SOME OF THE PICTURES KNOWN TO HAVE ADORNED THE WALLS OF HMS GANGES BUILDINGS THROUGHOUT THE YEARS

The choice of pictures hanging on the walls of HMS Ganges buildings [I suspect buildings frequented by officers including Sisters of the QARNNS] would have joined the collection on a piecemeal basis, not chosen by any one person alone. At least one of them [3-Cornwell] is famous, though not a Ganges trained boy, whilst all are relevant being of naval scenes, and some because they are paintings about boys per se. The oldest [4]  RN ensign is rather strange [and different] to say the least. Picture 5, I have seen before and it reminds of pictures generated by Hogarth. Its message is truly hard hitting and a surprise choice for "wardroom walls". Picture 6, I reckon, caught somebody's eye because of the nearness of Ipswich and the Orwell to Shotley Barracks. No 7 is historically of interest and has the potential of it being an excellent quiz question. Quiz Question: name two national  memorials in London which commemorate some of Nelson's five famous battles? Possible answers -Nelson's Column for Trafalgar: Cleopatra's Needle for Nile: St Paul Crypt and his Tomb, arguably for all of them: Greenwich Maritime Museum have his blood soaked uniform worn at the time of his death - Trafalgar: Windsor Castle has the shot which killed Nelson - Trafalgar: Lloyds Insurance building in the City of London at Lime Street, which has a great many of Nelson's awards, gifts from grateful nations,  swords, insignia and artefact.  They are all very much memorials and on a daily basis are seen and remind us of this illustrious and unique man. Note: the Lloyds collection is housed on the ground floor of their main building. For security reasons, it would be impossible for Lloyds to allow all those who would just love to see the exhibits, but you are not denied from seeing them for they are on line, and wonderful is the show. Go to this website Vice-Admiral Viscount Nelson - Lloyd's - The world’s specialist insurance market. Also known as Lloyd's of London; is a market where members join together as syndicates to insure risks. Once opened, scroll down a little way to start the collection which begins with a truly wonderful full length picture of Lord Nelson.  A little further down the page your will see a horizontal row of dots, each dot giving access to an exhibit. TIP. Simply click on either the left or right hand arrows to move through this spectacular collection. I worked in this building for several years, not as an employee or as a broker, but as a specialist contractor, and quite often visited this collection.  Be assured, that it is well worth a browse. Picture 8 is also something not usually seen in naval messes for it rather undermines the dignity of Nelson's death and the fight for victory, in this case, aboard HMS Victory. Finally, Picture 9 is an ideal picture for lower deck ratings to observe, though I doubt that it was displayed in areas accessible to boy trainees. The cruelty of the punishment notwithstanding, it has a moral message that we should all aspire to heed. However, note the spelling of the word 'honour' suggesting that the picture originated in the USA?

1 - 

A music cover showing a 'divisions ceremony' at the Greenwich Hospital School after 1843, probably on the occasion of a royal visit. The viewpoint is from the Queen's House looking towards the Thames and Greenwich Hospital, past the school drill ship, with her yards manned and flying the Royal Standard at the main: the VIP visitor, possibly one of the royal dukes, is presumably one of the small group on the stern. The School band plays in the foreground, with the boys drawn up flanking the ship in salute. The print shows the safety nets stretched below the manned yards and the flanking walled area then around the ship but later removed. This had been the segregated garden play area for the girls accommodated in the Queen's House after it became part of the Royal Naval Asylum in 1806, but they only continued to be part of the Greenwich Hospital School (with which the Asylum formally merged in 1825) until 1841. The name lingered informally for a long time, however, as indicated by 'The Royal Naval Asylum' erroneously printed on this music cover. The ship shown is that of 1842/3, the first of three which occupied the same spot until the School left Greenwich in 1933, when the last ('Fame') was broken up. She was intended to be called 'Princess Royal' but 'the ship' seems to have been more usual.

 2 -

  A boy sailor at Greenwich.

