Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Ajax Collectables

A sample from a variety of collectables featuring the Cruiser HMS Ajax


Cigarette Cards, Tea Cards & Others

HMS Ajax
Ringtons, Tea Card, 1963, No.21 
Established in 1907 Ringtons Tea is a specialist tea company in the north east of England with a business model of selling direct to the user rather than through conventional retail distribution networks. This Card is No. 21 of a series named “Ships of the Royal Navy” comprising 25 cards published in 1963. Ringtons point of difference is that since about 1920 they have had range of collectables manufactured for them, principally in the form of tea pots, jugs, cups and saucers and their iconic square tea caddies to help promote their products. These have long since acquired a loyal following of collectors such that many pieces are now keenly sought after. A quick visit to eBay to view these will prove interesting.

HMS Ajax
Players Cigarettes Card, 1962

Produced by John Player in 1962 was this series entitled "Ships of the Royal Navy" comprising 32 cards featuring British warships over the era 1902 - 1939.
HMS Ajax
Marine Bubble Gum Card, 7.8cms x 6.3cms

HMS Ajax
Cigarette card
From a series “Famous British Ships”

In 1952 the Amalgamated Tobacco Corporation (South Africa) Ltd, of Johannesburg, produced two series of cigarette cards entitled "Famous British Ships". Each series comprised 25 cards featuring a mixture of well known warships and merchant vessels. This card is Number 5 from the second series. Ajax's consorts  at the Battle of the River Plate, the Achilles and the Exeter, featured in that same series numbered 4 and 6 respectively. The illustration shows the ship "as built" being easily identified by single masts as opposed to her later tripod masts.
Reference source:  Mr Alan Phillips, Surrey, England (Ex crew member the frigate HMS Ajax).).

HMS Ajax
Lyons Tea Card No. 18 of a series
Total number in series not known
HMS Ajax
Gatun Locks, Panama Canal. Believed on first commission, 1935-1937
Postcard by Clive F Fennessy, Edinburgh

Marine Bubble Gum, a Canadian company, published prior to May 1941 a series of cards showing contemporary allied naval vessels. How many cards were in the series is not known but this author has sighted No. 114 with that card showing the British Destroyer HMS Witch. Ships from the Royal Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Indian Navy are known to have been included.

Of the eighteen cards seen by this author card No 37 of HMS Belfast is not a particularly accurate image of the vessel as the hull is disproportionally shown stretched.

A collection of these is held in the War, Memory and Popular Culture Archive of The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada.

HMS Ajax No.4 in an unknown series Unknown manufacturer


Ship’s Figurehead
By Royal Doulton
Royal Doulton, as it is now known, commenced as a pottery business in 1815 in Lambeth, south of London, England, with products as mundane as sewer pipe before over the years adding high quality decorative porcelain ceramics, glassware, table ware and collectables for which they have won global recognition. In 1901 King Edward VII granted them a royal warrant in reward for their “Services to the Empire” which also allowed them to use the word “Royal” in their name.

The “Ships Figureheads” Series represented a new genre for them to add to their already very extensive range. The series of eight models was characterized by meticulous detail, historical accuracy and represented actual figureheads preserved in various museums and dockyards in the U.S.A. and Europe.

Fine Bone China Mug
Manufacturer unknown
 Ships illustrated on mug are HMS Ajax, HMS Hood & HMS Ark Royal
This Figurehead is believed to have been released as a limited edition of 950 pieces.

The original ship’s figurehead of HMS Ajax III is held in the collection of The National Maritime Museum, London.

Stamps, Covers & Postal History

The technical information in relation to each ship given in the respective Stanley Gibbons catalogues has been greatly expanded here by this Author.

 Falkland Islands

Stanley Gibbons Catalogue # SG 310
Stanley Gibbons Catalogue # SG 310w
Inverted Watermark

One of a set of 4 stamps issued by the Falkland Islands 13 December 1974 to commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the “Battle of the River Plate”. 

