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:
A short while ago, I received a Press Release from PR Matters that was so exciting, I just had to share it with you here. New research, conducted by retired 18th and 19th century metallurgist Dr Richard Williams, has proved that a cooking pot in the collection of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is the oldest known coke iron casting in the western world.
Without using coke to smelt iron, there would have been no Industrial Revolution; the supply of wood was simply not extensive enough. It has previously been assumed that Abraham Darby I (1678-1717) invented the process because wood was already becoming increasingly scarce and coke was therefore generally more economic, but Dr Richard Williams has established that it was, in reality, all about cooking pots.
Dr Williams has been working on behalf of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust as a member of the museum’s Birmingham Advisory Group. The work, published in the journal Historical Metallurgy shows that Abraham Darby’s genius was more commercial than technical (as previously thought) and that he actually first smelted iron with coke, as opposed to charcoal from wood, for just one application.
Working on behalf of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, he comments on what was primarily a technical analysis: “We have now shown how Abraham Darby was the first man to make a profitable business from smelting iron with coke rather than charcoal. He saw an opportunity that no one else did, applied for a patent to protect it and got on with creating the business to exploit it.”
In 2013, I want on an incredible press trip to Ironbridge, Shropshire. I cannot tell you what an astonishing heritage site it is. There are 36 scheduled monuments and listed buildings cared for by The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, spread over a 6 square kilometre site.
The cooking pot which has been the subject of Dr Williams findings, is part of the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron collection. The unique cast iron pot, dated 1714, inspired Dr Williams to wonder how it had been cast in order to have exactly the right metallurgical structure? He saw the relationship between the only patent (see image above) that Abraham Darby filed – about moulding such pots in sand – and his modified blast furnace.
It had been previously thought that the two inventions were entirely independent, but Dr Williams realised that Darby’s patent would only work if the liquid iron he used to pour into his moulds was made with coke.It would not have worked with the previously universally used charcoal.
Darby’s new process was much cheaper than the competitive one, which was most effectively practised on the continent, with a consequently large importation of pots into England. On the continent they used charcoal but, in order to get the right structure in their iron, Dr Williams recognized that they had had to pour their metal into moulds that were very hot, thus being obliged to use an expensive moulding process where the sand grains were bound together with clay, the so-called loam process.
Darby’s patent specifically said that he was going to use no clay and his moulds could thus not be heated. Dr Williams explains that to make most castings, the composition of the iron had to be such that a grey structure resulted rather than a white one, but this was much more difficult when the casting was thin, as with a pot, because the metal cooled more quickly than with a thicker casting.
The iron had to be high in silicon to come out grey, something that was very difficult to achieve using charcoal. But coke did it much more easily and this Abraham Darby already knew, from the work of others before him. He clearly knew it some years before he first set out to make iron himself, because his patent was published in April 1707 and he did not start his coke blast furnace until the end of 1708.
It has not previously been realised – at least in the UK – that moulds used to be regularly heated. Dr Williams could find no reference to it in the English language. There are however many references to it in the French encyclopaedias published in the second half of the 18th century, of which the Encyclopédie of Diderot is the most famous.
To prove his thesis, Dr Williams examined a number of 17th and 18th century pots made with the loam process at the Maison de Metallurgie in Liège. He deduced that all pots bear characteristic markings that establish how they were made and in his paper he demonstrates that the pot in the Ironbridge Gorge Museums, dated 1714 (just six years after Darby’s first blast furnace came on stream) must have been cast using an iron made with coke. With no one else known to be making coke iron at the time, it could only be a genuine Abraham Darby product, the oldest known coke iron casting in the western world.
To begin with, coke iron was only of economic use for the manufacture of cooking pots, but the profit from this activity allowed him and his descendants the time to develop the coke blast furnace for all the other applications for which it became suitable. His first furnace produced just four tons per week. In the world today, more than one billion tons of iron comes out of coke-fired blast furnaces each year.
Abraham Darby I – The Coalbrookdale Company
The Coalbrookdale Company was formed in 1709 by Abraham Darby I (1678-1717), an iron-master who had moved to the region from Bristol in the previous year. His original intention was to lease an ironworks with a view to setting-up a brass foundry – he had been experimenting with making brass pots since 1707 which led to his patent for casting iron bellied pots in dry sand.
