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Date Sent:    July 4 1924    

Sender:  Helena 

Recipient: Miss Higson 225, Margaret St, Ashton-u-Lyme, Lanc 

Transcript:  

Dear E 

Had a champion week here.  Lovely weather. I am afraid I shall do a weep when I have to return.  The Exhibition is splendid. 

Love Helena. 

Hand written postcard with red stamp

 Helena’s splendid exhibition was presumably the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley launched in April 1924.  The re-vamped 1925 Exhibition has already appeared in this series as Doris also chose a Tower postcard to send home recording her experience (https://royalarmouries.org/uncategorized/henry-stumped-as-the-empire-strikes-back/). 

Helena’s postcard features a group of Yeoman Warders artfully arranged over a cannon – if you look very hard you can see the rims of the carriage wheels and one of the linchpins securing them. A cannon was traditionally stationed inside the Byward Tower gateway ready to repel attack from the west.  The cannon-shaped bollard embedded beside it is more of a puzzle.  Looking at other images it has moved inside the wooden pillar it was presumably supposed to defend, and unlike many of its predecessors – and successors – appears to be a decorative casting rather than a recycled redundant piece of ordnance. Later replacements moved back to defend the corner turn into Mint Street. 

A group of Yeoman warders have their photo taken

There is a theory that a Yeoman Warder gene exists, and the Body, as they are collectively known, is timeless. Undoubtedly many visitors see only the uniform – in this case undress dark blue worn on working days rather than the ceremonial red and gold state dress.  Gale and Polden were the unofficial recorders of the site at this time, issuing postcard sets of standard Tower images. We are fortunate in having access to a Yeoman Warder photograph album compiled between 1893 -1916 naming the individuals and giving some details of their service. Invaluable as it is, identifying Yeoman Warders when not in the same pose as their record shot is more difficult than it might appear.  Glass eyes (yes there are a notable few) and obvious distinguishing features help, as do fashions in facial hair, but the unwaxed droopy moustaches modelled here simply suggest the second decade of the 20th century.  The seated figure is Chief Yeoman Warder George Slocombe while behind him, to his right, stands his deputy, Yeoman Gaoler Alexander Smoker. Slocombe was Chief from 1914 -1918 handing over to Smoker. The rather chubby chap to their right looks very much like YW Baldry, who served from 1916, which suggests the photograph was taken between 1916 -1918.  Unlike the 1939-45 conflict, the Tower remained open to the public throughout the First World War. Obviously, Gale and Polden in common with many postcard manufacturers relied on people recognising the uniform and overlooking the detail, and Helena was not alone in buying an out-of-date card.  Smoker became the longest serving Chief to date, remaining 25 years in office thereby presumably justifying the continued sale of the image. 

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