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The Tradition of Naval Christmas Cards
by John MacFarlane 2012
This Christmas card of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve from the First World War sports a generic design and a brightly coloured red ribbon. It was purchased by personnel to facilitate the sending of Christmas messages home to family and friends. The sending of Christmas cards to express seasonal greetings is a relatively new tradition but naval personnel have been sending these cards for more than 100 years. Many ships of the Royal Navy and commonwealth navies produced custom designed cards to reflect their ship's identity.
Lieutenant Frederick R. MacFarlane was a tugboat skipper from Vancouver Island who joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve with several other British Columbia tugboat skippers. He commanded a motor launch of the Dover Patrol based at HMS Hermione. A white Christmas also meant cold living conditions in these little warships nested together alongside. They were frequently in action against submarines and risked sinking in minefields.
The Christmas card produced by HMS Hermione appears rather austere by modern standards, and not very ‘Christmasy’. HMS Hermione was an eight gun twin-screw cruiser launched at Devonport in 1893. At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, she became a guard ship at Southampton UK, later becoming the HQ Ship for small fast motor launches and coastal motor boats from December 1916 until December 1919.
Fred MacFarlane had his cards customized with his name. It isn’t clear whether the censor regulations prevented hand written messages but this one was not personalized.
This Christmas card is a modern one used in the RCN destroyer HMCS Chaudiere. Modern warships of the Royal Canadian Navy continued the tradition and produced Christmas cards unique to their ship which could be purchased through the ship’s canteen. The ship’ badge and the ribbon in the heraldic colours of the ship decorated the outside. Inside was usually a photograph of the ship and a cheerful Christmas greeting wishing a Very Merry Christmas.
To quote from this article please cite:
MacFarlane, John M. (2013) The Tradition of Naval Christmas Cards. Nauticapedia.ca 2013. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Xmas_Card.php
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