PLYMOUTH AND DRAKES ISLAND 1913 HMS CUMBERLAND
(MP207). Frank Watson Wood (1862-1953). Watercolour signed and dated 1913..
Limited Edition: 12 copies worldwide
Standard size (the size of the original): (62 x 33 cms) approx.
Price band (mounted/matted): £125 - £140. At half size: £80 - £95
There are paintings of ships and there are paintings of ships: this is one of those whose appeal is largely based on the fascinating panorama of the approaches to Plymouth that Frank Wood has portrayed and the ship also just happens to be there! Its summer 1913, some 12 months or so before the outbreak of the Great War and we are looking out eastwards from the seaward side of Mount Edgcumb with, in the right foreground, either Raverness Point or Wilderness Point: its a fine enough morning though a breeze from the south and spreading, lowering cloud possibly threatens rain later. To the left of us but out of the painting is the City of Plymouth with, on the very far left, the enormous naval base and dockyard of Devonport. Behind and beyond the small craft in the left foreground lies Western King and the Vanguard Bank and hidden behind the point, Eastern King and Mill Bay. Just left of centre is Drake’s Island and round to the right and in the background, Plymouth Sound with an armoured cruiser and other vessels.
The armoured cruiser in the foreground is HMS CUMBERLAND of the Monmouth Class, identifiable by her white funnel bands from her sisters BEDFORD, BERWICK, CORNWALL, DONEGAL, ESSEX, KENT, LANCASTER, MONMOUTH and SUFFOLK. CUMBERLAND first entered service in 1902: displacing some 9,800 tons the ships were 448 feet long and mounted 14 x 6 inch guns as a main armament. The class was designed to patrol the Empire trade routes and therefore spent many years of their lives on the RN’s many overseas stations. CUMBERLAND had re-commissioned at Devonport on 5th September 1911 under the command of Captain Aubrey Smith MVO; and in 1913, the date of this watercolour, CUMBERLAND was Britannia Royal Naval College’s cadet sea training cruiser. Amongst her trainees was Cadet HRH Prince Albert RN, King George V’s second son and later to become, of course, King George VI. The cruiser spent some of 1913 on the West Indies station (was this painting perhaps commissioned to mark the occasion of her return home?) and then it was back out to the trade routes, the West African station occupying some of her time.
Of her sisters, BEDFORD had been wrecked off the China coast three years earlier in 1910 and MONMOUTH was sunk in the action off Coronel by Graf Spee’s squadron on 1st November 1914 only to be avenged 5 weeks later by Vice Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee’s squadron which included another of the Monmouth Class, KENT. Cramming on all possible speed and throwing the wardroom furniture into the furnaces for good measure too, she managed that critical extra knot or two, caught up with the fleeing Von Spee’s NURNBERG and sank her. By comparison, CUMBERLAND had a relatively uneventful war! Following its outbreak she was swiftly involved (28th August 1914) in operations off the Cameroons, West Africa and assisted by CHALLENGER some 18 months later, she was in at the final conquest of the Cameroons in February 1916. Otherwise hers was a monotonous and unglamorous war and in 1920 she was succeeded as cadet training cruiser by the battleship HMS TEMERAIRE and paid off into the Reserve. She was towed away for breaking up in 1923.
Frank Watson Wood had a long and illustrious career as a painter of warships and naval occasions: his watercolours of these subjects span the years 1900-1947 and when he died in 1953 aged 91 he had been responsible for painting hundreds and hundreds of ships and associated naval events to say nothing of many, many paintings of his native area of Berwick-on-Tweed. He is considered very collectible these days, and the period of this painting is generally associated with his crispest and finest work.