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ph0ebus

Transatlantic Spies?

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phil@basildon
Hi Greg, all...

Perhaps someone else on the forum with a penchant for Dazzle-painted ships might tackle this aspect of this line of inquiry?

-Daniel

One of the other vessels I mentioned, the SS Philadelphia was painted in dazzle camouflage 1917-1918 as the USS Yale. There is a photograph on Wiki, just put USS Yale into search.

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phil@basildon

Daniel. I've been reading up on the TSS California. She was a fast vessel, 27 knots, It sounds like the captain of the U-85 was expecting her. She ploughed on after the torpedo struck which suggests she was at full speed. This is also born out in that there is no evidence of her being in a convoy (which usually travelled at about 10 knots or less). Could it be that radio messages had been intercepted by the U-85? Most if not all British ships were provided with radio's by the Marconi Company that was based in Chelmsford. The Essex Record Office should hold the company records and these may hold records of all messages sent by each vessel. The radio officers were usually employees of Marconi and they kept records for charging for each message sent.

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TeeCeeCee

Phil

I think you're read too much into the 'in disguise' bit. If Pheobus? has represented the front of your postcard correctly, then your mans message makes sense.

"The ship that brought me over, but disguised."

Evidently, they'd painted or errected some form of dummy mast/funnel, and thus here's your man saying 'Here's the ship that brought me over but she was a bit different than that shown over'.

That's my take on it.

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phil@basildon
Phil

I think you're read too much into the 'in disguise' bit. If Pheobus? has represented the front of your postcard correctly, then your mans message makes sense.

"The ship that brought me over, but disguised."

Evidently, they'd painted or errected some form of dummy mast/funnel, and thus here's your man saying 'Here's the ship that brought me over but she was a bit different than that shown over'.

That's my take on it.

I thought I had made that suggestion that the ships superstructure was altered in some way to make it look like another (possibly neutral) vessel. I was of the opinion that she did not wear dazzle camouflage. What you have said makes sense and also explains why the card was not sent, all though this did not prevent the ship from being torpedoed.

Could this have been the reason for the journey, they were engaged in disguising British ships?

Daniel. I notice that on the ships manifest you show his age as 44 years and 0 months. This ties in with the Census details, if he was born in the first few days of April 1871 he would not be likely to appear on that census which he does not. Subsequent censuses were taken later in the month of April after his birthday. It is possible that he celebrated his 44th birthday on the voyage.

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phil@basildon

A little bit more information on the TSS California. When she was torpedoed she was carrying a cargo of nickel ingots and 205 passengers. At the time she was described as an armed steamer. Is this what was meant by disguised?

www.irishwrecksonline.net/Lists/CorkListD.htm

Fastnet rock-1917-California.

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ph0ebus

Hi Phil, all...

California, so far as I can tell, had no major modifications over the course of her career save the stern mounted gun added after the war broke out. Even during her CEF transport days, the ship was apparently largely the same as usual, with the exceptions the troops ate army rations instead of food prepared by the ship's company as passengers might have enjoyed.

I once found a site (schiffspost) that had what at first blush appeared to be the California in dazzle but it tuned out to be Cameronia instead, mislabeled. Phil, she was indeed a fast ship, but on February 7th, clearly not fast enough. Per the KTB of the u-boat that sank her, she came through his patrol zone and thinking he was sighting one of the larger Cunarders that had seen doing a great deal of transport work (Carmania or Caronia) he put a torpedo into her and sent her to the bottom. Both the u-boat and the Captain of California report she was flying her proper flag when attacked, so I doubt she would have been hiding under neutral colors at an earlier stage of the game, especially since when she was sunk a year later she was packed with contraband.

I am going to reread some Anchor Line books available at NYPL to see if they mention cosmetic mods to California and also check one or two other avenues to see what else I can find out. TeeCeeCee, I am awaiting delivery of this card from the UK and once in my hands will give it a thorough once over to see if any more clues emerge. Phil, your bit about Marconi messages just made my day! I was looking for that exact thing and even put a post up about it recently in this very subsection. Will chase the lead you provided happily.

Amazing what a bee's nest one short line on a century-old post card can stir up...

-Daniel

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ph0ebus

Hi all,

Below is a summary timeline of the main points thus far, plus a few more facts unearthed by me today via familysearch.org:

Albert Edward Bell: Timeline

• Albert Edward Bell was christened 14 SEP 1871 at Saint Phillip, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, son of John (occupation: Roll Turner – Steel) and Sarah Ann Bell.

