HMS VALIANT sails from Plymouth by moonlight

Wood, Frank Watson (1862-1953). watercolour signed and dated 1920 (LR).

HMS VALIANT sails from Plymouth by moonlight

25.5 x 74.5 cms (10 x 29 1/4 ins approx)

Price on application

This original has been sold and is no longer available.

“Just occasionally" said Archibald in his definitive book on battleships “a ship is designed and built which, taken overall, is of such an essential rightness that she must be forever remembered as the classic of her type. Such a one was QUEEN  ELIZABETH:  she  represented  the ultimate expression of the Dreadnought type, with beautiful, balanced and graceful profile, superior speed, superior armament and protection...”

As the first of the class  (VALIANT, MALAYA, WARSPITE and BARHAM all followed her into commission within 9 months) QUEEN ELIZABETH brought some novel features into the fleet when she first commissioned in Janauary 1915: the first battleship to mount 15 inch guns;  the first big ship to be oil-fired; and she was the first battleship to make more than 24 knots on sea trials. A month later VALIANT followed QE into commission and was first commanded by Captain Maurice Woolcombe. She saw action at Jutland as one of the 5th Battle Squadron under Rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas.  The ability of this class to dish out and survive punishment was vividly illustrated when they came under heavy and prolonged fire from the German High Seas Fleet.  VALIANT continued as one of the Grand Fleet's stalwarts until the end of the Great War and in early 1919 she joined the newly constituted Atlantic Fleet as part of the 1st Battle Squadron which was formed of the 5 ships of the Class. At this same time Captain Horace Longden CMG assumed command and for the next five years the Queen Elizabeths, together with the 5 battleships of the Royal Sovereign Class remained the capital ship backbone of the Atlantic Fleet. In 1924 the Queen Elzabeths went out to the Mediterranean to relieve the Iron Dukes as the 1st Battle Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet.

VALIANT is painted here by Frank Wood starting another tricky part of the exit from  the naval base of Devonport and following one of her sisters also outbound (visible just ahead of VALIANT'S bows). Drake's Island, just off the starboard quarter, can be seen over the quarter-deck and VALIANT has just completed a  hard  turn to the north east to line herself up for the centre of  Drake’s Island Narrows, a tight channel  that leads  north and east  past Plymouth Hoe  and  on towards the two exits into the broader Sound itself, the Asia and Smeaton Passes.  As is customary when HM Ships are underway after nightfall, she is wearing a 'night ensign' in the sea position; and both focsle and quarterdeck are manned and can be seen with respective Parts of Ship parties closed up. The focsle party is ready to let go an  anchor in case an emergency requires the battleship to anchor or to use the heavy anchor and some cable as a brake to take off way or swing the bows. Navigation lights are burning and a steam pinnace towing a cutter can be seen off the NW Drake’s Island buoy over to the right. Various other small craft are afloat too in this busy painting.  Its a classic Frank Wood who was at his best when painting calm seas with reflected shapes and lights like this: moonlit scenes were very much an obsession of his, it seems, at around this time, the early to mid 1920s. 

 Wood was certainly a prolific artist and is much collected today.  As often with his paintings, it seems as if this one may  have  been  specially commissioned by an officer who was serving aboard  at  the  time  or  was  painted  as  a  farewell  present  for  someone  who  was  leaving  the battleship. On the back of the original, Wood has written in pen “HMS Valiant. 10” x 29” by Frank Wood”.