AMERICAN BATTLESHIPS WITH THE GRAND FLEET: US 6th Battle Squadron in Scottish Waters 1917

(MP101). Alma Claude Burlton Cull (1880-1931). Watercolour signed and dated 1921.

THE US 6th BATTLE SQUADRON, SCOTLAND, WW1

Limited Edition worldwide: 25 copies

Standard size: 14 x 10 ins (35.4 x 25.4 cms) approx.

Price band: £125- £155

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On 7th December 1917 US Battle Division 9 of the US Atlantic Fleet - USS NEW YORK, WYOMING, FLORIDA and DELAWARE - entered Scapa Flow, the British Grand Fleet’s base in the Orkney Islands off Scotland’s north east tip. Admiral Rodman, a tall, straight talking Kentuckian, was an excellent choice of US flag officer for this none too straightforward task, his squadron coming as it did under the operational control of the Grand Fleet C-in-C Admiral Sir David Beatty. There was plenty of potential for difficulties between British and American admiral.  The mercuric, arrogant Beatty was not always the most diplomatic of men but thanks to Rodman’s enthusiasm and willingness to be seen to be fitting in with the fleet to which he had been attached, and Beatty’s forbearance and good sense, it worked and at every level we are told, there were countless examples of the finest sort of cooperation and comradeship. And it probably did no harm that as everyone in the US squadron knew, David Beatty was married to an enormously wealthy American woman from Chicago!

We know that the US BS spent a large part of May and some of July 1918 anchored in the Firth of Forth – on which the city of Edinburgh lies – and on 22nd July HM The King inspected the ships of the Grand Fleet in the Forth and it may be that this watercolour, clearly showing the Forth Bridge, was painted over one of those two periods.

Alma Burlton Cull is regarded as second only to W L Wyllie as the leading British marine artist of the early 20th century: he was commissioned by many including HRH The Prince of Wales who, we are told, “especially admired Cull’s light effects on cloud and water”. Cull was never very prolific and apparently he agonised for weeks over the finer details of the artist boards and canvases on his easel: he certainly got the detail absolutely right and had a knack of showing this detail without making his paintings look too like photographs, too "chocolate boxie".  Sadly for those of us who admire his work, he died when aged only 51 in 1931.  His warship paintings are now in great demand.