All posts by Graham Snowdon

Thomas Chippendale marquetry — Jack Metcalfe – 30th Sept 2019

I wasn’t cut out to be a mar­queteur. I even failed my GCE ‘O’ level in wood­work. So I could only marvel at the intric­ate skill with wood ven­eers, knives, scalpels and fret­saws dis­played not only by master fur­niture maker Thomas Chippendale but also by our speaker Jack Metcalfe.

Jack Metcalfe in his work­shop. Picture copy­right Yorkshire Post Newspapers, and used by per­mis­sion of the pho­to­grapher, Simon Hulme.

It was not until the last decade of his work­ing life that Chippendale, the great cab­inet maker, turned to pro­du­cing mar­quetry dec­or­ated fur­niture, but his cre­ations set him apart from his rivals and he pro­duced a group of com­mis­sions that stand out as world­wide mas­ter­pieces of their time.

And Jack Metcalfe has devoted the last 25 years to uncov­er­ing and mas­ter­ing the tech­niques of mar­quetry as prac­tised by Chippendale and his skilled artis­ans — he had a labour force of around 50 people — in the 18th cen­tury. Using equip­ment, mater­i­als, dyes and tech­niques as close to the ori­ginal as pos­sible, Jack has built rep­licas of sev­eral of Chippendale’s most strik­ing pieces of fur­niture.

He has researched, taught, lec­tured and writ­ten about marquetry-decorated fur­niture. He wrote his first book in 2003, and The Marquetry Course became an inter­na­tional suc­cess, top­ping the best sellers list in mar­quetry books. It has been trans­lated into Dutch, German and Hungarian.

Jack at work with an inlay knife.

Spurred on with this response,” he explained. “I star­ted research­ing Thomas Chippendale’s mar­quetry fur­niture and closely examin­ing the tech­niques used by the mar­queteurs of the day.”

Jack, who lives in North Leeds and recently cel­eb­rated his 80th birth­day, took up mar­quetry as a retire­ment pro­ject after taking a golden hand­shake at the age of 50 fol­low­ing a career with BT which cul­min­ated in London.

I worked all over the place,” Jack remem­bers. “My dear wife ran the home and family. I would leave on a Monday morn­ing and not be back until Friday.” And, post-retirement, it was his wife’s uncle who sug­ges­ted that Jack now needed a hobby to fill his time.

Uncle Tommy took me under his wing and gave me the greatest lesson of my life,” explains Jack. “The ‘lesson’ lasted eight years! During that time, he passed on a lifetime’s skill and even more per­sonal wisdom.”

Jack went on to teach mar­quetry at Leeds College of Art and Design, for three years, and then at York College for a fur­ther five years.

Jack’s treadle fret saw.

Thomas Chippendale, the only son of a car­penter, was bap­tised in 1718 in the market town of Otley, five miles away from Jack’s own home. He was appren­ticed to Richard Wood, a cab­inet maker and wood carver based in York, and in 1748 he mar­ried Catherine Redshaw in fash­ion­able Mayfair, London.

In 1754, two events were to change Chippendale’s life forever. He moved into premises in St Martin’s Lane, London, where the dwell­ing offered enough space for the many work­shops he would need to run his busi­ness, as well as accom­mod­a­tion for both him­self and his family. He also pro­duced a port­fo­lio of all his fur­niture designs, a manu­script he called The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director. It was an instant suc­cess, since all his com­mis­sions eman­ated from that pub­lic­a­tion and took him into the world of the aris­to­cracy and wealth. It trans­formed his repu­ta­tion overnight.

Most of his com­mis­sions are held in Yorkshire houses, show­ing how loyal he was to his home county. Harewood House, where the great master col­lab­or­ated with renowned archi­tect Robert Adam, has the most prom­in­ent col­lec­tion. In addi­tion Nostell Priory, Newby Hall and Temple Newsam House hold valu­able items of Chippendale fur­niture.

