# 43189


Studio portraits of six officers from HMS Blanche, Australia Station. Sydney, probably late 1871.

$575.00 AUD

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Six albumen print photographs in carte de visite format, each approx. 101 x 63 mm (mounts); three with the back mark of Barcroft Capel Boake, 330 George Street, Sydney; two with the back mark mark of Mr & Mrs Oswald Allen, 360 George Street, Sydney; one with the back mark of J. Yes, 432 George Street, Sydney; and one without a studio imprint; all six have contemporary inscriptions in ink (five written in the same hand) on the verso identifying the sitters as follows: Lewis Y. Jones, Sub Lieut, Blanche; T. T. A. Smith, Lieut, Blanche; F. F. Henderson, Sub Lieut., Blanche; W. F. Sweetnam, MD, Assist. Surg. Blanche; F. W. B. Praed, Lieut., HMS Blanche; James Taffatt, nee Festing, Sub Lieut., Blanche; some light foxing to the Yates mount, otherwise the cartes are in very good condition.

The Royal Navy sloop HMS Blanche arrived in Sydney in 1868, and was active on the Australian Station up until 1875. During her service she was heavily involved in countering blackbirding activity in the islands of the Western Pacific. These studio portraits of six of her officers were taken in Sydney, probably towards the end of 1871 (see below), and are most likely unique surviving examples.

‘HMS Blanche was a 1760-ton, 6-gun Eclipse-class wooden screw sloop built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1860s by Chatham Dockyard. She was sent to the Australia Station in January 1868, arriving in April 1868. She undertook a punitive action against Solomon Island natives in September 1869. During 1870, she joined in the search for the schooner Daphne, which was unsuccessful. Under the command of Captain Cortland Simpson, she undertook a survey of Rabaul’s Harbour in 1872. Blanche Bay is named after HMS Blanche. She finished service on the Australia Station in 1875. While sailing to England she was almost lost rounding Cape Horn in bad weather. After being refitted and rearmed, she was sent to the North America and West Indies Station, where she remained until 1881. A memorial to Paymaster James McAvoy and Lieutenant Thomas Thompson Auderton Smith was erected in St James’ Church, Sydney by the captain and officers of Blanche in 1872.

In 1871 the crew of Blanche (and HMS Rosario) were replaced by a new crew that sailed from the UK on HMS Megaera. However, it developed a serious leak in the Indian Ocean and was beached on Île Saint-Paul on 19 June 1871. They were marooned there for 3 months before being rescued and conveyed to Sydney on Malacca, a P&O steamer hired for the rescue. They arrived on 2 October 1871, and Blanche was recommissioned on the 12th. On 11 April 1872, Blanche was driven ashore on New Hanover Island. She was subsequently refloated. Repairs cost £2,450. She was placed in reserve and in 1886 was sold to Castle for £3,600 for breaking.’ (Wikipedia)

The fact that W. F. Sweetnam, Assistant Surgeon, is one of the officers in these portraits probably allows us to date all six portraits to no earlier than October 1871: a brief obituary for Sweetnam that appeared in The West Australian (Perth), 30 March 1914, informs us that he (and presumably the other five officers in these portraits) were part of the replacement crew for HMS Blanche sent out on the Megaera, which became marooned in the Indian Ocean in 1871:

‘Dr. W. F. Sweetnam, of Mortlake (Vic.), passed away at the age of 67 years. He was born at Schull, County Cork, Ireland, and arrived in H.M.S. Blanche [sic] more than 40 years ago. During his voyage to Australia he experienced an exciting passage, the vessel having been wrecked, and for three months the passengers were stranded on an island.’