Designer J.W.  Printed by Lithography.  Printer Harrison & Sons London.   
All multicoloured. Watermark “Multiple St Edwards Crown CA”.  Perf 14. (Note 1)                  
The set comprised:
SG 307   2p    HMS Exeter IV 8 x 6 Light Cruiser. 1929 – 1942
                       Battle Honours: River Plate 1939, Malaya 1942, Sunda Strait 1942 
SG 308   6p    HMNZS Achilles V  8 x 6 Light Cruiser.1932 – 1948. (Note 2) 
                         Battle Honours: River Plate 1939, Guadalcanal 1942-1943, Okinawa,  
SG 309   8p    Admiral Graf Spee, 6 x 11 and 8 x 5.9” guns German heavy cruiser (pocket battleship).
                           1934 - 1939
SG 310   16p   HMS Ajax VII 8 x 6” Light Cruiser. 1934 – 1949
                          Battle Honours: River Plate 1939, Mediterranean 1940-1941,
                          Matapan 1941, Greece 1941, Crete1941, Malta convoys 1941, Aegean 1944,   
                          Normandy 1944, South France 1944
SG 310w     As SG 310 but with inverted watermark

2p, 6p and 16p value designs have the German Pocket Battleship “Graf Spee” in background.

  1. Battle Honours listed are those awarded to each Royal Navy ship
  2. Sold to Royal Indian Navy 1948 and renamed RIN Delhi. Disposed of 1978


Stanley Gibbons Catalogue # SG 1125
One of a set of 6 stamps issued by Liberia in 1972 to commemorate “Famous Ships of the British Royal Navy”

All multicoloured. (Note 1).

The set comprised:
SG 1125   3c    HMS Ajax III with the ship’s figurehead, 3rd Rate Frigate, 74 guns, 1809  
                          – 1864.  Vessel in background unknown               
SG 1126   5c    HMS Hogue I, 3rd Rate Frigate, 74 guns, Completed as a steam ship.1811 – 1865.
                           Battle Honours: Baltic 1854 -1855. 
SG 1127   7c    HMS Ariadne III, 6th Rate, 20 guns, 1816 – 1841.
SG 1128   15c  HMS Royal Adelaide I ex HMS London (renamed 1827), 1st Rate, 104 guns, 1827 –
SG 1129   20c  HMS Rinaldo II, Steam Sloop, 17 guns, 1860 – 1884
SG 1130   25c  HMS Nymphe IV, Sail / Steam, Sloop, 8 guns (main), 1888 – 1920.

  1. Battle Honours listed are those awarded to this specific ship. 


Marshall Islands

 HMS Ajax at The Battle of the River Plate

One of a set of 3 stamps issued by the Marshall Islands 15 December 1989 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the “Battle of the River Plate”. This issue was part of a series each commemorating a different aspect of World War II.

Printed by Lithography. All multicoloured.  Perf 13.5 (Note 1).                                                                                                                                              
The set comprised:
MH 277*  45c  HMS Ajax VII 8 x 6” Light Cruiser. 1934 – 1949
                          Battle Honours: River Plate 1939, Mediterranean 1940-1941,
                          Matapan 1941, Greece 1941, Crete1941, Malta convoys 1941, Aegean 1944,   
                          Normandy 1944, South France 1944
MH 278*  45c   HMNZS Achilles V  8 x 6 Light Cruiser.1932 – 1948. 
                          Battle Honours: River Plate 1939, Guadalcanal 1942-1943, Okinawa,  
MH 279*  45c   HMS Exeter IV 8 x 6 Light Cruiser. 1929 – 1942
                          Battle Honours: River Plate 1939, Malaya 1942, Sunda Strait 1942

* Michel catalogue numbers

  1. Battle Honours listed are those awarded to this specific ship. 


A set of three stamps to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the “Battle of the River Plate” was issued in December 2009.

