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H.M.S. Digby WWI photograph album, 1914-1915

Identifier: 2009-007

Scope and Contents

A collection of photographs chronicling the voyages of the Armed Merchant Cruiser H.M.S. Digby while on loan to the British Navy during World War I. More a travelogue than a war journal, the photographs document how the ship sailed from the North Sea to Greece, through the Suez Canal, to Singapore and Hong Kong, British Columbia, down the California and Mexican coasts, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Most of the photos show stunning views from the deck of the ship looking out towards sea, of the Digby and her crew and officers on-board and off - Christmas Day band, cricket in Hong Kong, swimming on the beach in Nicaragua, other ships, shore, the ship dog and the office cat, or views of the various towns, villages & their occupants that were visited. There are no naval battle scenes, although there are photos of U.S. ships 'Oregon' and 'Leonor' being "captured". From the photographs, it appears that the "capturing" was part of an exercise.

The H.M.S. Digby was a hired auxiliary vessel, deployed as an Armed Merchant Cruiser. She was hired by the Royal Navy on 22 November 1914 from the British Merchant service. The Digby was loaned by the British to the French Navy under the name 'Artois' between 24 November 1915 and 19 July 1917, and then returned to her original owner on 6 January 1919. When referred to in captions, the ship is always referred to as the Digby, never 'Artois' even though there are photographs from Christmas Day, 1916 at which time it would have been serving in the French Navy. The caption for photograph 17v1 (sheet 17, verso, photo 1) reads: "H.M.S. Digby. Xmas 1914 - Nov 1915".

Also included are photographs of the assumed album compiler and his parents, Frank and Annie Sophia Robbins, Aunt Bess, his sister Dorothy and other family and friends taken back home in Pensford, England.

The creator of the photograph album is not stated, however one photograph (18r5 - sheet 18, recto, photo 5), on which is written "CARobbins AIF 29/7/15)", is referred to in the caption as "My dearest beloved brother Clifford..." We have been able to identify this individual as Clifford Ashton Robbins of Somerset, Bristol, England who died in action in 1915. Clifford Robbins had two older brothers: Harold Alton Robbins and Norman Estecourt Robbins, with Harold being the elder of Clifford by four years. There is a 'Harold' referred to in photograph 16r7 (sheet 16, recto, photo 7) and appears to be the same gentleman as referred to in other photographs as "Self", thus we are assuming the creator of the photograph album was Harold Robbins. We have been unable to retrieve a ship's personnel log for the H.M.S. Digby at this time to confirm if Harold Robbins served aboard the H.M.S. Digby.

All item descriptions are taken directly from the photographer's handwritten captions.


  • Creation: 1914 - 1915


This material is open for research use by any registered reader.

Use and Copyright

This material is owned by the University of Tulsa, McFarlin Library, Department of Special Collections. Unpublished manuscripts are under copyright. Therefore, permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from both the repository and the copyright holder.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Collection shelved on 3rd floor.

Immediate Source of Acquisition




H.M.S. Digby WWI photograph album, 1914-1915
Milissa Burkart
2013 September
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the The University of Tulsa, McFarlin Library, Department of Special Collections & University Archives Repository

McFarlin Library
University of Tulsa
2933 E. 6th St
Tulsa 74104-3123 USA
(918) 631-2496