A selection of artworks from Orkney Islands Council’s wartime collections, some of which have never been shown before, will be on display at Orkney Museum from 29 February to 4 April.
The collection includes paintings, prints and photographs depicting significant moments, such as the aftermath of the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and the surrender of the German fleet in 1918, but it also provides snapshots of loved ones lost and every-day wartime activity captured by amateur artists.
Curator, Rachel Boak, explained: “The pictures on display demonstrate how artists and service personnel have responded to the terror, spectacle, politics, comradeship and loss of war. They also show the central role played by Scapa Flow and Orkney in two World Wars and the Royal Navy’s ongoing association with the islands.
“A highlight of the display is the oil painting Submarined Ship Coming into Kirkwall by Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey S. Allfree, signed and dated 1917. It shows a ship damaged in a submarine attack limping into Kirkwall harbour, barely afloat. Lt. Cmd. Allfree R.N.V.R., R.B.A. was Official Artist to The Navy from 1914-1918 when he died of wounds off the north coast of Cornwall. Most of his other known work is in the Imperial War Museum in London.”
Images of War includes pictures previously on display at the Scapa Flow Museum and Visitor Centre, Lyness, such as F.A. Bickerdike’s When they sound the last all clear: The chief P.O.s’ Bar, Hatston and HMS Royal Oak painted by H.J. Instance in 1993. Known as Joe, Instance was a Leading Seaman on board HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed on 14 October, 1939. He survived the sinking and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during his naval career. He was also Secretary of the Royal Oak Association and his ashes were laid within the wreck by a Navy diver following his death in 2001.
He was a keen artist and painted several versions of this picture for fellow survivors, including Stanley Cole, whose widow, Nancy, presented it to the Scapa Flow Museum with other items belonging to her husband.
Some pictures have never been shown before, including Search Lights (Air Raid in Scapa Flow) by local artist Sandy Wylie and an oil painting of HMS Orkney donated by local collector Roddy Hibbert.
Images of War follows other displays at Orkney Museum which have featured highlights of the Council’s wartime collection while the Scapa Flow Museum is undergoing major refurbishment. The work is being funded by Orkney Islands Council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic Environment Scotland, the Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 programme, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Museums Galleries Scotland and the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund.
It involves the restoration of historic buildings, the enhancement of interpretation and displays, and the creation of a new building housing an exhibition space, café, toilet facilities and information areas. New display cases, lighting and environmental controls will allow us to display objects which have never been on show before, including some of the works of art displayed here. Completion of the refurbishment project is expected in spring 2021.
Images of War is at Orkney Museum until 4 April, 2020 and entry is free.