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Life on board: eating and sleeping

Catalogue number 23002

Fresh meat

Here an ox is being brought on board the French pre-Dreadnought battleship Diderot. She took part in the Battle of Antivari in the Adriatic Sea and spent most of the First World War at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.

Verso: Text to Miss A….in the Gers, France from Louis who mentions the beauty of the Italian coast. Postcard rubber stamped “Marine Française Service à la Mer”

8.9cm x 14cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 25002

Bring on board an ox

It is difficult to find a description of the Pourvoyeur, it appears to be a colonial sloop. In 1896 she was in the anchorage at Tamatave, Madagascar as part of the occupying force. This photograph shows a zebu, typically found in Madagascar being ungraciously lifted onto the ship. Note how the animal’s feet are tied together to prevent it kicking about and maybe breaking its back or neck. This photograph is one of a series of seven photographs of Le Pourvoyeur, its officers and men as well as the ship at sea.

Recto: “Embarquement d’un boeuf à bord du Pourvoyeur” elegantly written in black ink.

5.6cm x 8.3 Sepia print


Catalogue number 71025

The fatal blow !

The ox would be stunned by a blow on the head and then bled. This photograph was taken on an unknown French ship at the turn of the century and once the ox was dead, it would be cut up and prepared with maybe part being salted down to conserve it. Certain cuts of meat could be lightly salted in brine then dried. Such prepared meat was then kept in a fine mesh cage situated in a sheltered part of deck. This photograph is part of a series of six photographs about the life on board ship (see also catalogue n° 71024).

17cm x 11.8cm Gelatin silver print mounted on stiff cardboard


Catalogue number 103018

Butchering on board

In this grisly scene, the animal has been slaughtered and butchered by this group of French Marine infantry. One man has a side of beef over his shoulder whilst the man far right holds the club that was used to stun the animal, the head of which is at his feet.

11.7cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 45037

Bleeding a sheep

Members of the crew look on as a sheep is slaughtered. There is a bucket under the sheep’s head, is it to avoid blood on the deck or to collect it for some culinary dish?

Verso: “Life on board; During the cruise - slaughter of a sheep” in black ink

13.8cm x 7.2cm Printed stereo-image


Catalogue number 110052

A future banquet

Two lively pigs have been brought onto the German training ship Sangara (launched 1900), pork meat being a frequent dish in the German forces. Note the sailor lower center with a cat and people who moved whilst the photograph was being taken, in particular an accordion player.

Verso: Text from Henry R to a sailor friend on the U-boat F11 in Wilhelmshaven. Franked Hamburg 1920.

13.9cm x 8.7cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 33187

Preparing the pig

The pig has been killed and now these German sailors will remove the hair using hot water and a stiff brush.

11.1cm x 8.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 103106

Taking on store at Toulon

Suppliers have brought goods to the quayside to be loaded onto a motor boat and be taken out to the ship. To the left is a merchant with a sack - of vegetables? - and to the right are cases of wine. In the background are three of the Amiens class sloops (built just after the First World War). To the far right is the destroyer Commandant Lucas (see LA on the hull), she was decommissioned in 1933. This photograph was thus taken some time between 1920 and 1933.

13.4cm x 8.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 21031

Wine rather than water

Casks of wine are being lowered into the forward storage locker. Wine was served up to French sailors and it had the advantage of a longer storage life than drinking water. It was suggested that wine was also a source of nourishment and vitamins to the body although, as in many navies, excessive drinking had to be curbed. Disaster struck the company of the French ship Jean Bart when, in December 1914, she was hit by a torpedo that destroyed the wine storage locker - la cambuse.

6.2cm x 10.6cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 117009

The rum issue

This photograph shows the rum issue on H.M.S. Emperor of India (commissioned 1914, decommissioned 1931). Officers make sure every mess gets its quota whilst a Royal Marine watches over the distribution. Several sailors - the Rum Bosuns - have their medals on so perhaps the rum issue is for a special occasion. Note the variety of recipients used to hold the issue.

14cm x 8.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108049

Serving out rum

A young Royal Marine sounds the bugle whilst the rum issue is served out and a Midshipman checks off the register. Note the bare-foot seaman and the smart recipients. The photograph is not dated but the postal rate on the verso is a half-penny stamp which was the rate from 1870 to mid-1918. The card has a divided back and these came into use from 1902.