A statue of Thomas Chippendale in his home town of Otley. From Jack’s own web­site,

Jack Metcalfe is in the pro­cess of moving home, for­sak­ing the impress­ive work­shop at the back of his present house and hanging up his col­lec­tion of tools for the last time. “With my books I think I’ve done as much as I can to record Chippendale’s work, and I had eight years teach­ing Chippendale’s mar­quetry, so I’ve been able to pass some­thing on to the next gen­er­a­tion,” he told us.

Sadly, Jack’s beloved wife Gloria died of motor neur­one dis­ease in 2012, and he asked for his speaker’s fee from Stumperlowe Probus Club to be donated instead to the Motor Neurone Disease Association:

When Britain (Sheffield) Ruled the Waves (or at least Afternoon Tea) — Nick Duggan — 1st July 2019

When is cut­lery not cut­lery? When it’s a fork or a spoon. Nick Duggan was impressed that the major­ity of his audi­ence knew that only some­thing that cuts can be defined as cut­lery. But then we are a Sheffield-based club, after all, and our mem­ber­ship includes three former Masters Cutler.

Even my Oxford English Reference Dictionary gets it wrong: “Cutlery / kɅtlərI / n. knives, forks and spoons for use at table,” they say.

Nick is an expert on all things made in Sheffield, and two days later would be lead­ing us on a tour of the Hawley Tool Collection, of which he is cur­ator (see Visits). But for this talk he was con­cen­trat­ing on his own col­lec­tion of Sheffield-made cut­lery, flat­ware and hol­lowware.

Out to impress the neigh­bours!

Nick’s quest for the best examples moved up a notch when he retired and had a busi­ness idea of put­ting Sheffield cut­lery into frames, with a his­tory of the maker. “This proved quite pop­u­lar, and I star­ted to search for cut­lery in antique mar­kets and on eBay,” he explained.

The latter is pretty stag­ger­ing — search ‘Sheffield cut­lery’ and you get over 1,000 items at any time, search ‘vin­tage cut­lery’ and it’s over 3,000.

I star­ted to real­ise the vast range of items made by a huge number of Sheffield cut­lers. Over 1,000 com­pan­ies are doc­u­mented in Geoffrey Tweedale’s dir­ect­ory [Sheffield Tool Manufacturers 1740–2018] and some indi­vidual man­u­fac­tur­ers had product ranges of over 5,000 items. The Walker & Hall trade cata­logue alone has over 300 dif­fer­ent cruet sets.”

Sardine tongs, Henry Wilkinson.

So, no short­age of objects to look out for. Nick’s per­sonal favour­ite item was the sardine tongs made by Henry Wilkinson, like sugar tongs but with ‘blades’ in the shape of the fish. Nick showed us lots of other items for eating fish — he wondered how they kept it fresh in the days before fridges — such as large serv­ers for whole trout or salmon, and highly dec­or­ated fish knives and forks per­haps used only on Friday.

A lot of these pieces would have been for the higher end of the market. “It’s amaz­ing that some of the spe­cial­ist items were only used when the fruit or veget­able was in season, such as asparagus tongs or straw­berry forks.”

Serving up.

Nick showed us three-pronged forks to serve bread and five-pronged forks for fish and sardines. Oyster forks, with the maker’s mark Allen & Darwin, would have been used in a well-to-do house­hold, as would the cham­pagne syphon and a gigot for hold­ing a leg of lamb.

Buttering up!

Among the more unusual items was a knife that was over 300 years old.

The Victorians loved sugar, and sugar sifters, and we saw a sugar scuttle that would have had a prom­in­ent place on the table.

The mys­tery object. Nobody guessed it was a spoon warmer.

But nobody guessed Nick’s last mys­tery object, which was a shell shaped spoon warmer.





The earli­est men­tion of cut­lery man­u­fac­ture in Sheffield was 1297, and in its heyday there were more than 1,650 firms. Silver plate (EPNS) was inven­ted in 1841 and the scale of the industry was such that by 1851 there were 12,000 people employed, making it the largest group of cut­lers in the world. Peak pro­duc­tion and export was reached between 1890 and 1914.


