Battle of Jutland veteran: HMS LION of the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow, December 1918

Frank Watson Wood (1862-1953). Original watercolour signed and dated 1920 with artist's pencilled comments, verso.

HMS LION at Scapa December 1918

original: 29 x 10 ins (73.66 x 25.5 cms) approx

Price on application

This original has been sold and is no longer available.

Prints of this may be available on: Maritime Prints.

This famous battle cruiser pictured on “ a December afternoon at Scapa  with island of Hoy and German Battle Cruisers in distance” (Wood’s pencilled words, verso) needs little introduction to followers of the Grand Fleet and the First World War.  Joining the fleet in early 1912 HMS LION  was quickly seized as his flagship by the young Rear Admiral David Beatty when in the autumn of 1912, on leaving the First Lord of the Admiralty’s Office as Winston Churchill’s Naval Secretary, he was given the First Battle Cruiser Squadron.  LION was to remain his flagship through good times and bad until Beatty was appointed to succeed Admiral Jellicoe as Commander-in-Chief Grand Fleet in November 1916.

When LION was first completed her foremast was inexplicably stepped aft of the forrard funnel despite this being a well documented shortcoming that had affected many of her predecessor dreadnoughts because it smoked out the foretop. The compass platform was not immune from this problem either and in an attempt to rectify this irritant LION returned to the dockyard where at some expense the foremast was moved ahead of the funnel which in turn was lengthened: better for the foretop but not much change for the compass platform!  And so this smoking problem remained  throughout her many actions and skirmishes of the war and it wasn’t until 1918 that time was found to fit a clinker screen and cowl onto the forrard funnel in an attempt to deflect aft the ever tiresome funnel gases.  Other wartime modifications and improvements to her original layout are apparent here too in this watercolour dated by Frank Wood 1920, but the funnel clinker screen and cowl – not fitted to her sister ships - is the most obvious, together with the spotter planes atop Q and X turrets.  Although she lies here at anchor wearing a vice admiral’s flag at the fore, Beatty, of course, had long since departed to HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and  we are now looking at the flagship of the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron (Vice Admiral Sir William Pakenham KCVO), with Captain  Arthur Davies CB RN in command and as Flag Captain.   

This was to be the battle cruiser’s swan song appearance: the Washington Naval Treaty required massive cuts to the Royal Navy’s capital ship tonnage and with manning problems too affecting the navy as de-mobilisation accelerated,  LION went into Reserve in March 1920, was decommissioned a year or so afterwards and was towed to the breakers in 1924 at Jarrow.  She was barely a decade old.