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Photograph album compiled by a sailor on the HMS Cornwall.
Various locations, mainly in China: , 1931–3. Oblong folio album (330 x 250 mm). Contemporary lacquered papier-mâché boards, gilt-tooled skiver spine, landscape illustration comprising inlaid mother-of-pearl stained various colours to front board. 125 original photographs, personal and studio, all approximately 105 x 80 mm, corner-mounted rectos and versos to stiff black card leaves, captioned throughout in white ink; 4 similar photographs laid in. A few small scuffs to lacquer, tissue-guards gone, variable mild fading to a minority of photographs, but the images remaining crisp and clearly detailed. In excellent condition. Handsome Japanese album of meticulously captioned photographs, providing a fine visual document of service on the China Station with HMS Cornwall from February 1931 to December 1933, and including an engrossing run of studio images of the Japanese shelling of Shanghai in 1932, a pivotal moment in 20th-century warfare now known as the January 28 Incident, and of the subsequent land invasion, in which British and American troops were deployed to defend national interests in the city. These photographs are preceded by an extended series of personal snapshots taken by the sailor on ship and on land, in locations from Hong Kong to Beijing and the Yangtze Basin, and including views, street scenes, and architectural landmarks. The album begins with the HMS Cornwall, a County-class heavy cruiser launched in 1926, undertaking speed trials and firing exercises, with images of lively practice broadsides, a seaplane in take-off, and sailors performing general drill. Cornwall then anchored at Weihaiwei, the China Station home port, cruising south to Hong Kong, documented in attractive views of Victoria Peak and the harbour, 1932 Christmas Day celebrations on ship, the crew's "squeegee band", apparently a skiffle outfit, and a sailor in a diving bell. The ship then spent the winter at Tsingtao (images of the sea frozen over, and of HMS Eagle, one of the first Royal Navy aircraft carriers), with further visits to Beijing (landmarks including the Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace), Nanjing (the Ming tombs, street scenes, and various "types"), Hangzhou in flood, and the Yangtze Basin (arresting views of landscapes, agricultural activity, and the ingenious use of floating rafts). A selection of studio views of Shanghai, including the Nanjing Road by day and brilliantly illuminated at night, and personal photographs of a sailor's funeral (named as Sergeant George V. Kirby, died 1 March 1932), lead into a series of some thirty studio photographs headed "Sino-Japanese War, Jan 28th 1932 — March 10th 1932". On 18 January five Japanese residents (including two monks) in the Zhabei district just north of the Shanghai International Settlement were attacked by a large group of Chinese residents. The situation escalated quickly, and the Japanese began launching assaults from aircraft carriers on the 28th, an action which American correspondent Barbara Tuchman, in her book Stilwell and the American Experience of China, identified as "the first terror bombing of an era that was to become familiar with it". There are vivid action photographs of riflemen, machine-gunners and bomb-throwers from the Chinese 19th Route Army, opening fire from defensive positions, as well as images of wounded Chinese soldiers, and bomb damage including the China Post Building in flames. These are interspersed with images of Japanese snipers, marines and seamen, a destroyer opening fire, and a Japanese communications outpost, and, notably two images of "Lincolns" on guard at Suzhou Creek, and at rest camp: the 1st Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment left Gibraltar for China Station in October 1931, and during the Incident helped man entrances to the Settlement, along with US Marines, who are also depicted. A ceasefire was finally agreed on 5 May, allowing the Japanese to maintain a small garrison in the city but stipulating the withdrawal of Chinese troops; the failure of the League of Nations to place any meaningful check on Japanese expansion was an ominous portent for the fate of Europe in the ensuing decade. Cornwall then cruised west, via Colombo (photographs of elephants bathing) and Singapore, Suez and Ismailia (depicted in a series of attractive views), and eventually reaching Port Said. She returned to the Far East in the Second World War, escorting convoys before joining the Eastern Fleet in March 1942: a month later it was sunk by Japanese dive bombers, with the loss of some 400 lives.
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington]
Last Found On: 2017-04-03           Check availability:      Biblio    

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