Christmas Past

British Pathe have a lovely range of newsreels showing Christmas times in the Navy from 1914 to the 1940s – which mostly seem to consist of making Christmas puddings and drinking rum.  To view a few of them click on the following links:

Naval Barracks aka Christmas Dinner and Rum in the Navy (British Pathe, 1914)

Naval Christmas Devonport (British Pathe, 1919)

Christmas in the Navy HMS Hood (British Pathe, 1922)

Christmas with the Navy (British Pathe, 1940)

Xmas aboard a Cruiser (British Pathe, 1940)

Show your support for ‘The Gin Lane Gazette’!

Friend of the GMI, Adrian Teal is writing an illustrating an historical romp called ‘The Gin Lane Gazette; and you can help get it published.

Details of his work are shown on the Unbound website which is a new way of connecting with writers. Unbound allows you to listen to the ideas of authors and if you like their idea, you can pledge to support it. If they hit the target number of supporters, the author can go ahead and start writing.
There are several levels of support, each with different rewards. The higher your pledge, the greater the rewards you’ll receive, from your name in the back of the book to lunch with the author.
As soon as you make a pledge to support an Unbound project you gain access to the author’s private area or ‘shed’. Here you can get updates on the book’s progress, watch exclusive interviews, read draft chapters, find out information about the author’s backlist and join discussions with the author and other supporters. It’s a portal into a new community of writers and readers: a place to comment on and contribute to a work in progress.

The GIN LANE GAZETTE will be a compendium of illustrated ‘best bits’ from a fictional newspaper of the latter 1700s. It will contain some of the most sensational headlines and true stories of the period. The presses will be presided over by inky-fingered hack Mr. Nathaniel Crowquill, the editor and proprietor, whose premises are located in Hogarth’s chaotic Gin Lane, and who has devoted fifty years to sniffing out scandal and intrigue. His drunken acolyte, Mr. Jakes, supplies merciless caricatures and engravings for every page. Sports reports, obituaries, fashion news, courtesans of the month, book reviews, and advertisements for bizarre – and often alarming – goods, services and entertainments will also feature in a riotous mélange of metropolitan mayhem.

Adrian has spent fifteen years producing cartoons for clients such as the Sunday Telegraph, History Today and QI, and hopes to give you an authentic flavour of the exuberance, debauchery, bravery, inventiveness, and eccentricity which characterise the Georgian world.

Please support him!

Journal for Maritime Research: New Articles by GMI Staff

GMI Visiting Lecturers Victoria Carolan and James Davey both have articles in the new issue of  the  Journal for Maritime Research Volume 13, Issue 2, 2011 which are now available online.  For a taster here are the abstracts:

Victoria Carolan, ‘The Shipping Forecast and British National Identity’

This article looks at the cultural impact of the shipping forecast issued by the Meteorological Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. It has a strange status that is unprecedented for a weather bulletin. The forecast has become engrained as a part of British culture and as a signifier of Englishness. This distinction of British and English is deliberate; this article will suggest that while the forecast covers the whole of the United Kingdom, and has an aesthetic resonance that extends nationwide, the characteristics and opinions that it has been used to represent appear to have been made specifically in respect of Englishness.

The article considers reactions to the change of the sea area named Finisterre before looking at the artistic uses of the forecast. It argues that the cultural importance of the forecast has increased at the same time as its functional, informative role has become virtually redundant. Reactions to the forecast from the 1980s onwards have tended to reflect a crisis in English national identity, jostling for position in the ‘new Europe’ and re-evaluating itself at home in light of the establishment of the Scottish parliament and the national assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland at the end of the 1990s.

James Davey , ‘The advancement of nautical knowledge: the Hydrographical Office, the Royal Navy and the charting of the Baltic Sea, 1795-1815

