft were maintained at the Hythe flying-boat base until early 1938 when operations moved to Folland’s hangar at Hamble which could now handle five C Class boats at any one time.
From May 1938, arrangements were made for passengers to embark directly onto the aircraft from a pontoon at Berth 101 in Southampton New Docks, doing away with having to board from a launch. Departures to Sydney, Australia left at 5.15am. For early-morning take-offs buoys equipped with electric lights were strung out to indicate the ‘runway’. (Source: Flying Boats of the Solent and Poole by Mike Phipp, 2013, p.46)
A snapshot photograph of a an Imperial Airways flying boat moored to a jetty in Southampton harbour, taken by an unknown photographer in about 1935.
Imperial Airways established their services as four times a week to India, three times to East Africa and twice to Durban, Malaya, Hong Kong and Australia. On 5th July 1937 their first Transatlantic service was started with flights from the UK by Imperial and from the USA by Pan American. In September 1939, Imperial Airways transferred their aircraft and services to Poole Harbour.
Photograph from 1936. A Flight Steward aboard the giant flying-boat, ‘Canopus’ serves breakfast to passengers in their bunks. Imperial Airways’ Canopus was on the Alexandria-Athens service. It cruised at 200mph and carried 16 passengers in night stages.
In the pre-war era, flying with Imperial Airways was everything you would expect it to be, if you had money that is. Passengers who flew regularly with the airline were even allowed to have their valet with them. If you didn’t have a valet to look after your every in-flight need, then you would be looked after by a Flight Steward. In these early years of seaplane travel, all Stewards were male.
Facilities on-board these early flying boats were not luxurious but were adequate. The Short Calcutta and Kent flying-boats were equipped with twin-burner oil stoves, there were no cooking facilities on the Empire ‘boats. Restaurant standard meals were prepared locally in ports across the world, decanted into vacuum flasks and stowed for service in either hot boxes or ice chests.
Steward preparing lunch in the galley of an Imperial Airways, Short L.17 Scylla, a landplane version of the 38 passenger Kent flying boat. The London-Paris route, 1934.
Fruit juices were transferred from the vacuum flasks into serving jugs, bread rolls and Ryvitas were placed in baskets. Food was always served on china plates. Preserves and butter were put on plates and covered with doilies. White linen table cloths and serviettes, metal cutlery, side plates and cruets were laid-out on the tables in each of the cabins.
In 1937 and 1938, Imperial Airways even served Christmas dinners to their passengers, in 1938, Thanksgiving dinner was also provided, popular on the transatlantic routes. All meals were accompanied by wine, spirits, cocktails, soft drinks, hot beverages (tea, cocoa, coffee, chocolate, Bovril, OXO and Horlicks). Below are examples of Imperial Airways’ dinner menus. First is from 30th August 1938 and second one is from flying boat ‘VB Corsair, date unknown but late 1930s:
The Mayoress of Southampton christens the ‘Southampton.’ Naming ceremony of the RMA ‘Southampton’, at which a libation of wine from a silver ewer is poured over the aircraft. The ceremony took place at the new flying boat base at Southampton docks (Berth 50) which allowed passengers to step ashore straight into the airport buildings. Officially opened by Lord Nathanon on 14th April, 1948.
After World War Two, Imperial Airways became the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). The last C Class retired in c.1947. A new marine air terminal was built for BOAC at Berth 50 in Southampton’s docks with bars, lounges and dining rooms, and a direct rail line was established to London Waterloo. However, in 1948, BOAC gradually started to replace their flying boats with modern land aircraft. Their flying-boat services, from Southampton, finally ended in the autumn of 1950.
British Pathé film, ‘Flying Boat Deck'(1948). Showcases the new BOAC Marine Terminal in Southampton. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.
Following BOAC’s decision to no longer operate a flying boat service out of Southampton, Aquila Airways, an independent airline, stepped-in and filled that gap, well at least until 1958. Aquila Airways Ltd was formed on the 18th May 1948 by Wing Commander Barry Aikman and operated from Hamble Beach, adjacent to the former Folland slipway.
Aquila serviced the popular route between Southampton and Madeira, initially under a BOAC Associate Agreement. Aquila also provided charter flights carrying ships’ crews. In 1948, Madeira could only be reached by ship, there were no direct flights. When Berth 50 at Southampton docks became vacant, Aquila moved in. By 1951, the airline had 12 aircraft.
At the beginning of 1949 Aquila purchased the remainder of BOAC’s Hythes and parked them on the beach at Hamble. Aquila was able to make use of Berth 50 at Southampton Docks and G-AGEU Hampshire departed on a proving flight to Funchal Bay on 24th March. Its deluxe cabins with thirty-one seats were served by three stewards, with a cocktail bar available.
(Flying Boats of the Solent and Poole by Mike Phipp, 2013, p.120)
Aquila went on to operate further routes at Capri, Santa Margherita and Montreux at Lake Geneva. All areas difficult to access via land planes. Aquila Captain Christopher Blackburn commented on the holiday atmosphere on many of these routes:
By 1957 we had quite a network of routes in operation, and were anticipating our best year. We had a tie-up with Club Mediterranee and took loads of passengers every week from Marseilles to Palermo and Corfu. This was the most enjoyable of all….The passengers were always in a holiday mood and the girls, whom we always invited up to the flight deck, often wore nothing more than a bikini. If one had a skirt on we found that the solution was for the pilot to open his window just as she was coming up the ladder, sometimes with revealing results!’
This and other passenger and crew reports demonstrate that these were truly golden days of air travel, and completely unlike modern “cattle class” operations. As a bizarre example, one regular passenger aboard Aquila Airways would insist on doing the washing up after her evening meal on board!… Air Hostess Shirley Passmore recalls that: ‘It was nice to be able to make a pot of tea and sit down and drink it with the passengers, or just walk around and chat with them and play with the children.’
(‘Southampton’s Eagles: The Last Flying Boat Airline’ by Chris Smith, The Solent Sky Magazine, Summer 2015, pp. 12-13)
Shirley was an air hostess for Aquila Airways, Southampton during the 1950s. Ivor was a flight engineer, the couple met during a practice boat-drill in 1953. When they married, they had a marzipan flying boat on top of their wedding cake.
Many stars of stage and screen flew with Aquila in the 1950s including: Harry Secombe; Terry Thomas; Trevor Howard; John Huston; Bernard Miles; Peter Butterworth; Janet Brown and John Mills.
On the whole, flight safety records for flying boats were relatively speaking, quite good. However, in late 1957, Aquila’s Short Solent flying boat RMA Sydney crashed into the side of a quarry, Chessell Down, on the Isle of Wight, due to engine failure. All 8 crew were killed, along with 35 of the 50 passengers. Aquila never quite recovered from the tragedy and ceased operations on 30th September, 1958. (Source: Ibid. p.13)
The golden age of international flying boat travel from Southampton slowly drew to a close. The flying boats could no longer compete, in terms of cost, speed and flying times, with planes like the de Havilland DH 106 Comet, a British jetliner introduced in 1952. Occasional flying boat pleasure flights still took place over the Southampton Water.
Indeed the Beachcomber made 17 passenger flights from September 5th to 9th in 1977. Operating from Calshot (the old RAF flying boat base near Southampton), well to be precise, some 4 miles from the moorings at Calshot. This was due to opposition from the Southampton and Solent authorities who did not permit flying boats to operate over Southampton Water at this time. (Source: ‘”Beachcomber”: The Story of a Sandringham and Sunderland Civil Conversions Operated In Australia by Vic Hodgkinson, p.13)
Captain Andrew Evans once wrote: ‘flying boats, in particular, had a special place in the hearts of those who travelled in them, though sadly today they are almost forgotten.’ (Source: Eagles Over Water: From Solent to the Sun – Story of Aquila Airways Ltd by Norman Hull, 1994, p. 85)
Southampton-based Vintage Hair Lounge, is one of southern England’s leading providers of vintage hair styling and make-up. Founded in 2010 by mother and daughter team, Gloria and Sharon Holloway. Sharon originally worked as a top criminal barrister but retrained, in the early 2000’s, to work as a hair and make-up artist in film, television and theatre. Gloria has been a hairdresser all of her life, spending many years as head of hair and beauty at Isle of Wight College.
In 2015, I had the privilege of interviewing Gloria at the vintage extravaganza that is, Goodwood Revival. Gloria has had a long and illustrious career in the hair and beauty industry, spanning over 5 decades. I am delighted to share with you here, highlights from my interview with Gloria.
In 1960, aged 16, Gloria began her training in historical hair and make-up for television at the BBC’s prestigious in-house academy. Gloria explains:
It was an excellent 2 year training scheme. We were taught to do everything ‘properly’, paying particular attention to historical accuracy and techniques. Unfortunately, in the year I finished my course, the BBC raised the age they employed training academy graduates, from 18 to 21. I was very disappointed that I couldn’t begin working for the BBC straightaway and would now have to wait 3 years to put my skills into practice.
However, this early setback didn’t stop Gloria from continuing with a career in hair and beauty. Returning to her family home on the Isle of Wight, Gloria set-up her own salon, with help from her parents. Gloria has fond memories of these early years:
We opened the salon in 1962/63. I really enjoyed working in a salon environment, chatting with customers and finally getting to use the skills I learned at the BBC. The 1960s was also a very exciting time to be a hairdresser. Hairstyles were changing so fast. Clients became more adventurous with their choice of cut, colours and styles. When I first started working, ‘beehives’ were very popular.
British Pathe film, ‘Luxury Hairdressers’ (1964). Uploaded to You Tube, 13.4.2014.
Gloria’s beehive updos are now legendary amongst her Vintage Hair Lounge clients. Quite simply, Gloria is the Queen of Beehives. Afterall, Gloria learned her techniques first-hand, back in the 1960s. In the last few years, Gloria has seen the beehive hairstyle make a comeback. This is thanks, in part, to being popularised by a number of celebrities from the entertainment industry.
British singer Adele was also a fan of the beehive hairstyle. 24th February, 2013. Credit: Jason Merritt.
At Vintage Hair Lounge’s pop-up salon, the beehive is still one of their most requested styles. Luckily, the team has Gloria’s first-hand knowledge of how to recreate the original look. Gloria advises that:
A traditional beehive doesn’t have a French pleat! A common mistake with modern-day versions. The hair should be smoothly swept upwards, blended at the top and sides, it should also be teamed with a fringe. Backcombing is the key to a really good beehive.
It was such a joy speaking with Gloria about her career, she is a remarkable lady with an indomitable spirit. As a social historian, I had many questions to ask relating to various aspects of hairdressing in the latter half of the 20th century. Gloria explains:
Dressing hair properly was very important in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1950s, hats were worn high on the head with hair in a French pleat. In the 1960s, Vidal Sassoon liberated women’s hairdressing. Haircuts were less complicated and a modern-take on the 1920’s ‘bob’ became popular too. Hats were still worn in the 1960s but less fussy and not so old-fashioned. In the Swinging Sixties, young people liked wearing berets and ‘baker boy’ hats. I used a lot of ‘Plix’ by L’Oreal setting lotion in the salon. I also remember creating the unusual ‘cottage loaf’ hairstyle quite a lot.
When I teach 1960s hair styling techniques on courses at Vintage Hair Lounge, I am very particular about backcombing. Nowadays, backcombing is often taught incorrectly. If not done properly, the hair will become tangled and impossible to work with. Each section of hair should be backcombed in stages all the way from root to tip and in one direction. Don’t drag the hair. This method ensures that you create strength and structure in the hair. This gives you a strong base from which to build your style. Backcombing is important when creating 1940s Victory Rolls too. You don’t need rollers to create them, just backcomb, control and shape the roll.
British hairdresser Vidal Sassoon (1928-2012) creates a long bob with a soft fringe for actress Janette Scott (b. 1938). 4th January, 1963.
British Pathe film ‘Artists in Hair Styles’ (1962). Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.
Beehive hairstyles emerged in the late 1950s, peaking in popularity during the early 1960s. Although, according to trendsetting booklet, with it: trends for ’63 (1962) : ‘Out for the with-its are bouffants and beehives. Out, too, is back-combing: it’s harmful to the hair. In are blonde and light brown shades to tone with the natural look of the new fashions’ (p.19).
Also in the early 1960s, new setting lotions, hair sprays and colourants began to emerge for professional as well as amateur home stylists. Hair spray had been around since the 1940s but by the 1960s it was mass-produced and very cheap.
Colouring your hair at home, in a wider range of shades than before, also become a reality. I found a wonderful article, ‘What it’s like to colour your hair’, in my vintage magazine collection. The article appears in a popular British weekly, Woman, (11.3.1961). Unlike today, in the early 1960s, there were only 2 options for colouring your hair at home, temporary water rinses and semi-permanent rinses. Permanent tints had to be done at a salon.
A selection of popular 1960s hairstyles. Images from my own private collection of magazines, Woman (March, 1961) and Woman’s Day (April, 1964).
The article in Woman magazine has the following advice for the home hair styling enthusiast: ‘Girls who “go a new colour,” say they feel new personalities too. It’s fun to experiment first with rinses, before going a new colour for keeps. Colour choice is huge….. If you want to dye, check that your skin-tone won’t quarrel with the new colour… check that your hair isn’t too dry…check that you can afford the upkeep…check that you and your hairdresser are the best of friends.’
Gloria Holloway during the 1960s. All images courtesy of Gloria Holloway.
Gloria married in 1966. In 1969, Gloria was approached by the Isle of Wight College who were setting-up a new hairdressing department. Gloria explains:
By the time the college approached me, I was managing 2 salons on the Island. I thought that the new department at the college was an exciting development in hairdressing education. I had always enjoyed teaching in my salons. I accepted the position at the college, initially working there part-time. When I started at the college there as no in-house salon but eventually I set one up. I was Head of Department and Head of Student Services at the college for 26 years.
Until the end of the 1980s, Gloria was the owner and innovator of 4 Isle of Wight salons (Marina Dawn, Monroe Hair). Today, Gloria is still a highly regarded lecturer and trainer in hairdressing, continueing to work closely with hairdressing training providers in both college and salon environments to improve industry skills.