$10 HMS Ajax
$12 HMNZ Achilles
$15 HNS Exeter

- Illustrations to be added -


A representative collection of covers featuring the Cruiser HMS Ajax

Ship's Bells

In the world of maritime memorabilia a ship's bell is arguably the most eagerly sought after relic when a ship is broken up at the end of her useful life or wrecked. In fact it might be called the maritime collector's Holy Grail. A collector should be aware of certain criteria before entering the market as a potential purchaser.

Many ships bells have interesting, some even fascinating, stories attached to them. The bells from both the Cruiser Ajax and the frigate which followed her each have their own intriguing stories touched by mystery. An illustrated article on the subject is nearing completion and planned to be ready to be published here in August 2015. 

Miscellaneous Items

Bar Beer Pump Handle Clip-On Sign
H.M.S. Ajax Ale
Brewed by The Cottage Brewery,
Lovington, Somerset, England.
Lapel Pin
OptimisT Club, Town of Ajax, Ontario,
A unisex Service Club which meets at the Ajax Community Centre twice monthly

Ditty Box

A ditty box is a small bag or box in which a sailor kept his small tools, items for sewing such as needles and thread, minor equipment, writing materials and those special personal articles. The name may derive from nautical slang. According to John Rogers in “Origins of Sea Terms: A modern glossary of seagoing terminology” the bags or boxes were an essential part of the sailor's sea-going wardrobe.

Here is a potpourri of hopefully interesting items. Pieces about the Navy, sailors’ yarns being the stories and experiences they would chat about with their shipmates, of titbits picked up here and there, anecdotal “stuff”, other things noted seen or read.

This page should always be regarded as “work in progress”.


The English language has over centuries become littered with seamen's  and naval words and phrases which are now in common usage with the average user having no idea as to their origin. Here are just a few examples:

➢ “A square meal” – Sailors in the days of sail in Nelson’s navy, each had their own individual 
      “platter”, it being a square piece of wood on which to have their meals.

"Bosn's Locker" - broom closet

"Brow" - Entrance to the ship

"Buffer" or "The Buffer" - Chief Boatswain (pronounced "Bosun")

"Bulkhead" - Wall

➢ “Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey” or “It’s brass monkey weather” -  
      Cannonballs used to be stored aboard warships in piles, on a brass frame or tray called a
      "monkey". In very cold weather the brass would contract, spilling the cannonballs: hence very
      cold  weather is "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey".

"Crusher" - Regulating Petty Officer (A ship's policeman)

"CO's Cabin" - Commanding Officer's cabin

"Davy Jones' locker" - Sea bed

➢ "Deck" - Floor

"Deck-head" - Ceiling

"Duff" - Dessert

"Galley" - Kitchen

"Gash" - Garbage

"Hatch" - Door in the deck

"Jimmy" or "Number One" - Ship's Executive Officer

"Kye" - Hot chocolate

"Navy Gravy" - Ketchup

"Porthole" - Window

"Scrambled eggs" - The gold oak leaves on a senior officers cap.

"Scran" - Food

➢ “Shove off” - to push away from.

➢ "Stand easy" -  take a break

"Stores" - Supplies

For a much more extensive listing I suggest you go to the following site dedicated to such words and phrases:


Probably the best known signal ever made in the Royal Navy was that made by Admiral Lord Nelson to his fleet at the commencement of the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, it was “England expects that every man will do his duty” (Ibid – Bibliography “Trafalgar, The Men, The Battle, The Storm”, P149). They did and the combined French and Spanish fleets were strategically annihilated.

The Royal Navy of the Napoleonic era served under the most draconian discipline legislation to the inclusion of extremely barbaric sentences of physical punishment that one could imagine; a ship’s Captain literally held the sentence of death in his hands in dispensing justice to his crew as he thought fit.

If one were to allow a humourist a rewrite of that signal under today’s liberal social attitudes compounded by Health & Safety at Work legislation and anti-discrimination statutes, then add some imaginative licence the resulting scenario would be at the very least surprising. Read on:-

Last update Jan 5, 2018 

Monday, 20 July 2015