Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Cornwall in the First World War

During this month, each weekday I'm posting a photograph showing Cornwall's First World War.

At the mouth of the River Lynher, Cornwall’s naval station HMS Defiance served throughout the war. The base was built at Wearde Quay near Saltash, using two wooden hulks moored off the river’s northern bank: Defiance, an old 2nd rater after which the station was named, and the smaller sloop Perseus. During 1905 a railway line was added, its station named Defiance Halt, connecting the sailors with Great Western’s route to the diverse attractions of Plymouth waterfront. 

Between them the vessels provided quarters for officers and ratings on main and lower decks respectively, as well as a galley, gymnasium, and also lecture rooms, for Defiance was a training station. Its deadly courses taught wholesale maritime destruction, using some of the most lethal weapons of their day: torpedoes and enormous sea-mines.

Defiance operated various craft, including the gunboat Scourge fitted with an 18-inch aluminium torpedo tube; a steam pinnace, numerous torpedo boats and a destroyer also served.

The main hulk itself was fitted with training torpedo-tubes, pointed toward the mud flats across the river. Using the other vessels live exercises were regularly carried out in Plymouth Sound, a torpedo-range cleared of traffic apart from moored tender HMS Falcon, which spotted and marked the students’ efforts. 

Mine-laying practice and recovery drills were generally performed in Whitsand and Cawsand Bays. In today’s image the sailors are putting in some hauling practice with sea mines; these mines are dummies, but the base conducted many live exercises off the Cornish coast. Live mine and torpedo firings even took place on the Lynher itself. Cornish people would gather to watch the explosions, as colossal gouts of water were flung high into the air.

My book, 'Cornwall In The First World War', is published by Truran. With 112 pages and 100 images, you'll find it in bookshops across the Duchy. It's also available through Amazon: http://amzn.to/19JbtZm

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