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Keep Fit !

Catalogue number 20018

Keep fit and recreation.

Although billiards may not figure in the usual list of activities to keep fit, as a recreation one must admit that it requires quite a level of skill to play billiards in the wardroom where even in port, the ship will roll. Two officers on board HMS Castor in the 1920s are playing whilst a third officer looks on. Note the comfortable leather armchairs, the coal-burning stove and what looks like the ship's safe behind the two players. This photograph is one of a series of 15 photographs of HMS Castor, her officers and men..

24cm x 13.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 69049

HMS Revenge, Cromarty Firth 1938.

On battleships and large cruisers there is enough deck space to exercise especially as the space between-decks was cramped. This view of the quarter deck of HMS Revenge at anchor in Cromarty Firth, 1938, shows sailors running along the starboard side of the deck under the watchful eye of several officers. To port is a group of Royal Marines doing exercises. There were 997 officers and men aboard HMS Revenge when on a war standing and we can estimate the open deck space available for each crew member as roughly 25 square feet/2.3 square metres. Men were allowed up on deck by mess or by division for exercise, remembering that it often rained in Cromarty Firth!

Verso: "With the Home Fleet in Cromarty Firth....On board "Revenge" sailors are doing physical exercise whilst in the background, the imposing mass of "Royal Sovereign" seems exceptionally calm. 22/9/38" in French.

16.3cm x 12.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 33130

USS Pennsylvania. Wheelbarrow race

Keeping fit could also mean having fun. A wheelbarrow race has been organised on the battleship USS Pennsylvania. The course has been roped off and there are many spectators. The technique used by the participants varies, from left to right, the 1st and 4th participants hold the partner by his ankles whereas the 2nd and 3rd have their partners' legs firmly held under the arms so as to be able to run faster. The participants are not all the same size too, see the 3rd and 4th teams.

Verso: "USS Pennsylvania" in pencil

14cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 55008

Cutter racing

Cutter races between ships of the same fleet were great events and when the fleet was at anchor, as here in the Cromarty Firth, races would be organised when possible. This photograph shows the finish of the Royal Marines cutter race. The finishing line is from the bow of this battleship to the stern of HMS Hood in the background. It looks a close thing and men are running from one side of the ship to the other to see who crosses the line first. Each cutter is followed by a steam picket boat, note the gun on the foredeck of each boat.

13.9cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 46086

Betting on race results

The finish of the Seaman Under 19 cutter race. Results of the Renown Cup; First HMS Cardiff stokers team, second HMS Ajax Seaman Under 25 and third HMS Benbow stokers team, with a participation of 14 cutters.

Verso: "RENOWN Cup 1 Cardiff Stokers 2 Ajax Seaman Under 25 3 Benbow Stokers 14 boats Pulled 3" in black ink.

13.5cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 46103

Regatta week

The annual week-long regatta with cutter races between ships of the same fleet was the only time that betting was allowed on board ship with the odds being signalled daily to participating ships before the racing began. Fortunes could be made or lost overnight but more important was the prestige associated with a ship's team winning a race.

13.7cm x 8.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 64038

HMS Calypso, 1918

The cutter from the Caledon-class Light Cruiser HMS Calypso (commissioned June 1917) is manoeuvring into position for the start of the seamen's race. At 32-ft long, the cutter is quite a weight to pull with two men to each thwart and no refinements for comfort.

12.8cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 99051

US Navy whaler team

The rowing team are going out for training. They are carrying sculls for a boat lighter than the usual cutter. Some men in civilian dress are watching the procedings. Hanging from the davits is a whaler with its pointed stern instead of the flat transom of a cutter.

13.1cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 47041

US Navy, racing for the Fleet pennant

They're off and already a boat is pulling ahead of the others in this whaler race between ships of the US Navy. An assortment of other motor launches accompanies the race including a splendid steam picket boat in the foreground.