Gloria’s passion for passing on her knowledge to the next generation of hair stylists has never diminished. Gloria now regularly teaches students about historic hair styling and techniques on Vintage Hair Lounge’s wide range of courses. Gloria tells me:
Hairdressing is a fantastic career! It allows you to be creative, meet new people and travel the world. It is never too late to master the skill. It is a wonderful thing to be able to make someone ‘feel good’ about themselves by simply doing their hair nicely.
When Gloria and Sharon started Vintage Hair Lounge, in 2010, they had a salon in Southampton High Street but in 2012 they closed that salon. Going forward, this enterprising and dynamic duo, now operate their business, predominantly, as mobile specialists and trainers in vintage hair and make-up. Their HQ is based at Southampton’s Solent Business Centre, facilities include an in-house photographic and training studio.
There are many unique aspects to Vintage Hair Lounge’s business model. It comes as no surprise that education and training still remains at its core. Gloria and Sharon run courses for both professionals and the general public. Keep an eye on their website for forthcoming courses as they sell-out very quickly! Click here.
‘Vintage Hair Lounge to be stocked in the British Museum’. Film by That’s Solent TV. Uploaded to You Tube 20.1.2016.
Vintage Hair Lounge also has a sister company, VHL Distribution an independent cosmetics distributor based in the UK. VHL Distribution has recently formed new partnerships for distribution in Europe with Australian based brand Eye of Horus Cosmetics(Twitter: @eyeofhorus_mu), and French brand Féret Parfumeur(Twitter: @FeretParfumeur) for distribution in the UK. Other heritage brands on VHL Distribution’s portfolio include: Papier Poudré Limited(Twitter: @papierpoudre) and Barba Italiana (Twitter: @barbaitalian #barbaitaliana).
These beautifully packaged, extremely high quality, heritage brands can be found on-sale at vintage retailers, salons and barbers, museums and gift shops. A selection of these products can also be purchased at Vintage Hair Lounge’s online store.
Exciting times are ahead for VHL Distribution(see film above). The British Museum has recently selected award winningEye of Horus Cosmetics to be sold in the gift shop, later on this year, during their major new exhibition, Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds which opens in May.
Reeves has suggested that behind these hidden doors there may be a lavish secret tomb belonging to the legendary Queen Nefertiti (the 14th century wife of Akhenaten, step-mother to Tutankhamun). Tutankhamun died at the age of 19, and it is thought that, due to his unexpected death, he may have been buried in a chamber of his step-mother’s tomb.
Continued interest in Egyptology ensures that Egyptian Revival products, such as Eye of Horus Cosmetics range, will remain popular with beauty professionals and the general public alike. It is interesting to note that Eye of HorusCosmetics range of illuminating eye makeup is actually based on sacred formulas passed down from the ancient Egyptians.
Eyeliners in the range are all made with natural waxes and oils and the incredible organic Moringa Oil, a tell-tale product found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Check out the entire Eye of Horus range at Vintage Hair Lounge’s online store.
There are many ways to connect with Vintage Hair Lounge:
An exciting new Egyptology exhibition opens at St. Barbe Museum, Lymington, Hampshire on Saturday 16th January. In Out of Egypt: exploring the passage from life to afterlife (sponsored by Thesis Asset Management), you can discover more about the religious beliefs and passage from life to the afterlife in ancient Egypt. The exhibition continues until 27th February, 2016.
St. Barbe Museum has had a recent history of producing some really terrific, unusual and cleverly curated exhibitions. I have covered quite a few of them here on Come Step Back in Time, have a browse through my article archive and see the range of fascinating subjects the Museum has covered in its exhibition programming. The press pack I have received for Out of Egypt, certainly looks like 2016 could be St. Barbe Museum’s best year yet for stimulating exhibitions!
Also on show will be items that would have been placed in tombs such as amulets for protection from harm and danger; scarabs symbolising the holy beetle in ancient Egypt and Shabti figures, as well as a beautiful funerary boat.
The exhibition has been designed to appeal to school children and families through a host of activities, while still offering lots for adults to discover and enjoy. Themes include making a mummy, life after death, hieroglyphics, Egyptian numbers, gods and goddesses, Egyptomania – souvenirs and Egypt’s influence on British culture.
The timing of Out of Egypt, couldn’t be more on point. Interest in Egyptology with the general public is now at an all time high. This follows publication, in July 2015, by British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves, of a paper that claims Tutankhamun may not have been alone in his burial chamber. A series of ultra-high-resolution images of King Tut’s tomb (subsequently designated KV62) have revealed what is believed to be the outlines of two doorways, previously blocked and plastered over.
Reeves has suggested that behind these hidden doors there may be a lavish secret tomb belonging to the legendary Queen Nefertiti (the 14th century wife of Akhenaten, step-mother to Tutankhamun). Tutankhamun died at the age of 19, and it is thought that, due to his unexpected death, he may have been buried in a chamber of his step-mother’s tomb.
If Reeves theory is correct (although a number of academics and archaeologists dispute his claims!), this could potentially over-shadow Howard Carter’s (1874-1939) discovery of King Tut’s tomb in November 1922. Excavations to prove Reeves theory have not yet begun, indeed, there is a possibility they may never do so. Why? Well, Dr Zahi Hawasshas, Egypt’s former antiquities minister, not only disputes Reeves theory. He is also adamant that a hole is not to be made in the structure of KV62 in order to carry-out further investigations.
The main tomb is extremely fragile. Any further excavations could cause some of the priceless paintings to completely collapse not to mention potentially damaging the tomb itself. Archaeologists would need to find a way to enter the secret chamber, that has been hermetically sealed for 3,500 years, without causing any harm to the tomb’s infrastructure.
Debates, arguments and theories by Egyptologists will continue to grip the public’s attention over coming months. Keep any eye on global news reports, 2016 could still be the year when one of the greatest archaeological discoveries and Egyptology’s greatest mysteries, is finally solved!
Out of Egypt Workshops
‘Anthony and Cleopatra: Interactive Storytelling’ (February 17th). Join professional actors from Treehouse Theatre for an exciting and interactive storytelling session. Shakespeare’s passionate tale of Antony and Cleopatra is the inspiration for today’s story. There will be plenty of chance to dress up too! Performances are at 10.30am and 1.45pm. This is suitable for youngsters aged 4 – 11 years. £4 child, £3 adults. Advance booking required. Book online for the morning session here Or afternoon session here ;
‘Exploring Egypt: Family Explorer Day’ (February 18th). Discover life in Ancient Egypt and handle authentic objects from the time. This explorer day compliments our exhibition Out of Egypt. Youngsters will also get the chance to make decorative Egyptian cuffs, circlets and mini scarab beads. Usual admission charges apply.
Opening Times and Admission Prices
Out of Egyptat St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery will be open Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm;
Tickets, which include entry into the museum, cost £6 for adults, £5 for senior citizens and students, £3 for children aged 5-15 years and £12 for a family of two adults and up to four children (including a voluntary gift aid donation); under fives are admitted free of charge;
Poster produced for Southern Railways (SR) to advertise the first sailing of Queen Mary, and tickets to the event from London train stations. The Queen Mary could accommodate 776 first-class, 784 tourist and 579 third-class passengers, together with 1101 officers and crew. She also won the Blue Riband of the Atlantic in 1936 and 1938, and served as a troop ship in World War Two. Artwork by Leslie Carr, who painted marine subjects and architectural and river scenes and designed posters for the SR, London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and British Railways (BR). Dimensions: 1016 mm x 1270 mm. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Sunday 3rd May, 2015 – Sailing of The ‘3 Queens’ From Southampton, Hampshire
In 2015, one of the most famous names in shipping, Cunard, celebrates its 175th anniversary. On Sunday, 3rd May, I joined the crowds of onlookers at Mayflower Park and Town Quay, Southampton (yes, I did have to make a dash between both locations to get the best images!), to witness the historic spectacle of Cunard’s ‘3 Queens’ sailing out into the Solent.
A view of a restaurant aboard Queen Mary 2. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Queen Mary 2 (2003) led her sister ships, Queen Victoria (2007) and Queen Elizabeth (2010), on a ‘thank-you’ procession down Southampton Water and into the Solent. Queen Elizabeth was heading for Hamburg, Queen Victoria to Guernsey and Queen Mary 2 to New York.
Sir Samuel Cunard, founder of Cunard Line in 1839.
Cunard Line was formed in 1839 by Canadian born, Sir Samuel Cunard (1787-1865), who had answered an advertisement placed by the British Admiralty for bidders to operate a timetabled steamship service to carry the Royal Mail between Britain and the North American colonies. Sir Samuel was the son of a master carpenter and timber merchant who had fled the American Revolution (1765-1783) and settled in Halifax, Canada.
PS Britannia, 1840. Model (scale 1:48). She was built for the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Co, which became the Cunard Steamship Co Ltd. Her 3 sister-ships, the Acadia, the Caledonia, and the Columbia were also built on the Clyde at the same time. There was accommodation for a 150 passengers. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) crossed on the Britannia in 1842, which he recorded in his ‘American Notes’. (Photo by Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images)
Despite the considerable risks involved in tendering for this contract (no ship, no maritime experience, huge financial risks, stiff penalties for late delivery of mail etc.), Sir Samuel uprooted his family and moved to Britain. On July 4th, 1940, steamship Britannia left Liverpool, arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 12 days and 10 hours later, averaging a speed of 8.5 knots. Three more ships joined the fleet and by the end of 1840, Cunard offered a scheduled weekly service across the Atlantic.
‘175 Years. Forever Cunard – A Voyage Through History’ by Cunard. Uploaded to You Tube 12.1.15.
A Celebration of 175 Years of Cunard – Exhibition Southampton City Art Gallery
The exhibition also includes popular posters from the eras which were used by travel agents to sell ocean travel in the most attractive light. A dedicated ‘wall of fame’ will take visitors back to one of the most glamorous eras as they discover which Hollywood stars graced Cunard’s decks.
Southampton City Art Gallery is open Monday to Friday, 10am-3pm and on Saturdays 10am-5pm. Admission to the Gallery and this special exhibition is free. For further information, click here.
A list of free Cunard talks taking place at the Gallery over the coming months can be found here.
4th September 1947, Southampton, actress Elizabeth Taylor is pictured on board Queen Mary with her two French Poodle dogs, ready to return to America after a short stay in London (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
15th April, 1912: Carpathia arrives to pick up survivors in lifeboats from the Titanic. Original Publication: The Graphic – pub. 1912 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Carpathia – Launched 1902, maiden voyage 5th May, 1903, rescued 705 survivors from doomed liner Titanic, torpedoed southeast of Ireland and west of the Isles of Scilly by German submarine U-55, 17th July, 1918;
c.1920: A line of women waving goodbye to the vessel Laconia as she leaves Liverpool. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Laconia – Launched in 1921, maiden voyage 25th May, 1922, sunk by torpedo from German U-boat U-156 on 12th September, 1942. Aboard were 2,732, crew, British and Polish soldiers, civilian passengers and Italian POWs. The final survivor count varies, different sources estimate that there were somewhere between 1,104 and 1,500. Captain of the German U-boat, Werner Hartenstein (1908-1943), ordered his submarine to surface and go back for survivors, this extraordinary turn of events led to what is known as ‘The Laconia Incident.’
The observation saloon of the Queen Mary serves as the sleeping quarters for American soldiers, while the vessel carries out her duties as a troopship during World War Two. Original Publication: Picture Post – 1825 – Queen Mary troopship – unpub. (Photo by Haywood Magee/Getty Images)
The luxury dining room of the QueenMary serves as a mess for American soldiers, while the vessel carries out her duties as a troopship during World War Two. Original Publication: Picture Post – 1825 – Queen Mary troopship – unpub. (Photo by Haywood Magee/Getty Images)
Queen Mary – Launched 1934, maiden voyage 27th May, 1936, Blue Riband, served as a troopship in World War Two and after the war G.I. Brides were transported on her back to America, retired from service 9th December, 1967, now a hotel ship, restaurant and museum in Long Beach Harbour, California;
The cocktail bar and observation lounge of the Cunard White Star liner Queen Mary. The bar is made of Macassar ebony with a mural by Alfred R. Thomson behind. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Dining-room aboard Queen Elizabeth in 1946. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth – Launched 1938, pre-war maiden voyage 3rd March, 1940, in World War Two she served as a troopship and after the war G.I. Brides were transported on her back to America, her service career as a passenger liner began officially on her post-war maiden voyage, 16th October, 1946, she was retired in 1968, destroyed by fire in 1972;
In 1997, I worked as a research assistant on Romancing Hollywood, a conference and exhibition at Millais Gallery, Southampton. The exhibition celebrated the glamour of Hollywood as it was perceived from the 1930s until the 1950s in Britain. Focussing mainly on Southampton, Romancing Hollywood, explored the ways in which glamour was not only received by local people via Hollywood but also created.
During the 1930s Southampton, as a gateway to the rest of the world, became a mecca for stars of stage and screen travelling on Cunard’s popular transatlantic route to New York. The exhibition concentrated on Cunard’s Queen Mary whose maiden voyage departed from Southampton on 27th May, 1936 and the Queen Elizabeth, launched in 1938.
I had the privilege of interviewing crew members who had worked on the original ‘Queens’, amongst other luxury transatlantic liners, during the golden-age of pre and post-war ocean travel. Here are a few extracts from those interviews that were published in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition (Romancing Hollywood by A. Massey, E. Stoffer, A. Forsyth and J. Bushnell,1997, ISBN 1 874011 62 1). All interviewees described what life was like for the ordinary Cunard employee aboard these glamourous and luxurious ‘floating hotels’.
Jack Barker was born in 1919 and worked in a London Hotel as a Page Boy before going to work for Cunard in 1937 (Andania). After World War Two, Jack worked on the Queen Elizabeth (1938) for 16 years, rising to position of Head Waiter: ‘You would start the morning at half past six. Before the restaurant opened at eight o’clock for breakfast, you would have a scrub out to do, and you had to get into your uniform, which you had to buy yourself, and then breakfast went on till ten, and then after that you had to get your station ready for lunch, and you had to be in the restaurant by half past twelve, you didn’t get any time off. You got used to it. I must have met hundreds of stars. Alfred Hitchcock, he just took a liking to me as a waiter.’
