Images from Empire
The King's Own in the Victorian and Edwardian Era
Steamships, the backbone of the empire
Victorian Britain was the world’s leading industrial
nation. Steam propelled ships offered new avenues for exploration and
shortened travelling times between outposts. With the 1869 opening of
the Suez Canal the world had become an even smaller place, reducing the
journey from England to India by two weeks.
The 1860s saw the construction of the five Euphrates-class troopships,
HMS Malabar, Seraphis, Jumna, Euphrates and Crocodile. The Royal Navy
was charged with building and operating these ships after difficulties
were experienced transporting troops during the Crimean War (1854-56)
and the Indian Mutiny (1857). These steamships were designed to carry a
whole battalion of infantry and had quarters for families and could
navigate the new canal’s waterways. The ships were painted white with a
yellow funnel, each with the Star of India emblazoned on the bow. The
ships were in full service for thirty years, by which time they were far
behind many vessels in the Merchant Navy. Malabar was the last of the
ships to be disposed of, in 1896.
Travel within the interiors of many countries involved surmounting
difficulties of terrain and climate that threatened the health and
manoeuvrability of the field forces. Soldiers underwent bridge-building
exercises and pontoon or floating bridges were often constructed in
order to navigate rivers and secure lines of communication.
Dredger in the Suez Canal, 1896. Mechanical dredgers were used during
the expansion of the canal.
Accession Number: KO0809-01-59
1st Battalion King's Own, E company at Lucknow on a training bridge,
Accession Number: KO0700-09
Bridge of boats over the River Indus at Khushalgarh, India (now
Accession Number: KO2490/499
Camel caravan on the banks of the Suez Canal, 1869.
Accession Number: KO0809/01-58
The 1st King's Own Officers and their families on board the SS Jelunga
en route from Malta to Hong Kong, December 1897.
Accession Number: KO0241/04
Sergeants of the 1st King's Own and their families on board the SS
Accession Number: KO0409/01
SS Jelunga was launched in 1890 for the British India Associated
Steamers. She was used by the Spanish as a troopship during the Cuban
Revolution of 1893 and also saw trooping duties to South Africa during
the Boer War. She was sold several times, ending up in 1921 the property
of La Wei Chun of Hong Kong. It was in Hong Kong that she ran aground in
1923 and was salvaged for scrap