The Hawley Tool Collection — Wed 3rd July 2019

After Nick Duggan’s talk on his own cut­lery col­lec­tion two days earlier, the ‘made in Sheffield’ theme con­tin­ued when 22 Stumperlowe Probus Club mem­bers gathered as arranged at the iconic Bessemer Converter out­side Kelham Island Museum ready to start our guided tour of the Hawley Tool Collection.

The man who star­ted it all, the late Ken Hawley MBE (1927–2014).

As Nick, the cur­ator, poin­ted out, the Hawley Collection might be one of Sheffield’s best kept secrets but it is an inter­na­tion­ally import­ant record of tool making, cut­lery man­u­fac­ture and sil­ver­smith­ing during the city’s indus­trial heyday, com­ple­men­ted by mater­ial from other parts of Britain and the world.

Keith Crawshaw, chair­man of the trust­ees, brings us up to speed on the work of the char­ity.

The col­lec­tion houses a stag­ger­ing 100,000 items, of which 40,000 are on dis­play at any one time. The col­lec­tion is housed in what was ori­gin­ally the Wheatman and Smith saw works, so it is appro­pri­ate that the Saw Shop, situ­ated slightly away from the main tool col­lec­tion, con­tains no fewer than 2,000 examples of what, 250 years ago, was lit­er­ally cut­ting edge tech­no­logy.

We learnt the origin of the words top dog and under­dog. When planks were sawn by hand, with two men using a two-handed saw, the senior man took the top handle while the junior was con­signed to the sawdust-strewn pit below. The irons that were used to hold the wood securely were called dogs.

At one time there were 200 firms in Sheffield man­u­fac­tur­ing saws. The city’s cut­lery her­it­age is rep­res­en­ted just as impress­ively by a col­lec­tion which con­tains 800 dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers’ stamps on knife blades, from table­ware to pen­knives.

Tim Marsh admires a fine dis­play of Footprint tools, a Sheffield brand known around the world.

The col­lec­tion does not just con­tain tools, it con­tains the tools which were used to make the tools; it is unique in com­bin­ing fin­ished arte­facts and ‘work in pro­gress’ to illus­trate how things were made, as well as pub­lished cata­logues, archive mater­ial, pic­tures, pho­to­graphs, tapes and films.

For over 50 years the late Ken Hawley – he died in 2014 at the age of 87 – had col­lec­ted what became the basis of the col­lec­tion, and during his work­ing life, which included 30 years selling tools in his own shop, he acquired an unri­valled know­ledge of Sheffield’s indus­trial her­it­age.

John Hopkins and Richard Walker get the low­down on the massive saw col­lec­tion from volun­teer guide Paul Kipling.

The build­ing at Kelham Island hous­ing the Hawley Gallery and stor­age areas was cre­ated in the last unused build­ing on the Kelham Island Museum site fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The £595,000 HLF grant, awar­ded in 2008, was used to refur­bish the build­ing to create dis­plays, stor­age and research facil­it­ies, and the Gallery opened its doors two years later.

Dave Powlson, Barrie O’Brien and Ian Darley admire the Sheffield Year Knife, made in 1822 from 1,822 blades by Sheffield cut­lers Joseph Rodgers & Sons Ltd. As well as knife blades, it ncludes scis­sors, cork­screws, nail files, hack­saw blades and button hooks. Further blades were added to bring the number up to 2,000 by the time of the Millennium, and some of the more recent blades were engraved to mark spe­cial events such as the 1966 World Cup and the Queen’s Silber Jubilee in 1977.

Ken saw the col­lec­tion as a trib­ute to the crafts­man­ship, skills and excel­lence dis­played over the cen­tur­ies by Sheffield firms and work­people, and it was his wish that the col­lec­tion should stay in the city to provide the people of Sheffield as well as vis­it­ors with a per­man­ent, last­ing record.

