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Battleship souvenirs


PhilB
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An item on eBay purports to be from HMS Warspite, of which there have been nine in the RN. Does the fact that it is teak give any indication as to what era the Warspite is from? Did WW1 warships use teak? What woods would one expect to have come from a WW1 ship and to be used in mementos?

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During the Napoleonic wars the Admiralty ordered a number of ships of the line to be built in Indian yards using local teak for their hulls. Such a hull built from high quality Indian teak was regarded in some respects as superior to the more traditional oak ones (but I've never heard of sailors singing hearts of teak are our ships etc). By 1914 teak would be limited to things like decking. It might be worthwhile checking to see if any of the Warspites were built in Indian yards in the late 18th early 19th century.

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These items are very common - not specifically commenting on the originality of this particular piece, however, I think a great many of them have absolutely nothing to do with the vessel from which they purportedly were made or perhaps any other vessel...

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I understand the items made from ships' wood were sold for a Marine charity.

A previous thread on the "Warspite".:

 

Kath.

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Before plastics came in wood was used throughout the ship: in cabins, for tables, and so on. Warspite of WW1 and 2 was refurbished in the 1930s, so the potential for genuine timber is around - just as there might be genuine oak from Victory. :P:o

Only a few warships were built of teak (and of fir), they were mostly frigates, but more East Indianmen were. HMS Trincomolee 1817 was one of the frigates, this sentance is totally accords to forum time space continum regulations: she was renamed as Foudroyant in 1897 and used as a training ship from then until the 1980s. She has been renamed Trincomolee again and is in Hartlepool.

Edited by per ardua per mare per terram
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QUOTE (Phil_B @ Sep 23 2007, 01:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Did WW1 warships use teak?

They certainly did - the Quarterdecks were overlaid with teak planking. Not sure when the practice died out - certainly HMS Hood had deck planking of teak, but whether capital ships post-NelRod had them, I couldn't say.

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Liberty's 'Tudor Shop' in Regent Street was built with timber bought by the company from the breakers of HMS Hindustan, the pre-Dreadnought battleship that was the depot ship for the storming parties training for the Zeebrugge Raid. My house, which is one of the gatehouses of Liberty's former silk printing works, was built in the same year, and local legend has it that the window frames were made from timber left over after the completion of the Tudor Shop.

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On armoured warships of the deadnaught era there was a recognition of the risk of fire from the use of wood and this tended to be limited to the cabins of the more senior officers and perhaps the officers ward room and sometimes the gun room and limited to furniture that was easily struck away if action was immenent. looking at the finish on such items in photos of the era mahogany would seem a better bet (teak has never been a particulary favoured wood for furniture). I would have thought that most of this would have been sold off intact rather than being converted into momentos. I think I'd agree with Max. My grandmother used to have a similar barrel purporting to have come from the Victory but I'm pretty certain that it didn't. It was definitely 19th century though.

I don't think that decking would be thick enough to turn into min oak barrels and I would suspect that the teak companionway in the cottage qoted probably came from an earlier Warspite than WW1. If the wee barrel did come from a Warspite it would be likely to be 19th century.

Diverging a bit and indulging in a little pedantry - most East Indiamen were large merchant carriers and not frigates. They were ship of the line size and caried a full broadside (but only of Cannonades - neither cannons or carronades) The frigates and other warships of the company's marine service were not actually called East Indiamen

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Done a bit of digging (makes a break from the course development work I'm slogging through).

1] The HMS Warspite that took part at Trafalgar had a teak hull

2] A museum collection asembled before the WWI/II Warspite was refurbished, let alone wrecked, contains a small barrel said to have been made from that Trafalgar HMS Warspite's timbers. slightly smaller than the one under discussion (this should not be taken as any comment on the authenticity or otherwise of this one)

3] The 1913 Warspite had teak decking, on the quarter deck at least, and teak ladders

4] There is an enormous amount of teak treen around for sale (bookends, serviette ringspen holders etc etc) all claimed to be made from wood salvaged when the last Warspite went ashore off Cornwall. There doesn't seem to be a lot in the way of provenance. Some of it may very well be genuine (but I have a sneaking feeling that if it were all gathered together you could rebuild the hull of the Trafalgar Warspite).

So there you are - it could have come from one or other Warspite or none you pays your groat and takes your choice.

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The 1900 Belleisle trials were to assess the fire hazards of wooden fittings and showed that they did not add to the hazards if standard precautions were taken. Oh and wooden plugs were available to stop holes when the mice (see Barnsfather) had been in. I recall hearing that teak was favoured in ships post the Napoleonic period as teak splinter wounds didn't fester to the same extent.

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Thank you, gents. for a fascinating look at the minutiae of teak in warships. It looks like, short of dendrochronology, it`s a minefield.

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Regarding the use of teak for battleship decking,I was surprised to see evidence of its use on the German battleship Tirpitz.

In the BBMF display room at RAF Coningsby is a section of 2 inch thick teak is on display, said to have been removed from the Tirpitz after its destruction in late 1944.

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Teak is also available in long lengths and does not splinter, check, warp or split having interlocking grain. Its large diameter allowed for a high proportion of quarter sawn planking. It withstands weather and salt well and kept the suns heat from the steel decks which precluded expansion. All good engineering reasons.

Roop

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It will splinter (fragment if you prefer) if you hit it with an explosive shell! (as will most hard things). This is a draw back in using it as a decking over armourplate - a small calibre shell will produce dangerous fragments which would not happen if it had hit just the armoured steel. Wooden fragments can cause the surgeons more trouble than metal ones as more dificult to locate on X ray.

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Just after WW2, my father was involved in the dismantling of submarines and the deck was teak. It was carefully sawn and chopped into small pieces and sold as kindling!

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Did they have an xray on Warspite?

At some stage - yes although possibly not during WW1

Seriously though, wouldnt most of this be chucked overboard on the order "clear decks "

Clear decks means just that, not remove the decking

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Clear decks means just that, not remove the decking

Reminds me of an old cartoon where the navvy is shovelling the street and is several inches below the pavement:

"No! No, Murphy - just the fluffy white stuff!"

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When I was an apprentice they used to re-deck ships with tongue and groved Gum Wood, a very dense heavy timber similar in characteristics to teak. Gum wood, its proper name was Philippian Mahogany when dressed and polished looked very much like teak but a little darker, and very hard wearing.

Cheers Rob.

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Rob

Yes indeed. A number of 19th Century British warships built to order in India and other eastern dockyards had Mahogany hulls. Regarded as as good as teak or oak but sightly more expensive.

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