I thought I had done a bad thing the other day. I was browsing the website of an auction house not far from here and saw a few lots I was interested in but I knew I wasn't going to be able to get to the auction, nor would I be able to view the lots. One of the reasons that mixed lots of books and ephemera and photographs (my kind of thing in other words) can still be had for a good price at auctions is that the photograph on the Internet is nearly always only of a few items in the lot and so only those who have physically viewed the items in the saleroom are likely to bid. Unlike ceramics, for example, where people feel confident bidding online on the grounds of just a photo and a condition report. So it was a bit of a dumb thing to do on my part to leave several hundred pounds-worth of bids on large, mixed lots that I hadn't gone through myself. Fortunately it turned out okay. I only won one of the lots I left bids on and that was a pile of photos and real-photo postcards from the Boer War, World War I and of shipping and naval vessels - some of them very rare items indeed. The gamble paid off.
One of my favourite items is the photo postcard above. It shows HMS Gladiator after she was rammed and sunk in shallow water off Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight in 1908. She was rammed by a civilian steam ship who couldn't see her in a blizzard that reduced visibility to zero. What is particularly nice about this postcard is that it has been sent through the post and the postmark is just 8 days later than the accident. This is a really nice illustration of the way postcards were involved in the dissemination of news. Some disaster occurs or accident happens and the local photographers run to the scene and start churning out postcards of their photographs which then get bought and sent around the country almost immediately.