One of Dawson's WWII works as an official war artist, painted very early in WWII and published in December of 1939 in The Sphere. Even among Dawson’s many grisaille works for the magazine, this one is particularly striking. It was featured in a large spread across two pages to illustrate the strength of the British Navy against threats to convoys carrying vital cargoes of food and raw materials to support and defend the British nation.
With great calm in the convoy's unwavering course, amidst apparent disorder and chaos, the passing battleships act as guardians with their violent wake and belching smoke stacks. Filled with action, the sky is filled with the noise of battle: targets hit in water, ship and plunging aircraft.
Although most often associated with his romantic, nostalgic pictures of clipper ships, Dawson is well regarded for his important paintings of the two massive world wars: historical canvases of exceptional keenness of vision, realism and drama.
Text of the caption: THE CONVOY ANSWER TO THE U-BOAT THREAT: An Air Attack Successfully Beaten Off
Week after week, the convoys of the merchantmen have been reaching British ports without loss. A few have suffered attack from the air, as was indeed predicted before the war, but these efforts have not proved successful having been beaten off by anti-aircraft fire and by British fighting planes, as in the incident shown here by Montague Dawson. Pre-war criticism of the convoy method held that convoys would attract the enemy’s attention to a very disagreeable degree. Mr. Winston Churchill, in his account of the institution of the convoy system after the peak assault of the German submarines on our supplies in April, 1917, records this adverse opinion. But the matter had, perforce, to be put to the test, and the results proved that the convoy system did justify use, in spite of the slowness at sea, difficulties in ports, and so forth. The number of vessels sunk declined in a gratifying manner. To-day, we have had the First Sea Lord's cautious but satisfactory reports of the way in which shipping has been reaching this island.
The latest news is that faster convoys for ships at sea are to be instituted, and as more escorting vessels become available the number of convoys will be increased. This decision, which is the result of conversations between the Minister of Shipping, Sir John Gilmour, and the First Lord of the Admiralty Mr. Winston Churchill, was announced in the Prime Minister's statement to the House of Commons on the progress of the war. It is interesting, too, to learn that an increasing part in the convoy work is being taken by ships of the French Navy."
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