FLEET REVIEW 1937 - THE CORONATION REVIEW OF HM KING GEORGE VI
(MP137). Frank Watson Wood (1862-1953). Watercolour signed and dated 1937 and annotated in the artist's hand, lower left.
Limited Edition: 12 copies worldwide
Standard size: 39x18 ins (99x46 cms) approx (size variable as required).
Price band (mounted copy at Standard size): £180-200
Three of His Majesty’s fleets are seen here mustered at Spithead: the Mediterranean, the Home and the Reserve Fleets.
We are looking north west with the great naval base of Portsmouth at top right and Gosport across the harbour from Portsmouth, to the west (left). Gilkicker Point lies left of centre and then the coast runs west towards Stokes Bay and thence along to Southampton Water which is beyond the scope of the painting top left. The north east corner of the Isle of Wight lies to the bottom and left of the painting, and Horse Sand Fort sits like a rock, bottom right, with Wood’s signature to its right. The Royal Yacht (Vice Admiral Sir Dudley North KCVO CB CSI CMG ADC) wearing Court Flags and led, according to ancient custom, by the Trinity House flagship THV PATRICIA (Capt A R H Morrell, Deputy Master) and with the Admiralty Yacht HMS ENCHANTRESS (Cdr R Jolly RN) tucked in astern, is steaming through the lines of anchored vessels. At the head of Line F, to the right, and in the darker livery of the Home Fleet, lies the 16 inch battleship HMS NELSON (Captain A R Dewar RN) flagship of C-in-C Home Fleet, Admiral Sir Roger Backhouse GCVO KCB CMG. Next to the left (ahead of NELSON) is her sister HMS RODNEY (Captain W N Custance RN) and ahead of her other heavy units of the Home Fleet, HMS ROYAL OAK (Captain T B Drew OBE RN) wearing the flag of Rear Admiral 2nd Battle Squadron, Rear Admiral C G Ramsay CB; HMS RAMILLIES (Captain R W Oldham RN), HMS RESOLUTION (Captain Sir Lionel Sturdee Bt ADC RN), HMS ROYAL SOVEREIGN (Captain R B T Miles RN), HMS DUNEDIN (Captain W R Patterson RN) wearing the flag of Vice Admiral Commanding Reserves, Home Fleet, Vice Admiral Sir Gerald Dickens KCVO CB CMG, HMS CURACAO (Captain E D B McCarthy RN), HMS CARDIFF (Captain G R S Watkins DSO RN), Senior Officer Reserve Fleet, The Nore.......
Out beyond RODNEY is the Mediterranean Fleet flagship HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH (Capt E L S King MVO RN) wearing the flag of Admiral Sir Dudley Pound GCVO KCB, who, together with her Mediterranean Fleet consorts is recognizable by her lighter paint scheme. HMS BARHAM (Captain N A Wodehouse ADC RN) wearing the flag of Rear Admiral T H Binney CB DSO, Rear Admiral Commanding 1st Battle Squadron Mediterranean Fleet, HMS REVENGE (Captain F A Buckley RN), HMS IRON DUKE (Captain C S Douglas-Pennant DSC RN), HMS HOOD (Captain A F Pridham RN) wearing the flag of Vice Admiral Commanding Battle Cruiser Squadron and Second- in-Command Mediterranean Fleet, Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Blake KCB DSO; HMS REPULSE (Captain J F Godfrey RN), HMS GLORIOUS (Captain B A Fraser OBE ADC RN); HMS COURAGEOUS (Captain M W S Boucher DSO RN) wearing the flag of Vice Admiral N F Laurence CB, Vice Admiral Aircraft Carriers, Home Fleet ; HMS FURIOUS (Captain J W Clayton RN) - all familiar ship names in this painting lying ahead and to the west of QUEEN ELIZABETH. Out beyond QUEEN ELIZABETH’s line are more Mediterranean and Dominion Fleet ships in Line D: from right to left we see the three funnelled heavy cruisers HMS LONDON (Captain H Pott MVO RN) wearing the flag of Rear Admiral C E Kennedy-Purvis CB; HMS SHROPSHIRE (Captain W E C Tait MVO RN) and HMS DEVONSHIRE (Captain C H Muirhead-Gould DSC RN); and next ahead the Leander Class light cruiser HMS LEANDER (Captain J W Rivett-Carnac DSC RN) of the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy. Over to starboard of VICTORIA & ALBERT and towards the foreground is Line G, 18 Foreign warships including NEW YORK (USA), DUNKERQUE (France), MORENO (Argentina), MARAT (USSR), GRAF SPEE (Germany), JAVA (Netherlands), ASIGARA (Japan), DROTTNING VICTORIA (Sweden), NIELS JUEL (Denmark), BARTOLEMEU DIAS (Portugal) and CISCAR (Spain).
More British Escorts from the Reserve Fleet Squadrons and Flotillas (Vice Admiral Sir Gerald Dickens) are closer to us still in Line H; and then in the immediate foreground are merchantmen and a collection of pleasure vessels and paddlers including GOLDEN EAGLE, QUEEN of KENT, ROYAL DAFFODIL, WAVERLEY, DEVONIA, BRIGHTON QUEEN, GLEN USK, GLEN GOWER; sailing craft, fishermen, lifeboats - all bedecked with bunting and shining as new pins, their crews and passengers kitted out in their finest and enjoying this memorable occasion. Many of these pleasure steamers were to distinguish themselves in the war which was only some two years away, most especially at the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940. The following day the King signalled his fleets from the Royal Yacht of his “Great happiness at returning for even a short time to my old life in the Service in which my early life was spent. Best wishes to all my seamen and I look forward greatly to further visits which I hope to pay them in the future. Splice the Mainbrace. George RI”
Frank Wood was by now at the zenith of his long and prolific painting career: he was also commissioned - by the King- to paint HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH (senior flagship) at this Review; two years after that, in the summer of 1939, he accompanied the King and Queen as Artist on Tour for their visit to the USA and Canada. Frank Wood died in 1953, the year of another Coronation Review. Several other paintings of his associated with this Review and previous ones are also on this website.