Some months ago I bought a second hand copy of Lyn MacDonald’s book ‘1914: Days of Hope.’ On the front cover was a picture of a number of smiling soldiers on a transport ship. I assumed (given the title of the book) that the picture was taken early in the war.
I was intrigued by the picture and wanted a full copy of my own. I asked Penguin where they got it from and they cited Imperial War Museum as the source so I contacted the IWM photographic archive who had no record of a licence application from Penguin and despite a search by them, the picture could not be located.
Finally, I went to the IWM archives and located the picture myself (within ten minutes!). In doing so, I also found two related pictures taken just moments after the first and I attach them all for your scrutiny. I now conclude that the picture was taken later than April 1916 (tin helmets visible) and I think consists of mainly RAMC with a few Royal Engineers present. The IWM negative numbers are Q3330, 33301 and 33302.
I noticed too that the RAMC chaps have a dark shaded fabric diamond badge on their shoulders. The RE’s have a rectangle fabric badge but some have no cap badge (why would that be?) and others have a paler shaded triangular badge. I think this last group are 29th Division. They look more war weary and their uniforms are shabbier than the others.
My guess is that these pictures are of a ship taking new drafts and returning leave soldiers back to France.
I would be very grateful for any observations about these pictures. In particular, where the ship was docked, which units are present and when the pictures were taken. I would also be interested in learning what the fabric badges mean and if they can be used to pin-pint the Division or even the battalions. A long shot I know…