Crew members working in the engine room of the liner Queen Mary during a transatlantic crossing, 12th August, 1939. Original Publication : Picture Post – 198 – Atlantic Crossing – pub. 1939 (Photo by Kurt Hutton/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Ralph Clarke was born in 1929 and worked on the railway boats at Southampton Docks for 6 months prior to starting work as a Trimmer on board the Queen Mary (1936) in April 1948. He worked on board the Queen Elizabeth (1938) in the late 1940s for 3 trips after an accident on board the Queen Mary, to which he returned: ‘Everything was SO BIG, extraordinarily big for the first month I was virtually lost on the Queen Mary. It was a massive, great big, beautiful ship. Danny Kaye and his wife and two children came down and he would say ‘Hello everybody,’ and he gave a song, one or two chaps in the crew used to be able to play the piano. We had Bing Crosby, we then had Paul Robeson and Jack Dempsey the boxer and he used to come down and say, ‘If anyone feels like a spar with me you are welcome to do it? They used to mix, no matter how big a star, they used to talk to us as if we were human beings and they used to be great friends.’
1948, Bellboys from the Queen Mary being inspected by the chief steward prior to leaving Southampton for New York (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
John Dempsey was born in 1920 and first went to sea in 1934 on the Mauretania (1907) as a Bell Boy at the age of fourteen. While working on the Berengaria (formerly the SS Imperator but after being brought by Cunard, sailed under the name Berengaria), he volunteered to assist the masseur, Arthur Mason in the Turkish Bath. When he moved to the Queen Mary (1936), Arthur Mason requested that John rejoin him, which he did until the until the outbreak of war. John joined the Queen Elizabeth (1938) for its post-war maiden voyage and worked in the Turkish Bath as a masseur until 1960: ‘The majority of first class passengers, mostly the Jewish community, loved their Turkish bath and massage. The hours of the gentlemen were 7am to 10am and from 2pm to 7.30pm. These people were running around upstairs and in the smoking lounges and the observation bars and had to behave themselves to a certain extent. What they wanted was to take their clothes off and be normal. So they came to the Turkish bath, off with their clothes and, ‘Hey John, go and get me a pint of beer’. They used to tell stories and do drinks. They were letting their hair down, for about the one and half hours that they were there. These were film stars, all lovely people, great people. I had a Christmas party in the Turkish bath with Noel Coward. It was a Christmas trip and he said to us ‘Have you got any parties?’ Well all the ship had parties, a fellow called Tommy MacDonald and the ship’s dispenser. We were drinking and telling stories, and that was our party. Coward sent me a Christmas card another year.
Swimming Pool on-board the 2nd class of the Queen Mary. March the 3rd, 1936 (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images) [Swimming Pool der zweiten Klasse auf der ‘Queen Mary’, Southampton, England, Photographie, 3,3,1936]
Passengers on the Queen Mary eating dinner in the luxurious cabin class restaurant during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, May 1936. The radiating light on the map by Macdonald Gill at the far end of the room constantly pinpoints the vessel’s location. (Photo by Hudson/Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Terry Hargroves was born in 1928, after demob from the Air Force he worked on the Queen Mary. Terry started by washing dishes, working his way up over 14 years to a Bedroom Steward in first class: ‘I had a set of rooms, which usually depended on something called a section, which was a set of about 5, 6, or 10 rooms. You were responsible for keeping them clean, making of all the beds, and attending to the passengers that used them. You took the passengers on, took their luggage and sorted that out. You fetched and carried for them and you tried to look after them the best you could until they got off the other end. The passengers lived in the middle of the ship and crew lived at either end. Either end of the boat there was part of the boat tied up. On the back end of the boat there was an area where the ropes came in to tie the ship up and for the cargo. That big area was designated as the crews’ ‘Pig and Whistle’. They had a little bar, that was the crews’ pub. You found an empty beer barrel or you sat on the bollards or an empty beer crate. Every now and again Bob Hope or Tommy Cooper came down there. Quite a few people were persuaded to come down. The crew would decorate it with a few flags and couple of spotlights. I think Bob Hope said that he’d played in many theatres but he rarely played in a sewer.’
12th August 1939: Staff on the Queen Mary pass the time during a transatlantic crossing in one the ‘Pig And Whistle’. Original Publication: Picture Post – 198 – Atlantic Crossing – pub. 1939 (Photo by Kurt Hutton/Picture Post/Getty Images)
Bob Hope and Loretta Young were among a number of American film actors and actresses who arrived at Southampton on the Queen Mary for the Royal Command Film Performance in London on November, 1947. (Photo by Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)
Cabin class passengers enjoy a tea in the middle of the Atlantic on the promenade deck of the Queen Mary c.1939. Original Publication: Picture Post – 198 – Atlantic Crossing – pub. 1939 (Photo by Kurt Hutton/Getty Images)
Frank Makinson was born in 1925, he joined the Queen Mary (1936) in 1944 while serving as a troopship and stayed with her until 1967 for her last voyage to Long Beach. Frank continued to work in the pantry of both the Queen Elizabeth and QE2 until 1970: ‘We always supplied the in-between meals, sometimes we also had a night pantry which I was in for quite a while. When there was music and dancing going on, on the ships, we had to supply sandwiches and various things to these rooms where they had these sessions. I remember getting an order for cold meat from Victor Mature, and he stressed that he wanted a whole turkey sliced up. It was just about the time his Samson and Delilah  picture was about, so I think he wanted to let everyone know that he was a big eater. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were on the Queen Elizabeth towards the end, that was when they had recently got back together, and she had a great big fancy ring. I didn’t see them, but I had dealings with regards to the stewardess, she used to want Stilton cheese for them. One of them liked a lot of the blue of the Stilton, and one liked a lot of the white. Just who was what, I don’t know.’
Cabin verandah grill on the Queen Mary – postcard from 1930s. (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)
John Minto was born in 1927, he joined Cunard in 1949 as a cabin steward aboard the Queen Mary (1936). He worked his way up to first-class waiter and ultimately became the Captain’s Tiger (waiter). John left the Queen Mary in 1955 and became Mayor of Southampton in 1978/9: People like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Winston Churchill used to go in the Verandah Grill, they used to go incognito and the cost of going in there for a meal was ten shillings which was fifty pence. In the Veranda Grill, everything was on tap. If you wanted oysters, you got oysters, if you wanted caviar, you got caviar. Each kitchen, each galley was divided into specific areas. You had the pastry, the soup and the grills. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor never came down to the main restaurant, they always went to the Verandah Grill. The thing that always struck me about them was the amount of luggage they had.’
20th October 1964, American actress Carroll Baker, born 1931, on board the Queen Mary on her way to London for the premiere of her film ‘The Carpetbaggers’ (Photo by Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images
The exhibition explores Joshua Reynolds’s (1723-1792) painting techniques, pictorial compositions and narratives through the display of twenty paintings, archival sources and x-ray images. Paintings Conservator for The Wallace Collection Reynolds Research Project, Alexandra Gent, gave us a comprehensive and fascinating insight into some of the surprise discoveries encountered whilst working on the collection’s Reynolds paintings over the last four years. There are twenty paintings on display in the exhibition, twelve of which are from The Wallace Collection, others are on loan from collections elsewhere in the UK, Europe and the USA.
With support from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, TEFAF, the Hertford House Trust, various private donors, and Trusts and drawing on the research expertise of the National Gallery in London and the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, the exhibition spans most of Reynolds’s career and includes portraits, ‘fancy’ pictures (young children in a variety of guises) and history painting.
The exhibition has been curated by Dr Lucy Davis, Curator of Old Master Pictures at the Wallace Collection, Professor Mark Hallett, Director of Studies in British Art at the Paul Mellon Centre and Alexandra Gent. Ms Gent explains why this research project has been so fascinating as well as challenging:
One of the things about Reynolds, and the reason it was started as a research project, is that his painting technique is quite notorious amongst conservators as being tricky to deal with….So to have a really good understanding of the way the paintings had been made and constructed and what materials had been used was really important to make informed decisions about which paintings to treat. The paintings as a group hadn’t been restored for a very long time, a few of them had had minor treatments but none of them had really been cleaned since they’d entered the Wallace Collection in the mid-19th century.
Although Reynolds is notorious for using wax, we only found wax in small amounts on paintings. The Portrait of Miss Jane Bowles appears to have a varnish layer on it that is made from wax, and we think that this is original and really interesting to see Reynolds use as a varnish layer.
It’s been a real privilege to work on these paintings, they’re a really wonderful group of paintings by Reynolds.
(‘New Perspectives on Joshua Reynolds’ by Lorna Davies, The Portman, Spring, 2015, pp.18-19)
In 1755, Reynolds had a hundred and twenty sitters, in 1758 he had a hundred and fifty sitters. He charged some of the highest prices by any painter working in London at that time but still the commissions kept on coming. In 1760, he earned between £6,000 and £10,000 per annum, working seven days a week, eight hours a day. (Source: The 17th and 18th Centuries Dictionary of World Biography Vol.4, edited by Frank N. Magill, 2013, p.1161)
Reynolds often produced multiple versions of his paintings, worked over a length of time, sometimes four years. It was not unusual for him to work on two similar pictures side-by-side. He also encouraged his subjects to perform roles that would reveal an aspect of their personality, actresses he depicted in character such as Mrs Abington as Miss Prue, (c.1771-1772). Mrs Frances Abington (1737-1815) with her coquettish gaze as Miss Prue, the silly, awkward country girl from William Congreve’s (1670-1729) comedy Love For Love (1695).
X-ray Image And Infrared Reflectography Use In Painting Conservation
X-ray image: X-rays can penetrate through most parts of a painting but denser materials, such as lead containing pigments and iron tacks, obstruct them. An X-ray image records the areas where the X-rays have been obstructed and these areas appear lighter. These images are useful for revealing paint losses and changes to a painting. However, they can be difficult to interpret because they show all the layers of the painting superimposed.
Infrared reflectography: an imaging method used to ‘see through’ paint layers that are opaque to the human eye. Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with longer wavelengths than those of visible light. Infrared radiation passes through the paint until it either reaches something that absorbs it or is reflected back to the camera. An infrared image can often reveal under-drawing.
Curation of ‘Experiments in Paint’ is excellent. Reynolds’s portraits are accompanied with detailed background to both painting and sitter. Those works on display that have been subjected to detailed conservation analysis are of particular interest.
For example, an X-ray of Reynolds’s slightly unnerving, The Strawberry Girl (1772-1773), revealed that it resembled the version of The Strawberry Girl reproduced in Thomas Watson’s 1774 mezzotint. Reynolds had reworked the figure, lowering the shoulders, painting a fringe of brown hair and developing a more oriental style of turban.
Infrared reflectography of the Wallace Collection’s version of The Strawberry Girl also revealed under-drawing around the hands and in the folds of the drapery. The use of such under-drawing may indicate that the composition of this painting was transferred from an earlier version of The Strawberry Girl.
An X-ray of Mrs Abington as Miss Prue showed that Reynolds had originally intended her to wear a simple bonnet that would have been more in keeping with her role as Congreve’s Miss Prue. Instead the final painting showed her sporting an updo hairstyle fashionable at the time.
An X-ray of LadyElizabeth Seymour-Conway (1754-1825) painted in 1781, revealed that Reynolds updated the sitter’s hairstyle just before the painting left the studio making it look much fuller, as was popular at the time of the work’s completion. The original hairstyle had been smoother and the curls at the neck are higher, similar to those adopted by the fashionable Waldegrave sisters painted by Reynolds between 1780 and 1781.
According to Alexandra Gent, Reynolds used five different sizes of canvas available to the Georgian painter: head; three-quarter length; half-length; full length and Bishop’s half-length (large enough to fit in his mitre!). A popular pose for Georgian sitters was ‘penseroso’, resting with chin in the hand, signalling to the viewer that the subject was refined and contemplative.
“Even a faded picture from Reynolds will be the finest thing you have.” Sir George Beaumont (1753-1827)
Events & Further Information
There is an extensive programme of educational and cultural events taking place at The Wallace Collection to compliment this new exhibition:
‘Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint’ continues until 7th June, 2015. Exhibition opening hours are Monday-Sunday 10am-5pm, entry is free. Join the discussion about the exhibition on Twitter @WallaceMuseum #JoshuaReynolds or Facebook (www.facebook.com/WallaceCollection);
Together with Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), Reynolds established the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768. Reynolds was the RA’s first president until his death in 1792. On the RA’s website there a number of videos and further information about Reynolds’s time there. ‘On the Reynolds trail in the RA archive’ by Amy Macpherson (25.2.15): https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/joshua-reynolds-academy-archive ;
I first discovered The Wallace Collection, by chance, in 2005 whilst working in Portman Square as a corporate researcher. In order to escape the caged existence of my office and reawaken my senses, I regularly took long walks, exploring the surrounding area. There is so much to see, all just a stone’s throw from the craziness of Oxford Street. Attractive squares and stunning architecture as well as more blue plaques than you can shake a stick at!
When I visited the Wallace Collection for the first time, I remember being completely awestruck by the magnificent interior and extensive collection of French eighteenth century painting, furniture and porcelain. The good news is that in the last ten years admission charges have remained the same, absolutely FREE.
View of the north side of Manchester Square, Marylebone, London, 1813. Manchester House is on the left. (Photo by Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
The Wallace Collection is housed in Manchester House, a fine example of Georgian architecture built between 1776 and 1788 for the 4th Duke of Manchester (1737-1788). The original shell of the building was built by Samuel Adams in 1771. It wasn’t until the 4th Duke brought the leasehold in 1788 that substantial structural alterations were made by the architect Joshua Brown.