He leased the Furnace at Coalbrookdale in 1709 from landowner Basil Brooke of Madeley and his wife Elizabeth, beginning blasting in January of the same year. Until the latter part of the 18th century, the most important industry in the Ironbridge Gorge was coal-mining – the first step on the road to the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the region.
Other coal-using industries utlising the area’s rich natural resources were: lead smelting; tar boiling; pottery making and brass manufacturing. The Tar Tunnel at Ironbridge is open to the public and well-worth a visit. In 1787, miners digging in the area struck a spring of natural bitumen (treacle-like black liquid) which has seeped out of the walls and formed into puddles for over two hundred years. It was money from coal that funded the first ironworks in the area.
Although now a haven of tranquillity, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the area resembled Dante’s Inferno, a scenewhich artist Philip James De Loutherbourg (1740-1812) captured so brilliantly in his iconic painting Coalbrookdale by Night (1801).
Between 1755 and 1780 the iron industry was booming in the region and five new groups of furnaces were set up:
The three surviving groups of iron furnaces mark these different phases in the local iron industry – the earliest, the Darby Furnace at Coalbrookdale …… Bedlam Furnaces (begun 1756-7) were the first of the great new Industrial Revolution furnaces, experimenting with new forms of power, while the Blists Hill Furnaces, begun in c.1832 and closed in 1912, signal the move away from water as a source of power, and eventually the end of smelting in the Gorge.
(Ironbridge Gorge by Catherine Clark, 1993, p.36, published by B. T. Batsford Ltd)
The Darby family were Quakers but did not force their religious beliefs on the workers at Coalbrookdale. The Darbys were known to be good employers as well as savvy business people, their workers rarely went on strike. Education, for both boys and girls, was also important to Quakers – a forward thinking approach for the time:
..adhering strictly to the ideals of self-discipline, frugality and simple faith, attitudes which extended into the conduct of their business. As members of the Society of Friends, Quakers formed a close-knit group, distinct in their way of dress and habits, and tending to socialize as a group. Many of the visitors who came to Coalbrookdale were Quaker associates, and the large houses at Coalbrookdale became a focus for this society.
The houses were built close to the works, but looked out over a more pleasant view of trees, pleasure gardens and a pool with a small decorative iron bridge. For most of their history the houses were occupied for relatively short periods by family members or by works managers; often, as in the case of Abraham Darby III, while they built or altered finer houses elsewhere in rural settings.
Carpenters Row is an example of company housing: built c.1783, it is a terrace of eight cottages, each with a downstairs parlour with a range, a tiny pantry and a bedroom above….Carpenters Row would have provided a relatively good class of accommodation.
(Ironbridge Gorge by Catherine Clark, 1993, pp.40-41, published by B. T. Batsford Ltd)
Darby I’s son, Abraham Darby II (1711-1763), took over the running of The Coalbrookdale Company from his father in 1728. His contribution to the Company’s history is significant. He invented a method of making pig iron using coke which could then be converted into wrought iron:
The molten iron from a blast furnace could be poured direct into sand moulds to produce cast iron goods or cast ingots called “pig iron”. The pig iron was then either melted and cast in a foundry or purified to produce wrought iron that could be shaped by hammering and rolling in a forge.
(Extract from text panel at the site of the Old Furnaces, Upper Works, Coalbrookdale, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust).
For a more detailed overview of Ironbridge, below are links to previous articles I have written about various aspects of the site:
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)
Goose Revival at Taste of London Winter Food Festival 2014
I recently appeared at Taste of London Winter food Festival 2014, Tobacco Dock alongside Michelin Chef Adam Gray. The theme of this year’s event was ‘Forgotten Foods’. Looking at ingredients, techniques and skills form the past that are not as commonly used today. Remembering what our great grandparents and previous generations cooked. Chefs were encouraged to use wild British ingredients that are often ignored or simply just not readily available in supermarkets today. For more information about this year’s Taste of London Winter food Festival, click here.
Chef Adam Gray cooked breast of goose with caramelised apples and shredded Savoy cabbage. Chef Gray also used bespoke iron pains made by Netherton Foundry in South Shropshire, birthplace of the European Industrial Revolution (http:/www.netherton-foundry.co.uk/). Beautiful, heritage cooking equipment, the level of craftsmanship displayed in these pans is outstanding. Chef Gray found them a joy to cook with.