After being wel­comed by Nick Duggan, we were given an over­view of the Kelham Island site by volun­teer guide Paul Kipling before being taken into the research area where Keith Crawshaw, chair­man of the trust­ees, spoke to us about Ken Hawley the man, and his vision which led to the cre­ation of the museum.

This back saw, made by Thomas Harrison of Sheffield in 1760, is the oldest in the col­lec­tion.
Saws of every shape and type were on dis­play.
Most of our mem­bers had already seen this mag­ni­fi­cent saw, which fea­tured in Simon Barley’s talk to us entitled “The Princess and the Saw” in March 2019.
If you’re squeam­ish, look away now.
If it was made in Sheffield, it’ll be in here some­where.
A fine dis­play of Marples tools for the 1949 British Industries Fair.
Not everything can be on dis­play at the same time, and the stor­e­rooms behind the scenes are an Aladdin’s cave.


Living in Space — Dennis Ashton — 20th May 2019

When Dennis Ashton last came to speak to us, just over five years ago, his sub­ject was dog sled racing in Alaska, where he also wit­nessed a superb auroral dis­play which prob­ably gave him the inspir­a­tion for his latest talk.

Dennis, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, kept us enthralled for an hour with his slideshow present­a­tion on the story of the space race so far, the day-to-day prob­lems facing the 236 astro­nauts who have spent time on the International Space Station, and what the future holds in terms of space travel.

The first moon land­ing on 21st July 1969.

Dennis pre­dicts that China will be the next nation to reach the moon, and that in 200 years’ time there could be a city on Mars. Before then, an inter­na­tional mis­sion to land humans on Mars is sched­uled for 2040.

And when, in 200 years from now, people look back on key moments in the space race, he believes the two great iconic images will be the Apollo moon land­ing and the devel­op­ment and con­struc­tion of the International Space Station, where man learnt to live in space.

The International Space Station is the size of a foot­ball pitch.

Man first stepped foot on the moon on 21st July 1969, and vari­ous events are planned to com­mem­or­ate the 50th anniversary in two months’ time. A new block­buster doc­u­ment­ary film, entitled Apollo 11, is due to be screened at Sheffield’s Showroom Cinema on 7th June.

Dennis’s talk was chiefly about the International Space Station, a mul­tina­tional con­struc­tion pro­ject that is the largest single struc­ture humans have ever put into space. It is roughly the size of a foot­ball pitch. Its main con­struc­tion was com­pleted between 1998 and 2011, although the sta­tion con­tinu­ally evolves to include new mis­sions and exper­i­ments. It has been con­tinu­ously occu­pied since November 2000.

Construction work being car­ried out on the ISS in 2008.

The ISS travels at a speed of almost five miles per second, or 17,500 miles per hour, orbit­ing the earth every 92 minutes while the six astro­nauts on board either carry out sci­entific exper­i­ments, under­take main­ten­ance work on the giant struc­ture, eat, exer­cise, relax or sleep, depend­ing on the time of day (which, as a matter of interest, is aligned to Greenwich Mean Time). The con­struc­tion of the ISS involved no fewer than 40 space shuttle flights between 1998 and 2010.

Whether you are a would-be space trav­el­ler or an account­ant, the stat­ist­ics are equally stag­ger­ing. Between 1985 and 2015, the bill for devel­op­ing the ISS amoun­ted to $150 bil­lion, and the annual run­ning costs come to $5 bil­lion. The United States have paid by far the largest amount, around $126 bil­lion, with Russia adding $12 bil­lion, Europe and Japan each chip­ping in $5 bil­lion and Canada $2 bil­lion.

The crew on the ISS work a 15-hour day, from 6am to 9pm, but that includes three meal breaks and two and a half hours’ exer­cise, which is essen­tial if muscles and bones are not to waste away. There is an hour’s relax­a­tion before the astro­nauts get eight hours sleep. They do not go to bed as such; in the weight­less con­di­tions of the space sta­tion, each astro­naut has a per­sonal space where their sleep­ing bag is sus­pen­ded on a wall, and they simply zip them­selves into it.

Major Tim Peake demon­strates the suc­tion oper­ated urinal.

