'On the bridge'

During the Second World War, John Kingsley Cook (1911-94) served in the merchant navy as a wireless officer. He joined in 1940, and went on his first sea voyage, to the United States, in December 1940. His ship was sunk off the coast of Algeria in 1941, the survivors being taken captive and held there until liberated after the Allied landing in North Africa in 1942. He resumed service after a few months recuperating at home, and was discharged in August 1945, when he joined the staff at the Edinburgh College of Art. There, he taught engraving and graphic design and lectured on the History of Art, before being appointed Head of Design in 1960. He retired in 1971.
Throughout the war, Cook drew his experiences. He also created a number of retrospective drawings in the 1980s, when he was working on his (as yet unpublished) memoirs. 262 drawings and 2 paintings of his wartime experiences were presented by his family to the National Maritime Museum in 2012.

Cook did several trips across the Atlantic. As the convoys left American waters, the atmosphere on board ship became tenser with the threat of enemy attack. From that point, no radio contact was allowed except in fog or at certain times for broadcasts from home. The ships relied on flag signals for communication and both radio officers spent time on the bridge deciphering messages. During the strenuous hours of waiting, Cook would draw, inspired by the spectacle of the sea, or to record activities such as boat drills or flying kites to deter enemy aircraft.

Object Details

ID: ZBA5205
Collection: Fine art
Type: Watercolour
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Cook, John Kingsley
Places: London; Malta
Date made: 1941
Exhibition: War Artists at Sea
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Presented by the artist's family, 2012
Measurements: Overall: 195 mm x 143 mm

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