• In 1881, Albert is the youngest of 4 children, and is listed as having lived at 26 Ash Street, Nether Hallam, Sheffield, Yorkshire; his siblings were James, age 20, blacksmith; Arthur, age 17, warehouseman; John, age 15, hatter

• In 1881 (age 10) Census, Albert’s occupation listed as ‘scholar’

• In 1891 (age 20) Census, Albert’s occupation is listed as ‘Manufacturer’s Clerk’

• In 1891 (age 20) Albert may have traveled to America aboard the Umbria, giving his occupation as 'Labourer'

• In 1901 (age 30) Census, Albert has married to Lillian, with five children (Albert E. and John R., age 7; George E., age 5; William A., age 2 and Reginald, age 4 months) and a housemaid; living at 321 Springvale Road, and occupation is listed as ‘Commercial Traveler’

• In 1910 (age 38) Albert traveled on the ‘Lusitania’ and listed his occupation as ‘Labourer’

• In 1911 Census, Albert has nine children, and address is 271 Western Road, Sheffield; according to White’s his occupation is ‘Commercial Traveler’

• In March 1916 (age 44) Albert traveled on the ‘California’ and listed his occupation as ‘Admiralty Skilled Labourer’. Traveled with Stephen Beckly, age 50; Fred R. Walker, age 41; Chas. Holdsworth, age 21; Ernest Richardson, age 47; Chas. Glassop, age 57. All gave occupation as ‘Admiralty Skilled Labourer’, traveled on ticket number 14450 and traveled 2nd class. All stated they were relocating to America, with an initial stop at the British Embassy

• In September 1916, Albert traveled on board the ‘Philadelphia’ from Liverpool to New York, in first class

• In 1925 Albert’s occupation is ‘Traveler’, and his address is 123 Shiregreen Lane, Shire Green as per Kelly’s

Corrections or additions to the above would be most welcome. Thus, even though he stated he was 'moving' to the US clearly he returned to England no long after his trip aboard the California.

For those looking into whether Albert's children saw any service during the war, any hits? I will check into that angle as well.

-Daniel

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phil@basildon

Daniel, I think there is still some doubt that the person(s) on the Umbria and the Lusitania are our man. His sons may not have been called up as they were employed in what may have been a reserved occupation. I have not so far been able to trace any record of his older sons doing any military service. There are a few more lines I have to pursue on that matter but Bell is a more common surname than I thought.

On the subject of Marconi wireless, the Essex Record Office catalogue is available on line but I can't find anything that stands out and they will be closed for Easter. However if you require anything looking up it is only half an hours drive for me and I can call in person.

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ph0ebus

Hi Phil,

Thanks for your kind offer. I am interested in any wireless transmisions pertaining to either the stranding of the California on Tory Island on June 28th 1914 or her sinking on February 7, 1917. I would happily trade a lookup in kind, as I have access to the New York Public Library's research collection fairly regulary and would be happy to check something out for you there, if you like. I found no records for Albert's children via Geoff's engine/GWGC, so that's a good thing. I'll keep poking around and see what else I can find today.

Take care,

-Daniel

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phil@basildon

Daniel, The stranding in June 1914 should be on record with Lloyds of London, I don't know if this is on line. Failing that you could enquire at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London (via the internet). Another source of information is the London Times Newspaper that is on line. I found a report of my g.g. grandfathers death in the Times, he was a ships engineer and was killed in a boiler explosion. It was found by putting in the ships name and the month/year and up it came.

www.nmm.ac.uk

www.mariners-l.co.uk

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phil@basildon

Daniel you probably know this allready but at the bottom of the Wiki on TSS California there is a link to the crew list of the U-85.

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ph0ebus
Daniel you probably know this allready but at the bottom of the Wiki on TSS California there is a link to the crew list of the U-85.

Hi Phil,

You are referring to the wikipedia article? I wrote that. :)

Hopefully, my book will be a wee bit longer and I hope far more interesting.

I already have vetted out the NMM and the London Times. Haven't tried Lloyds of London yet, but they are on my 'to do' list. I do have the Lloyd's Registers spanning her whole career, though, and transcripts of the Board of Trade Inquiry into the stranding. I am hoping that if there are any wireless messages archived they can further flesh out the details of the two days I referenced earlier.

Back to Mr. Bell, I cannot find his DOB, just his Christening date. Will keep looking...and I can now say I checked with what I would consider a very reputable source who stated that at least during the CEF transport duty, the California had no noticable camoflauge employed and was not dazzle painted.

-Daniel

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phil@basildon
Hi Phil,

You are referring to the wikipedia article? I wrote that. :)

Hopefully, my book will be a wee bit longer and I hope far more interesting.

I already have vetted out the NMM and the London Times. Haven't tried Lloyds of London yet, but they are on my 'to do' list. I do have the Lloyd's Registers spanning her whole career, though, and transcripts of the Board of Trade Inquiry into the stranding. I am hoping that if there are any wireless messages archived they can further flesh out the details of the two days I referenced earlier.