n 1795, the Hydrographical Office was created to collate nautical charts for the use of the Royal Navy. One of its greatest challenges was to provide reliable charts for fleets sent to the Baltic Sea. The geography of this region was largely unknown to British admirals and policy-makers alike, provoking both operational and strategic issues for the naval administration. Faced with economic threats to its sources of shipbuilding resources during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy was ordered into the Baltic on three occasions. On each occasion its operational viability was determined by the degree to which it could navigate the waters of the Baltic safely. This article traces the success with which Britain was able to come to terms with an environment of which it was ignorant in 1795. In the years immediately after 1795, charts of the Baltic were inaccurate and unreliable. However, repeated incursions into the Baltic during the following 20 years provided an opportunity to gather hydrographical information. British understanding of the Baltic Sea improved dramatically, opening the region to the potency of British naval power. The advancement of maritime knowledge required seamanship and navigational skill in the Baltic, but also an effective administration in London to collect information and retain it for future needs. This article therefore outlines a broad understanding of ‘sea power’ based not just on physical might, leadership and tactics, but on administration and the retention and dissemination of knowledge. This is understood in a context of increasing state engagement with British geography as a strategic tool, as witnessed also by the Ordnance Survey. The development of surveying in this period also tells us much about the ‘quantifying spirit’ of the late eighteenth century, and how such impulses were writ large on the political and strategic world.


Keeping Traditional Seamanship Alive

slide show

(Image from the Excelsior Trust website)

John Wylson of the Excelsior Trust will be presenting the third GMI Research Seminar of the 2011/12 academic year on Wednesday 30th November 2011 at 6pm. His paper is ‘Trying to Keep Traditional Seamanship Alive at Lowestoft : EXCELSIOR since 1989’. This particular seminar is being hosted in collaboration with the Institute of Seamanship.

EXCELSIOR is an authentically rebuilt Lowestoft smack.  She exists not only to provide an example of the type, but to maintain the knowledge of how to sail and how to look after such vessels.  In so doing, the skills of local seamen and shipwrights of three generations ago are being kept alive.   These crafts were constructed, fished and propelled sustainably and her continued existence is an important reminder of a very different age.

The seminar will take place in room 075, Queen Anne Court, Univeristy of Greenwich, SE10 9LS at 6pm. Tea & Coffee will be available from 5.30pm and a glass of wine afterwards. The seminar is free and there is no need to book, everyone is welcome.

The Massey Shaw

The Massey Shaw is a fire tender, built in 1935, which served on the River Thames and also took part in theDunkirk evacuation, after which she played a vital role during the Blitz. Today she is run by a Trust, manned by volunteers and is undergoing restoration with the aid of a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The vessel will be ready by May 2012. If you google ‘Massey Shaw’ you will find all her details and her history. But I can tell you that the great water jet which she shoots out is pretty impressive.

I have been contacted by Barbara Reid, an ex-Maritime Museum colleague, who has been helping the Trust plan the project. She has contacted me she thought that there could be people in the GMI who might take an interest in the Massey Shaw. At the end of the year the Trust will be looking for volunteers, and also for 12 passengers to take part in the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant on 3 June 2012, accompanying HMQ up theThames – one of a thousand vessels in the Pageant.

If you would like to enquire further, please let me know, and I can pass you on to the right people.

Roger Knight

Sailor’s 111 year old Christmas Pud Donated to Museum

111 year-old tinned plum pudding
A Christmas pudding has been donated to the National Museum of the Royal Navy.   The pudding was one of those sent to members of the Naval Brigade for Christmas 1900 during the Boer War from philanthropist Agnes Weston.   Agnes was the founder of the Royal Naval Sailors’ Rests in Devonport and Portsmouth, and  also superintendent of the Royal Naval Temperance Society – so not surprising that this is a ‘teetotal plum pudding’!

Singing for the Nation, Wednesday 2nd November 2011, 6pm

Dr James Davey, Research Curator (Naval and Maritime History), of the National Maritime Museum will be presenting his paper ‘Singing for the Nation: Balladry, Naval Recruitment, and the Language of Patriotism in Eighteenth Century Britain’.

The ballad was one of the most important vehicles of mass communication during the eighteenth century, geographically ubiquitous, and available to a broad spectrum of the British population. Ballads concerning the navy were a consistent and popular theme, particularly in times of war. In this seminar, James Davey will analyse the nature of these ballads, considering their market and potential political and social roles. Almost without exception, these ballads painted a positive picture of naval service, forwarding patriotic stereotypes alongside more tangible pecuniary benefits. This seminar will consider how ballads contributed to eighteenth century ideas about the navy, about patriotism, and indeed how this form of cultural media influenced the contested subject of naval recruitment.

This seminar will take place in room 075, Queen Anne Court, Old Royal Naval College, University of Greenwich at 6pm. Tea & Coffee will be available from 5.30pm and a glass of wine afterwards. The seminar is free and there is no need to book, everyone is welcome.