Mark joined the Royal Navy, possibly inspired by his father's tales of campaigning in exotic lands for the British Empire, and perhaps also by distant tales of his great-grandfather, who had battled Napoleon's forces at Waterloo. As the new century began, he found himself as a Boy, 1st Class, aboard H.M.S San Pariel after stints on the Caledonia, Minotaur and Agincourt. In 1910 he married his cousin Margaret, daughter of his uncle Donald who had served abroad with his father in the Seaforths. In 1913, with the British and German Navys trying to outbuild each other as European tensions grew, he was in the Gunnery School aboard H.M.S Excellent, before joining H.M.S Invincible - the world's first battlecrusier - at its commissioning on 3 August 1914.
"The First World War had begun. In the northern mists the Grand Fleet (21 dreadnoughts, 8 predreadnoughts, 4 battlecruisers, 21 cruisers and 42 destroyers) was at its war base in Scapa Flow, under the command of Admiral Jellicoe. Diagonally across the North Sea the German High Seas Fleet (13 dreadnoughts, 16 predreadnoughts, 4 battlecruisers, 18 cruisers and 88 destroyers) were assembling in the River Jade under the command of Admiral Von Ingenohl." - V. E. Tarrant.
Invincible was involved in three actions. It had a small part to play at Heligoland Bight later in August, and then in December was involved in a naval battle against Vice-Admiral Graf von Spee at the Falkland Islands. But the Invincible will be forever associated with the Battle of Jutland, on the last day of May in 1916, when at 6.34 p.m a salvo from the Derfflinger penetrated the 7-inch armour and causing explosions in the gun-house, turret and the magazine, rent the Invincible in two, sinking it and killing 1,019 men. There were only six survivors, and Mark Cameron was not amongst them.
To boys who had grown up with the heroic deeds of their grandfathers, fathers and uncles, or the gallant officer adventurers in the novels of G. A. Henty, who had read of the brave thin red or khaki lines defending outposts against Zulus at Rorke's Drift, or Afghans at Kam Dakka, and where casualties rarely exceeded 50 on a bad day, or 800 on a disastrous day, the Great War will have come as a shock. Over 21,000 Britons killed in the first day at the Somme in 1916, and 6,000 Britons and 2,500 Germans lost to a watery grave at Jutland is a severe lesson indeed. Today's remembrance focussed at the Cenotaph, 'that mass of national emotion frozen in stone', I always find poignant, but no lesson has actually been learned, it seems.
Get up at 7.45 a.m just as Rabbi Lionel Blue is about to issue forth his 'Thought For the Day' (a spot that always makes me switch off the radio and therefore have to get up, despite working until 2 a.m the previous night). Shower, then tea with optional breakfast. Having a cup of tea means you don't have to start work just yet. Play 'You Are My Sunshine' on the banjo. Twice. Ponder bookshelf in search of inspiration to kick off work. After twenty minutes of Rider Haggard's 'Diary of an African Journey' having no effect in firing up the creative juices for today's job (drawings for a training course on the Freedom of Information Act), realise the horrible truth and sit down at the drawing desk, pencil hovering above paper. Think about making another cup of tea... resist, and start drawing.
Half way into listening to 'Woman's Hour' and thinking how the cartoon man you've just drawn holding up a a sign saying 'Qualified Exemptions' looks a lot like that Robert Robinson off 'Call My Bluff', answer the first phone call of the day. Is it the offer of a fantastic design job? No, it's Ellie asking for the telephone number of a surveyor. This precipitates three more calls - one to our Estate Agent, then back to Ellie, and then, while I'm on the phone, Allspeed to arrange my M.O.T for next Monday. Cup of tea. Back to the drawing table. Just about to go online to get reference for a hard hat, when the doorbell goes. Let in the gas man to read the meter. Discussion with gas man, on his way out, about buying postcards off eBay (as he's noticed my small collection in the hallway of early 1900s East Grinstead cards). Try and remember what I was about to do. Think about making a cup of tea. Get onto internet to find reference picture of a hard hat. While on, get email and quickly check Tintinologist and PJ's comic's forum. Resist answering emails, download suitable hard hat picture, get offline, make tea, draw hard hat.
Answer phone. A computer is asking me if I want the opportunity to win a holiday to Florida. Back to drawing table. Door bell goes. Tell double-glazing salesman that we're moving house soon and yes, thanks, the new house already has double-glazing, and in fact so has the house I am now in. Back to drawing table. Chainsaw starts up outside and continues for most of the rest of the day.
Have usual 3 p.m lunch while listening to people's mortgage problems on the radio and decide to look up, in my little Anglo-Afghan War library, what was going on 125 years ago on this day in Afghanistan. British were moving into Sherpur. Half hour lunch turns into hour lunch - just one more chapter. Tea. Drawing table. Phone. 'I'll Fly Away' on the banjo. Drawing table. Chainsaw. Banana. Work will have to go on into evening. Again.