Category: Maritime

Waterloo Grain Warehouse, 1875

First of all, I must apologise for the relatively few blogs in recent months. This has been for a positive reason – the launch of a new website dedicated to photographs of Liverpool. Fotolore has taken my son Matt and myself over two years to develop and offers a fantastic archive of images from the 1850s onwards. Unlike this blog, which only offers a limited number of images in a chronological order, Fotolore is an ever-expanding image bank that can be easily accessed with simple searches.
Fotolore is starting with a limited number of images (some 500 in total) because we need to test it out on you. We want you to look at it and comment on how easy (or difficult) it is to use and on any other issues you care to raise. That way, we can get rid of any bugs and problems before adding a further sizeable number of photographs (it is much easier to sort out 500 images at this stage than 1000s at a later time).
This is not just an archive to look at. All the images are available for purchase as prints* and there is a forum for comments which we hope you will use. It is very important to us that Fotolore develops as an interactive site where thoughts, memories and opinion can be freely exchanged. The site is about making local history alive and that is where you come in.
I also hope to catch up on many of the requests for photographs I have received from readers over the last two years. It will take time but my hope is that we can find images of most streets, schools, pubs and other familiar places over the coming years. The great thing about Fotolore is that is designed to keep on expanding so that 1000s of photographs will become available.
The Streets of Liverpool blog will continue and will get back to its old frequency now the new site is underway. Enjoy Fotolore – and don’t forget to add your comments.

* If you’d like to buy a print, use the code FotoloreBlog when you checkout and you’ll get 25% off until the end of September.

The photograph is of HMS Eagle in Brunswick Dock. It is a small photograph I picked up many years ago. Not particularly eyecatching as an image, it was only when I read the pencil note on the back that I realised that here was a forgotten history of Liverpool. The pencil note reads:

Court martial held on HMS Eagle in 1915. The Offenders on HMS Ambrose lying in Mersey during the European War.

Initial research led quickly to the use of HMS Eagle as the divisional HQ of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) – who still retain their presence in the city. HMS Eagle – a 74 gun frigate – was renamed the HMS Eaglet in 1919. Unfortunately, I have not traced details of the court martial – although it would have been a serious matter during wartime. My particular interest is that my grandfather was in the RNVR during WW1 and served on the notorious Q-ship SS Baralong. Q-ships were disguised merchant ships that were used as a weapon against the U-boat threat. They would fly a neutral flag until within attacking distance and then change flag and attack.

On August 19, 1915, about 100 miles south of Queenstown, Ireland, U-27, commanded by Kapit?nleutnant Bernard Wegener, stopped the British steamer Nicosian in accordance with the rules laid down by the London Treaty. A boarding party of six men from the U-27 discovered the Nicosian was carrying munitions and 250 American mules intended for the use of the British Army in France. They ordered the freighter’s crew and passengers into lifeboats, and prepared to sink the freighter. U-27 was lying off Nicosian’s port quarter firing into it when the Baralong appeared on the scene, flying the ensign of the United States as a false flag. When she was half a mile away Baralong ran up a signal flag to the effect that she was going to rescue Nicosian’s crew. Wegener acknowledged the signal, ordered his men to stop firing, and took U-27 along the port side of Nicosian to intercept the Baralong. As the submarine disappeared behind the steamship, Herbert steered Baralong on a parallel course along Nicosian’s starboard side.

Before U-27 came round Nicosian’s bow, Baralong hauled down the American flag,hoisted the Royal Navy White Ensign, and unmasked her guns. When U-27 came into view from behind Nicosian, Baralong opened fire with her three 12-pounder guns at a range of 600 yd (550 m), firing 34 rounds. U-27 rolled over and sank in less than a minute. Twelve men survived the sinking of the submarine, the crews of her two deck guns and those who had been on the conning tower. They swam to the Nicosian and clambered up her hanging boat falls and pilot ladder. Herbert, worried that they might try to scuttle the steamer, ordered his men to open fire with small arms, killing all except six on the Nicosian. Wegener is described by some accounts as being shot while trying to swim to the Baralong.

Herbert sent a party of twelve Royal Marines to the steamer to hunt the German sailors down. They were discovered in the engine room and shot on sight, an action which may have been spurred by revenge. Earlier that same day, U-24 had sunk the White Star liner SS Arabic with the loss of 44 lives. The Baralong had been about 20 miles from the scene, and had received a distress call from the ship. Her Royal Navy crew considered it as an atrocity equal to the sinking of the Lusitania – which they had been involved in the aftermath, seeing the corpses lined up on the harbourside of Queenstown.
The Baralong incident was a defining moment in the naval war – regarded as a war atrocity by the Germans. Naturally, the British exonerated the crew but the immediate result was to remove any semblance of fair play on the high seas. Interestingly, my grandfather, a quiet and unassuming man, was in total agreement with the Baralong’s action – feeling the Germans got what they deserved. For me, a small photograph of seemingly little interest has opened a window on a sequence of events that I feel the need to research further. That is the thing about photographs I love – the moment frozen in time that tells a compelling story if you can unlock it.