THE FIRST BATTLE SQUADRON OF DREADNOUGHTS, 1910
(MP027). Alma Claude Burlton Cull (1880-1931). Oil painting signed and dated 1911 (annotated "AB Cull 11").
Limited Edition: 300
Standard size 26 x 16ins (66 x 41cms) approx.
Price band: Paper £145-180; Canvas £190-245. This picture enlarges superbly: quotes for all sizes up to 48inches (122cm) wide are available
With the commissioning of HMS St. VINCENT on 3 May 1910, the First Division, Home Fleet, was complete. Composed now of 7 dreadnoughts, this was the first such all-dreadnought squadron in the world: Cull’s painting therefore marks an important event in naval history and although three similar oil paintings by Cull are in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, this one, most unusually, has been in private ownership for at least half a century.
In the foreground, leading the dreadnoughts of the First Division, Home Fleet and flying the cross of St George of the Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet, Admiral Sir William May GCVO KCB, is the ship who gave her name to this new breed of super battleship, HMS DREADNOUGHT (Captain H W Richmond RN). Astern of her are HMS BELLEROPHON (Captain H Evan-Thomas MVO RN), HMS TEMERAIRE (Captain A L Duff RN) and HMS SUPERB (Captain F C T Tudor RN) all of the Bellerophon Class. Next, and flying the flag of Rear Admiral Home Fleet, Rear Admiral F C D Sturdee CVO CMG, is HMS ST VINCENT (Captain D R L Nicholson RN) who is leading the other two ships of the St Vincent Class, HMS VANGUARD (Captain J B Eustace RN) and HMS COLLINGWOOD (Captain W C Pakenham CB MVO RN). Out on the starboard beam of the Commander-in-Chief is the world’s first battle cruiser, then still known as an armoured cruiser, HMS INDOMITABLE (Captain C M de Bartolome RN) flying the flag of Rear Admiral Commanding First Cruiser Squadron, Rear Admiral the Hon Stanley Colville CVO CB. Back in the summer of 1908 INDOMITABLE had beaten INFLEXIBLE into commission by four months: so she and DREADNOUGHT were indeed the first of their respective types at sea anywhere in the world. Out to port of the battle Squadron and making white smoke is the 2nd Class protected cruiser HMS DIDO (Captain H G G Sanderson RN) who was attached to the First Division. This was indeed a remarkable sight and the old lugger beating down between the lines can be excused for momentarily taking his eye off his course as he apprehensively looks at the approaching wall of steel - never before had such a powerful force of ships been gathered at sea.
Alma Burlton Cull was a contemporary of WL Wyllie, athough his pictures are much rarer as a large number of them were lost in an air raid in Portsmouth in 1940. He painted many and varied subjects, mostly with a maritime flavour, exhibited at the Royal Academy and was commissioned by HM King Edward VII to execute several paintings. He is widely accepted as being a marine artist second only in his day to Wyllie.