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‘Trotsky’ the bear being transferred to HMS Ajax from HMS Emperor of India in 1921
There is a long history of animals and seafarers coming together at sea. Seamen often kept cats and dogs as pets or ship’s mascots, but more exotic companions such as parrots, bears and monkeys also joined the crew. Horses, mules and even elephants were transported across the sea to be used in battle, while cattle, pigs, goats and chickens on board provided a source of fresh milk, eggs and meat.
A view of Greenwich Hospital from the river (BHC1829)
The Caird Library and Archive has hundreds of manuscripts and printed works related to Greenwich Hospital, but only one substantial collection of papers of a naval officer from his time as Treasurer of the Hospital.
View of 19th century merchant vessel (BHC3594)
Death was never far away for crew members on a merchant vessel in the 1860s. In 1865 one in twelve vessels reported the death of at least one member of its complement. More surprising perhaps is that births also occurred, but less often with only 1% of vessels reporting them. This study examines just over 4,000 merchant vessels’ records of births and deaths in 1865.
The pursuit of the 'Graf Spee' by HMS 'Ajax' and 'Achilles' [at the Battle of the River Plate, 13 December 1939]
This month we take a look into Archive and Library item MSS/75/130/2 concerning Captain Frederick Secker Bell (1897-1973). Bell was educated at the Royal Naval Colleges at Dartmouth, Osborne, Isle of Wight and the Royal Navy Staff College at Greenwich. He served on board the battleship HMS Canada at the battle of Jutland in 1916, received his Captaincy in December 1938 and took command of HMS Exeter a month prior to the declaration of war on September 3 1939.
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Diaries written by English prisoners of war captured during the Napoleonic Wars frequently mention their clothing. Whilst the importance of appropriate clothing to the comfort and care of prisoners is obvious, prisoners frequently used clothing for their benefit in other, more creative, ways.
The illustrated London news: 21 December 1889 Stirring the Christmas Pudding (RMG ID: ILN)
We all have traditions around Christmas time and for many this will include a flaming Christmas pudding triumphantly brought to the dinner table, presented to both family and friends. Not all of us though, like a slice of Christmas pudding to round off our Christmas meal. I have heard it described as ‘the dessert from the depths of hell itself’ and ‘a flaming delight; a feast for the eyes and mouth.’ Both descriptions reminded me of a quote from Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and made me wonder about the origins of the Christmas pudding.
‘The Mud-lark’ from Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor
If we were able to return to Victorian London and head down to the banks of the Thames at low tide, we could observe silent human figures aged from childhood upwards, bent over, wading (sometimes waist-high) in the wet mud.
One of my recent cataloguing projects has been a collection of business records relating to Sir William Fraser, principal managing owner of several vessels in the service of the East India Company at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The catalogued items all have the prefix FRS in the Archive Catalogue.
Sir George Biddell Airy (1801-92)
Within the Caird Library’s collection of rare books is the personal library of the seventh Astronomer Royal, Sir George Biddell Airy. It features a plethora of scientific and astronomical research, as well as some of the Library’s most historically significant works such as Copernicus’s influential De revolutionibus orbium coelestium and Flamsteed’s controversial Historiae coelestis, which was published without his consent.
HMS 'Erebus' passing through the chain of bergs, 1842 (BHC3654)
Ghost ships, sometimes also called phantom ships, are vessels with no living crew aboard. These may be real derelict ships found adrift with their crew missing, such as the 19th century HMS Resolute, or fictional and folkloric ones, like the apocryphal Octavius.