Although Chef Gray used apple, other fruits that work well with goose are quince, blackberries, gooseberries or any fruit that has a high acid content to help cut through the richness of the meat. Apples have always been a popular accompaniment for goose, I found references to this fact in several of my Victorian cookbooks, including Alexis Soyer (1810-1858) in his Shilling Cookery For The People. Chef Gray also suggests cooking goose over a tray filled with apple juice which helps infuse the meat with a sharp and sweet flavour.
Cabbage was domesticated in Europe before 1000 BCE and revered by Romans and Greeks. Savoy cabbage first appeared in Europe during the sixteenth century. This humble brassica thrives in Britain’s nutrient rich soils and has always been a peasant dish staple. Brassicas are hardy vegetables but no species of cabbage survives in a wild state.
In Medieval Britain, people were nervous about eating cabbage as it was considered to be bad for you, probably due to its gas-inducing qualities! Medieval cooks were encouraged to boil the vegetable well and add oil, marrowbone or egg yolks to soften the texture. Chef Gray continued with the tradition of making cabbage more digestible by shredding it very finely and adding a butter emulsion. I can promise you there was not a hint of school canteen cabbage hanging in the air at Taste of London last week.
Traditionally, goose would have been cooked over an open fire, probably using a spit, turned by hand. This method continued to be used in poorer households until kitchen ranges/half ranges then cookers became cheaper and more widely available. Cooking meat over an open fire gradually declined in popularity before World War One. If the spit mechanism had a treadmill as opposed to a spit/roast jack (nickname for an odd job man), dogs or even geese were put to work keeping the wheel turning. Geese are hardy creatures and were known to work the treadmill for twelve hours at a time.
Sadly, goose is now considerably more expensive than turkey and because of this many home cooks shy away from buying it at Christmas. A 7kg goose can cost around £100 and a turkey of the same weight usually costs £65 (retail prices based on free-range birds, Christmas 2014). The meat-to-carcass ratio for goose is lower than turkey and in these cash-strapped times, getting more bang for your buck, so to speak, is in the forefront of most of our minds.
However, I do believe the tide is beginning to turn in favour of goose. Growing interest in reviving British heritage foods is fuelling this trend as well as a realisation that eating goose is more humane, the animals are not intensively reared and are usually free-range. The price of meat, like so many other foods, is dictated by inflation as well as supply and demand. If more people want goose on their Christmas table, as opposed to turkey, prices will drop.
Geese are very cheap to keep, live by grazing and don’t need expensive grain, making them a greener choice for the environmentally conscious cook. Their eggs make spectacular omelets and their feathers can be used for stuffing cushions or for the creative among you, turning into quill pens. We all know that goose fat makes the best roast potatoes.
In my opinion, goose is a far tastier meat than turkey. Goose is not just for Christmas, it can be enjoyed throughout Autumn and Winter. Gressingham, well-known for their duck meat, also sell goose. Their Geese are grown free-range on farms in East Anglia, from early summer until autumn, there they graze on grass as well as eat a mix of wheat and soya with vitamins and minerals. For more information about Gressingham Goose, including recipes, click here.
Goose has always been associated with deep Winter feasts and its origin goes back as far as ancient Egypt. According to Greek historian Herodotus (484 BCE – 425 BCE), geese stay with their young in the most imminent danger, at the risk of their own lives. The goose of the Nile was Velpansier and when geese appear on walls of temples they are often painted in bright colours. Egyptian mythology classifies goose under the care of goddess Isis. Along with the ram and bull, goose is also a symbol of the creator-god, Amun/Amen.
Goose comes into season around the Christian feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, or Michaelmas (29th September). This type of goose was often known as ‘green goose’ due to the fact it had been raised on grass (‘green’) and was fairly lean. Eating goose at Michaelmas dates back to Elizabeth I (1533-1603) who is said to have dined on one at the table of an English baronet, when news of the defeat of the Spanish Armada reached her. In commemoration of this event, she commanded goose make its appearance at table on every Michaelmas. Alfred Suzanne, in his book La Cuisine Anglaise, writes of this historic event:
The principal dish that day was roast goose, to which the Queen, it is said, was particularly partial, and in an excited outburst of patriotism and… gourmandism, she decreed that this glorious occasion be commemorated by serving roast goose on the day every year.
The Harvest goose or Martinmas goose comes into season around the time of Saint Martin’s feast, 11th November. This goose is fattened on grain (wheat or barley) and is plumper and meatier as a result. This is the bird traditionally served at Christmas time.
