Destroyer ramming U-Boat WW1

W L Wyllie (1851-1931). oil on canvas, signed lower right. Framed in the original magnificent gold leafed frame..

Destroyer ramming U-Boat WW1

37 x 73.5 cms (14 1/2 x 30 ins). Overall frame size 63 x 99.25 cms (24 3/4 x 39 ins)

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After some detailed research  it would appear that this scene almost certainly depicts the celebrated occasion when on 8th February 1917 the British L Class destroyer, HMS LIBERTY (Lieutenant Commander PWS King) caught the German minelaying submarine UC 46 (Oberleutnant zur See Friedrich Moecke, Iron Cross 2nd) on the surface as the latter attempted to avoid the Dover Barrage which had been set up off the Goodwin Sands for just this very purpose: to further restrict submarines attempting to transit the English Channel. The ram was successful and the submarine's final resting place was  re-established by the UK Hydrographic Office in 2009 as on the south east corner of the Sands, mid-Channel between Dover and Calais.  There were no survivors from this boat who in her 4 wartime patrols (she had only first commisioned in September 1916) was credited with 10 sinkings, either by torpedoing or by the mines she is reported to have laid.  Lt Cdr King was appointed DSO for this sinking. 

A magnificent Wyllie which, whilst full of detail (those on the upper deck and bridge of LIBERTY can quite clearly be seen to be wearing duffel coats as befits a cold February day) avoids being over worked yet at the same time manages to show something of the lowering sky, the bow wave and wash of the speeding destroyer and the persicope of UC 46 as, now horribly aware of her likely fate, she desperately attempts to out-manoueuvre her persecutor. Wyllie shows it all: smoke belching from Liberty's funnels, tatty war-worn white ensign and commissioning pennant at the fore streaming in the wind, bows up, stern tucked down and wash rolling out as the captain rings on for maximum revolutions to give him that little bit of extra speed....