Posted 6 months ago
On the back of the card is a mundane message to Maude Lankester dated 13/4/17 about Marie's movements in and around Sydney and "having a glorious time". Sydney Harbour and warships on the reverse: a photo postcard inscribed "Man O’ War Stairs Sydney". The Great War had still almost eighteen months to run.
This is an interesting card to me for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the scene on the front of the card is not from 1917. It is much earlier. I have seen another version of the same scene dated 1911. A framed hand-tinted version of the card is in the National Museum of Australia. The scene has resonance.
The ships in the photo are said to be “HMS Powerful & HMS Encounter and several other Australian Station warships in the distance.” These ships were important in Australian naval history and both in time became important parts of the fledgling Australian Navy Fleet. But others claim that the scene is of the Powerful and ships from the Great White Fleet of 1908.
A generic naval scene perhaps?
In 1917 used as a propaganda card?
The place too is interesting. The view is taken from the Royal Botanic Gardens and was originally the site of Sydney's oldest sandstone quarry that provided the building materials for some of Sydney's early stone buildings around the turn of the 19th century.
The Man O'War Steps were the embarking and disembarking point for the Navy.
Today the area is the site of the wharf and promenade leading to the Sydney Opera House!
"From these Steps 2215 officers and sailors of the RAN left to serve their country in the Great War 1914-18, and the Second World War 1939-45, Korea, Malaya and Vietnam, never to return to enjoy the fruits of their labours in their native land."
Title: "Man O’ War Stairs Sydney"
Publisher: Graphic postcard C.B. & Co Ltd
Year: c1908 - 1917
Size: 14.1cm x 9cm (5½" x 3½")
Description: sepia card with view "Man O’ War Stairs Sydney" used for a message.
"Man O’ War Stairs Sydney" is printed at the bottom left hand side over the image in small white text.
The handwritten text is dated 13/4/17 & signed Marie.
“Dear Maude Mrs Porter met us & we delivered the box alright. She is over at Manly all this week & we are going up to Croydon to see her after she goes home. Hope you are all well. We are having a glorious time - Love from Marie.
Recipient of letter
Miss Maude Lankester
Card was used as a message and posted in an envelope (?).
Materials: Paper, Ink.
The Man O’ War Stairs are the only known remains of harbour works from the Macquarie era still in existence in Sydney Harbour. They are in what appears to be their original configuration, and still in daily use until recently closed for renovations. They recall a bygone era when Navy ships anchored in Farm Cove, and the soldiers came ashore to Fort Macquarie, Sydney's main military base at this point.
The Tarpeian Way is the pathway that runs along the northern edge of the steep cliff known as the Tarpeian Wall, at the edge of the Botanic Gardens. When the rock at Bennelong Point was cut away to build the road that now leads to the Opera House, the wall and the path were named after the Tarpeian Rock which overlooks the Roman Forum.
When the Opera House was built, the Man O'War Steps were cleared of all structures and the present day pontoons were added to the original stonework. Restored in 1973, the complex is now a major embarkation point for harbour cruises.