'Saving the Crew of "Audacious"'; as she sinks after striking a mine, 27 October 1914

Signed by the artist, lower right, this is a starboard-bow view of the battleship 'Audacious' sinking after striking a mine off Tory Island, Lough Swilly, at 08.45 on 27 October 1914. It was reproduced in colour in Wyllie's co-authored book ' More Sea Fights of the Great War' (1919), f. p. 28, with the title quoted above. The mine exploded under the port wing engine room, where there was no protective bulkhead, which led to the slow progressive flooding of the ship. By 09.45 she had a 9 degree list to port and by 10. 00 the engines had stopped. All non-essential crew were removed by 14.00. During this episode she was protected by a screen of destroyers, visible off the port bow of 'Audacious', and astern. 'Audacious' was taken in tow by RMS 'Olympic' (1911) but the attempt was short-lived. At 17.00 all but 50 men were evacuated, and the ship was finally abandoned at 18.15. After being abandoned she remained afloat for some time, eventually turning turtle at about 20.45. She lay upside down with her hull at about 45°, bow up, until a massive internal explosion took place and she finally sank. The only casualty of the day's events was a petty officer on board the light cruiser 'Liverpool', who was killed by the rain of debris that fell on that ship from the explosion.

There are two incorrect features on this drawing. Firstly, 'Audacious' is shown with her gun tompions in place, though she was out on a gunnery exercise when she hit the mine. Second, she still has her jack staff in place (at the bow) but this was removed on the outbreak of war.

The loss of 'Audacious' remained an official secret until three days after the war had ended. It is likely, therefore, that Wyllie made this watercolour at that time and probably specially for his 'More Sea Fights' book. He had made an earlier watercolour of 'Audacious' in dock (PAF1848) as a study for the leading ship in his painting 'Masters of the Seas' (BHC4167), which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1915. That drawing, and possibly a related photograph, was also the basis of this image.

Object Details

ID: PAF1831
Collection: Fine art
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Wyllie, William Lionel
Vessels: Audacious (1912)
Date made: circa 1918; 1914-18 circa 1920
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Sheet: 306 mm x 443 mm

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