A few key dates in the history of Manchester House:
1791-95 – house let as the Spanish Embassy;
1797 – 2nd Marquess of Hertford (1743-1822) acquires the house’s lease;
1836-51 – house let as the French Embassy;
1800-1870 – 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800-1870) uses the house to store his private art collection;
1871 – the 4th Marquess’ illegitimate son, Richard (1818-1890), moves back to London from Paris and brings with him a large portion of his private art collection;
1897 – Lady Wallace bequeaths the collection to the British Nation. Lady Wallace (Amélie-Julie-Charlotte Castelnau (1819-97)), married Richard in 1871, she had been his mistress for many years. Upon his death in 1890 he bequeathed to her all his property;
the house opens to the public as a Museum on 22nd June, 1900 (closing during both World Wars);
Photographing at the Wallace Collection, London, 1908-1909. From Penrose’s Pictorial Annual 1908-1909, An Illustrated Review of the Graphic Arts, volume 14, edited by William Gamble and published by AW Penrose (London, 1908-1909). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
The Wallace Collection is one of the most significant collections of European fine and decorative arts in the world and the greatest bequest of art ever left to the British Nation. The collection encompasses old master oil paintings from the fourteenth to the late nineteenth century including works by Titian, Velazquez, Rubens and Van Dyck, princely arms and armour, and one of the finest collections of French eighteenth century art in all media.
The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, London, 1926-1927. Illustration from Wonderful London, edited by Arthur St John Adcock, Volume I, published by Amalgamated Press, (London, 1926-1927). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
The Curious Will of Mrs Margaret Thompson (1777) – The Joy of Snuff!
“Scotch snuff is the grand cordial of human nature”.
Recently, a member of my family passed on to me a copy of Chalfont St Peter Parish Magazine (February, 2015) which included a reproduction of one of the most interesting and amusing examples of an eighteenth Will that I have ever come across. The Will belonged to Mrs Margaret Thompson who died on 2nd April, 1777, at her house in Boyle Street, Burlington Gardens, Mayfair, London.
The Will was discovered in one of the old registers at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly. However, there is no record of the burial of Mrs Thompson in the Burial Register of St. James’s, for April, 1777. Upon arrival at the Wallace Collection last Friday, I made straight for their superb collection of eighteenth century snuff boxes. Mrs Thompson was clearly a lady who adored to indulge in the then fashionable trend of snuff-taking!
‘The French Fireside’, eighteenth century, a young lady indulging in some recreational snuff-taking. From The Connoisseur magazine (February 1905). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
Mrs Margaret Thompson’s will (1777):
I Margaret Thompson, etc, being of a sound mind, etc, do desire that when my soul is departed from this wicked world, my body and effects may be disposed of in the manner following, etc.
I also desire that all my handkerchiefs that I may have unwashed at the time of my decease, after they have been got together by my old and trust servant, Sarah Stewart, may be put by her, and her along, at the bottom of my coffin, which I desire may be made large enough for that purpose, together with such a quantity of the best Scotch snuff (in which she knoweth I always had the greatest delight) as will cover my deceased body; and this I desire, and more especially as it is usual to put flowers into the coffin of departed friends, and nothing can be so pleasant and refreshing to me, as that precious powder; but I strictly charge that no one be suffered to approach my body till the coffin is closed, and it necessary to carry me to my burial, which I order in the following manner:
Six men to be my bearers, who are well known to be great snuff-takers in the Parish of St James’s, Westminster; and instead of mourning, each to wear a snuff-coloured beaver, which I desire to be brought for that purpose, and given to them; Six Maidens of my old acquaintance to bear my pall, each to wear a proper hood, and to carry a box filled with the best Scotch snuff, to take for their refreshment as they go along. Before my corpse I desire that the minister may be invited to walk, and to take a certain quantity of snuff, not exceeding one pound, to whom also I bequeath five guineas on condition of his doing so. And I also desire my old and faithful servant, Sarah Stewart, to walk before the corpse to distribute every twenty yards a large handful of Scott snuff on the ground, and to the crowd who possibly may follow me to the burial place – on condition I bequeath her Twenty Pounds. And I also desire that at least two bushels of the said snuff may be distributed at the door of my house in Boyle Street.
I desire, also, that my funeral shall be at twelve o’clock at noon. And in addition to the various legacies I have left my friends in a former will, I desire that to each person there shall be given a pound of the best Scotch snuff, as it is the grand cordial of human nature.
In the eighteenth century, snuff was a tobacco product favoured by the upper classes, snorted directly from the back of the hand into the nostrils. Smoking pipes containing tobacco was associated with the lower and working classes. Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) earned the nickname ‘Snuffy Charlotte’ on account of her love of the brown stuff. She had an entire room at Windsor Castle devoted to her substantial stock of snuff.
Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) is purported to have enjoyed taking snuff so much that she had fifty-two gold snuff boxes in her wedding basket. Joshua Reynolds also indulged in large amounts of snuff, on a regular basis, according to fellow artist Joseph Farington (1747-1821):
January 16th, 1796: Steevens speaking of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ habit of taking snuff in great quantities, said, he not only carried a double box, with two sorts of snuff in it, but regaled himself out of every box that appeared at the table where he sat; and did his neighbour happen to have one, he absolutely fed upon him. When I expected to meet Sir Joshua in company added he always carried an additional allowance.
(The Farington Diary: July 13th, 1793 to August 24th, 1802, Volume 1 by Joseph Farington, p. 184)
Part of Shenstone’s poem, The Snuff Box, 1735, (1840). Facsimile of part of The Snuff Box. Illustration from Historical and Literary Curiosities consisting of Facsimilies of Original Documents, by Charles John Smith, (Henry G Bohn, London, 1840). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
Behind the scenes at St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington, featuring the Museum’s Director, Mark Tomlinson and Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time. Uploaded to You Tube, 3.10.14. Film made by The Reel Media Deal .
An exciting and fascinating new exhibition opens at St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire, on Saturday 15th November and continues until Saturday 10th January, 2015. The exhibition, ‘Lives Less Ordinary’, is supported by law firm Clarke Willmott and celebrates the lives of nearly thirty local residents who made a mark both close to home and nationally.
The exhibition provides a chance to discover more about an eclectic mix of people whose exploits, influence and vision brought them to prominence or notoriety on the New Forest coast and beyond. These range from Gilbert Oswald (‘G.O.’) Smith (1872-1943), the David Beckham of his day, captain of the England Football team and every schoolboy’s idol to religious cult leader Mary Ann Girling (1827-1886), founder of a sect called The People of God, also known as the New Forest Shakers.
I am particularly interested in The New Forest Shakers, over the last year I have been researching this topic but there is a lot more library legwork still to do. A community of Shakers, led by Mary Ann Girling, settled in Hordle from 1873-1886. At their height, her group had one hundred and forty members. Whilst the community flourished in Hordle, worldwide Shaker membership declined, partly due to their doctrine of celibacy, the cult’s future looked bleak.
At first their eccentric doings attracted crowds from all the neighbourhood, and brakeloads of people from Southampton would drive over on Sunday afternoons to see the Shakers go through their wild performances. But as novelty wore off there was less to attract the hysterical, funds dwindled and the faith of the devotees dwindled also; and though some lingered on in destitute condition the death of the organiser [Girling] was the death also of the sect.
(Extract from a 1908 Guide)
Many people of Hordle and surrounding areas were none too keen on this ‘alternative’ community and remained unhappy at unwanted attention being brought upon this otherwise tranquil area. Eventually, through a series of unfortunate incidents, mainly relating to an unpaid mortgage, the group were evicted from their house, New Forest Lodge (now Hordle Grange) where they had been living for three years. The Lodge had been partly paid for by one of the followers, Julia Wood and the remainder financed by way of a mortgage. The group did, however, have a number of high profile supporters including Auberon Herbert, Andrew Peterson and William Cowper (1811-1888).
The group of a hundred and forty were forced to resettle on an estate in Ashley. Several months later they moved to a field near New Forest Lodge and in 1878 settled in nearby Tiptoe, living in huts and tents until Girling’s death from uterine cancer in 1886. Following her death, the community disintegrated. Girling is buried in Hordle churchyard.
Other people of note featured in ‘Lives Less Ordinary’ include: occult novelist Dennis Wheatley (1897-1977); Arthur Philip (1738-1814), who originally founded the colony of New South Wales, and was the beginning of what would eventually become the nation of Australia; local hero Sir Harry Burrard-Neale (1755-1813, a British officer in the Royal Navy and MP for Lymington; John Howlett (1863-1974), who helped shape modern Lymington; Andrew Peterson (1813-1906) the eccentric builder of Sway Tower, a 66m high Grade II listed folly in the heart of the New Forest; and William Charles Retford (1875-1970), the best violin bow craftsman of his time.
Retford wrote, Memoirs of Growing-Up in Ashley, which provides a wonderful glimpse of rural life in late Victorian Ashley and Burley, two villages not far from Lymington. Retford moved to London in 1892 to take-up an apprenticeship as a bow-maker for cellos and violins:
All good things come to an end. In 1892 Arthur Hill, the violin maker, spent the weekend at the Old House and offered me a job. By the end of March I was in a third floor back in New Bond Street cleaning fiddles and fitting pegs. Unhappy and hard up. After the first week I was taught nothing more for a year. “Thereby hangs a tale,” written but quite unprintable. Cleaning fiddles was kids play to me.
(For a transcript of Retford’s Memoirs together with a more detailed biography of his extraordinary life,CLICK HERE.)
The lives of contemporary figures will also be showcased such as Sammy Miller, championship winning motorcycle racer, in both road racingand trials, and Sir Ben Ainslie; the most successful sailor in Olympic history who has won medals at five consecutive Olympic Games including gold at the last four.
For more information about the ‘Lives Less Ordinary’ exhibition, click here;
For visitor information on St. Barbe Museum & Gallery, including ticket prices and opening hours, click here.
Earlier this Summer, I received an exciting invitation to attend a ‘pop-up’ exhibition of preparatory works for the Romsey War Horse Memorial Project by award-winning sculptor, Amy Goodman. The exhibition was located at Ranvilles Farm, near Romsey, Hampshire, now a private residence but during World War One was situated close to the Veterinary Hospital of The Romsey Remount Depot. Some of the stabling still exists today, including an original window.
In 1915, a Remount Camp was opened on the summit of Pauncefoot Hill close to Ranvilles Farm. The Camp had reading rooms, a library, a canteen, a YMCA and a hospital. According to local historian, Phoebe Merrick:
Before it closed in 1919, 120,000 horses passed through the Romsey Depot. At any one time there were at least 2,100 men caring for up to 5,000 horses on this hilltop a mile outside Romsey. The Romsey Camp, which covered over fifty acres, consisted of a Headquarters area, a Veterinary Hospital, and ten Squadrons, each of which cared for horses and mules as needed. When trained, the horses were shipped from Southampton to France.
(The Romsey War Horse Memorial Project, leaflet written by Phoebe Merrick, 2014)
To commemorate the men and animals of the Romsey Remount Depot, a life-sized statue has been commissioned. Amy Goodman, now Artist in residence at Winchester University, designed the Memorial featuring a horse and trooper, which will be unveiled in Romsey War Memorial Park, April 2015. This date will be the centenary of when the Romsey Remount Depot opened.
At the time of writing this article, the clay model had been completed and encased in a polyurethane mould. It is now in Newbury being prepared to be cast in bronze-resin by Ryman & Leader Sculpture Casting. The total cost of the statue will be £55,000 and a further £20,000 is needed for the plinth and setting. Thanks to a sterling fundraising effort by local people, £40,000 has been raised to-date.
Amy Goodman has also created nine bronze and fifteen bronze-resin copies of the sculpture. The sale of this limited edition maquette will provide much-needed funds for The War Horse Memorial Project, approximately a third of the total sales will go directly into the War Horse Memorial fund. On Saturday 13th September, at the Romsey Show, The War Horse project will be on display, complete with pictures of Romsey Remount Depot and a souvenir booklet about war horses in World War One.
For more information about the role of horses in World War One, including background about Swaythling, the other local Remount Depot, near to Romsey, please see my earlier article, ‘Front Line Post and War Horses’;
For further information about Sculptor Amy Goodman, click here;
For further information about the Romsey War Horse Statue Fund Raising Project, including history of the Romsey Remount Depot, click here;
At King John’s House (Romsey’s Heritage and Vistor Centre), the exhibition ‘Romsey Remount Camp Reloaded’ continues until the 28th October, click here;
Renowned watercolour Artist, Rex Trayhorne, RMS (Royal Miniature Society) is also supporting the Romsey War Horse Fund Raising Project. A beautiful greetings card featuring a view from Pauncefoot Hill, Romsey is being sold in support of the project. For Rex Trayhorne’s website, click here.
‘Animals in War; WW1 Tribute’, published on You Tube, 8.11.12 by War Archives. ‘Using Pathé’s World War One footage, this tribute film thanks the forgotten army of World War One. Millions of animals gave their lives. They were selected for their variety of natural skills and instincts and they displayed unwavering courage even when exposed to extreme conditions.’
The Parish Church of St. Katherine in the New Forest village of Exbury, contains a stunning memorial dedicated to two local brothers who lost their lives in World War One, John and Alfred Forster. Their parents, Lord and Lady Forster of Lepe, commissioned sculptor Cecil Thomas to design the monument. During the war, Cecil had been a patient at the same hospital in London as Alfred. Over a four month period, the two young men became firm friends.
The monument is housed in a Chapel extension, built 1927/8, which is also dedicated to other Exbury parishioners who lost their lives during the war:
George Dobson (Private) 11th Bn. Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regt.) – Died 27th September 1916;
William Warn (Able Seaman) Merchant Marine Reserve, H.M. Yacht Goissa – Died 25th April 1916;
Frederick John Toms (Private) 10th Bn. Hampshire Regt. – Died 7th September 1915;
Edwin Wellstead (Private) 2nd Bn. Hampshire Regt. – Died 13th August 1915;
George Toms (Able Seaman) HMS Narborough R.N. – Died 12th January 1915;
Cyril John Fairweather (2nd Lieut.) 4th Bn. Hampshire Regt. – Died 22nd March 1918;
John Forster (2nd Lieut.) 2nd Bn. Kings Rifle Corps – Died 14th September, 1914, aged 21;
Alfred Henry Forster (Lieut) 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) – Died 10th March 1919, aged 21.
