Sam J.M. Brown, War on the Waters (PBD7219)

June’s item of the month is a modern pamphlet that focuses on the First World War.

Illustrated by Sam J.M. Brown, War on the Waters (item ID 58544-2001 - PBD7219) is a portfolio of six facsimile watercolour drawings accompanied by six explanatory plates on Royal Naval vessels active during the First World War.

The series of Sam Brown’s marines paintings were published by The Liverpool Daily Post, possibly during World War I, and published a second time by the same publisher, again under the series Magic of the Mersey.

Samuel John Milton Brown was born in Wavertree, Liverpool on 13 April 1873, and educated at the Liverpool School of Art. He exhibited at the Royal Cambrian Academy of which he was nominated President in 1937.

War on the Waters was part of a considerable donation made to the National Maritime Museum by Edward Alfred Dingley in March 1937. Dingley had been member of the Society for Nautical Research (SNR) since its inception in 1910. The Society played the leading role in the founding of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich in 1934.

While the first facsimile of War on the Waters depicts the first British fleet departing from Portland for an unknown destination (29 July 1914), the second, The Heligoland Bight Affair, depicts HMS Lion, a battle cruiser of the Royal Navy, assisting the light cruiser squadron during the Battle of Heligoland Bight, North Sea (28 August 1914), the first naval battle of the First World War.

HMS Lion, lead ship of her class, (nicknamed the 'Splendid Cats'), was commissioned at Devonport in June 1912. In January 1913 Lion became flagship of the First Battle Cruiser Squadron under the command of Rear-Admiral (then Vice-Admiral) Sir David Beatty. Lion joined the Grand Fleet and stayed with it throughout World War I. During the Battle of Heligoland Bight she sank the German cruiser Ariadne first, and later, after a persistent chase, the light cruiser Cöln (Koln). Newspapers articles reporting the first success of the war can be found in The Times Digital Archives (London, England), Saturday 29 August 1914; p. 8 and p. 9; Issue 40619. The Times Digital Archive is available free of charge from the Caird Library.

Lion also took part in the Dogger Bank action of January 1915 and the Battle of Jutland, where 99 were killed and 44 wounded during the action. On both occasions, the vessel suffered serious damage and had to be towed back to port. In 1916 she became flagship of Rear-Admiral Pakenham; in 1917 she took part in the operations of the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight. In April 1919 she was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, and then placed in reserve in March 1920. Paid off onto the Disposal list on 30 March 1922, Lion was sold for scrap on 31 January 1924 for £77,000.

The other vessels depicted by Sam J. M. Brown in War on the Waters are:

  • Carmania, the British auxiliary cruiser that on 20 September 1914 sank the German Cap Trafalgar disguised as a Castle Liner;
  • MerseySevern and Humber, the three heavily-armed light draught vessels that on 19 October 1914 bombarded the German flank on the Belgian coast;
  • The German cruiser Emden that on 9 November 1914 was driven ashore and burned by HMAS Sydney of the Royal Australian Navy;
  • The Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8 December 1914

You can find out more about the Battle of Heligoland Bight in the Caird Library’s resources. The following provides detailed information on the various phases of the operation, as well as the plans of the operation itself. The item is available for consultation in the Caird Library reading room:

  • Great Britain. Admiralty. (1921). Naval staff monographs (historical): fleet issue: v3: no 6 passage of the British Expeditionary Force, August 1914; no 7 the patrol flotillas at the commencement of the war; no 11 the battle of Heligoland Bight, August 28 1914; no 8 naval operations connected with the raid on the north-east coast, December 16th 1914; no 12 the action of Dogger Bank, January 24 1915. London: Admiralty. UDC 940.454/.455.

To find out more about HMS Lion and other WWI vessels, please visit the online library catalogue of the Caird Library. The following titles can be consulted in the Caird Library’s reading room:

  • Brown, David K. (2003). The Grand Fleet: Warship Design and Development 1906–1922. London, Caxton Editions, ISBN 1840675314. UDC 623.82"1906/1922"
  • Burt, R. A. (1986). British Battleships of World War One. London, Arms & Armour. ISBN 0853687714.  UDC 623.821.2(42)"1905/1918"
  • Campbell, N. J. M. (1978). Battle Cruisers: the Design and Development of British and German Battle-Cruisers of the First World War Era. Greenwich, Conway Maritime Press, ISBN 0851771300. UDC 623.821.3"191"
  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1922, London, Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 9780851772455. UDC 623.82(100)

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