Mersea Museum recently had an email from Peter Watts of Clacton Pier Company, with 4 small photographs taken on Clacton Pier. They had the same photographic markings on the back, but no clues as to the date or the event. Two photographs show a Royal Navy cruiser at anchor, one shows a two-funnel paddle steamer leaving the Pier, and one a paddle steamer coming alongside the cruiser.
The photographs give the feeling that they were taken between WW1 and WW2. Browsing photographs of cruisers that were active between the Wars, found the Heavy Cruiser, HMS YORK which fortunately was unique. She did have a sister, HMS EXETER of Battle of the River Plate fame, but HMS EXETER had vertical masts and funnel, whereas HMS YORK had raked masts and funnel.
HMS YORK was built at Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company at Hebburn on the River Tyne, and completed June 1930. On commissioning, she became the flagship of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron of the Home Fleet. She served with the 8th Cruiser Squadron on the North America and West Indies Station and then in the Mediterranean Fleet.
With the outbreak of War in 1939, she served on Atlantic convoy escort duties, and then from August 1940 with the Mediterranean Fleet. 26 March 1941 she was disabled by Italian explosive motor boats at Suda Bay in Crete. The ship was run aground to prevent her from sinking. 18 May further damage was inflicted by German bombers. The ship was damaged beyond repair, and the main guns were disabled by demolition charges. In February 1952 the wreck was salvaged by an Italian shipbreaker and taken to Bari for demolition.
To return to Clacton, with most of her service overseas, the most likely time for HMS YORK to visit Clacton was in her first few years of service with the Home Fleet. It is unlikely that a vessel the size of HMS YORK would have been brought alongside the Pier, and the remaining photographs suggest that visitors were taken out to the vessel by paddle steamer and other boats.
The Times 21 April 1930 has an article "Warships at Seaside Resorts. Summer Programme of Atlantic Fleet." It lists the visits planned 28 April to 20 July. HMS YORK appears in the list - at Hartlepool 3-7 July and Brighton 8-14 July. Clacton is not mentioned!
Two funnel paddle steamer leaving Clacton Pier
Paddle steamer coming alongside HMS YORK
Thoughts on the above.
- the Berthing Arm was built 1933-35. The paddle steamer in the photograph appears to have just left the Berthing Arm.
- we should be able to find the name of the Paddle Steamer. She also appears in a photograph on http://www.joylandbooks.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?LMCL=uwa4a_&f=6&t=1921&start=45
- a visit like this must have been in the local newspapers ...