The King's Ships were at Sea

W L Wyllie (1851-1931). Etching signed in original hand.

Outriders of the Grand Fleet at Sea

4 1/4 x 14 1/4 ins (10.8 x 36.2 cms) approx

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We all know that W L Wyllie produced many hundreds of beautiful etchings: this, one of his smallest, has to be one of his most delicate.

Almost certainly off the Orkneys and with Scapa Flow perhaps in the background, it shows a mixed bag of capital ships with screening destroyer escorts - all are clearly in a hurry as piled up bow waves and rolls of funnel smoke testify.  Over on the left is an Iron Duke class battleship, almost certainly IRON DUKE herself, as an admiral's flag is visible (on magnification) atop the mainmast. In the foreground, a Queen Elizabeth with A turret trained to port; and astern of her, though striking out to port it seems, is what looks like another of the class.  And over on her port beam, a third battleship, whilst there are glimpses of further ships with their accompanying trails of smoke on the far horizon: three funnels on the leading ship suggests, perhaps, a light cruiser screen.  Something's up and Admiral Sir John Jellicoe is taking the King's ships to sea....  

There is a delicious lightness of touch in this etching and somehow Wyllie has managed to include a wealth of fine detail in the sea and the ships without over-burdening the result.