The Forster Family
In 1890, Lord Henry Forster – 1st Baron Forster GCMG PC DI (1866-1936) married the Hon. Rachel Cecil Douglas-Scott-Montagu GBE (1868-1962). Lady Forster was the daughter of 1st Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, Hampshire. The Forsters originally lived at Southend Hall, Bromley until 1914 when Lord Forster found the new, noisy trams unbearable and decided to move away. He leased his home to Brittania Film Company on 17th August, 1914 and it became a thriving film studio.
In addition to John and Alfred, the Forsters had two daughters. Emily Rachel (1897-1979), who married Captain George Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers (1890-1966), the grandson of Archaeologist, Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers (1827-1900) and founder of Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford. Emily became a stage and screen actress using the name, Mary Hinton. There is a memorial plaque dedicated to her in St. Katherine’s Church. Emily also had a sister, Dorothy Charlotte Forster (1891-1983).
One of Emily’s three sons, Michael (1917-1999), gained notoriety in the 1950s when he was put on trial charged with homosexual offences. He was found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment. Michael later became instrumental in the 1967 decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Image above from 7th June 1965. Hungarian born actress Eva Bartok (1927-1998) pictured with Mary Hinton (left) in a scene from the London play ‘Paint Myself Black’ at the New Theatre.
Lord Forster was an ambitious gentleman who enjoyed a long and successful political career both as a Conservative M.P. and later as 7th Governor-General of Australia (1920-25). Following the general election in 1892 he became M.P. for Sevenoaks. In 1901, he took-up office as Deputy Lieutenant of Kent then 1902-05, he was Junior Lord of the Treasury. Between 1902 and 1911, he was the Conservative whip.
During World War One, Lord Forster was assigned to the War Office. Between 1915 and 1919 he acted as their Financial Secretary. In 1918-19, he represented Bromley in the House of Commons and in 1919, was given a peerage, 1st Baron Forster of Lepe in the County of Southampton. Lord Forster became Governor-General of Australia on 7th October, 1920, a post he held until 1925 when he moved back to England. Lord and Lady Forster resided at Exbury House, near Southampton, until Lord Forster’s death in 1936, aged seventy.
Because the Forsters had no surviving sons, the barony became extinct upon Lord Forster’s death. Sadly, this was an all too common occurrence for many aristocratic families after the war who were left with no male heir(s) to inherit either property or title.
John Forster – (1893-1914)
John Forster was born on 13th May, 1893. Educated at Eton, John was commissioned in September, 1913 and served as 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps. On 14th September, 1914, at 3am, John’s battalion advanced in thick mist and driving rain to attack the ridge above the River Aisne (Chemin des Dames), the first Battle of The Aisne. When they reached the crest, they were unable to continue further and found themselves pinned down by enemy fire coming from the occupied sugar factory at the crossroads above Troyon.
Alfred Henry was born on 7th February, 1898. Educated at Winchester College (1911-1915), then RMC Sandhurst. He was commissioned in the 2nd Dragoons Guards (Royal Scots Greys) on 19th July, 1916. The following February he went to France and was promoted to Lieutenant on 19th January, 1918. On 17th October, 1918, Alfred fell, seriously wounded, near Le Cateau. He was transferred to Gerstley-Hoare Hospital for Officers at 53 Cadogan Square, Belgravia, London, where he spent five months.
The Gerstley-Hoare Hospital was set-up by Louise Hoare, cousin of politician Samuel Hoare (1880-1959). Louise had joined the British Red Cross as a V.A.D. and together with her wealthy friend, Mrs Adele Gerstley, established the Hospital in January, 1916. It was a Class A Hospital with twenty-five beds, there were three trained nurses, five full-time and twenty part-time V.A.D.s. Mrs Gerstley was the administrator and Miss Hoare the Commandant.
Gerstley-Hoare Hospital was affiliated with Queen Alexandra’s Military Hospital at Millbank, London and admitted casualties direct from the front rather than via a military hospital, as would normally be the case. The Hospital closed in April, 1919 and during just over three years of service, treated five hundred and fifty servicemen only two of whom died, Alfred was one of them. He died of his wounds on 10th March, 1919.
During his time at Gerstley-Hoare, Alfred met the sculptor Cecil Thomas (1885-1976), also a patient, the two became great friends. Alfred is buried at St. Katherine’s Church. Cecil designed the stunning tomb dedicated to Alfred which is in the Church’s Memorial Chapel. Such is the quality of the bronze figure that it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1924. The Chapel’s Hanging Lamp, presented by Miss Amy Fergusson, was also designed by Cecil. A model of the tomb is in the V&A, London.
Cecil Walter Thomas OBE FRBS (1885-1976)
Cecil was born 3rd March, 1885 at 24 Hedley Road, Shepherds Bush, London. His father had a gem engraving business in London and Cecil began his training there followed by Central School of Arts and Crafts, Heatherley School of Fine Art and then the Slade. Cecil enjoyed a long and very successful career as a sculptor, medallist, gem sculptor and seal engraver. In 1948, he designed a Seal for the British Transport Commission. Together with artist, Edgar Fuller, Cecil produced the reverse designs for the sixpence, two shillings and half crown. He also received commissions from Faberge.
Cecil designed a sculpture of Rev. Dr Philip Thomas Byard ‘Tubby’ Clayton CH, MC, DD. (1885-1972) a World War One Chaplain who, together with Rev. Neville Stuart Talbot (1879-1943), founded Talbot House. Located in Poperinge, Belgium, Talbot House (better known as Toc H, see images above and below), provided soldiers, fighting on the front lines around Ypres, with a tranquil haven for relaxation and private reflection. Soldiers of all ranks were welcomed. Cecil’s effigy of Rev. Clayton is in All Hallows By The Tower in the City of London where Clayton was vicar from 1922 until his retirement in 1952.
British Pathe ‘D-Day Landings’ (1944) from classic series ‘A Day That Shook The World’. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.
When the Allied forces landed in Normandy, France on 6th June, 1944, it marked the beginning of the end of World War Two. D-Day (codename OVERLORD) was one of the greatest amphibious assaults of modern history and Hampshire was the nerve centre of military operations. Large numbers of troops embarked from ports along Hampshire’s coastline and the county’s various industries were crucial to the invasion’s successful outcome.
Hampshire was important because of its robust travel infrastructure which consisted of a comprehensive network of railways, established Sea Ports and developed industries. It was the perfect strategic location to centre a majority of the Country’s preparations for D-Day. Without access to all of these facilities, available within easy reach of the coast, the choice of Normandy as a location for the invasion of Europe would not have been possible.
This article tells Hampshire’s unique D-Day story, in the words of those who experienced it first-hand. Once the county’s best-kept secret it can now be re-told. These individuals made a vital contribution towards changing the course of world history forever and their stories must never be forgotten.
FORT SOUTHWICK – Portsmouth
Preparations had begun in Hampshire several years before 1944. An extensive network of tunnels were excavated by Welsh and Belgian miners of the Pioneer Corps underneath Fort Southwick, Portsdown Hill near Portsmouth. Completed in 1942, the UGHQ at Fort Southwick became known as Portsmouth Naval Headquarters and had been fitted with all the latest telecommunications equipment. There were no lifts down to the tunnels. Staff had to negotiate, perhaps two or three times a day, the ‘dreaded steps’ to UGHQ, all one hundred and seventy-nine of them, if you used the eastern entrances.
Naval Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Naval Expeditionary Force, Admiral Sir Bertram Home Ramsay (1883-1945), coordinated Operation Overlord’s naval plans (codename NEPTUNE) at Fort Southwick from his office in nearby Southwick House. Southwick House, or Southwick Park as it was known back then, was HQ for the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).
Diana Evans, a twenty-one year old Wren Switchboard Operator at Fort Southwick, recalls:
You could see all the ships beginning to line-up [for D-Day], and all these lanes [around Portsmouth] were full-up with tanks and people and men sleeping everywhere…they were coming in as a blessed battalion and they were all sleeping under tents and on the side of the road, wherever they could get. And then, all of a sudden, they were gone.
(Diana Evans, oral history, recorded 25.11.1997, transcript in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 5339A)
Marian Boothroyd (nee Heywood), a WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) Plotter, remembers that:
Special passes were issued to enable our entry to the “Underworld” which lay below many, many steps…The Plotting Room had several cameras located at strategic points around the Plotting Table in order to record the sequence of the plots. On one wall was a gigantic map which was used for plotting aircraft. There were two balconies, one for the Controller and Officers in charge and one at a higher level for the Teller and the Commander and his staff, who often put in an appearance, especially when allied shipping was being attacked.
After a few days I was fortunate to be offered the job as “Teller”. I loved it! I had direct telephone contact with “Sugar King” [The HQ for General Eisenhower] and also the Admiralty where Mr Churchill was located. It was all so top secret, that small wonder I had been taken to “Sugar King” in a car which had all the windows completely blacked out.
The invasion force was plotted twice. On the first occasion, inclement weather prevented the force from proceeding but on the second attempt the multitude of ships set forth and the Plotting Table was saturated with the massive number of vessels which were taking part in the invasion of Normandy. At the end of this shift I had lost my voice. However, when the Commander complimented me on my work I was able to glow with pride…Plotting work continued until July 1944 and then we were posted to the radar station in Dunkirk, Kent.
(Marian Boothroyd (nee Haywood), oral history transcript from D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 750.1999/DD 1999.52.2)
Joan Faint, another Plotter with the WAAF, recalls:
On D-Day I must have been in a shelter because I remember being in a strange place when we were woken-up about 1.30am and told to report as quickly as possible. We couldn’t understand what the urgency was about when we went on duty but as time went on we couldn’t believe what was happening. The plotting table was saturated with ships of all sizes. The Wrens working behind us became very excited as the names of the ships were registered. They seemed to know someone on lots of the ships. It must have been a worrying time for them as we gradually realised what was happening.
We worked extremely long hours with short breaks. We didn’t feel tired at the time and certainly didn’t want to leave the plotting table. At the end of our stay we all received a letter of thanks from the Commander-in-Chief.
Wren Telephone Operator (Second Officer WRNS), Pat Blandford, found working underground difficult to adjust to at first. In some of the oral histories I read, given by former staff of UGHQ, several mention feeling ‘sick’ and ‘claustrophobic’ in the tunnels. These conditions were soon overcome as everyone adjusted to their surroundings and simply got on with the job in hand. Pat remembers:
There were large rooms with Plotting tables, and small tunnel-shaped rooms equipped with Teleprinters and Switchboards. Offices with desks and filing cabinets; a Galley and Wardroom, Dormitories and Wash-rooms….Early in the morning of 6th June, our waiting was ended. Officers of the three Services were standing around in groups and the strain showed on their faces. I had been on duty for 48 hours, with just short naps. and felt very tired.
Suddenly, one of my young Wrens shouted, “Maam, Maam, something is coming through”. The red light on the panel glowed brightly….I rushed to the position and listened. There it was – the long-awaited code word which meant so much. They were through at last. A cheer went-up and many young girls shed a tear. Maybe, a boyfriend was over there – it was a very emotional moment – one which I shall never forget.
(Pat Blandford, interview recorded April, 1991, oral history transcript in the D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 2001.687/DD 2000.5.2)
Diana Evans, Switchboard Operator (Combined Operations with the WAAFs) with the WRNS at Fort Southwick recalls:
We used to live down there for twenty-four hours when we were, sort of, on shift. You got time-off, obviously, and you’d get a couple of days off, but we used to sleep down there…. Then, one day, someone discovered we had nits! … But you don’t wonder when you are [down there] twenty-four hours, [sharing the] same blankets and bedding. Goodness knows what was down there…. We had to go for ultra-violet treatment, because they thought that [living] underground was not all that good for all these girls… [We got] undressed and sat in front of a big lamp. No suntan…The things you could get down there, if you weren’t careful, were verrucas, and I think possibly that was caused by the coin matting…We had to ask what the day was like outside [when we were working down in the tunnels].
I never went into the Plotting Rooms. We were very busy because we were connected-up to Southwick House. Well we had lines to everywhere. We had all the Air Force bombing places, and everywhere you could think of…All calls were scrambled…We had Post-Office engineers there twenty-four hours… There were also WRNS, WAAF Army Officers, Sergeants. Each Officer looked after two or three girls.
(Diana Evans, oral history, recorded 25.11.1997, transcript in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 5339A)
‘Eisenhower in Britain’ (1944). British Pathe film. Published on You Tube 13.4.2014.
SOUTHWICK PARK (HMS DRYAD)
In contrast to the difficult working conditions at Fort Southwick, SHAEF HQ at Southwick Park was a far more pleasant location with its spacious grounds, lake and dense wooded areas (deforested in the 1970s). The house itself became the nerve centre of Operation Overlord. On the ground floor were offices of the Naval Staff Officers, Operation, Navigation, Landing Craft and Weather personnel together with their respective personal assistants. Also located on this floor was the famous Map Room.
Col(Retd) Jeremy T. Green OBE, Regimental Secretary, RHQ RMP at the Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG) introduces us to the famous Map Room at Southwick House. Interviewed by Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time. Uploaded to You Tube 4.6.2014.
On the first floor were the offices of General Field Marshal Montgomery (1887-1976), Captain Moore (Admiral Ramsay’s Secretary), Admiral Ramsay, General Eisenhower, Admiral Sir Maurice James Mansergh (1896-1966), Commander Powell, Staff Officers, Plans/Operations and Wren Baker. At its height, across all of the advanced command posts, of which Southwick was one, SHAEF consisted of six thousand staff and seven hundred and fifty officers.