12.7cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 45267

HMS Royal Oak

This group of sailors and Royal Marine from HMS Royal Oak may be two pulling teams with their trophies. There are thirteen Marines (pulling crew plus the coxswain?) and the trophy on the right is for pulling. Medals abound and there are plenty of good conduct strips. There is also a kitten in the photograph! The sailors have the non-substantive badges of Leading seaman and Seaman torpedo man who were part of the Gunnery branch. Torpedo tubes were removed definitively from Royal Oak by 1930 but torpedo men were also responsible for electricity. HMS Royal Oak was torpedoed and sank at Scapa Flow, October 1939 with the loss of 833 of its complement of 1,234 men and boys.

12.7cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 43241

Cock of the Fleet

The ship with the most victories in the pulling races at a fleet regatta would be awarded the "Cock of the Fleet" trophy. The battleship HMS Orion was very successful in the years from 1913 to 1915. Not a bad performance considering that HMS Orion was commissioned in January 1912.

8.8cm x 13.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 102076

HMS Royal Oak, Cock of the Fleet

This photograph may be from 1938 and shows HMS Royal Oak as Cock of the Fleet. Having won the most pulling races, she is allowed to display the huge cockerel on the top of B turret. The crew are lining the decks whilst friends and family welcome them home. The door-like structure in the hull just in front of the gun barrel may be the opening for the above-water experimental torpedo tubes fitted in the 1920s and taken out in 1930. The Rusty Anchor cited in the accompanying text is a turning point on the way into Devonport. This photograph may have been printed the wrong way round because the buildings on shore should be on the starboard side of HMS Royal Oak when entering Devonport.

Verso: "Cock of the fleet in port again. Plymouth, Devonshire, England, July 10 - - H.M.S. Royal Oak, champion sporting ship of the Fleet, with a huge cock above her second gun turret, denoting she is Cock of the Fleet, arrived here, her home port, this evening. It was a proud moment for the giant vessel, and crowds gave her a lusty welcome, as wives and sweethearts waved and cheered. The Royal Oak arriving at Rusty Anchor, Plymouth, this evening, July 10, the cock proudly in evidence, while crowds gather to watch the ship approach."

17.9cm x 12.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 46099

The winning team, HMS London

The ship's crest to the extreme right of the photograph enables us to identify this pulling team from the County-class heavy cruiser HMS London (commissioned January 1929). Sitting proudly behind the trophy, cups and tankard are, from left to right, a Commander, a Chief Petty Officer (with three good conduct stripes, the Petty Officer shoulder badge and a pre-1920 cap badge) and a Lieutenant Commander. The three stripes are for 13 years of good conduct or as the Navy say "undetected crime".

13.2cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 45195

HMS Saumarez, 1918

HMS Saumarez was an improved Marksman-class destroyer completed in December 1916 and had a complement of 116 from which was drawn this football team. The officer, and perhaps trainer, is a Lieutenant and one can wonder how his team managed to train on board a ship the size of a destroyer. The photograph dates from 1918 and splinter mattresses are still in place on the bridge. The dog mascot seems embarrassed by the photographer.

12.8cm x 8.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 55026

Cruiser HMS Orion soccer team Bermuda 1938

Captain Harold Kinahan, Commanding Officer of HMS Orion sits proudly in the centre of his 1st XI football team with a splendid fancy trophy. A Commander (left) and a Lieutenant (right) accompany him along with two Leading Hands, maybe the trainers. And A.W.I. - America and West Indies station?

Verso: "H.M.S. ORION 1st XI soccer team. A.W.I. Station. Bermuda-April 1938"

12.7cm x 8.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 23002

French Navy battleship Mirabeau

Blanche must have been pretty impressed when she received this photograph especially if Marcel was one of the two athletes. Individual fitness and athletic prowess gave the sailor a certain prestige on board ship. Such acts of physical fitness could also be developed within the limited space of a battleship. During wartime, time on board would consist of long periods of tense inactivity punctuated by short periods of intense physical activity during an engagement.