We saw Britain’s own Major Tim Peake, who spent 185 days in orbit, doing everything from car­ry­ing out highly skilled sci­entific exper­i­ments to doing his ablu­tions, the latter also need­ing a fair amount of skill. Washing is more like a quick rub down with an oily rag as there is no run­ning water, no shower and no bath. Clothes are worn for a set number of days and then dis­carded, fin­ish­ing up in a sealed con­tainer along with human waste and then jet­tisoned in a supply vessel which burns up on re-entry to the earth’s atmo­sphere. However, 90 per cent of water used, includ­ing that which has passed through the six astro­nauts the pre­vi­ous day, is recycled and re-used, to the tune of around 6,000 litres a year, although there is also a back-up supply of 2,000 litres on board.

All meals are dehyd­rated and water pumped into the con­tainer of dried food as and when needed. Drinks are vacuum packed and sucked through a plastic straw. The only fresh food such as fruit come on board when a shuttle arrives with new crew mem­bers. Bread is not allowed because of the danger of crumbs find­ing their way into del­ic­ate equip­ment, so wraps are the favoured option.

The view from space. A NASA image of the south­ern half of Britain. The red dot is Bognor Regis.

It all seems a pretty miser­able exist­ence to me, and prob­ably to any­body else who likes their creature com­forts, and yet wealthy indi­vidu­als are reportedly pre­pared to pay $20 mil­lion each for the priv­ilege of a 10-day hol­i­day on board the space sta­tion.  Give me Bognor Regis any day.

Wentworth Woodhouse — Wed 20th March 2019

Most of our mem­bers had read Catherine Bailey’s fas­cin­at­ing book Black Diamonds, the Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty, which maps the his­tory of coal mining in South Yorkshire and the down­fall of the Fitzwilliam family.

So it was with great anti­cip­a­tion that we gathered at Wentworth Woodhouse — formerly Britain’s largest private res­id­ence, with a 606-foot front­age — for a guided tour by the excel­lent volun­teers of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust.

It was our first out­side visit of the year and one of the most pop­u­lar ever, with a party of 52 mem­bers and their part­ners arriv­ing in glor­i­ous sun­shine on the spring equi­nox for what turned out to be a 90-minute tour of just some of the more import­ant formal rooms in two sep­ar­ate groups.

The Georgian mas­ter­piece of Wentworth Woodhouse, largely hidden from public view on the edge of the vil­lage of Wentworth, boasts an east front wider than that of Buckingham Palace and in its heyday provided employ­ment for 1,000 local people main­tain­ing its reputed 365 rooms and sur­round­ing estate.

A member of staff work­ing on the res­tor­a­tion of a statue.

The Grade I listed coun­try house was bought for the rel­at­ively knock­down price of £7 mil­lion by the Trust, which aims to restore it to its former glory at a cost of up to £200 mil­lion, with assist­ance from the National Trust who are cur­rently paying the wages of the full-time staff. Scaffolding alone, which shrouded much of the famous façade on the day of our visit, is cost­ing £1 mil­lion.

Ongoing work on the East Front, as seen from the inside.

The house has 250,000 square feet of floor space and covers an area of more than two and a half acres, sur­roun­ded by 180 acres of park­land and an estate of 15,000 acres.

The ori­ginal Jacobean house was rebuilt by Thomas Watson-Wentworth, the first Marquess of Rockingham (1693–1750), and vastly expan­ded by his son, the second mar­quess, who was twice Prime Minister. In the 18th cen­tury, the house was inher­ited by the Earls Fitzwilliam who owned it until 1979 when it passed to the heirs of the eighth and tenth earls, its value having being boos­ted by the vast quant­it­ies of coal dis­covered on the estate.