Wren Jean Gordon, who was on the secretarial staff at Southwick Park, remembers a painting in the main Operation Room (OR), that had been created by a Wren Messenger. It was an allegorical design of Neptune with ships, winds and the sea. The painting was put under glass on the table at which the Admirals sat, in the “Command Area” of the OR. (Jean Gordon, oral history, transcript in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key H.670.1990.5)
Another Wren, Jeanne Law, worked on Admiral Ramsay’s staff at Southwick having previously worked for him at ANCXF HQ, Norfolk House, London before moving with his elite team down to Hampshire on 26th April, 1944. When war began, Jeanne went to work at the Postal and Telegraph Centreship in London, censoring mail from Canadian Soldiers. She eventually became a Wren ‘White Paper Candidate’ which, after passing WRNS Board, meant she was put on a three month accelerated pathway to becoming a Wren Officer. After an initial period of training, she became a qualified WRNS writer.
During her interview at Norfolk House she recalls her first glimpse of what the job she was going for might entail:
We were shown into a room up on the naval floor, which was the third floor, and there were several officers there and there was one Wren Officer, who did the interviewing. We sat opposite her and I noticed that on the wall hanging behind her, there was a map of Normandy and on her desk she had closed the filed which was in front of her, which I read upside down, which said ‘Landing Craft’. So I realised what we were doing there then.
(Jeanne Law, oral history, interview recorded 27.2.1997. Transcript held in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key PORMG: 5333A)
Jeanne recalls being told by Admiral George Creasy (1895-1972) that whilst they were stationed at Southwick, not to walk in groups of more than two or three in case the enemy became suspicious of a large gathering. Staff at Southwick were not allowed to keep private diaries, take photographs or make personal telephone calls to the outside. So as not to alert local tradespeople that a large influx of staff had congregated at Southwick, additional food rations had not been ordered. Jeanne remembers living off of bread, margarine and peanut butter for quite some time after arriving. In one day she consumed eleven slices!
There are very few photographs/illustrations of Southwick Park in operation from 1944, save for a few official group photographs of the Commanders and other selected military personnel who worked alongside. There is a picture of the Map Room at Southwick painted in June, 1944 by Official War Artist Barnett Freedman (1901-1958). This painting is a rare and fascinating glimpse of the staff who worked in the room during D-Day. The whole operation at Southwick was conducted at the highest level of secrecy, staff had to sign an additional Official Secrets Act called BIGOT. This was codename for a security level beyond Top Secret.
Jeanne recalls what daily life was like at Southwick in 1944:
Our quarters were in a brick bungalow type building to the South West of the main house. We slept in the usual double berthed bunks with an ‘Ablution Block’ of lavatories and wash-basins attached to the building. There was an air-raid shelter nearby…Our steel cabinets and office equipment which we had packed-up ourselves after normal duty before leaving London [Norfolk House], arrived with us and was placed in Nissen Huts erected alongside the main house on the north eastern side on part of the driveway. Next to us was the Meteorological Hut with the “Weather Men”. The rest of the operational staff were in offices in Southwick House itself.
Montgomery was in his caravan in the woods behind us. Tedder [Arthur – 1890-1967] was somewhere else, I don’t know where he was, but he used to arrive in a white sports car, I was rather impressed. Well the Admiral and his staff and I think most of the officers were in Southwick House itself and we were working in a Nissen hut.
[Eisenhower] was quite shy really and he said, ‘good morning’ and he fled up the stairs, three at a time, a very fit man. We did see him quite often. On the day before D-Day, when they had just made their decision, we had been to get our pay, which was fifteen shillings and a soap coupon, and we were walking back when I heard the guard come to attention, and I said, ‘something’s happening let’s wait a minute’, and out of the door came Eisenhower and Ramsay and Tedder and Lee Mallory, and they saw us gorping at them, and Eisenhower gave us the thumbs up sign and we knew it was on.
Very early on the morning of D-Day, we hardly slept, and one of the girls in our room was a plotter and she came back just after midnight and she said, ‘I have plotted the first ship’.
I recall after the invasion we were allowed into Portsmouth and we borrowed awful old bicycles and I remember I used to bicycle into Fareham to have dinner.
(Jeanne Law, oral history, interview recorded 27.2.1997. Transcript held in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key PORMG: 5333A)
All troops and Army personnel were fully briefed by SHAEF four days prior to D-Day. All units were instructed to be sealed-off completely from the public and guarded by barbed wire as well as the military police. Only senior Officers knew the exact locations for invasion in Normandy. In order to ensure secrecy was maintained right up until the point of embarkation, troops were just briefed on the manoeuvres and told false locations. It was also at this briefing that the men were given their invasion currency and printed beach instructions.
Following D-Day, staff at Southwick found themselves with quite a bit of free-time. However, in the immediate aftermath of June 6th, were far too exhausted to take advantage of movement restrictions being lifted. Many staff fell asleep at their desks having worked for days on end with little or no sleep. Jean remembers witnessing colleagues sleeping in the grounds, on the lawn or outside their Nissen Huts. Jeanne also recalls that the staff were given a bit of leave after D-Day and when she returned she discovered that Admiral Creasy had been taken off in an ambulance with exhaustion.
After a period of recuperation, staff did begin to explore their location. Wrens could often be seen cycling into Southwick village, sailing on the lake, going to the cinema in Portsmouth or picnicking on Hayling Island. Southwick’s Golden Lion pub was a favourite haunt of SHAEF HQ’s servicemen and women. The front bar was known as the ‘Blue Room’ and officially adopted as the Officers’ Mess.
‘Ready for The Day’ (1944). Showing preparations across Southern England in readiness for D-Day. Published by British Pathe on You Tube 13.4.2014.
HAMPSHIRE PREPARES – THE KHAKI INVASION
In early 1944, Prime Minster Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) all met to discuss in detail the plans for D-Day. General Eisenhower had arrived in Britain earlier in the same year, on the 15th January.
‘Ike Visits Monty’ (1944). Published by British Pathe on You Tube 13.4.2014.
It was essential that a dress rehearsal took place approximately one month before the main event. This operation was codenamed FABIUS. A full-scale exercise which took place at the end of April, beginning of May. The aim was to test all aspects of the land, sea and air forces ability to implement both Overlord and NEPTUNE (codename for naval plans).
Hampshire played a vital role in Operation Fabius. British and Canadian assault forces departed from Southampton and Portsmouth to mount a mock invasion on Littlehampton, Bracklesham Bay (Forces S and J) and Hampshire’s Hayling Island (Force G). American units (Forces O and U) attacked Slapton Sands in Devon, in several phases, as part of the ill-fated Exercise Tiger in which many men died when German E-Boats sank two tank landing crafts (LCTs) and damaged a third.
Estimates for the number of men dead or missing at Slapton Sands, range from seven hundred and forty-nine to nearly a thousand. A final death toll has never been given for several reasons including the fact that the whole tragic incident was shrouded in secrecy for years afterwards. Surviving servicemen who took part in Exercise Tiger were threatened with Court Martial if they discussed what happened on that fateful Friday, 28th April. If events had become public knowledge then morale amongst servicemen would have been severely compromised at such a crucial stage during the preparations for D-Day.
In addition to the various military components and logistics, the contribution made towards D-Day preparations by the Home Front, not just in Hampshire but right across Britain and America, should not be underestimated. In order to equip an Allied force of this magnitude a comprehensive production programme had to be put in place.
Conscription for women was brought into force in Britain. In order to be exempted from conscription, a woman had to now prove that her husband’s war work or her children would be adversely affected by her absence. It was no longer possible to give domestic responsibilities as a reason for exemption.
Fuel was rationed and raw materials amassed on an unprecedented scale. Aluminium saucepans were collected for smelting down into aircraft components and iron railings were removed from outside public buildings and private residences. Evidence of ‘stubs’ left following the mass removal of railings can still in many towns, villages and cities today.
From April, 1944, onwards, American, British and Canadian military personnel poured into Hampshire along with army contingents from Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Australia, Rhodesia, South Africa and New Zealand. Troops were recalled from theatres of war in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.
By D-Day, over one and a half million American troops alone had arrived in Britain armed with their rifles, nylons and Hershey bars much to the sheer joy of local young ladies as well as small children. At Southampton’s Royal Pier Pavilion, American GIs were a familiar sight and at the Guildhall, Glenn Miller and his Orchestra played several dates to keep the troops entertained whilst waiting upon final orders for D-Day to come through.
American Army’s field kitchens provided their troops with a constant supply of apple pie, clam chowder and hamburgers, a familiar sight particularly at encampments on Southampton Common and in the New Forest. For local people who had been used to a diet controlled by rationing, this must have been quite an enviable spectacle.
At Warsash, near Southampton, there was one instance where American Army caterers chucked surplus food stuffs into the Hamble River. Large hams, meats and cheeses were simply thrown away as the date for embarkation drew nearer. Locals made a dash to River in order to claim their bounty. Customs’ officers from Southampton turned a blind-eye. The British remarked that the Americans were: ‘overfed, overpaid, over-sexed and over-here.’ To which their Atlantic cousins retorted that the Brits were: ‘underfed, underpaid, undersexed and under Eisenhower.’
Hoards of trucks, tanks and jeeps could be seen parked-up on Hampshire roadsides particularly in the southern half of the county. Bridges had to be strengthened and roads widened to accommodate heavy-duty traffic. Fields were soon full of army supplies and munitions. Sleepy rural idylls were turned into giant army encampments and country lanes became military car parks. Red-bricked estate boundary walls were covered in white-painted numerals to indicate where tanks and jeeps should be parked.
Local pubs were filled with military personnel and it wasn’t unusual for families to adopt the tank parked outside their house. Troops enjoyed good local hospitality many being invited indoors to join the family at mealtimes. Kitchen tables were often used by Officers to spread their maps out on.
Soldiers could be seen sleeping in hedgerows, on the roadside or by their vehicles. Following their initial arrival in Hampshire, troops would bide their time playing cards, writing letters and sharing friendly exchanges with the locals. Many other troops lived in temporary camps, mostly in wooded areas such as the New Forest or Forest of Bere. Both of these locations were close to embarkation points.
Men stationed in camps had reasonable facilities including showers, film-screenings areas and basic outdoor facilities to play sports such as softball, football, volleyball and table tennis. Southampton’s main parks and the Common became densely populated military camps and later marshalling areas prior to embarkation. The atmosphere, full of heightened expectation, must have been palpable.
Canadian soldiers stationed in a remote part of the New Forest before D-Day, would gather for regular church services at a site were there is now a permanent memorial to the fallen. Men of the 3rd Canadian Division RCASC (the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps) erected a cross on 14th April, 1944 were they all gathered for worship. The cross can still be seen today. Men of the 3rd Canadian Division and 2nd Armoured Brigade landed on Juno Beach, June 6th, 1944, suffering fourteen fatal casualties on that day. There were further losses in the weeks and months that followed.
On Friday, 2nd June, 1944, Winston Churchill arrived at a tiny railway station in the Hampshire hamlet of Droxford, not far from Southwick. Churchill was accompanied by members of the War Cabinet and overseas leaders (Charles de Gaulle, President William Lyon McKenzie King and Jan Smuts). Operation Overlord’s Commanders, based at Southwick, met with these political giants for one last conference before final orders to proceed were issued.
Droxford was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, it was close to Southwick and secondly, the station was near to a railway tunnel, should there be an air raid, the train could back into the tunnel and obtain safe shelter. The overseas leaders also visited troop encampments and inspected vessels anchored on the Solent. Accompanying this illustrious team were a number of smartly dressed secretaries and personal aides. Everyone lived on the train from Friday 2nd until Sunday 4th June. A local farmer, living opposite the station, delivered fresh milk every morning and was escorted along the track to the train by an armed guard.
In the months prior to D-Day, airstrips across Hampshire witnessed an increase in traffic. Sites at Needs Ore Point, Beaulieu, Holmsley South, Ibsley, Lymington and Stoney Cross became fully operational. Portsmouth-based aircraft manufacturer, Airspeed Limited, built the famous Horsa gliders. These gliders were unique in that they had a higher percentage of timber used in their construction than traditional military aeroplanes. Both the control column and wheel on a Horsa were made of wood.
During the D-Day, sixty-eight Horsa gliders, carrying men of the 6th Airborne Division, along with four giant Hamilcars loaded with heavy equipment, headed for their landing zone. Forty-seven Horsas and two Hamilcars reached their destination. As daylight took hold, another two hundred and fifty gliders, most of which were Horsas, delivered seven thousand five hundred men directly into the battle zone.
On 31st May, 1944, troops were moved from their temporary encampments to begin boarding their landing crafts and ships. Communications and general entente cordiale with the locals was forbidden from this point onward. Along the South Coast there were a total of twenty-four embarkation points all with troop marshalling areas close by.
There were four embarkation points in Portsmouth and three in Gosport. The Eastern Docks of Southampton were used for docking the larger ships and the Western Docks sheltered landing crafts. Southampton Town Quay had three separate embarkation points for troops boarding landing crafts. Both the Isle of Wight and Hythe Ferry Terminals, as well as the Ocean Cruise Terminals, were used to full capacity.
Civilians living close to ports did not have the same degree of interaction with troops, following their initial arrival in the county, as they did in rural communities. On 31st March, 1944, a Regulated Area (No. 2) Order was issued whereby a ten mile wide coastal strip of land from the wash to Lands End meant that the movement of civilians was restricted, closed in fact to all visitors. In the city of Southampton, no-one was allowed to enter or leave the city without a permit. The only exception was for residents living on the Isle of Wight.
A subsequent Direction (no.26) was issued on 19th April, 1944 and remained in force until 14th June, 1944. Southampton Docks were covered in camouflage and smoke screens which was meant to ensure that dockside activity was obscured from enemy reconnaissance. However, there are reports of local citizens travelling on the top of double-decker buses in the city who were able to see soldiers making their tanks waterproof.
On the night of 5th June, local people were woken by the sound of thousands of aircraft flying overhead. The invasion of Normandy had begun. When civilians awoke on the morning of 6th June all military vehicles and personnel had vanished overnight.
However, on 13th June, 1944, D-Day+7, Hitler attempted to have the last word when he ordered the launch of the first V1 flying bombs (Doodlebugs), London being the first target. Several days later, on 15th June, two hundred and forty-four V1’s were fired at the capital and fifty at Southampton. One month later on the 15th July, 1944, a V1 fell on Newcomen Road, Portsmouth, killing fifteen and injuring eighty-two.
