Titania photo 3 copy.jpg | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong
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Titania photo 3 copy.jpg

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Titania photo 3 copy.jpg

From the H.M.S. Titania Ward Room Mess Album

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Tuesday, January 1, 1929


Fascinating - the sailing ship is a small barque and, from the boats slung outboard on their davits, a naval training ship. Her code letters (tricky without colour) look like JRBA. She's fitted with a motor (evidently she's under power, not sail) and you can see the exhaust trailing from the cross trees of the mizzen mast, cunningly adapted to act as a funnel/exhaust pipe.

The stern of the vessel on the right is a puzzler, but may be Foxglove, Magnolia or possibly Marazion or a visitor. As we shall see, the year i question is a very bad one for details of naval ships in port in the newspaper - perhaps a hangover from WW1 security. One of the 'C' (Carlisle), or 'D' (Despatch, Durban or Diomede) light cruisers is on the left. In the foreground are the ensigns and bits of the aft casing of some submarines, presumably moored outboard of the Titania.

Critically the barque is flying the white ensign. Is she an RN sail training ship? Not so, the last of those (the training brigs Liberty, Nautilus, Pilot, Sealark,Seaflower, and Martin) had ceased work c.1904, swept away by Jackie Fisher's reforms. That means immediately she must be a vessel of the Royal Yacht Squadron, whose member's yachts are permitted to fly the white ensign (long, boring history going back to the late 18th century Duke of Cumberland's squadron). Which one?

This would appear to be the Hon. Arthur Ernest Guinness' yacht Fantome II that made a world tour in 1923-24 (story of start of cruise, SCMP May 9 1923, p.12). There is a story about her in Shanghai in the SCMP, October 30, 1923, p.12. Both that story and the Wikipedia entry (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belem_(ship)) confirm the exhaust up the mizzen mast for her twin Bolinder diesels.

French built in 1896, she began life as a French sugar trader called Belem, and survived the Mont Pelee eruption in Martinique because there was no room for her in the main anchorage off St Pierre. As of 1914 she became a luxury yacht before having a very chequered and unhappy post-WW2 life. Happily she is now back in her original home port of Nantes, France, restored and working, under her original name, as a sail training ship, 126 years after her launch.

She arrived in HK from Shanghai on 11th November 1923 and anchored "off the naval camber" (i.e. off the tidal basin (known in the late 20th century as HMS Tamar), SCMP Nov 12, 1923, p.15). She went up to Guangzhou on 15 November, returning on 17th and left for Singapore on 19th. She got back to Britain in March or April 1924.

In this photo she is flying her code letters, which means she is under way and is either just arriving in HK or just departing. She's obviously heading from west to east, so possibly heading to exit via Lei Yue Mun, though who knows - she could be making a ceremonial pass to salute the Commodore in the Tamar or the C-in-C in the Hawkins, which we know was in port but is not in shot.

The Empress of Canada was in HK between 13 and 17 Nov - so she's maybe the big, white liner in the left background. 

What a remarkable photo.

Stephen D

I posted a photo of the SS Marazion at https://gwulo.com/atom/36704  Of the three ships mentioned as possible candidates for the stern of the ship at the right of the above photo, at least we know from WR Fell's own album that she was on exercises in Hong Kong waters in 1928-1929.