As regular readers of this blog will know, John Sayers is kindly donating his superb Ocean Liner Ephemera Collection to the John Johnson Collection. Groups of material arrive several times a year, always generating excitement here! Tranche #5 of the Sayers Collection includes a folder of ephemera relating to the Royal Naval Review at Spithead in 1935. An engaging and prolific author, John has sent us a blog post to accompany the material.
In July, 1935, there was a Royal Naval Review at Spithead to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V, after 25 years as Britain’s reigning monarch. Part of this archive is from a person – unknown – who sailed on Cunard’s RMS Berengaria for a special three-day excursion to watch the Review.
The archive includes menus, descriptions of the proceedings, and a Passenger List which included Rudyard Kipling (and Mrs. Kipling), the Parnell sisters (the Hon. Mary, the Hon. Jean and the Hon. Sheila), and a number of other prominent figures with the surnames Wills (cigarettes), Doxford (marine engines), Brocklebank (Shipping), Mosely (Mrs. Oswald), and a host of minor nobility. The center pages of the Official Programme show the ships and their relative positions on the periphery of the Review area.
Another part of the archive is from a passenger on Cunard’s RMS Lancastria, which also offered a 3-day cruise to enjoy the festive experience. It appears that this archive was saved by Miss P. Langston-Jones, who travelled on the cruise with her sister. Their Passenger list contained a slightly lower stratum of the society of the era.
Little did the enthusiastic passengers on the Berengaria, the Lancastria, and the other participating liners realize that this event marked a watershed in British history. Only six months later – in January, 1936 – King George V died; in that same month famous novelist Rudyard Kipling died; less than three years after this sailing, the Berengaria was ravaged by a fire and was scrapped; RMS Lancastria was sunk less than 5 years later with the loss of over 3,000 lives; and in 1941, some 5 years later, the Battleship HMS Hood, pride of the British Navy, was sunk in action against the German battleship Bismarck with a terrible loss of life.
Other British and foreign passenger vessels provided excursions to the event, including RMS Homeric (retired from service just 2 months after the Review); RMS Warwick Castle (torpedoed and sunk in 1942); RMS Viceroy of India (torpedoed and sunk in 1942); and SS Arandora Star (torpedoed and sunk in 1940).
(From The Sayers Collection at The John Johnson Collection, Bodleian Library. Ephemera of this event is also contained in the Royal Mail Line binders in the Collection.)