(Un)sinking a Ship: The HMS Resource II in Pictures
Blog by Tessa & Moog
Every week at the Auction Barn, we receive loads of fascinating objects, from the vintage to the ancient, from the luxurious to the everyday. Everything has a story, and today we’ll tell you the story we discovered from a small metal cigar tin filled with photographs. Recently in the news, we’ve heard of the finding of the wreck of the Endeavour, a ship whose history is indelibly linked to the history of Australia itself. And at the Barn, we’ve also had our own ship story to float with you!
[Above: One of the photographs available in Lot 1, featuring Officers of the HMS Resource II]
At first glance, they were someone’s collection of Naval photographs with a few portrait photos mixed in, including some of ships, officers, and crew, and, from the fashion and the style of photographs, could be dated roughly to the early 1900s into the 1910s and 20s. It isn’t uncommon for us to receive antique photographs, and we always love seeing them, trying to read a personal history from in between the lines.
Flipping through, amongst the ruffled photographs were a few images of a ship - sailing, then with its bow sinking below the waves, and the ravaged scene of a ship’s deck after a fire, with gaping holes in the floor, and a lone man standing amongst the ruins. The owner had kindly labelled the scene before us: ‘“RESOURCE” AFTER THE FIRE.’
A few cursory searches for a ‘Resource’ ship fire turned up nothing immediately. Then we checked HMS Resource, which is a name that appears multiple times throughout history - an Enterprise Class Frigate launched in 1778, sold in 1816. A bit too early for photography - so probably not. Then HMS Resource, a repair ship launched in 1928, who was a possible candidate for our mystery boat, but no fires onboard had been recorded, and she lasted well into the 1940s, and the features didn’t quite match up. Then one last ship - HMS Resource II, a yacht launched in 1865 that was hired by the Royal Navy in 1915, then lost only 6 weeks later to a fire. No comparison photos could be found online, with information scarce, but this had to be our ship: we had found a cigar tin full of images of the Royal Navy Motor Boat Reserve (RNMBR) and the crew of HMS Resource II.
"RESOURCE II (ex-ENCHANTRESS), hired yacht, motor boat depot ship, Pendant No 098. Built 1865, 734grt/1000 tons. Depot ship from 1.10.15. Apparently renamed ENCHANTRESS and HELICON. Burned 12.11.15 at Southampton."
- A summary of HMS Resource II (via. Naval-History.net)
The RNMBR was a short-lived branch of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) born from a desire for owners of boats and yachts to offer the services of their private crafts in case of war. RNMBR was formed in 1912, seeing service from 1914 until the end of the First World War. At sea, these boats were put to use patrolling the British coasts and shorelines, and with the conclusion of the war, they were fully integrated into the Auxiliary Patrol of RNVR. Interestingly, men from all around the empire manned RNMBR boats - including 200 New Zealanders.
[To Right: A Photograph, titled '"Resource" after the Fire', one of the photographs in the collection]
To Left: An Article from The People, 14th of November, 1915, advertising crew needed for the HMS Resource II]
Within our collection, there are five photos of the officers and crew of HMS Resource II; a hired yacht previously named Enchantress and later Helicon, built in 1865 purchased by the Royal Navy as a depot ship in 1915. The photos are identifiable, either by the owner’s handwritten attribution of ‘HMS Resource’ written on them, or within the image itself, including one with the crew holding a ‘Resource RNMBR’ lifebuoy.
Unfortunately, Resource didn’t last the war - let alone the year - with it catching fire five weeks into its service at Southampton. Amongst the photographs found within the tin, are images of Resource after the fire with images of the destroyed ship from afar, and an image of the deck after the fire. Online, little is documented about the destruction of Resource aside from brief mentions of the fire, making these images a unique insight into what came of the yacht and possibly one of the few remaining images of the ship in private or public hands.
Who are these men? What did they do after the loss of Resource? Perhaps the sailor was an amateur photographer, and he returned to New Zealand after the war, and it somehow made its way to Australia. Or perhaps not. We might never find out, however glimpses of their short-lived service upon HMS Resource are being safely kept within this tin.
This important collection of photographs is up for sale as Lot 1 for our upcoming Vintage Militaria and War Memorabilia Auction, now on show in Specialist Section B. Inspections are welcome any time until the auction closes from 7PM, February 14th, 2022.
‘Royal Navy Motor Boat Reserve’ [Forum Thread] (November 2018), The British & Commonwealth Military Badge Forum, <https://www.britishbadgeforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=76847>
‘Armed Yacht’, Wikipedia, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armed_yacht>
‘Motor Boats’, Torpedo Bay Navy Museum, Auckland; New Zealand, <https://navymuseum.co.nz/explore/by-collections/ships/motor-launches-and-boats/>
‘Auxiliary Patrol’, Torpedo Bay Navy Museum, Auckland; New Zealand, <https://navymuseum.co.nz/explore/by-themes/world-war-one/auxiliary-patrol/>
‘HMS Resource’ (9 November, 2021), Wikipedia, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Resource>
Smith, Gordon (2020), ‘28. HIRED YACHTS’ in Auxiliary Patrol, via. Naval History.net, <https://www.naval-history.net/WW1NavyBritishShips-Dittmar4AP.htm>
Burns, Roger (N/A) ‘Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War: Resource II 1915’, via. The Maritime Archaeology Trust, <https://map.forgottenwrecks.org/uploads/documents/Resource%20II%20Additional%20Info%20for%20DB_Tiny.pdf>
N/A, (1915, 14 November), "Royal Naval Motor Boat Reserve" in The People (London, England), <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000729/19151114/299/0018>