3 -

This painting was part of an intended series of portraits of Victoria Cross holders commissioned from McEvoy, a fashionable society portrait painter who was also a war artist. He worked from photographs but found the task daunting and it was never completed. Cornwell was a 16-year-old gun sight-setter on HMS ‘Chester’. When the ship went into action at the Battle of Jutland (31 May 1916) all his gun crew were killed or wounded but Cornwell remained at his post despite fatal injuries. His portrait became the icon for this complex and ambiguous battle which, on balance, the British won but of which Churchill remarked that Admiral Jellicoe could also ‘have lost the war in an afternoon’. Cornwell was a perfect example to small boys on how to serve their country, and to those adults who had failed to recognize the importance of duty and self sacrifice at a time of mass unionization, strikes and suffragette protest. According to the Daily Mirror on 22 September 1916 ‘Celebrations were held yesterday in the elementary schools throughout the kingdom ina 16-year-old gun sight-setter on HMS ‘Chester’. When the ship went into action at the Battle of Jutland (31 May 1916) all his gun crew were killed or wounded but Cornwell remained at his post despite fatal injuries. His portrait became the icon for this complex and ambiguous battle which, on balance, the British won but of which Churchill remarked that Admiral Jellicoe could also ‘have lost the war in an afternoon’. Cornwell was a perfect example to small boys on how to serve their country, and to those adults who had failed to recognize the importance of duty and self sacrifice at a time of mass unionization, strikes and suffragette protest. According to the Daily Mirror on 22 September 1916 ‘Celebrations were held yesterday in the elementary schools throughout the kingdom in honour of Jack Cornwell, VC.’ The article was accompanied by a photograph of pupils at Walton Road School, Ilford, saluting a portrait of the boy hero who had been a pupil there, while his mother and sister look on.

4 - 

  A picture of a relic of Sir John Franklin's last expedition 1845-48. Fragments of a wool, hand-sewn naval ensign with a rope attached. It was found by Lieutenant W.R. Hobson at an abandoned camp site at Cape Felix, King William Island on 25 May 1859. The ensign was found in the smallest tent which had apparently belonged to the officers. Collected by the McClintock Search Expedition 1857-59.
 McClintock described it as 'Fragments of a boat's ensign'.

 

 5 -

  A post-Trafalgar satire showing a scene of the deck of a British vessel. It offers an unusually adversarial stance taken from the perspective of the lower-deck sailor. With cannon being prepared, the tar is shown on his knees at prayer. At this, one of the officers remarks ‘Why Starboard! how is this at prayers when the enemy is bearing down upon us; are you afraid of them?’ ‘Starboard’ replies ‘Afraid! – NO! I was only praying that the enemy's shot may be distributed in the same proportion as the prize money, the greatest part among the Officers.’ At one level the print characterizes the tar positively, drawing on stereotypical features attributed to him: his lack of religion, fearlessness, independence and quick wit. However, beneath the joke lies a darker point about the rift between the quarter- and lower decks, above all regarding prize money and wages, which goes back to the 1797 mutinies at Spithead and the Nore.


6 -

  This is believed to be a picture of the first three naval vessels built by John Barnard the Younger for the Navy Board. It is a composite in both time and subject and is thought to show the 'Hampshire', 50 guns, on the stocks, the 'Biddeford', 20 guns, being towed downstream and, in the left foreground, the 'Grenado', a bomb-vessel. The location is the River Orwell and the artist was positioned in the immediate vicinity of the Frensham Tower several miles downstream of Ipswich, immediately identifiable in the middle distance. The land on which the ship sits ready for launch is John's Ness, where the 'Hampshire' was the only 50-gun ship built and launched there in 1741. The 'Biddeford', a sixth-rate, was built upstream at St Clement's Yard and launched in 1740. She was towed downstream to Harwich to be rigged: no other 20-gun ship was built upstream of John's Ness. This painting shows the boats involved in towing. The 'Grenado' was also built at the St Clement's Yard, the only bomb ketch ever built there, and was launched in 1742. In the picture she is shown without masts but the positioning of her mizzenmast indicates her rig. The bomb ketch was a relatively uncommon vessel with distinctive lines. It is not known why Cleveley selected these three Barnard-built ships launched in different years to appear in the same picture. The work may have been commissioned from him by the Barnard family but no evidence exists to support this.