Back to Mr. Bell, I cannot find his DOB, just his Christening date. Will keep looking...and I can now say I checked with what I would consider a very reputable source who stated that at least during the CEF transport duty, the California had no noticable camoflauge employed and was not dazzle painted.

-Daniel

It is possible to obtain his birth certificate but it would cost £7 ($12) I can tell you that his birth was registered in the second quarter (Apr-Jun) 1871 and as he does not appear on the 1871 census that was done on the 2nd April that narrows down the date.

It seems that you have all the information on the stranding that is available except for the radio transcripts. I will be going to Chelmsford soon, my favourite hobby shop is near the records centre anyway so visiting there is not a problem.

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phil@basildon

Daniel, As you must be aware other vessels were involved in the rescue after the stranding. Have you checked their "paperwork"?

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ph0ebus

Hi Phil,

I am compiling all my sources relating to the stranding and will be requesting the logs of the four Destroyers who provided aid, as well as the logs of the liner Cassandra, assuming I can find them.

I also finally took possession of the post card that spawned this thread; here's the scan of the message that started things:

post-32240-1239330866.jpg

Maybe seeing the actual message will be helpful to someone... :)

I am also trying to get details from the ephemera dealer in Stoke On Trent that sold me the card...maybe that will turn up something of interest to add to the story.

-Daniel

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sotonmate

Daniel

I have to go along with the small voices here which suggest that it was the ship that was disguised. Why and how,of course,are the questions !

Thanks to you and (mainly) Phil B for an entertaining read.

My little contribution is to suggest that a collection of card indexes at our National Archives at Kew,and which cover overseas Embassy matters from the late 1800s up to 1922,may turn up

something of relevance to Mr Bell and his fellow workers,or the fact that,say,they were recruited on more than one occasion to carry out work,modifications etc in our Embassy in DC. This for the best security reason of being our own workforce and presumably vetted as such.

Another slant on the story to keep you ticking !

Sotonmate

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phil@basildon
My little contribution is to suggest that a collection of card indexes at our National Archives at Kew,and which cover overseas Embassy matters from the late 1800s up to 1922,may turn up

something of relevance to Mr Bell and his fellow workers,or the fact that,say,they were recruited on more than one occasion to carry out work,modifications etc in our Embassy in DC. This for the best security reason of being our own workforce and presumably vetted as such.

Another slant on the story to keep you ticking !

Sotonmate

This was my thinking, I will have to make a visit to the TNA in respect of my own family research, something else to add to the list!

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ph0ebus

Sotonmate, all...

This card really is (happily) throwing a wrench into things. Now I have a whole new aspect of the California to research! :)

Is there some definitive work, website, etc. on dazzle painted merchant ships? Or camoflauging merchant ships? Does anyone know about the use of camo/dazzle on other Anchor Line ships? Granted, Anchor Line was under Cunard by this point, and Cunard was using dazzle, so perhaps that is the connection.

Any help folks can provide on this gordian knot would be soooo appreciated.

-Daniel

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melliget
Perhaps someone else on the forum with a penchant for Dazzle-painted ships might tackle this aspect of this line of inquiry?

Centurion's earlier note about dazzle paint not being used until 1917 appears to be confirmed by this 1918 article from The Times on dazzle and its inventor, Lieutenant-Commander Norman Wilkinson. Wilkinson submitted his scheme to Admiralty in May 1917. So it seems that the comment on the 1916 or earlier postcard of the California was unlikely to have referred to dazzle paint.

regards,

Martin

WW1_ship_dazzle_paint_camouflage.txt

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sotonmate

Daniel

Reflecting on this,and being pre-Zimmermann Telegram,so to all intents and purposes a neutral vessel plying it's trade,I can only suggest that funnel colours were obscured. With it's speed probably not necessary to change the name and Port of Registry from prying periscopes. But more questions ! Why,for instance?

Sotonmate

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phil@basildon

Just a thought, Cunard ships were painted with white upperworks and with their distinctive red funnels. At time of war many had this painted over with grey to make them less conspicuous. Could this be what Bell was refering to?

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CGM

I keep going back to the writing on the card. I know that handwriting was very carefully taught, with a lot of attention paid to keeping it very neat and even, with loops etc in all the right places but Mr Bell's writing has great style. It has great personality. For example look at the s at the beginning of ship. And at every e. And the three underlinings; particularly the middle one.

Is this relevant to his job?

CGM

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phil@basildon
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.S.S._California

" She had two black funnels" ??

Kath.

On many of the film emulsions of the day red appeared as a very deep black. This is clear in photographs of the union jack taken during the same period where the red stripes look far darker than the blue background.

There is a scientific explanation for this but I am uncertain of what it is but I am sure someone on this forum does!

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Kath

My father (born 1902) used the same type of 'e' which I've always considered a small form of the Greek 'e' - and rather an affectation.

Kath.

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