13.7cm x 8.8cm Printed image


Catalogue number 108181

Extra rations

Catching fish was a most obvious source of extra food when a ship was at sea. The officers and men of the American destroyer McFarland (commissioned 1920, decommissioned 1945) have made a good catch here. There are no fishing rods or lines in the photograph so maybe the fish were caught after dropping an explosive charge over the side.

13cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 109005

Catching sharks, U.S.S. Georgia 1914

The men of U.S.S. Georgia seem to have a preference for shark meat. This one weighs nearly 250 kgs and that in the second photograph is even bigger.

Recto: “Shark caught July 3.’14. Length 9 ft. Wt. 550 lbs.” in black ink

8.6cm x11.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108017

More shark meat

Shark meat spoils rapidly so it has to be eaten soon after being caught. This photograph was taken on U.S.S. Georgia sometime between 1906 and 1918 (see stamp box verso).

8cm x 13.4cm Photograph


Catalogue number 70114

Peeling potatoes

Although this photograph is on an Italian postcard, it shows a group of American sailors peeling potatoes. This was a standard chore for the crew.

10.6cm x 8.2cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108085

The galley on U.S.S. Pennsylvania

Prior to the setting up of the general messing system of catering, galley arrangements were primitive, especially in small warships. Meals were originally organized on a canteen mess system. Each mess would draw their rations from the store then the mess cook would take the food to the ship’s kitchen and help the ship’s cook to prepare it. The meal would be eaten in the mess wherever it may be in the ship. This photograph shows the galley of a large battleship, U.S.S. Pennsylvania, sometime between 1922 and 1926. Food was cooked in a common kitchen then served out to each mess orderly.

12.7cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 80451

The galley on the French battleship Richelieu

The cooks are preparing a meal in huge pans so one must suppose that the French battleship Richelieu (launched 1939) had a general messing system.

Credit: Stéréofilms Bruguière

10.2cm x 4cm Positive stereo-negative


Catalogue number 114022

The bread round

When the fleet was together, large warships with bakeries would bake the bread for the small class of ship. Here large loaves are being delivered to a warship.

Verso: “Bread for the fleet” in light pencil

12.9cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108109

No white bread

These German sailors in the barracks of the Torpedo Division are preparing the rye bread ration. One happy chap arrives with the loaves, another uses the bread guillotine to cut the hard bread whilst a third sailors weighs each ration with scales.

Recto: “No bread in the Marine” in German

13.5cm x 8.3cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 71024

Kit inspection for meals

The scene here looks like some kind of kit inspection. The table is set for eight men and the officer is having a close look at a mug whilst another officer takes down notes. Two sailors are at attention and the other six are nearby looking on.

17cm x 11.8cm Gelatin silver print mounted on stiff cardboard


Catalogue number 64051

An officer tasting the meal

On the German battleship Nassau, an officer tastes the meal to be served but is it for the sailors or for the officers?

Verso: "SMS "Nassau" Food tasting 1914" in pencil

11.7cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 105016

Mealtime on a trooper, 1919

After the war, the armoured cruiser U.S.S. Seattle was used to bring American soldiers back from France. She was fitted out with extra accommodation and here part of the troops are collecting their meal. With a complement of 891 officers and men, there is not much room for the extra troops on board and finding space to eat was difficult. It looks like the sailors can push into the head of the queue !

8cm x 15.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 80364

Messing on a French warship in the 1930s

Individual messes varied in size, between about ten to thirty men, according to the class of ship and the branch in which ratings served. These units catered for themselves and every sailor was involved, on a rota basis, in the purchase, preparation and serving of food as well as in clearing up after meals. This helped build up the mess spirit of camaraderie which could be so useful when the group was in difficulty - an accident or in battle.

5.5cm x 8.5cm cellulose negative


Catalogue number 41042

Messing on a Royal Navy ship

Under the old system of canteen messing, sailors dined in the same area as they lived and slept in - the mess decks. Once the meal was over, benches and table would be folded and stowed away until the next meal.

Credit: Gale & Polden

13.3cm x 7.4cm Printed image


Catalogue number 29026

Mealtime on a submarine, 1917

Probably the most cramped of all ships - or rather boats - were submarines. Here the officers are having lunch on the foredeck. From the shadows, we can deduce that the sun is shining which must make a pleasant change from being inside the submerged submarine.

Verso: “Lunch on the deck of Atalante 1917” in French and in light pencil

10.7cm x 6.3cm Photograph


Catalogue number 29026

The French submarine Atalante alongside, 1917

Officers forward, crew aft for mealtime. The French submarine Atalante (commissioned 1915) had a complement of 29.

