America and West Indies Station
1930 – 1932
Among the items discovered in a long and diligent search was an album of over 200 snapshots taken by Able Seaman W. Fox who was a member of the crew of H.M.S. Dauntless on the America and West Indies Station 1930 - 1932. The Royal Navy of that time published a series of books regarding the ‘Commissions’ served by its ships at various stations including H.M.S. Dauntless.
A.B. Fox’s photos, notes and an old fragmented copy of the relative ‘Commission’ book titled “H.M.S. Dauntless - America and West Indies Station 1930-1932” form the basis of this narrative of the ship’s travels and the events of her voyages 1930 – 1932. Unlike the original which could have only a limited number of photographs the advent of computers allows us the luxury of including most of the photographs for a compelling record.
While preparing H.M.S. Dauntless - America and West Indies Station we came across the website:
To our delight they had published a comprehensive extract from the same Commission Book which filled in some of the missing fragments and allowed us to complete the story. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of this website which is owned by Cranston Fine Arts.
All photographs and documents can be enlarged. Simply click on the item you choose.
The album of A.B. W. Fox
H.M.S. Dauntless undertook three voyages while serving on the West Indies Station.
Click the following links to view.
There are also a number of miscellaneous items.
The world in 1930 had just entered the Great Depression following the Wall Street Crash in 1929. For the next ten years up to 45% of the world’s workforce would be unemployed until World War II erupted in 1939. World War I had ended only 12 years earlier in 1918. The post-war influenza epidemic, political upheavals, conflict and massive social and regime changes were ongoing. American was ‘dry’ it being the Prohibition Era and Germany’s Nazis were working their way into power.
The first Television broadcast would not take place in England until 1936 and an air flight across the Atlantic was still ‘News.’ Much of England still had little or no electricity. Baths were made of tin and hung on a hook in the laundry until needed when they would be filled by hand.
Ships Complement 1930
For more information regarding the North America and West Indies Station and the Royal Naval Dockyard at Bermuda see:
The Floating Dock which was towed to Bermuda in 1869
H.M.S. Dauntless in dry dock at Bermuda 1931
A Brief History of H.M.S. Dauntless
H.M.S. Dauntless was completed too late to see action in the First World War. In 1919 she was assigned to operate in the Baltic Sea against the Bolshevik revolutionaries in Russia. She was then on detached service in the West Indies. Following this assignment she was attached to the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet for the following five years. Dauntless was a member of the Cruise of the Special Service Squadron, also known as the 'Empire Cruise' of 1923/24. After this tour, she went with the squadron to the Mediterranean for the next few years.
In May 1928 Dauntless was re-commissioned and assigned to the America and West Indies Station. She ran aground in July off Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was badly damaged, suffering the breach of her engine room and of one of her boiler rooms. Subsequently all of her guns, torpedo tubes and much of her other equipment had to be removed to lighten the ship. She was finally refloated and towed off by her sister ship, H.M.S. Despatch, and a number of tugs. She was repaired throughout 1929 and reduced to the reserve.
In 1930 she was transferred back to the America and West Indies Station. During 1931-1933 she served with the South American Division, and in 1934 she relieved the cruiser H.M.S. Curlew in the Mediterranean and was reassigned to the 3rd Cruiser Squadron. In 1935 she returned to Britain to be paid off into the reserve.
In 1939 H.M.S. Dauntless was re-commissioned to join the 9th Cruiser Squadron with the South Atlantic Command. In December that year the squadron was transferred to the China Station. In March 1940, while in the Indian Ocean, Dauntless was a unit of the British Malaya Force tasked to keep watch on German merchant ships in the Dutch East Indies harbours. She operated mainly off Batavia.
On 15 June 1941 H.M.S. Dauntless collided with the cruiser H.M.S. Emerald off Malacca and required repair at Singapore. On August 15th the repairs were completed. In February 1942 Dauntless arrived at Portsmouth for a refit following which she was transferred to the Eastern Fleet in August. In November 1942 the cruiser was docked in the Selborne dry dock at Simonstown, South Africa and in January 1943 floated out. Her remaining service was in the capacity of a training ship. In February 1945 the old cruiser was reduced to reserve and was sold to be broken up for scrap on 13 February 1946. In April 1946 Dauntless was finally broken up at T.W. Ward, Inverkeithing.
Our website also contains the following items.
(Click the pictures to access the links.)
For the crew of Dauntless the world was confined to their ship and its environs plus the places they visited.
They were a long way from home.
They most definitely had a sense of humour. This is evident in the two cartoons below although neither was included in the Commission publication. As the author of the publication almost sadly comments in Part 1:
“Read on, but remember that our style is cramped by the fact that this publication is somewhat official.”
This cartoon refers to McEwans Beer and cleverly compares the sailors’ social life ashore with the stock exchanges of the period.
In the era leading up to the Wall Street Crash 1929 the soaring stock market allowed many investors to make huge profits.
Ordinary people would borrow money to invest in the share market. The crash when it occurred rendered thousands bankrupt virtually overnight.
The Great Depression followed.
This cartoon speaks for itself.
Napoleon once remarked ‘An army marches on its stomach.’ We beg to add that ‘A Navy sails on its stomach,’ and, judging by the size of some of our messmates, we can only conclude that the ship has sailed frequently and successfully.
In the Home fleet the problem of ‘Eats and how to acquire them’ does not present half the difficulties it does on the America and West Indies Station. At home for example the very efficient canteen service is always available and the reasonable prices at which they are able to retail fresh vegetables greatly facilities the maintenance of adequate supplies.
On this station this in not the case. In addition, the Paymaster and the Canteen are seriously handicapped in the matter of stowage space and then there is the difficulty of keeping provisions for any length of time in the hot weather so frequently encountered. It may truthfully be said that each port of the many countries visited has presented its own particular difficulties. In no case, however, did circumstances find our Paymaster Commander nonplussed. Rumours heard in the sharp end of the ship, originated, it is believed, from his own messmates, and boasted of his prowess as a bullfighter. This may or may not be true, but it does explain the ferocity with which he has worried the merchants of many lands into giving us of their best, to the general satisfaction of the ship’s company and their stomachs.
The ship’s company) also wishes to thank the Paymaster Commander for his great interest in changing foreign money for them; whether kopecks, (Russian Currency) milreis, (Brazilian currency) dollars or pesos, the best pound’s worth was always there.
Well done, ‘Kopecks!’ We wish you all success and many happy ‘Home’ service commissions with early promotion.
The following figures may be of interest to our readers:
Bread consumed during two years of our commission – 219,361 lbs
Flour (includes flour for bread making) – 199,576 lbs
Meat – 171,474 lbs
Vegetables – 381,359 lbs
The ‘Flaming Chariot’
Dauntless was in dry dock at Bermuda but the men still had to eat.
A little ingenuity and hey presto – improvised kitchen!