HMS ORION, PORTSMOUTH 1912

(MP073). W L Wyllie (1851-1931). Etching, signed.

HMS ORION, PORTSMOUTH 1912

Limited Edition: 49

Standard size: 11.5 x 8.5 ins (29 x 21.6 cms) approx.

Price band: £100-135

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Built by the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth and first commissioned on 2 January 1912, ORION was the lead ship of the four ships of the Orion Class which had all joined the fleet by late 1912. She was completed in late December 1911 and boasting the newest technology and armament she was an obvious choice to become a flagship: their Lordships decided that in early January 1912, once she had shaken down, she would relieve HIBERNIA of the King Edward VII Class as flagship of the 2nd Division Home Fleet. Wyllie, who was always quick to rise to the challenge of yet another new addition to the ever growing might of the Royal Navy and lived in Old Portsmouth close to the dockyard there, appears to have executed this etching in the period between her completion and the hoisting of Rear Admiral King-Hall’s flag. The date of this scene is therefore likely to be early 1912 and Wyllie is ensuring that the newly developed 13.5 inch 50 calibre guns with their longer barrels are clearly visible! Wyllie’s etching shows just how long were the new barrels and also visible are the ammunition lighters alongside amidships, the grabs on the derricks hoisting in the ship’s first outfit of cordite and shells.

Captain Arthur Craig had joined the ship and assumed command on 22nd November 1911 and after her trials and acceptance she remained at Portsmouth over Christmas that year, her commissioning ceremony being held there on 2nd January 1912. Five days later she was savaged by HMS REVENGE when the latter parted her cable in a gale and was blown across ORION’s bows. By 14th January, however, she was ready to sail for the dockyard at Portland and the following day, in company with ACHILLES, WARRIOR, HERCULES, BRITANNIA, DOMINION, AGAMEMNON, LORD NELSON and COLOSSUS, she left Portland and headed south for the Bay of Biscay and the Home Fleet’s traditional January exercise area, Arosa Bay off north west Spain. After this initial baptism of fire ORION, together with the other ships, departed from Villagarcia on 1st February arriving at Portland on 5th February. Shortly after that she hoisted the flag of Rear Admiral Herbert King-Hall CVO, DSO, Rear Admiral 2nd Battle Squadron. She was present at the battle of Jutland on 31st May 1916 and she was finally sold out of service in December 1922 for scrapping: a short but busy life.