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Surrender of the German Fleet

Date made: c.1919

Artist: Burgess, Arthur James Wetherall

Description: A. J. W. Burgess’s painting Surrender of the German Fleet at the end of the First World War corresponds closely to photographs and official reports of the surrender. The long line of ships, biplanes and an observation balloon add to its authenticity.

The King Orry is in her Dazzle camouflage paintwork of blues and blacks (in reality, there were also yellows and reds), designed it is said by the naval and maritime artist Norman Wilkinson and introduced by the Royal Navy in 1917. She flies three White Ensigns which form the traditional flag of the Royal Navy. Burgess’ meticulous attention to detail is illustrated by the Blue Ensign on HMS Phaeton which she was told to fly on special orders to the fleet, identifying her as a leading vessel.

Symbolically the King Orry, the only merchant ship amongst the elite vessels of the amassed British and German navies, is shown apparently leading the surrender of the German Fleet. A quiet overcoming of adversity emanates from the work as we see the ships steaming majestically through the ice cold sea. The work fitted the contemplative but proud mood of the time, becoming a popular colour postcard.

The Royal Navy escorted the German High Seas Fleet into the Firth of Forth, Scotland, on 21 November 1918. Pictured in this painting is the tail-end of the central column of ships with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company vessel, King Orry, featured in the foreground. She was given (along with four other vessels) the role of repeating ship relaying flagship communications to all other vessels. Behind the King Orry is HMS Phaeton, leading a column of seven German Light Cruisers.

The painting was commissioned soon after the War by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, proud owners of the King Orry.


Measurements: unframed artwork: 95 cm x 130 cm

Materials: Oil on canvas

Object name: painting

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: L20221


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