Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Pre-Dreadnought Photos: Part 4

A look at some more Pre-Dred pics now, these being all original Postcard views....much nicer a hundred years or so ago.....none of those boring shots of sandy beaches or dull monuments you see for sale these days!

To start then, some heavy metal from La Belle France, with the photos above and below being views of the Battleship Massena, some 11,924 Tons (or thereabouts) of 19th Century muscle.
An example of the rather scatter-brained, "am I Jeune Ecole or not Jeune Ecole" French approach to warship building, she was ostensibly a part of the Charles Martel Class, but just like all her contrary sisters, insisted on having a unique layout.
Commissioned into service in 1898, the Battleships-Cruisers website is ungentlemanly enough to accuse her of being "900 tons overweight", now that's quite some bustle on such a Grand Damme. I would suggest that most of this weight was concentrated in the typically Gallic enormous armoured fighting tops, which no doubt gave her something of a rolling gait in heavy seas....

She was principally armed with two 12" guns fore and aft, two further 10.8", and eight 5.5", as well as two submerged 18" Torpedo tubes.
If you're a fan of the French, for a bit of fun, you could have a look at the War at Sea website, which has some rather good computer depictions of the principal ships:

This site is something to do with one of those online games the 'young people' are always going on about, but for my money has some nifty-looking depictions of the vessels of various navies; well worth a look if you haven't come across it already.
The really cool part can be found here on the index page for the various countries; use the link below to find the Index page and click on "The Fleets" menu box - then just run your mouse over the ships depicted on the national flags and watch those guns swivel purposefully in your direction - marvellous!

Next we have another classic, if only for the elongated Gallic name, the Jaureguiberry, try saying that after a few Stella Artois (other beers are available...).
Her namesake was a French Admiral who fought at sea during the Crimea, and on land during the Franco-Prussian War.
I think this is a classic view, with her puffing away into the distance, however if you look at the roiling bow wake developing a nasty-looking trough ahead of her, I think the crew is in for a bumpy ride.

Again sporting those armoured mushroom fighting tops, which apparently had electric elevators inside, and the diamond gun layout of her sister ships, as well as the pronounced tumblehome (as in, if you fell overboard, you would tumble homeward all the way down the side...).
She was armed with two 12", two 10.8", eight 5.5", four 9 pounder, and twelve 3 pounders, along with eight 1 pound revolvers, and two submerged 18" Torpedo Tubes.

Finally we have a view of what I suppose is a slight late-comer to our Pre-Dred party, namely the HMS Drake of 1901. Wearing her cruiser ancestry on her sleeve, in as much as she closely resembles the lines of the previous Powerful Class armoured cruiser pair, she was armed with two 9.2" and sixteen 6" QF guns.

The postcard that this view comes from is in itself rather interesting, in that it was posted on the fourth of February 1905, and bears the following message:

"Portsmouth 4th Feb. Joined yesterday after a night at home - HG."

I can only surmise that it was sent by a member of the crew, and given that it bore the rather glamourous continental address of Miss J. Carter, c/o Fraulein Muller, Elisenstrasse 11, Dresden, was probably from an officer writing to his lady friend, or perhaps more chastley, a sister.
So, could we find out who this mystery man was? Well, in the true tradition of Sherlock Holmes, I doffed my deerstalker in the direction of the oft-quoted Battleships-Cruisers website, and was surprised to find a full run down given of the officers on the cruise the ship made between January 1905 and 1907.

There is an absolutely exhaustive list of the various destinations and activities, which give a fascinating insight into the duties of the Peace time, pre-WWI Royal Navy. The cruise is especially significant, in that H.S.H.Prince Louis of Battenburg was present on board as a Rear Admiral, in those far-off days when there was no House of Windsor, and our Royal Family were proud of their continental, and dare I say it, German ancestry: Saxe-Coburg Gothas aplenty!
Tragic to think that all this harmony and fraternity would be shattered so brutally in such a few short years.
One wonders how the Miss Carter and Fraulein Muller of the postcard fared in the cataclysm of WWI, when our friends became the 'Hun'.....

Scanning through the crew list, I was unfortunately unable to come up with a clear answer as to who HG was, if Miss Carter was his paramour, then there were Sub-Lieutenants Henry H.G.D Stoker and Henry G.Moon, as well as a Midshipman Hugh H.G. Begbie, that might all have been suitable candidates for the sender of the card.
In any event, it's interesting as to where a bit of Wargaming research can take you, and thanks to the incredible effort in putting all that information onto the Web by the Battleships-Cruisers team, for a moment there, we had a window into the Past......


  1. The French did have some really awful designs, didn't they?

    Thanks for posting these.

    -- Jeff

  2. You're welcome, Jeff.

    Inefficient, yes, but definitely good to look at!