Ordinary People – Leading the Way!

First Class Shipwright B H Symes, Diver, Seated on Left.

Among some recent military projects, I have seen three examples outstanding bravery and pioneering spirit…. ordinary people – leading the way!

Bertram Henry Symes (1876-1914) joined the British Royal Navy in January 1899. He trained as a shipwright, eventually becoming Chief Shipwright in 1918. What is most remarkable about his career, however, is the fact that he became a Ships Artificer Diver in March 1906. He continued to dive until May 1915, when he was noted as medically unfit to dive, after he got the bends.  Shipwright First Class Symes, was adventurous, although he was not the first to become a ship’s diver, this was certainly early days of deep sea diving, with many unknown factors, and basic equipment.

H.M.S. Ocean leaving Glasgow, 1948.

H.M.S. Ocean was built at the Alexander Stephen and Sons yard on the Clyde, Glasgow, Scotland. The ship was launched in 1944 and commissioned 8 August 1945. Classed as a light fleet carrier was 630 feet long and had a crew of 1,050 sailors and could carry 52 aircraft.

We normally associate naval seamen as ship’s personnel. Peter Colin George (1926-2008) however, joined the British Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm Division around 1945.  He trained as an aircraft engineer, eventually becoming Chief Petty Officer overseeing engine and aircraft repairs. His training took place at H.M.S. St. James, Douglas, Isle of Man, then at the air craft handling unit R.N.A.S. Worthy Down, also known as H.M.S. Kestrel.

Landing jet planes on a moving ship (later known as an aircraft carrier) was a fairly new concept. He was at the forefront of industry as an aircraft engineer in the Royal Navy.

https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/tag/hms-ocean-r68/ describes the first test flight, take off and landing of a jet-powered aircraft from a ship which carrier took place 3rd December 1945, from HMS Ocean (R68). The aircraft was a de Havilland DH.100 Sea Vampire Mk 10 LZ551/G. An example of this aircraft was held at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset.

Towards the end of his days in the Navy, he worked at the Fleet Air Arm Museum.

Source: Ipswich Star – Button Boy

Finally, not quite so pioneering, but just as brave. One recent project described how a young boy-sailor took up the role of ‘Button Boy’ in the Royal Navy. He was noted as the ‘second’ a stand-in for the lead boy, but he still had to become accomplished and demonstrate his skill for this activity.

Each R.N. training facility sports, a land-based mast, and H.M.S. Ganges is no different. There is a long-standing tradition of young trainees ascending the 143 ft mast, a performance that takes place to music. The ‘button boy’ is the man at the top.  He has to shimmy up the last stretch of the pole, climb over the lightening rod, and sit or stand-to-attention on the round platform at the top.  Ipswich newspaper shares a descriptive story, Height of Dread for Ganges Boys. The trip down from the top is pleasing, tells our client, “you slide the rope from half way, where the others have to step to the beat of the music, all the way to the ground. It’s harder coming down.”

View a Button Boy video one of many to be found on the Internet.

So, all in all, ordinary young men, training for their jobs…. yet leading the way!

I love that my job allows me to delve into different subjects and discover new things. It is heart-warming too, that future generations, friends and family will be able to enjoy a small insight into earlier times!

 

 

It’s All About The Artifacts!

We are thrilled to see that the winter issue of our wonderful local In the Hills Magazine sports an article about a project recently completed by Treasured Collections!

Treasured Collections is all about the artifacts, learning their story, noting the provenance (who had owned them, where were they from), and supplementing their story with supportive documents and photographs.

As with all our projects, it was hard to know where to start and stop. In this instance our client Robin had such a broad array of wonderful artifacts from many different members of her family.

There are artwork examples, miniature sketch books, original letters, poems, published plays, paintings and more. The earliest item dates back to 1843 and each item has its own history.

A ‘honeymoon’ booklet made in 1906, a lace christening bonnet, plus many paintings, designs and illumination examples by AH Howard, similar to those held in local and national archives and museums.

When we met with In The  Hills Magazine writer Kira, none of us knew where the article would lead! How best to narrow down this meandering story that has filled more than 100 pages of photographs and artifacts, covering so many talented family members. It was a challenge.  Kira listened, and jotted notes, next we met with photographer Pete Paterson and editor Tralee with the artifacts laid out before us. The result is truly amazing, the story weaves together a handful of artifacts, producing a heart-warming feeling for all to read about this well-known Toronto gentleman, his family roots, and a Caledon stone house (or two).

“Read about The Howard Collection”

Thank you to client Robin for the opportunity to ‘meet’ her family and thank you to In The Hills Magazine team for sharing a small part of it with the community!

From time to time, I give talks at clubs and groups. Let me know if this is a subject your organization would like to hear about.

Similarly, if you have some special family objects, that you wish to catalogue…. and don’t know where to start, drop me an email or give me a call 519-940-4877.

Identifying Military Buttons… Fun Research!

British Royal Navy jacket button, rating, circa 1945.

With recent commemoration of WWI – 100 years on!  Remembering family members who were lost and served, for me November 2018 has had a strong military focus!

Working on a few more family artifacts, I dived into the subject of Military Buttons – fascinating!

As always, Google searches can help find lots of useful information. I relied too on help from ex-military colleagues on FaceBook Groups I belong to.

One very useful website for button research was melitomnes.org  A website based in Malta…. but Malta had strong ties with the British Navy.  Over the years my grandfather, uncles and then my father were stationed in Malta. Many of our family members lived in Malta during their assignment, including my grandparents, and one cousin was born there. In 1958 I recall a trip to visit… flying for the first time my mum bundled my brother and I onto a military plane, unfortunately shortly after our arrival, our dad’s ship was called away to some trouble in Aden.

My father held a Malta driving licence. Folded linen card, 2″, 1958.

Back to the buttons…. a wooden trinket/cigarette box holds a number of buttons, among other bits and bobs.

Identifying the backing, the maker, the crowns and other images, allowed me to identify one of my mother’s WAAF button, and my father’s early (pre-officer/rating) button.

Photographed at the top, we can see the edge is plain, without a rope design around the boarder.  This means the button dates before my father (Peter Colin George, Chief Petty Officer, Fleet Air Arm, 1926-2008) took his Petty Officer course in 1950. The crown is the Tudor Crown used from 1902-1953.  The button therefore dates somewhere between his joining date of 1942 and the date he became an officer in 1950.

Identifying the shape of the crown…. helps date RN buttons.

The back of the button has a fixed loop. Again there are various styles of fixing over the years.  The maker’s mark identifies the button was made by Buttons Ltd., Birmingham.

RN Button made by Buttons Ltd, Birmingham, circa 1945.

Our family comes from the naval port of Portsmouth, Hampshire. I was thrilled to discover at sometime earlier there were two button makers in our city.  Gieves also was a company that started in Portsmouth.

To finish up…. I mentioned a trinket box.  That too has a history of its own. I had always thought it was my father’s box, but discover it was more likely it belonged to my mother! The box was made as a fundraiser in aid of Red Cross in 1943.  Made from the mooring mast from the makers of Airships and Blimps at Cardington. My mother was in the Woman’s Air force and Cardington became an Air Force base.  Likely she purchased the box.