Unlike today, goose was once cheaper and more widely available than turkey which was expensive. The turkey came to Europe from Mexico in about 1541, brought in by Spanish and West African traders. In Victorian England, turkey gradually replaced beef and goose at the Christmas dining table. Ever since Victorian times, the trend for having turkey at Christmas time has remained, thus nudging the poor old goose out of the picture. Victorians liked to stuff their goose with sage and onion.
Evidence of this can be found in A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens. Bob Cratchit and his family tuck-in to the traditional Victorian fayre of goose. The Cratchits are poor, so goose is the proud centrepiece of their Christmas dinner. However, following his epiphany, Scrooge wants to lavish gifts upon employee Bob Cratchit and family. One of these luxury items is a prize turkey, only meat that the wealthy could afford in Victorian England:
Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, Cratchit’s wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob’s private property, conferred upon his son and heir in honour of the day) into his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to show his linen in the fashionable Parks. And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker’s they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onion, these young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collars nearly choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled.
“What has ever got your precious father then?” said Mrs. Cratchit. “And your brother, Tiny Tim! And Martha warn’t as late last Christmas Day by half-an-hour?”
“Here’s Martha, mother!” said a girl, appearing as she spoke.
“Here’s Martha, mother!” cried the two young Cratchits. “Hurrah! There’s such a goose, Martha!”
Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course—and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah!
There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone—too nervous to bear witnesses—to take the pudding up and bring it in.
Scrooge buys a turkey for the Cratchits:
“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!”
“Hallo!” returned the boy.
“Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?” Scrooge inquired.
“I should hope I did,” replied the lad.
“An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge. “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there?—Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?”
“What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy.
“What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge. “It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!”
“It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy.
“Is it?” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it
(A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Staves Three and Four, 1st edition, 1843)
The brilliant American chef, Julia Child (1912-2004), shows you how to roast your goose. The French Chef was a television cooking show created and hosted by Julia Child and produced and broadcast by WGBH, the public television station in Boston, Massachusetts, from February 11, 1963 to 1973. It was one of the first cooking shows on American television. All rights belong to the Cooking Channel. Uploaded to You Tube 8.3.13.
According to Larousse Gastronomique (1961), the Toulouse goose, from the Garonne basin in France can reach a weight of between and 10 and 20 kilos after fattening. This bird carries its body almost perpendicularly; its behind, called ‘artichoke’, drags on the ground even before the fattening process. The skin covering its breast is loose and slack, forming a lappet, or wattle, which constitutes a veritable fat store. This variety of goose is used in the south-west of France for the Confit d’oie and the livers are used for pâtés de foie gras with truffles.
Nottingham Goose Fair (1947) by British Pathé. The fair is still held during the first week in October. In 1284, the inaugural fair took place and apart from 1646 (bubonic plague) and throughout the two World Wars, has taken place annually for over seven hundred years. Originally the fair was a celebration that coincided with flocks of geese being driven from Lincolnshire to be sold in Nottinghamshire. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.14.
Fascinating Facts About Goose
Italians Goosestep For Hitler (1938) by British Pathé. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.14.
Goosestep is a distinct marching step originating from mid eighteenth century Prussian military drills. This manoeuvre reminded soldiers how geese often stood on one leg, hence the nickname. Many military organisations today, across the world, still use this marching style.
Nursery Rhyme ‘Goosey, Goosey Gander’ is from 1784 but its origins can be traced back to the sixteenth century England when Catholics faced persecution and men of the cloth had to hide in ‘Priest Holes’. ‘Goosey, goosey gander’ also implies something unpleasant may well happen to anyone not saying their prayers:
Goosey, goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady’s chamber;
There I met an old man
Who would not say his prayers;
I took him by the left leg
And threw him down the stairs.
Goose bumps, medical term cutisanserina occurs when you experience cold or strong emotions. Goose feathers grow from stores in the epidermis which resemble human hair follicles. When goose feathers are plucked, the bird’s skin has protrusions where the feathers once were, these resemble the bumps on human skin following cold or strong emotions.