However, this turned out to be a double edged sword. Following nation­al­isa­tion of the coal industry on New Year’s Day 1947, Manny Shinwell, the Minister of Fuel and Power in the Labour gov­ern­ment, ordered that the formal park­land in front of the house be sac­ri­ficed to open­cast coal mining, and the work­ings exten­ded right up to the front door of the house. Controversially, Shinwell insisted that the coal be obtained ‘at all costs’ in the interest of Britain’s post­war indus­trial drive, des­pite the pres­id­ent of the Yorkshire Mineworkers’ Association claim­ing that it amoun­ted to van­dal­ism.

A con­tem­por­ary news­pa­per pho­to­graph show­ing what the pres­id­ent of the Yorkshire Mineworkers’ Association described as the ‘van­dal­ism’ of the lawn in front of the house.

Although the grand east front of the house is the best known and the most illus­trated, it was the west front fin­ished in 1734 which was inten­ded to be for the family’s private enjoy­ment rather than the impress­ive east front which demon­strated their social and polit­ical ambi­tions.

Wentworth Woodhouse actu­ally com­prises two joined houses. The west front, with the gar­dens facing north west towards the vil­lage, was built of brick with stone detail. The grander east front is said to have been built as a result of rivalry between two branches of the family. The Stainborough branch of the Wentworth family inher­ited the Earl of Strafford’s minor title of Baron Raby but not his estates, which went to Thomas Watson (who added Wentworth to his sur­name). The Stainborough Wentworths, for whom the Strafford earl­dom was revived, lived at nearby Wentworth Castle.







We roun­ded off our morn­ing visit with lunch at either the Rockingham Arms or George & Dragon pubs in Wentworth vil­lage.


Britain & Germany: The War at Sea 1914–18, Part II — Peter Stubbs — 18th March 2019

We all knew how it would finish, of course, but Peter Stubbs kept us enthralled to the very end of the second part of his talk on the War at Sea, 1914 to 1918.

Peter briefly recapped on his pre­vi­ous week’s talk, when we left the British Navy and the British public in good spir­its fol­low­ing the anni­hil­a­tion of Von Spee’s squad­ron in the South Atlantic in December 1914. “Britannia ruled the waves again, but not for long,” he told us.

Only eight days later, at 9am on December 16 and without any warn­ing whatever, high explos­ive shells smashed into houses, shops and other prop­er­ties in Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool.”

Admiral Franz Hipper had man­aged to leave har­bour in Germany and cross the North Sea undetec­ted. The British Admiralty had cracked German naval codes and warned the fleet of the Germany move­ment, but Admiral David Beatty failed to inter­cept either of Hipper’s squad­rons, in part due to poor vis­ib­il­ity in the North Sea and in part to sloppy sig­nalling by his flag officer.

A post-Scarborough recruit­ment poster. 


Only Hartlepool could have been said to be a legit­im­ate target with its dock­yard and factor­ies. In all 86 people were killed and 443 injured. Worst hit were the Bennett family in Wykeham Street, Scarborough. Of seven family mem­bers, four were killed.

The British public was out­raged. How could the largest and most power­ful navy in the world have failed to pro­tect them? But it was also a pro­pa­ganda coup for Britain. Recruiting in the army and navy shot up, helped by dra­matic poster advert­ising.

Another recruitmnent poster, show­ing the wrecked house in Wykeham Street, Scarborough.

There was a par­tial response nine days later, on Christmas Day, when Britain inflic­ted the first ever war damage in naval his­tory by air power. Merchant ships had been adap­ted with hangars on deck for sea­planes, with hoists to lift the planes in and out of the water. When the ships got close enough to the German coast seven sea­planes were launched and car­ried out a daring bomb­ing raid on the Zeppelin hangars at Cuxhaven.

Further – and more sig­ni­fic­ant – pay­back came a month later at the Battle of Dogger Bank, when Beatty’s battle cruis­ers con­fron­ted Admiral Hipper, who had led the bom­bard­ment of Scarborough. Hipper came out of his home waters with three battle cruis­ers, three lights cruis­ers and two flo­til­las of des­troy­ers.