Group Captain Sir J. Martin Stagg RAF (1900-1975) – D-Day & The Weather
Col(Retd) Jeremy J. Green OBE, Regimental Secretary RHQ RMP (at Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG)) explains in detail the significance of the weather and D-Day. Interview by Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time. Uploaded to You Tube 2.6.2014.
In the above Podcast, Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time uses Stagg’s diary entries to piece together the facts behind the decision by Eisenhower to delay invasion by twenty-four hours based upon Stagg and his team’s detailed weather forecasts in June, 1944.
Extracts Below from Group Captain J. M. Stagg RAF – ‘Report on the Meteorological Implications in the Selection of the Day for the Allied Invasion of France, 6th June, 1944’
I(a) For such a complex operation as a landing on a heavily fortified coast, it is not an easy matter to determine one set of meteorological conditions which would be ideal from the points of view of all arms concerned. The ideal conditions would change with each stage of operation; in the hours immediately preceding and following the actual hour of first landing, the conditions would vary almost from hour to hour.
Probably the only firm prerequisite is the restriction on the strength (and in part on the direction) of the surface wind with its immediate effect on the waves and surf on the landing beaches.
Hence, from the viewpoint of naval operations alone, the ideal conditions would be little or no wind within the actual sphere of operations and no swell-producing wind for the whole period covering the time of sailing of the assault forces to their landings on the beaches.
Visibility, as affected vertically by cloud and horizontally on the surface by fog, mist/haze, is one of the most important factors for the Air and Naval aspects of the operation.
There are other factors; for example, the condition of the ground in the operational area as regards softness (mudiness) for the movement of heavy vehicles both tracked and untracked. This factor is taken into account in the planning stages but in certain circumstances may also be important in deciding the day of assault.
(i) Surface winds should not exceed Force 3 (8-12 mph) on shore or Force 4 (13-18 mph) off-shore in the assault area during the days D to D plus 2. Winds might be Force 5 in the open sea but only for limited periods.
(ii) In the days preceding D-Day, there should be no prolonged periods of high winds of such direction and in such Atlantic areas as to produce any substantial swell in the Channel.
(iii) Visibility, not less than 3 miles.
Air Force Requirements
(i) Airbourne transport:
a) Cloud ceiling at least 2,500 feet along the route to and over the target area.
b) Visibility at least 3 miles.
(ii) Heavy Bombers:
a) Not more than 5/10 cloud cover below 5,000 feet and cloud ceiling not lower than 11,000 feet over the target area.
(iii) Medium and Fighter Bombers:
a) Cloud ceiling not less than 4,500 feet, visibility not less than 3 miles over the target area.
(iv) Fighter and Fighter Bombers:
a) Cloud base not less than 1,000 feet.
(v) Base areas:
a) Cloud not below 1,000 feet and visibility not below a mile except for heavy bombers for which there is the additional stipulation that low cloud tops must be less than 5,000 feet high and there should be only fragmentary middle cloud.
i) Airborne Troop Landings:
a) For paratroops, the surface wind over the target area should not exceed 20 mph in the target area and should not be gusty; and for gliders the surface wind should not be over 30-35 mph.
b) The intensity of the ground illumination should be less than half moon at 30 degrees altitude or the equivalent in diffuse twilight.
ii) Ground Forces:
The ground should be sufficiently dry to allow movement of heavy vehicles off made-up roads.
Actual Weather Conditions According to Stagg For 5th & 6th June, 1944
June, 5th, 1944 – 10/10 cloud over the assault area at 0600 hours and had been so during the night;
June 6th, 1944, 0100 – Wind W. Force 3 Cloud 7/10-10/10 3,000-5,000 ft; 0400 – Wind WNW Force 3, cloud 4/10-6/10, 3,000ft, 05.45 – Beachhead clear with 6/10 low, cloud inland, 0800 – Wind WNW Force 3-4, cloud 7/10-9/10.
Late afternoon clouds broke and cleared over the Channel. 1700 – Wind WNW Force 4 (Force 5 at times) cloud clear over Channel but 6/10-9/10 over beachhead and further inland. Clear area over the Seine estuary (N. value for airborne, glider flight). 1800 – Cloud, Cherbourg 4/10-6/10, 3,000-5,000 ft, Havre 1/10-2/10, 2,000-3,000 ft.
‘Factory-made Invasion Harbour’ (1944). Fascinating film by British Pathe about the Mulberry Harbours including lots of original footage. Uploaded onto You Tube 13.4.2014
Mulberry & Gooseberry Harbours & PLUTO
Thought to be one of the greatest feats of engineering in the twentieth century, the Mulberry and Gooseberry harbours were a crucial part of Operation Overlord and Neptune. These pre-fabricated harbours provided shelter and enabled troop reinforcements, as well as all of their equipment, to be landed in France following the initial invasion of the Normandy beaches.
These artificial harbours, both the size of Dover, were operational from D-Day+10 until, and after, Cherbourg was liberated. They were made to last for ninety days. There were two Mulberry harbours, Mulberry A and Mulberry B, one at Arromanches for the British forces and another at Utah beach, for the Americans. Unfortunately, Mulberry A was put out of use on D-Day+15 (21st June) following several days of severe storms in Normandy.
The harbours and associated structures were constructed and stored at various sites in Southern Hampshire:
Lepe (Stone Point), Stokes Bay (Gosport) and Hayling Island – all beach locations and chosen for their small tidal range;
No. 5 Dry Dock, adjacent wet berths and the Inner Dock, Southampton (twelve of the largest caissons were built here);
Beaulieu. Some of the smaller caissons were built here in April/May, 1944;
No. 7 Dry Dock, Southampton. The steel Bombardons were constructed here.
Construction of the various components began in December, 1943, although planning had started a long while beforehand. The whole project was, like all other aspects of Operation Overlord, highly secretive. Every component had a separate codename. At is peak, there were forty-five thousand men working on the project, drawn from a nationwide workforce at a time when labour was in short supply. The workers were a mix of Irishmen, conscripted local teenagers and middle-aged men who were employed as scaffolders, steel benders and steel erectors. The harbours consisted of:
deep water shipping, floating, breakwaters for the larger ships (BOMBARDON);
floating pierhead units;
temporary in-shore breakwaters (made-up of sunken blockshops known as the GOOSEBERRY harbours);
steel floats (BEETLES) which were used to rest the articulated steel sections that formed the roadways;
SPUDS. These were vertical steel columns that supported the steel pontoons;
permanent in-shore breakwaters;
RHINOS. Pontoons fitted with two outboard motors. Each pontoon had its own tug;
reinforced concrete caissons (PHEONIXES) – these were sunk in situ to support the pierheads and floating roadways. They provided the main breakwater or harbour wall and two hundred and thirteen of them were built.
Lepe (Stone Point), near Exbury, Hampshire was both a construction site and embarkation point for six thousand troops on D-Day itself. The site was established within a very short space of time. Wilson Lovatt & Son were the firm chosen to manage this site with technical assistance provided by Messrs Holloway Brothers (London) Limited. Seven hundred men worked on construction of the Mulberry Harbours at Lepe. Letters have survived (Cadland Estate archives) that show some of the labourers were caught stealing chickens, poaching and vandalising a bathing hut on the nearby Cadland House estate.
Archaeological remains of the former construction site at Lepe can still be seen today (more of which has revealed itself following the Valentine’s Day storms earlier this year). Some of the above ground archaeology includes:
On the northern half of the site a long, raised, concrete and brick platform where the PHEONIX caissons were assembled;
On the southern half of the site at platform end are slipways and winch-house foundations used to launch the casissons sideways into the sea at high tide;
There are remains of concrete hardstandings and beach hardening mats (which look like giant bars of chocolate);
Jetties used for the embarkation of the troops and vehicles;
Two bollards on the hardstanding were used to secure vessels during the loading.
Editor of Come Step Back in Time discussing the importance of the Mulberry Harbours and explores the site at Lepe (Stone Point), near Exbury. In the background behind Emma, you can see the two ‘Dolphin’ iron structures. These are the remains of jetties used to load vessels.
D-Day Beach Landing (1944). Original footage showing British troops landing in Normandy. British Pathe War Archives. Uploaded to You Tube 21.12.11.
D-DAY HEROES- IN THEIR OWN WORDS
This is the opportunity which we have long-awaited and which must be seized and pursued with relentless determination. Let no one underestimate the magnitude of the task. I count on every man to do his utmost to ensure the success of the great enterprise which is the climax of the European War.
(Special Order of The Day issued to each Officer and man, June 1944 by B.H. Ramsay, Admiral Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief Expeditionary Force)
To all soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed Peoples of Europe and security for ourselves in a free world. The free men of the world are marching together for victory.
(Special Order of The Day issued to each Officer and man, June 1944 by General Eisenhower)
There were five assault beaches involved in the Normandy landings. Utah, Omaha (American) and Gold, Juno and Sword (British and Canadian). Juno beach was original to be called ‘Jelly’ but it was thought inappropriate to send any man to die on a beach called ‘Jelly’.
Conditions aboard LCTs were appalling. A heavy weather swell on the ten-mile Channel crossing to Normandy resulted in men suffering from dreadful seasickness. The anti-sickness tablets issued were not really that effective. Cold, wet, tired, dizzy with nausea and weighed down with heavy kit, men descended into four feet deep water.
In several oral history testimonies by D-Day veterans, men describe being hit by an overwhelming stench of cordite, fuel fumes and smoke upon embarkation in Normandy. Many state the moment you stepped off of the landing craft into the water, it was a fight for your life, the hardest ten yards you will ever have to travel. Survivors were also left with terrible deafness from the continuous artillery bombardments.
On landing, each man was handed two anti-seasickness tablets, a small collapsible cooker with methylated spirit blocks and forty-eight hours worth of dehydrated food…As each LCT was fully loaded it took up its position in the armada and then as D-Day was postponed for twenty-four hours we rode-out the storm off of the Isle of Wight. The two tablets did not work.
(Mr R.R. Ridley, Royal Artillery, Sword Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)
Naval personnel were shouting ‘Get ashore’… over the ship’s side, still dizzy from seasickness, and into water 4ft deep, each one let out a gasp as the water swirled around, and we struggled for sure. It was the hardest ten yards I ever did, but we all got ashore.
(Eric Broadhead, Durham Light Infantry, Landing on Gold Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)
Being only 5ft 7, I was in water up to my chest…I stepped into a crater and went under. My buddy next to me grabbed my pack straps and just dragged me along until my feet found bottom again…I was carrying 40lbs of special equipment that would have kept me anchored to the bottom.. Hitting the beach was an experience I would never want to repeat. I was just nineteen years old, very scared and seasick again. My only clear thought was to get on solid land as quick as possible.
(Mr T. C. Campbell, US 1st Engineer Special Brigade, Utah Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)
Instead of our regular packs we had been issued assault jackets, a sort of vest-like garment…In the various pockets we stored K-rations, a quarter pound of dynamite with fuses, hand grenades, smoke grenades, medical kit (a syringe, morphine)…We had two slings of ammo belts slung across our shoulders. On our backs we carried an entrenching tool, a bayonet and poncho…As assistant to the flame thrower, I carried his rifle and pack…Altogether, our equipment weighed about 70lbs.
(John Barnes, US 116th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)
On approaching the beach there was a craft going in right alongside of us, LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel) which is a smaller craft which holds thirty troops, and some them hit floating landmines and so forth, and you know, they exploded and you would see a guy flying through the air with his rifle and everything, but there’s nothing you can do about that. You can’t stop and help those people.
(Henry Martin USN, on board LCT 586, Omaha Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)
By midnight on the 6th June, all initial assault forces, with the exception of those on OMAHA beach, had gained a majority of their objectives. One hundred and thirty thousand men had landed from the sea and twenty-three thousand troops had landed from the air. Eleven thousand Allied troops were either killed, injured or missing. The Allies met with mixed resistance from the Germans but the 21st Panzer Division did manage to initially keep hold of Caen and its neighbouring airfields.
On D-Day and during the Battle for Normandy, more than forty thousand Allied soldiers and over two hundred thousand Axis soldiers died.
Normandy veteran and life-long Portsmouth resident John Jenkins, who served in the Pioneer Corps, recalls his experiences of D-Day. Filmed at the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth. Uploaded to You Tube by the D-Day Museum 4.2.2014.
Brown, Mike, A Child’s War: Growing-Up On The Home Front 1939-45, Sutton Publishing, (2001)
Burton, Lesley, D-Day: Our Great Enterprise, Gosport Society, (1984)
Christie RN (Retd.), Lt. G. History of Fort Southwick: 1942-1974 (c.1970s)
Davies, Ken, New Forest Airfields, A Niche Publication (1992)
Doughty, Martin, (Ed.) Hampshire and D-Day, Southgate Publishers Ltd (1994
Fleming, Pat, (Ed.) D-Day: 50th Anniversary of The Normandy Landings. The Official Guide to Anniversary Events, Southern Newspapers PLC, (1993)
Frankland, Claire et al, Southampton Blitz: The Unofficial Story, Oral History Team, Southampton City Council (1990)
Leete, John In Time of War: Hampshire, Sutton Publishing, (2006)
Middleton, D. H., Airspeed: The Company and Its Aeroplanes, Terence Dalton Ltd (1982)
Peckham, Ingrid, et al (Eds.) Southampton and D-Day, Southampton City Council (1994)
Pomeroy, Stephen (Ed.) Women At War, Portsmouth WEA Local History Group (2010)
Podcast – Stagg’s Diaries and Reports. Copies of weather forecasts for Operation Neptune and Overlord, including the diary of Group Captain J. M. Stagg, RAF, and his report are available to view at the D-Day Museum Archive. Index Key: PORMG: 1990.745. Originals are held in The National Archives (AIR 37.1124A).
D-Day Museum Archive. Numerous documents consulted. Most of the extracts used in the above article include an Index Key reference as part of their citation. If you wish to consult a particular oral history I have mentioned, it would be helpful to the Archive if you could include the Index Key when making your enquiry.