Goose bumps , in Elizabethan times, if someone said; ‘I’ve been bitten by the Winchester goose’, this meant that they had contracted syphilis. A ‘goose bump’ was the first tell-tale sign on the skin that you had contracted the pox. The Winchester Geese were prostitutes that plied their trade in South London, Bankside close to The Globe. This land was owned by the Bishops of Winchester. Brothels in Bankside were known as ‘stews’. In the sixteenth century there were eighteen recorded ‘stews’ in the area. These establishments provided the clergy with a regular income stream. Pandarus (a lecherous old man) in Troilus and Cressida (1602) by William Shakespeare: ‘My fear is this/ Some galled goose of Winchester would hiss/ Till then I’ll sweat and seek about for eases/ And at that time, bequeath you my diseases/’.
Herd geese in London – If you are a Freeman of London you are allowed to herd a gaggle of geese down Cheapside. This is according to an old book of traditional ceremonies and privileges granted to those who have The Freedom of the City of London. This book dates back to 1237.
Historical Recipes For Goose
Georgian Era Recipe for Preparing Goose
Singe a goose, and pour over it a quart of boiling milk. Let it continue in the milk all night, then take it out, and dry it well with a cloth. Cut an onion very small with some sage, put them into the goose, sew it up at the neck and vent, and hang it up by the legs till the next day; then put it into a pot of cold water, cover it close, and let it boil gently for an hour. Serve it up with onion sauce.
To Marinate A Goose
The Experienced English Housekeeper by Elizabeth Raffald (1786)
Cut your goose up the back bone, then take out all the bones, and stuff it with forcemeat and sew up the back again, fry the goose a good brown, then put it into a deep stew-pan with two quarts of good gravy and cover it close, and stew it two hours, then take it out and skim off the fat, add a large spoonful of lemon pickle, one of browning, and one of red wine, one anchovy shred fine, beaten mace, pepper and salt to your palate, thicken it with flour and butter, boil it a little, dish up your goose, and strain your gravy over it. NB. Make your stuffing thus, take ten or twelve sage leaves, two large onions, two or three large sharp apples, shred them very fine, mix them with the crumbs of a penny loaf, four ounces of beef marrow, one glass of red wine, half a nutmeg grated, pepper, salt and a little lemon peel shred small, make a light stuffing with your yolks of four eggs, observe to make it one hour before you want it.
Eighteenth Century Receipt Book – Boiled Goose With Celery Sauce
When your goose has been seasoned with pepper and salt for four or five days, you must boil it about an hour; then serve it hot with turnips, carrots, cabbage or cauliflower; tossed up with butter. The goose would have been hanging in the dairy or game larder with a north aspect for five days or even longer (depending on the outdoor temperature) so that its flesh would have become more tender and developed flavour in that time.
To make celery sauce, take a large bunch of celery, wash it, pare it, very clean, cut it into little thin bits and boil it softly in a little water until it is tender; then add a little beaten mace, some nutmeg, pepper and salt; thickened with a good piece of butter rolled in flour; then boil it up and pour it in your dish. You may make it with cream thus; boil your celery as above and add some mace, nutmeg, and a piece of butter as big as a walnut rolled in flour and 1/2 pint of cream; boil them all together, and you may add if you will a glass of white wine.
Eighteenth Century Receipt Book – Sauce for Green Goose
Take some melted butter, put in a spoonful of the juice of sorrel, a little sugar, a few coddled gooseberries, pour it into your sauceboats and send it to table.
To Dress a Green Goose
Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1869 edition)
Ingredients: Goose, 3 oz of butter, pepper and salt to taste. Mode [Method]: Geese are called green when they are about four months old, and should not be stuffed. After it has been singed and trussed, put into the body a seasoning of pepper and salt, and the butter to moisten it inside. Roast before a clear fire for about 3/4 hour, froth and brown it nicely, and serve with a brown gravy, and, when liked, gooseberry-sauce. This dish should be garnished with water-cresses [watercress].
Hashed Goose (Cold Meat Cookery)
Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1869 edition)
Ingredients: The remains of cold roast goose, 2 onions, 2 oz of butter, 1 pint of boiling water, 1 dessertspoonful of flour, pepper and salt to taste, 1 tablespoonful of port wine, 2 tablespoonfuls of mushroom ketchup.
Mode [Method]: Cut-up the goose into pieces of the size required; the inferior joints, trimmings, etc, put into a stewpan to make the gravy; slice and fry the onions in the butter of a very pale brown; add these to the trimmings, and pour over about a pint of boiling water; stew these gently for ¾ hour, then skim and strain the liquor. Thicken it with flour, and flavour with port wine; add a seasoning of pepper and salt, and put in the pieces of goose; let these get thoroughly hot through, but do not allow them to boil, and serve with sippets of toasted bread.