The British knew they were coming,” Peter explained. “They had obtained the German naval codes thanks to the bril­liance of code break­ing staff in Room 40 at the Admiralty. Admiral Beatty was aler­ted, and set off south from Rosyth to inter­cept Hipper.” The British ships, all built between 1909 and 1913, were faster than the German oppos­i­tion, and out­gunned them.

Admiral David Beatty — later the first Earl Beatty.

As soon as Hipper’s ship was in range, Beatty sig­nalled to his ships ‘Open fire and engage the enemy.’ It was the first clash between modern battle cruis­ers in the north­ern hemi­sphere.”

Meanwhile, with Britain now at war with Turkey, the Admiralty revis­ited earlier con­tin­gency plans for a joint naval and mil­it­ary attack on the Dardanelles. It was a haz­ard­ous plan. The nar­rows were less than a mile wide and lined with forts and gun emplace­ments, making it impossible for the navy to ‘stand off’ at a dis­tance and attack out of range of the land based guns. There were also mines laid across the straits.

HMS Lion, Admiral Beatty’s flag­ship.

Five allied ships were lost and three badly dam­aged, and in all 700 British and French sail­ors were lost, with noth­ing achieved.


Back in the North Sea, both sides con­tin­ued to play cat and mouse, with mixed res­ults. After one par­tic­u­larly bruis­ing encounter, when his flag­ship Lion was hit twice in five minutes, Beatty reportedly said to his officers: “There seems to be some­thing wrong with our bloody ships today. As Peter explained: “He was quite wrong. What he should have said was ‘there seems to be some­thing wrong with our bloody officers today!’”

However, Britain still had com­mand of the seas. A block­ade remained in full force pre­vent­ing much needed sup­plies from reach­ing Germany. The Battle of Jutland in July 1916 was effect­ively the end of the sur­face war.

Admiral Franz Hipper.

But the peril of Germany’s sub­mar­ine fleet was ever present. Relations between Germany and the United States had hit rock bottom with the sink­ing of the Lusitania in May 2015. The Lusitania and her two sister ships were the largest pas­sen­ger liners in the world. Although she nor­mally trav­elled at 25 knots, too fast to be at risk from tor­pedo attack, as she approached the Irish coast she ran into a bank of fog and was forced to reduce speed.

One tor­pedo was suf­fi­cient. It was fol­lowed by a large explo­sion on the ship, prob­ably some of the explos­ives and arma­ments she was allegedly car­ry­ing, and within 18 minutes she had sunk with the loss of 1,200 pas­sen­gers, among them 126 US cit­izens.

The sink­ing did not bring the US into the war, but it had a sig­ni­fic­ant effect on the atti­tude of the US gov­ern­ment and public opin­ion. In Germany, mean­while, the sink­ing was cel­eb­rated and school­chil­dren were given a day’s hol­i­day.

The unres­tric­ted German sub­mar­ine offens­ive which even­tu­ally brought America into the war was ulti­mately defeated by the convoy system, and this reversal along with a lack of land pro­gress on the west­ern front was bring­ing Germany to its knees. But although the sub­mar­ine war had been won, the damage from the U-boat offens­ive was immense; during 51 months of war, German sub­mar­ines had sunk 5,282 British, allied and neut­ral mer­chant ships.

A peace­ful Scapa Flow today — pic­ture by Graham Snowdon.

On 21st November 1918 more than 70 ships of the German High Seas Fleet suffered the ulti­mate humi­li­ation of sur­ren­der­ing to 370 escort­ing ships of the allied navies and being escor­ted to Scapa Flow to be interned there. More than 120 sub­mar­ines were also taken into intern­ment at Harwich. In an ironic twist, seven months later the cap­tured German fleet at Scapa was scuttled by its own crews to avoid the ships being taken into use by the British navy.

Peter con­cluded by telling us: “As we all know, the peace was a rel­at­ively short one last­ing only 20 years. Although appar­ently for­got­ten — or at least little men­tioned — by our modern day politi­cians, the two world wars were the real and most import­ant reason for the set­ting up of the European Community and for coun­tries want­ing to be mem­bers of it. It seems that our politi­cians now think that another European war is impossible.”