Further Resources & Special Thanks
D-Day Museum & D-Day Museum Archive. A special thank-you to Andrew Whitmarsh from the D-Day Museum for advising me so thoroughly during my research for this article. The quality of material kept in the D-Day Museum Archive is exceptional. After an initial consultation, Andrew prepared for me a comprehensive bundle of papers which I found invaluable. I would urge anyone researching this topic to consult the D-Day Museum’s Archivefirst. For details on how to access the collection, Click Here;
Southwick House, Southwick Park, Hampshire (Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG). I would like to thank the DSPG staff at Southwick House for hosting such a successful filming day and also for sharing their extensive knowledge of the location’s historic connections with D-Day. In particular, Col(Retd) Jeremy T. Green OBE, Regimental Secretary at RHQ RMP. Public visits to the house and its famous Map Room are strictly by appointment only. However, please do not let this put you off as it is fairly easy to organise a visit. There is also a Royal Military Police Museum adjacent to the main house as well as a Royal Navy Police Museum and a Royal Air Force Police Museum. For further information about the site and details of how to arrange a visit, Click Here.Please note that you will be required to bring Photo ID along with you on your visit as the site is still an operational military base;
Portsmouth History Centre, Portsmouth Central Library. I would like to thank the extremely helpful and knowledgeable staff who work at the Portsmouth History Centre. The Centre is an excellent resource for local history of both the Portsmouth area and also Southern Hampshire. For access details and opening times please, Click Here. Please note that you will be required to bring with you Photo ID as well as something with your name and address on, such as a utility bill. You can also use the collection if you have a CARN card.
This year, the Royal Marines celebrate their 350th anniversary. There are currently seven thousand Royal Marines and 40% of Britain’s Special Forces originate from the regiment. I recently visited their Museum in Southsea, Hampshire, located in Eastney Barracks, former Royal Marines Headquarters for training, reserve and special forces until its closure in 1991. The Museum opened at Eastney Barracks in October 1958 and charts the regiment’s history from its beginnings in 1664, right the way through until the present day. I was fortunate to be shown around by an extremely knowledgeable member of staff who pointed-out some of the more unusual exhibits in the collection as well as their fascinating backstories.
The Royal Marines – Fascinating Facts About Their History
Although primary focus of my visit was the First World War gallery, I also explored the rest of this superb Museum, discovering so many interesting, as well as rather surprising facts about the regiment’s history. Here are just a few that caught my eye:
Britain’s first Marines were called ‘Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot’, established by Charles II (1630-1685), on 28th October, 1664. The Duke of York was The Lord High Admiral and the regiment became known as the Admiral’s Regiment;
One of the first ever female soldiers was a Marine called Hannah Snell (1723-1792). In 1745, she enlisted in Portsmouth-based Colonel Fraser’s Regiment of Marines under the name of James Gray;
Marines took part in the first battle of the American War of Independence (1775-1783) at Bunkers Hill, Boston, June 16th, 1775;
When the “First Fleet” sailed from Portsmouth on 13th May, 1787, to found a prison colony in New South Wales, Australia, on ship were two hundred and forty-six Marines together with their wives and children. The journey took eight months and this very difficult tour of duty lasted three and a half years. Australia was founded on 26th January, 1788;
Marines travelled with Captain James Cook (1728-1779) on his three voyages to the Pacific, Antarctic and Arctic Oceans. They served to protect the ship’s crew and scientists when landing upon unfamiliar shores;
The Marines Forces became ‘Royal’ by Command of King George III (1738-1820) on 29th April, 1802;
Royal Marines travelled both with Charles Darwin (1809-1882), aboard the ‘Beagle’ (1831-36) and Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) on his expedition to the Arctic (1845);
Alongside The Royal Navy, Royal Marines were involved with The Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860), notably participating in the capture of Peking (1856);
Shortly after the Second World War began, Royal Marines Aviator, Captain Guy Beresford Kerr “Griff” Griffiths (1915-1999), was captured by Germans. He spent the rest of the war in POW camp Stalag Luft III in Sagan (now Żagań, Poland), made famous by The Great Escape (1963). He helped with colleagues escape attempts by forging documents and concealing tunnels. Griff was a talented artist who would produce cartoons to amuse his fellow Prisoners and also painted fake British planes that confused the Germans. You can view (silent) footage of Captain Griffiths during his early years in German captivity. Click Here;
Royal Marines Commandos were established in 1942. Commandos are identifiable by their distinctive green beret emblazoned with its Globe and Laurel badge bearing the wearer’s original regimental insignia. Royal Marines Commandos are an elite fighting force whose members are made-up of Army, Royal Marines and Royal Navy personnel.
Above film, The Royal Marines at War: Jungle Mariners (15 mins 17 secs) is produced by the Crown Film Unit and shows the harsh life of Royal Marines on a tour of duty in the jungles of the Far East. (Video uploaded onto You Tube, 31.12.2012 by the Royal Marines);
Above film, The Royal Marines at War: Commando – The Story of the Green Beret (1945) (59 mins 38 secs) was made for the Admiralty and is a drama-documentary covering Commando training in Wrexham, Anchnacarry and St. Ives. Fascinating archive footage shows wartime Commando units on amphibious assault exercises, perfecting cliff-top assaults and practicing both armed and unarmed combat techniques. (Video uploaded onto You Tube, 31.12.2012 by the Royal Marines).
Recruitment During The Regiment’s Early Years
The regiment’s recruitment policy has always been quite fair. Even in its early years, recruits were never press-ganged but instead volunteered. Marines joined for life or long periods and when not on ship, returned to barracks for further training. In other areas of the military, personnel would often find themselves unemployed in-between periods of active service. In times of war, additional Marine volunteers were encouraged to join by the offer of a bounty payment which in 1794 was eight guineas (£8.40) and in 1808 thirty guineas (£31.50).
I have no rupture, nor was ever troubled with fits, and am in no ways disabled by lameness or otherwise, but have perfect use of my limbs, that I am not an apprentice, and that I do not belong to the militia, or to any other regiment or Corps, or to His Majesty’s Navy.
(A Marine’s oath on enlisting c.1800)
During Victorian and Edwardian eras, living conditions for Royal Marines and their families stationed in barracks were fairly good. Eastney Barracks, built between 1862 and 1867, was home to the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) training. Married quarters were also provided and wives helped out with laundry, sewing and any other domestic tasks that needed doing on site. A strong community bond developed amongst the military personnel and their families.
Recruitment During The First World War
Your King and Country Needs You. Will you answer your country’s call? Each day is fraught with the gravest possibilities, and at this very moment the Empire is on the brink of the greatest War in the history of the world. In this crisis your country calls on her young unmarried men to rally round the flag and enlist. If every patriotic young man answers her call, England and her Empire will emerge stronger and more united than ever. If you are unmarried and between 18 and 30 years old, will you answer your country’s call? JOIN TODAY.
During the First World War, the Royal Marines ran a highly successful recruitment campaign. Right across Britain, tents were erected in public places including local parks. Attractively designed posters, urging men to enlist, appeared everywhere and the Corps had quadrupled in size by 1918. Divisional Headquarters for the Royal Marine Artillery was based at Eastney and Divisional Headquarters for the Royal Marine Light Infantry was split between Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth. Their Depot was in Deal, Kent. The Museum’s Curator, Ian Maine, explains:
During the First World War, over sixty thousand men served with the Royal Marines, rising from a peacetime establishment of around fifteen thousand men, so the Corps quadrupled in size. There were around six thousand one hundred and fifty men who were killed during the war. Unfortunately, we don’t have any figures for the number of those injured.
Young men between the ages of 17 and 23 are eligible for the Corps of Royal Marines, provided they produce satisfactory records of character. Each recruit is subjected to a medical examination; he must be strong, vigorous and healthy, and free from bodily infirmity, and be able to read and write fairly well and have a fair knowledge of the first four rules of arithmetic. Men enlisting for the duration of the war will be discharged with all convenient speed when the war is over.
In 1917, The Royal Marine Labour Corps was established which continued until it being disbanded in 1919. Members were raised from volunteers aged over forty-one along with those who were deemed unfit to serve on the front-line. Their main duties were to oversee the distribution of war materials arriving at French ports, en-route to the Western Front. Approximately four thousand nine hundred and ten officers and men joined this Corps.
Also in 1917, women were allowed to enlist in the Auxiliary Services with WRNS (The Womens Royal Naval Service or ‘Wrens’), when serving with the Royal Marines they were known as ‘Marens’. Wrens and Marens were stationed at each of the barracks and undertook a wide range of shore-based duties, such as clerks, mess waitresses, cooks, wireless telegraphers and boat crew members. They were disbanded in 1919. The Wrens reformed in 1939 and played an important role in World War Two.
The First World War – Military Campaigns
Shortly after the First World War began, the Royal Marines were sent to Ostend and later Antwerp. The regiment suffered heavy casualties early on in the war. Winston Churchill (1874-1965), then First Lord of the Admiralty, formed a Royal Navy Division of the Royal Marines which was in fact a combination of Marines and naval reservists who were surplus to Fleet requirements. In 1916 and 1918, the Royal Marines with the Royal Naval Division fought in the trenches of France.
The conditions on Gallipoli were appalling. The fighting was fierce and the heat quickly decayed dead bodies lying in the battlefields. A plague of flies caused disease. There was no source of fresh water and sanitation was very basic. There was no rest area and the Allies were constantly under shell fire.
Royal Marines formed a sizeable part of the Royal Naval Division involved in the battles at Anzac Cove and Cape Helles as part of the Gallipoli campaign. Lance Corporal W. R. Parker RMLI received the Victoria Cross for his bravery in rescuing wounded in daylight under heavy fire at Gallipoli on the 30th April, 1915.
By the time war broke-out in 1914, Britain was relying heavily on food imports, particularly from Canada and America, two thirds of our food was imported. Keeping the shipping lanes open in the Atlantic and North Sea became vital. Germany were determined to starve Britain into surrendering and consequently sent many submarines to sink supply ships operating along these routes.
Between 31st May and 1st June, 1916, one of the greatest sea battles in naval history took place, The Battle of Jutland. The result was a draw but fighting resulted in the death of nine thousand six hundred and forty-six sailors, including five hundred and thirty-eight Royal Marines. The regiment’s second Victoria Cross of the war was awarded (Posthumously) to Major F. J. W. Harvey RMLI.
The Royal Marines also played a vital role in The Zeebrugge Raid (23rd April, 1918) in which the Royal Navy tried to block the Belgian port. The aim was to destroy German U-boat bases at Zeebrugge. Two Royal Marines were awarded Victoria Crosses, by ballot, for their part in The Zeebrugge Raid, Captain E. Bamford DSO RMLI and Sergeant N. A. Finch RMA.
Both Bamford and Finch were serving aboard HMS Vindictive (an Arrogant Class Cruiser). When the ship arrived at Zeebrugge it came under very heavy enemy fire, particularly along her upper works. Finch together with another colleague, Lt Rigby, remained at post despite witnessing many of their colleagues being either killed or wounded, Finch also received severe injuries. Finch and Rigby continued until their gun was finally put out of action. The Lewis machine gun used by Finch is now on display in the Museum.
The Royal Marines Band
There are several galleries at the Museum dedicated to the Royal Marines Band. Established towards the end of the nineteenth century, The Royal Marines Band Service is the musical wing of the Royal Navy. There are currently five bands and one Corps of Drums. Headquarters are the Royal Marines School of Music at HMS Nelson in Portsmouth. This is the only branch of the Royal Marines which is open to women. The Royal Marines School of Music (originally known as the Royal Naval School of Music) was founded in 1903 and its base was Eastney Barracks until the Corps moved to Deal in 1930. Primarily, members are trained musicians but they also serve as stretcher bearers, ambulance drivers and in logistics when required. The Captain-General of The Royal Marines Band is HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
One of the most famous individuals in the history of the Royal Marines Band is Sir Vivian Dunn (1908-1995) KCVO OBE FRSA. He served for a total of thirty-eight years. At the age of just twenty-two, he became Director of Music, Portsmouth Divisional Band and was the last civilian musician to be appointed into such a post. He encouraged close collaboration between the various units of the Royal Marines Band Service and his Portsmouth Divisional Band.
During the First World War, Royal Marine Bands served in ships of the Royal Navy and also the Royal Naval Brigades including the campaign at Gallipoli. The Divisional Bands all did a tour of duty with the sixty-third Royal Naval Division on the Western Front.
To commemorate this year’s 350th Anniversary, the Royal Marines Band will be performing in The Mountbatten Festival of Music which takes place at the Royal Albert Hall (13th, 14th and 15th March, 2014). To book tickets call the box office on 0845 401 5018 or see the website for booking details www.royalalberthall.com.
The First World War – The Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy”. Since its introduction on 29th January, 1856, Royal Marines have been awarded ten of them, five of which were earned during the First World War. The last Victoria Cross awarded to a Royal Marine was in the Second World War (Corporal Thomas Peck Hunter, 1923-1945). The Museum has a dedicated Medal Room, formerly the Officers’ Mess Billiard Room, showcasing all of the regiment’s medals, including Victoria Crosses.
Listed below are details of the five Victoria Crosses awarded to Royal Marines during the First World War:
Lance Corporal W. R. Parker RMLI. Gallipoli, 30th April, 1915. Displayed conspicuous bravery in rescuing wounded in daylight under heavy fire;
Major F. J. W. Harvey RMLI (Posthumously). The Battle of Jutland, 31st May, 1916. Ordered the flooding of his turret’s magazines although mortally wounded, thereby saving his ship;
Major F. W. Lumsden DSO RMA. France, 3rd April, 1917. Led a party to recover six enemy guns under heavy fire. He is the oldest Royal Marine to be awarded the Victoria Cross;
Captain E. Bamford DSO RMLI. The Raid on Zeebrugge, 23rd April, 1918. Led his company with initiative and daring in the face of great difficulties (medal awarded by ballot);
Sergeant N. A. Finch RMA. The Raid on Zeebrugge, 23rd April, 1918. Maintained continuous covering fire from the exposed foretop, although severely wounded (medal awarded by ballot).
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