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.
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.
A silent film by British Pathe, ‘A Good Use For Zeppelins’, World War One. Published on You Tube, 13.4.2014. The remains of a zeppelin made into souvenirs, usually napkin rings, for the benefit of the War Seals Foundation. In 1916, the British War Office donated aluminium from another zeppelin to be made into souvenirs to be sold to benefit employees of the London and North-Western Railway who had been wounded in the war.
Collecting souvenirs was often a risky business. There are many contemporary accounts of soldiers taking foolhardy risks in order to acquire that unusual trophy, the danger itself probably adding to the value of the piece. So commonplace was it for a soldier to be killed or wounded while ‘souveniring‘, that it was often reported almost nonchalantly.
(Saunders, N. J., Trench Art: A Brief History and Guide 1914-1939, Pen & Sword Military, 2011, p.122)
The inspiration for this article came from a visit to my family at Easter. I noticed a couple of German artillery shells on the mantelpiece filled with yellow Chrysanthemums. A novel use for ‘spent ammunition’, I thought. Naturally, the historian in me was keen to find-out more.
Women filling shells with shrapnel at the Krupp works, Germany, c.1916.
The outer shells of both vases are decorated in relief depicting scenes from history including Hannibal crossing the Alps. My relative knew very few details about provenance and backstory of these objects which were given to her by a friend.
My relative told me that the shells were produced in a German munitions factory in World War One. The headstamp is inscribed: ‘Patronenfabrik Karlsruhe and Fried Krupp A.G.’. Krupp A.G. were founded in 1811 and during World War One manufactured munitions, heavy guns (16.5 inch howitzer known as “Big Bertha”, only four of these were made), barbed wire, stainless steel and eighty-four U-boats for the German Navy. The latter were built at Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft, a shipbuilding company in the harbour at Kiel. After World War One, Krupp supplied steel teeth and jaws for wounded veterans. Krupp A.G. remained the world’s leading steelmakers and arms manufacturers until the end of World War Two. The Krupp dynasty were also plagued by a number of high-profile scandals in the twentieth century but I will leave you to Google these for yourself!
Designs on the shell casings have been created by a technique known as ‘acid-etching’ and this example was likely to have been produced at Bezalel School of Arts in Jerusalem in the 1920s. Unfortunately, some of the detail has been lost due to years of over-polishing, which is a great shame but a common problem with these brass objects.
The Krupp gun factory number 1, Essen, Germany, 1917. Krupp supplied the German army’s heavy artillery pieces during World War One. A photograph from Der Grosse Krieg in Bildern. (Photo by Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images).
Researching the subject of ‘souveniring’ and Trench Art, of which these shell cases are particularly fine examples, has been fascinating. There is a lot written about this topic. Trench Art (sometimes called Soldier Art) is the collective term used to refer to war souvenirs that have been re-fashioned into everyday items or works of art. These objects represent a remembrance of war. Archaeologist, Nicholas Saunders, points-out:
Trench Art in the home was a way of linking the desolated individual with the wider community of bereaved, through shared displays of objects and also ensured that memories were always just a glance away. For the bereaved, placing a metal letter-opener, bullet-crucifix, or pair of polished shells on the mantelpiece, in the hallway or on a bedside dresser – perhaps next to a photograph of the deceased – was a constant reminder of the loved one.
(Saunders, N. J., Trench Art: A Brief History and Guide 1914-1939, Pen & Sword Military, 2011, p.129)
During World War One, these items were often used as ‘currency’, by soldiers and civilians, to purchase food and other sundries. It is important to note here that most Trench Art was created away from the trenches, contrary to what the name suggests. During quieter periods of non-action, it is true that some soldiers did make objects out of ballistic detritus but most items were made by POWs and convalescing soldiers (as handicraft therapy). Civilians with an artistic eye also produced Trench Art. These attractive mementos were sold to make extra cash or raise funds for war-related charitable causes. Regimental badges were turned into ‘sweetheart jewellery’ which soldiers gave to their wives or girlfriends back home. After the war, battlefield tourists would purchase a piece of Trench Art as a souvenir of their visit.
