Tuesday, 17 July 2012

"Your King & Country Need You" - Scarratt's Call to Arms

Image © and collection Brett Payne The Barracks, Derby, No. 993, publ. 1915
Albumen Glass Negative, by F.W. Scarratt of Derby
Image © and collection Brett Payne

This is the second of the two glass plate negatives purchased recently on eBay, both of which turned out to be originals from Derbyshire's first locally based picture postcard publisher, Frank W. Scarratt. It is not over-exposed, as the previous one was, and therefore required little in the way of digital manipulation to produce the image above, apart from inversion and desaturation of the original 24-bit colour scan. It depicts a group of young men waiting in line at the gates of Normanton Barracks, Derby, attended by a single soldier standing to attention, and with several onlookers - among them women and children - to the left of the entrance.

Image © and courtesy of Picture the Past Gateway and Entrance, Normanton Barracks, 1915
Image © and courtesy of Picture the Past Ref. DRBY000681

This particular postcard is not listed in Rod Jewell's Yesterday's Derby and its Districts, the authority on Scarratt's work, so presumably not many examples of the postcard print have survived intact. I did find a rather inferior, unattributed version of the image on Picture the Past (Ref. DRBY000681). The barracks were built between 1874 and 1877, and became the headquarters of the Sherwood Foresters in Derby until 1963; they were demolished in 1981-1982.

Image © and collection Brett Payne Image © and collection Brett Payne

Detailed examination of the posters pasted to the columns of the gateway reveals the announcement of the Embodiment of the Territorial Force and the General Mobilization of the Army Reserve, these having taken place in August 1914. I can't claim to have read all that from the indistinct scanned image, but there was enough to make out the general form of the poster and the Yanks, naturally, came to the rescue once again for the rest. I found exact facsimiles of three, and one similar to the fourth, in the fine digitized collection of war posters and postcards from the University of Minnesota Media Archive.

Image © and courtesy of The University of Minnesota Media Archive Image © and courtesy of The University of Minnesota Media Archive
Territorial Force, poster 43x34cm, 3 Jun 1914
General Mobilization Army Reserve, Poster 54x41cm, 11 Aug 1914
Images © and courtesy of University of Minnesota Media Archive

Scarratt had maintained his prolific output during 1914 (139 views), somewhat reduced to 79 views published in 1915, but this was his first postcard which betrayed any sign that there was a war on. Judging from the dates of publication of the posters and the postcard's series number, it could have been taken any time from late 1914 until mid-1915.

Image © and collection Brett Payne Image © and collection Brett Payne

Image © and courtesy of The University of Minnesota Media Archive Image © and courtesy of The University of Minnesota Media Archive
Your King & Country Needs You
Another 100,000 Men Wanted, poster 76x51cm, Aug 1914
A Call To Arms, poster 152x102cm, 24 Aug 1914
Images © and courtesy of University of Minnesota Media Archive

Image © and courtesy of Library of CongressImage © and courtesy of Library of Congress
Great War recruiting posters
Images © and courtesy of Library of Congress

There is another poster or signboard at the right hand edge of the postcard view. Sadly, it's not clear enough to make out anything much, but it might well be a recruiting poster along the lines of the two displayed above, of which there were a huge variety produced during the course of the war.

Image © and collection Brett Payne

Initially I wondered if the glass plate was a copy negative made from a postcard, since an artifact on the image appeared as if it had resulted from a fold or crease. However, closer examination of the emulsion side of the glass negative shows a slightly darker stain over the bottom quarter.

Donington Hall and Entanglements, No. 1020, publ. 1915
Postcard by F.W. Scarratt of Derby

Scarratt produced very few views with subjects readily identifiable as having been taken during the Great War. Soon after the Normanton Barracks shot in 1915 he visited Donington Hall, Leicestershire, where the conversion of the grand building and estate into a German Prisoner of War camp, complete with barbed wire entanglements and sentry boxes, resulted in several published postcards (1006/1020/1021). Apart from these few examples, he appears to have left the coverage of wartime and military subjects to other local photographers such as W.W. Winter, Frederick K. Boyes, Pollard Graham of Derby, Albert Heath of Clay Cross, Henry Hinge and H.P. Hansen of Ashbourne, Fred Holbrook of Belper, Alfred Rippon of Chesterfield.

Sentry Box & Entanglements, Donington Hall, No. 1020, publ. 1915
Postcard by F.W. Scarratt of Derby

His production then dwindled considerably; 35 views in 1916, 33 in 1917, and a single view in 1918, and none in 1919, probably due to a combination of shortage of materials and a reduced market. When he resumed publishing in 1920, one of his first photographs was of the War Memorial in his home town, Barton-under-Needwood (1130).


  1. It sounds as though that ebay buy was another gem. You’ve done some fantastic sleuthing again Brett, and lo and behold another link to the Sherwood Foresters.

  2. Now this is inspiring photo sleuthing! And amazing that the internet can produce the original posters for confirmation. Very cool!

    I often get frustrated trying to resolve parts of a blurred image, especially postcards. Photoshop can only do so much, but an original glass negative can retain so much more. How did you scan the glass slide?

    I have had mixed results with my printer scanner and instead I devised a kind of light box to take a hi-def digital photo with my camera of a glass negative.

  3. Thank you Nell and Mike.

    Mike: For years I too have been frustrated in my attempts to scan slides. I have made various Heath Robinson attempts with a diffuse light source on an open scanner, with mixed results. I even purchased a scanner which had a "light box" attachment, but this produced even more hopeless results. I sent a couple of hundred 35mm slides to a professional outfit, which did a fairly decent job, but were too expensive for me to consider for my entire collection.

    Eventually I bit the bullet and spent some money on what I think must be close to the top of the amateur scanner range. It's an Epson Perfection V700 Photo, with a built-in light lid, and the capability to scan at very high optical (not interpolated) resolution. To be honest it's so far ahead of any other scanner that I've ever used that I feel it's almost in the professional league. I can't stress enough the difference this has made to my being able to analyse my print photographs properly, let alone the negatives which, as you point out, carry so much more detail.

    Another huge boon has been that I've been able to scan decent quality images of my large collection of personal 35mm colour slides, taken before the advent of the digital era. What fun it has been going through the thousands photographs that I took in the 80s and 90s, without having to get out the projector and bore the rest of the family to death.


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