Recreation in the navy

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Time given over to recreation was an important part of life on board. Living in the confined space of a warship with little occasion to go ashore plus all the stress of wartime operations, it was considered necessary to give the ship's company a chance to wind down, relax and enjoy themselves. It was also the opportunity to weld links between the officers and men.

Catalogue number 123027

Egg race on a U.S. Navy ship

Here is an egg and spoon race, if you drop the egg, you are eliminated. Stamp box indicates photograph from 1904-1918.

8cm x 12.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 109059

Pie-eating competition

With hands tied behind the back, these American sailors are taking part in a pie-eating competition. I suppose the winner is the first one to eat all the pie.

12.8cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 124123

Blindfold boxing match

Four American sailors are amusing officers and men on this ship - it doesn’t look like a warship - with a blindfold boxing match. They have a glove on the right hand and what looks like a mug in the left hand. Note the band instruments to port of the open hatch.

13.8cm x 7.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 33130

Wheelbarrow race

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 light pencil

13.1cm x 8.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 115089

German navy games

Men on this German warship have to race through a canvas tunnel much to the delight of onlookers who include some young boys and adult visitors.

13.7cm x 8.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 116082

The greased pole, U.S. Navy version

Not an easy task, climbing a greased pole.

Recto: “Climbing “greased pole”. U.S.S. Tennessee. July 4, 1910.”

7.8cm x 13.1cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 112074

The greased pole, French Navy version

A similar greased pole game on a French battleship, the aim seems to be to touch the ring around the top of the pole.

Verso: Text in French from a sailor in Toulon to his parents, 1922.

12.1cm x 8cm Photograph


Catalogue number 114023

A question of technique

A great classic, the sack race on a U.S. Navy battleship, the sailor in front has a good technique with his feet in the corners of the sack whilst the last man has fallen over.

13.1 x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 117006

Bingo on board !

Recreation can also be less vigorous. Here a game of loto or bingo is going on whilst some sailors are dancing in the background and ladies and children look on.

Recto: “Sunday on board - A game of loto”

Verso: Postcard sent in 1910 to a young French lady

13.9cm x 9cm Printed image


Catalogue number 02035


A regular feature during recreation was dancing and here we can see German sailors dancing to a small band - mouth organ, accordion, snare drum and a homemade bass. Note the boy sailor just left of center.

Recto: “Our Marine, with dance and play” in German

Verso: Sent by a German sailor on S.M.S. Kaiser to a friend in Kiel, franked 1917. In German and in black ink.

8.8cm x 13.7cm Printed image


Catalogue number 108044

The Ocean Ballroom!

It looks like Petty officers and seamen are having a dance on “The Ocean Ballroom”, H.M.S. Renown. It may seem funny now but at the time (mid-30s) it was important to know how to dance at social events ashore. Note the gun turret vents on the far right.

Verso: “HMS Renown” in thick pencil

12cm x 7.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 22005

Reception for the Admiral's daughter, 1

I seem to remember having seen a comment that these two photographs were taken on the quarter deck of the French cruiser Jules Michelet during a birthday party for the daughter of the Admiral.

13.7cm x 8.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 95030

Reception for the Admiral's daughter, 2

A very distinguished group of navy and army officers (one of whom is covered in medals, far right) are accompanied by men in morning dress and women in all their finery.

13.6cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print.


Catalogue number 46102

A Banyan

The banyan, a special naval party ashore, often in an isolated spot. It was the occasion to relax and have a good time. Here part of the crew of H.M.S. Hibiscus is ashore at Samsun on the Turkish coast of the Black Sea.

Verso: “Picnic party at Samsoun” in blue ink

13.5cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 125105

H.M.S. Medway, Malta

A Banyan could also be more sedate event as is shown here. A mixed group of officers, sailors with men, women and children enjoy a cup of tea ashore.

13.8cm x 8.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 35062

Concert party

Officers and men are watching an acting scene on the French seaplane carrier Foudre during the First World War. Theatrical performances, especially in the Royal Navy, were often very professional affairs.

Recto: “Part of the concert on board the Foudre” in French and in black ink

11.4cm x 8.4cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 65090

ENSA abroad, 1945

This photograph shows a very happy British sailor in the arms of Esther Coleman with Manning Sherwin at the piano during an E.N.S.A. concert in Gibraltar, March 1945. The Entertainments National Service Association (E.N.S.A.) was established in 1939 to provide entertainment for troops of the three services at home and abroad. Sherwin was an American pianist and writer of sentimental wartime songs and Esther Coleman sang with several bands during her tours. Note the loaded depth charge thrower bottom right.

Verso: “Manning Sherwin Gib March ‘45” in light pencil

13.8cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print