Fought 80 miles west of Denmark on May 31, 1916, the Battle of Jutland was the largest challenge for supremacy of the seas since the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Capturing a pivotal moment of the World War I naval battle, Montague Dawson paints the German High Seas Fleet, under command of Admiral Reinhard Scheer, perform a daring and untested full speed turn in unison to escape the range of the British Grand Fleet under command of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe on the horizon.
The first salvos saw the Germans destroy five British ships of Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty’s scouting command in less than a minute, but the encounter had drawn the German Fleet in range of the Grand Fleet. To escape the trap, Scheer ordered the German column to all turn at once, rather than executing a traditional corpen, thus avoiding each having to turn in succession and face annihilation.
Both sides claimed victory, and with 250 ships combined, the British suffered 6,945 casualties and the Germans 2,921 in the 30-minute engagement. The German Fleet was forced to retreat to their base and never again engage the Royal Navy. Dawson captures the moment’s intensity, with artillery smoke and intentional smoke-screens, the exploding rounds landing amongst the warships, and the overhead perspective illuminating the enormity of the ocean and numerous ships in this conflict. An epic painting of the greatest naval battle of modern times.
A German round fired from a surfaced U-Boat strikes the starboard side of a British Victory Ship, her crew watching her fate from a lifeboat. Early in the war, the German U-Boat Fleet wrecked havoc on British shipping, attacking more than 128 American and British Liberty Ships. By 1943, American and British technological advancements, especially in the use of sonar and aviation spotters, cut into the effectiveness of the U-Boat fleet. Still, the most successful U-Boat of World War II, U-48, sunk 52 confirmed vessels in a five year period.
Dawson’s wartime paintings, often performed in the oil tonal values of grisaille to assist setting the mood and tone, reflex some of the triumphs and tragedies of specific moments and painful reality of warfare. Many of these works were for publications, and more still for direct commissions by the British Admiralty, both as a whole and as individuals.
Very few Victory Ships were recorded as attacked by U-Boats during the war. Attacks on Liberty Ships were more frequent, due to their vast numbers. Eighteen American shipyards built 2,710 cargo vessels of this class from 1941 to 1945, more than any other single class in all of maritime history. In comparison, 531 Victory ships were built and launched in 1944-1946. Slightly larger and technologically more advanced, they were faster and contributed significantly to the Allies eventual victory.