7 - 

Built in about 1500 BC during the reign of Pharaoh Thothmes III, the 3,500 year-old Cleopatra's Needle was presented to Britain at the beginning of the 19th century. Its hazardous transport to London was only made possible in October 1877 by a private sponsor, Dr Erasmus Wilson, and by John Dixon. He designed a cylindrical vessel, the 'Cleopatra', which was constructed around the Needle. Cleopatra's Needle was brought to London from Alexandria, the royal city of Cleopatra. Britain wanted something large and significant to commemorate the British victory over Napoleon, sixty-three years earlier. So the British public subscribed £15,000 to bring the Needle over from Alexandria. It arrived in England after an eventful journey by sea in January 1878. A specially designed cigar-shaped container ship, also called the ‘Cleopatra’, was devised to convey it. Built by the Dixon brothers it was an iron cylinder, 93 feet long, 15 feet wide, and divided into ten watertight compartments. However on 14 October 1877 in treacherous waters off the west coast of France in the Bay of Biscay the ‘Cleopatra’ was in danger of sinking. The steam-ship towing her, the ‘Olga’, sent six volunteers in a boat to take off the ‘Cleopatra's crew, but the boat was swamped and the volunteers drowned. Eventually the ‘Olga’ drew alongside and rescued ‘Cleopatra's’ five crewmen and their skipper, and cut the towrope, leaving the vessel adrift in the Bay of Biscay. Five days later a ship spotted the ‘Cleopatra’ floating undamaged off the northern coast of Spain, and she was towed to the port of Ferrol. There a steam-ship, the ‘Anglia’, arrived to tow the Cleopatra to London by January 1878. In September 1878 the needle was positioned on the Thames Embankment, where it still stands.

The painting is a contemporary account of the journey, though it is not an eye witness account. It records the period in the journey when the ‘Cleopatra’ was under tow by the paddle steamer shown in the distance on the left. The figures in the ‘Cleopatra’ struggling with the sail demonstrate the precariousness of the journey and instability of the vessel.


8 -

Gillray’s response to Nelson’s death at Trafalgar was this brilliantly ironic print showing him collapsed on the deck of the ‘Victory’, eyes rolling upward, embraced by a forlorn Hardy with George III’s features. He is cradled by a melodramatically tearful Britannia, in a classical ‘attitude’ of grief: she has the unmistakable features of Emma, Lady Hamilton. The kneeling ‘British Tar’ is probably intended to be the Duke of Clarence, later William IV. Above, the winged figure of Fame (or Victory) trumpets Nelson’s ‘Immortality’, while the battle rages in the background amid impenetrable billowing smoke. The caption refers to the ‘Memorial intended by the City of London to commemorate the Glorious Death of the immortal Nelson’, alluding to the spate of proposals for some form of permanent memorial that came almost immediately in the wake of Nelson’s death and funeral.

9 -

Flogging was a frequent punishment in the Navy during Nelson's period. The whole crew other than those working the ship would be assembled aft on the quarterdeck to witness punishment - public example being an important element in the practice. The culprit would be secured to an upended grating and the officers and marines would position themselves as shown here. The presence of the marines was also a reminder that their function was not just to act as sea soldiers against the enemy but to uphold the authority of the officers. The captain would read the section of Articles of War under which the culprit had offended - often drunkenness or other anti-social behaviour - and state the number of lashes. Two dozen was the maximum without a court martial. However, in this print an innocent sailor is about to be punished for an offence he did not commit. The real culprit steps forward discarding his shirt, to accept the punishment that will surely follow.