Recto: "Cuirassé "Mirabeau" Vue prise de l'étrave." Francked probable 1913

Verso: Addressed to " Mademoiselle Blanche…. " Milles gros baisers Marcel " hand-written in ink.
8cm x 11.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 89 F1

French Navy battleship Paris, rugby champions 1925-26

This photograph shows the squadron rugby champions for 1925-1926 on board the French battleship Paris. Even though Paris was twice in dock for refits between October 1922 to November 1923 then August 1927 to January 1929, these men wouldn't have had much chance to train on a rugby pitch prior to winning the championship. Also, their ship was engaged in supporting Spanish troops in North East Morocco during the summer of 1925 after attacks on French Morocco.

Recto: "Cuirassé Paris Rade de Toulon 1926"

22.5cm x 16.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 101191

Deck hockey

A British battleship is at anchor, with a Navy drifter alongside, and provides sufficient space for this herd of madmen to go charging around the quarter deck in a hellfire game of deck hockey. One officer is half over the guard rail whilst the others are heavily engaged in swiping one another's shins. A large number of wooden pucks were needed because they often got hit into the drink - the ship's carpenter would be heavily solicited prior to any match. The game was played with Rossall sticks - Rossall was and still is a public school (for the non-initiated that means a private, fee-paying school) founded in 1844 and located on the Fylde coast between Cleveleys and Fleetwood. Their hockey game, equivalent to deck hockey, was a way to get pupils outside and doing sport on the nearby beach when the rugby and hockey pitches were waterlogged.

Verso: "With the British Navy in War Time Officers keeping fit. Hockey on the quarter deck" and rubber-stamped "Passed for transmission abroad"

19.4cm x 14.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 36190

Card game on SMS Kaiserin

Below decks, there was little space to relax but here sailors from the battleship SMS Kaiserin (commissioned 1913) enjoy a game of cards in the cramped galley. Two young sailors are looking on whilst a third is drinking out of a bottle. The door to the galley seems to have been blocked by a metal bar maybe to avoid unwanted visitors. It looks like the sailor seated second from the left has his wallet out on the table - is some gambling going on? Above the galley stove is a kind of telephone intercom system.

12.9cm x 8.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 29041

Sports Day, SMS Karlsruhe, 1918

SMS Karlsruhe was commissioned in 1916 and we have a series of four photographs of a sports day in June 1918. The First World War is coming to an end and the atmosphere in the High Seas Fleet was moving towards rebellion and mutiny. Perhaps the sports day was held to relieve tension amongst the crew. An officer is noting down the results of the long jump.

Verso: "130. Sportfest"

7.9cm x 10.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 29041

Sports Day, SMS Karlsruhe, 1918

The officer to the left with the four cuff rings of a Kapitan zur See may be Johann Heinrich Tietgens who was assigned to SMS Kaiserin on 15 November 1916 and was to remain with her until the voyage to internment in 1918. The sailor to his right is holding a support for the high jump.

Verso: "135. Sportfest S.M.S. Karlsruhe Juni 18"

7.9cm x 11cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 45077


Part of the French fleet is in port at Toulon and many of the crew of this ship are taking the opportunity of a swim in the warm Mediterranean Sea. Diving off the boat boom, swimming around in the sea then climbing back up the Jacob's ladder - the chance to have a good time larking about.

Recto: "Baignade à bord" in ink

Verso: "Baignade à bord" in ink

14cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 44293

USS Pittsburgh off the Mexican coast

Men of USS Pittsburgh enjoy a swim off the coast of Guaymas, Mexico. Their ship was patrolling the West coast of Mexico in 1913 during the insurrection that eventually led to the American participation in the Veracruz landing of April 1914. Knowing how to swim was not just for recreation but one day could well save your life on a sinking ship. It is surprising the number of men that did not know how to swim.

Recto: "Boat of U.S.S. Pittsburgh" in ink

Verso: "Am swimming. Guaymas, Mex. Fred" in pencil.

12.5cm x 7.5cm Gelatin silver print