THE BRITANNIA MAGAZINE
& HMS NORFOLK
Between the wars there was a move to bring the British Army into tune with the times, and by 1939 when the Second World War broke out it was a much more modern institution. This was not so much in equipment ( indeed the troops were still provided with the trusty old 303 Lee-Enfield rifle, and tin hats) but in attitudes. This is plainly demonstrated by the appearance in 1921 of the NAAFI.
Before 1870 the vast majority of the personnel in the army would have been more or less illiterate, but the Education Act of that year introduced universal (though not free) education. This meant that the rank and file of the army were able to read, and in 1927 was produced Issue No. 1 of bi-annual THE BRITANNIA, The Journal of the Norfolk Regiment (it did not become the Royal Norfolk Regiment until 1935). As Lieutenant-General Sir Peter Strickland (Colonel of the Regiment) wrote in the Foreword: A REGIMENTAL Journal is, I feel, a very much-needed want; it is the only means by which the various units of the Regiment can know of the doings of their comrades, in which they must naturally be interested. This was the third attempt to produce a lasting publication; the Norfolk’s Annual had appeared in 1922 and the Journal in 1924, but both did not last. The Britannia however survived for 54 editions until the demise of the Regiment in 1959.
In reading the reports of the various units it is quickly brought home to one that the British Empire was very much in business. There were Companies in Colchester and Belfast – no surprise there – but also in Jamaica, Cyprus and Cairo, where the bulk of the 1st Battalion was stationed. Other places where members of the Regiment operated were Shanghai, Nigeria, South Africa and India.
Sporting activities naturally play a big part, but the competitions were mostly within the army. It was very much a self-contained world. Here and there are occasional references to civilians like the bishop of Norwich, or the Lord Mayor, but for the most part the army exists in is own detached life. One exception was a cricket match played against Gresham’s School. The first issue was even printed in Weston-super-Mare and published in Bristol, although later editions were printed and published by A. E. Soman of Norwich.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the journal is the adverts. Once again the Empire comes to the fore. One of the first you see is a full-page advert for tailoring and shoemaking by M. B. Abdul Aziz of Cairo. Other outfitters in Aldershot, Berkeley Square and Saville Row also appear. Naturally there is a lot of cigarette advertising; beers, ales and stout is one area where the local firms come predominate – Youngs, Crawshay and Youngs and Steward and Patteson both make a regular appearance, although Bullards and Morgans seem to be absent. Norwich Union and Mackintosh are national names with a local presence who “show the flag”. You get the impression that there two quite distinct markets operating here; the officers had Windsor Bishop (the Norwich jewellers – still there) with its Rolex watches from 6 Guineas to £65, and for the other ranks Players cigarettes at 10 for 6 pence.
The Norfolk Regiment maintained a keen interest in HMS NORFOLK. These details of the ship come from the Brtannia Journal. Here are some statistics of the armament representing how she was when first commissioned:
LENGTH 633 feet TORPEDO TUBES 8
BREADTH 66 feet SHAFT HORSE POWER 80,000
DISPLACEMENT TONNAGE 10,000 tons
SPEED 32½ knots DRAUGHT 21 feet
GUNS Eight 8” Four 4”, Four pom-poms, Four 3 pdr
LAID DOWN 08/07/1927 LAUNCHED 12/12/1928
(by Fairfield Shipbuilding Co Ltd) (at Govan by Lady Leicester)
No doubt Lady Leicester was invited to perform the launching ceremony as a leading female aristocrat of Norfolk (Holkham Hall).
There have been five Royal Navy vessels of this name, from the third rate of 80 guns (1693) to the type 23 frigate paid off in 2004 and sold to the Chilean Navy. Others have included a County Class destroyer commissioned in 1967 and sold to Chile in 1982.
The most notable was the County class heavy cruiser already mentioned, launched in 1928, which served throughout the Second World War. She has the highest number of engagements to her name of any of the HMS Norfolks. In 1939 she was involved in the chase of the German small battleships the Gniesenau and Scharnhorst, while in 1941 she was involved in the sinking of the Bismark, perhaps most memorably naval battle of the war.
After her commissioning on April 30th 1930 her first important engagement was to visit Great Yarmouth on Sunday July 13th where the crew attended Church Parade. She was of course too big to enter the harbour at Yarmouth. The vessel then moved on to stand off Cromer. Her first trip abroad was to Antwerp for which she took the Band of the 2nd Battalion, The Norfolk Regiment to provide suitable musical accompaniments for the social events that were planned. There was a close connection with the Norfolk Regiment,cemented by such things as the presentation of an engraved silver trophy surmounted by a figure of Britannia to the ship.
She was scrapped in 1950.