Prisoners of war on both sides of the conflict produced an amazing variety of artifacts made for sale to soldiers or civilians in areas near the camps in which they were interned. Some camps held artistic exhibitions in which these handicrafts were offered for sale to the public. British civilians in Ruhleben, a camp outside Berlin, produced a number of objects made by melting down silver coins. They also made inventive use of available materials such as rat skins to make leather wallets. Many of these items were sent home as souvenirs to their families in Britain. German prisoners in Britain created flower vases and napkin rings using mutton and beef bones from their rations, while Turkish prisoners made realistic snakes and other objects from beads. Russian prisoners made use of their woodworking skills to produce carved cigarette boxes and other items. Members of the Royal Naval Division interned in Holland crafted a variety of wooden boxes and picture frames. When brass and aluminum were made available to prisoners, many of them made souvenir shell vases, match box covers or letter openers to sell to their captors or to nearby civilians.
….time has obscured the provenance of many of these pieces forever. As they are dredged from basements and attics, relics of a long forgotten war, and sold or consigned to second hand or antique shops or sold at estate sales, objects are forced to speak for themselves. Some pieces, with specific names, units, battles and dates are eloquent. . .most have drifted far from their original moorings.
I had no idea how widespread the practice of ‘souveniring’ was during World War One. Shrapnel, buttons, helmets, gun cartridges, bullets and shells were some of the more traditional items procured from the battlefield. Fine examples of Trench Art can be found in Museums across the world, antique stores and on-line auction sites. However, many of these objects can be found in a domestic setting, often handed down between generations or exchanged as gifts amongst friends. But sadly, as Jane Kimball points-out above, objects such as the vases belonging to my relative, have now become detached from their owners and therefore much of their original sentimental value has been lost.
One of the most famous soldiers who dabbled in the art of ‘souveniring’ was Liverpudlian John “Barney” Hines (1873-1958). His story is extraordinary, in northern France he has become a bit of a legend amongst the region’s treasure-hunters where ploughed fields still expel ‘iron harvest’ a century later. Hines began his military career serving in the Royal Navy and then joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment. His first campaign was the Second Boer War (1899-1902) where he unfortunately contracted malaria.
When World War One broke-out, Hines had only just emigrated to Australia. He volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force in August, 1915. Early 1916, he was discharged as being medically unfit. However, as the war progressed and the need for men increased, recruitment rules, particularly in relation to medical fitness, were relaxed. In August, 1916, Hines took the opportunity to re-enlist and was sent to the Western Front in May, 1917 where he remained until June, 1918. Unfortunately, his health continued to hamper his active service which eventually resulted in another medical discharge, this time due to problems with his haemorrhoids.
Apart from his ongoing health problems, Hines had a number of character traits that made him a less than ideal ‘poster-boy’ for the forces. Hines was illiterate and prone to periods of erratic behaviour, he also enjoyed a drop or two of the ‘good old amber nectar’ even trading some of his treasured souvenirs for alcohol and more seriously, a stolen horse for a bottle of whiskey. On another occasion, he supposedly ‘found’ suitcases, full of French Francs, in a bank. Another incident involved a grandfather clock which he had purloined and brought back to his trench, much to the frustrations of his colleagues. The clock didn’t remain for long, its chimes attracted enemy attention so his fellow soldiers blew it to bits. His military records show that he was court martialed no less than nine times for drunkenness and a further entry shows he went AWOL after a bout of stealing.
However, having said all of that, Hines was actually a competent soldier. On one occasion, June, 1917, he captured sixty Germans by throwing hand grenades into their pillbox at the Battle of Messines. A heroic deed that most soldiers would receive a recommendation for military honours. However, due to his behaviour between these periods of fighting, one action certainly cancelling out the other, his brave efforts were overlooked. He was never decorated during his military career. Hines ended his days, in abject poverty, sleeping rough on the outskirts of Sydney until he eventually died in January, 1958, aged eighty-four.
John ‘Barney’ Hines known as ‘Wild Eye’ or ‘the Souvenir King’. This photograph, taken by Frank Hurley, propelled John Hines into the limelight when it was published. Hurley took the photograph in France on the morning of 27th September, 1917, after the Battle of Polygon Wood. Hines is pictured surrounded by ‘souvenirs’ he collected during the fighting, including various German weapons and personal effects. This photograph is from an album called ‘Official Australian War Photographs’, produced by the Australian War Records Section which was established by the British government in 1917. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)