10.7cm x 6.5cm Photograph


Catalogue number 40232

Mess orderlies collecting the meal

This photograph was taken between 1922 and 1926 (see stamp box). General messing was introduced in the early 20s and here we can see the mess orderly from the different mess queuing to collect the meal.

12.8cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 91150

Meals for nearly 6000 !

Like a self-service restaurant, the crew of the American aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise (commissioned 1961) dine in the spacious refectory. The maximum compliment was 5,828 including 2,700 sailors and 1,800 air wing support personnel.

Credit: M. Deschamps

27.3cm x 18.5 cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 82002

Different epoque, different style

It wasn’t hard tack for everyone. Here Cornelius Willies/Willis Chief Officer of the training ship Cornwall is dining with his daughter Miss Eleanor Marrell whilst being served upon by two servants, one of whom is Miss Alice Wiffen. Note the table is set for three - maybe the third person is Mrs Williees/Willis. The two servants look very similar and may be sisters. For the boys, it was biscuit, potatoes and meat with very little vegetables.

20.3cm x 15.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108108

Hammocks in a German cruiser

Sleeping conditions in a light cruiser about the time of the First World War. However, as technology developed on board ship, especially during the Second World War - radar and asdic, for example - so the number in the ship’s company increased and all available space became crowded with hammocks. The problem was especially acute in large warships and eventually the crew would hang their hammock wherever there was room.

Recto: “Mess in a light cruiser of the Imperial Navy” in German

13.7cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 81002

Sleeping in barracks circa 1914

S.M.S. Westfalen spend much time in the Baltic Sea during the First World War but these men seem to be in barracks ashore and considering the garb it must be well-heated. The men have bunk beds and not hammocks. From an album of 35 photographs of S.M.S. Westfalen and the ship’s company during the First World War.

10.6cm x 7.6cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 68017

Swinging a hammock

Here we can see the hooks from which each sailor can swing his hammock. Notice how closely-spaced are the hooks. From a large series of photographs of the French cruiser Dupleix during the 1930s.

10.4cm x 6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 68018

In bed in a hammock

The navy hammock is narrow, closing around the sleeper and hung with a shallow sag.

10.5cm x 6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 35263

Washing and scrubbing the hammocks

It is washing day on a Royal Navy battleship and part of the crew are washing their hammocks. Tubs of water are on the deck and the men are using scrubbing brushes.

12.9cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 111209

Laundry on a battleship

Whilst the Royal Navy had its men hand-washing hammocks, large American warships often had a laundry and it looks like the hammocks of these sailors have been machine washed. Men are pulling hammocks out of the hatch just right of the gun barrel. Other men are stringing the hammocks on two lines to be hung up to dry. From the stamp box, we can see the photograph was taken between 1918 and 1930.

12.6cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 49070

Other uses for hammocks

Hammock had other uses - burial at sea, rolled up and on gunwales as protection from small arms fire and light shrapnel. A gun training exercise is taking place on board the French ship Iphigenie and on the gunwale, upper left, we can see the rolled up hammocks.

Recto: “Gun training” in French and in black ink.

17cm x 11.4cm Albumin print


Catalogue number 116073

Making a barrier with stuffed hammocks

Taken on an Italian cruiser, this photograph shows the crew fixing up hammocks on deck and apparently sorting out their kit. Or perhaps they are preparing the rolled hammocks to build a wall on the gunwales as protection from shrapnel and small arms fire

14cm x 8.8cm Matt gelatin print


Catalogue number 43160

Submarine bunks

This is a considerable improvement on bunking compared to the early submarines. The photograph is of an unidentified French submarine from, I suppose, the 1960s or 70s.

Credit: Photo E.C. Armées

11.6cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 108125

Beds for several hundred

Three layers of bunks with not much space between the rows. During the day, the bunks could be folded up to give more space for the troops. H.M.T. Empire Windrush was a troopship taken as a prize of war from Germany in 1946. She had previously been a cruise ship for the Hamburg Sud line then was taken over the military and was successively a barracks ship, troopship, accommodation ship and finally a hospital ship. As a British trooper she was active on the run between Southampton to Hong Kong via Ceylon and Singapore until she was lost after a fire on board. At one time, the ship carried 3000 German troops.

Verso: “Empire Windrush?” in light pencil

12.6cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print