Friday, 10 January 2020

Raymond Sheppard and the Q-Ships

Some of the Sheppard artwork on sale

This is just a quick note to say that Paul Liss has another sale of original Raymond Sheppard artwork. Here's the link to his website so you can also sign up for a newsletter - then you don't need me to tell you it's on! 19 of the 27 Sheppards that are for sale are reduced in price.

And my favourite, if anyone wants to buy me a late Christmas present, is the group of 6 pen and ink drawings from a story in Lilliput magazine. Allow me to tell you more...

Cover of Lilliput September 1957
The September 1957 issue of Lilliput has the 'reconstructed' story by John Prebble called "Q-ships were expendable".  In the First World War the Atlantic passage via southern Ireland was a dangerous one for British vessels as German U-Boats lay mines and attacked all shipping. The problem was depth charges were crude at this time and the only chance of stopping a U-Boat was to ram it or fire at it when surfaced. Wikipedia explains:

The problem was how to lure the U-boat to the surface. A solution to this was the creation of the Q-ship, one of the most closely guarded secrets of the war. Their codename referred to the vessels' home port, Queenstown, in Ireland.These became known by the Germans as a U-Boot-Falle ("U-boat trap"). A Q-ship would appear to be an easy target, but in fact carried hidden armaments. A typical Q-ship might resemble a tramp steamer sailing alone in an area where a U-boat was reported to be operating. By seeming to be a suitable target for the U-boat's deck gun, a Q-ship might encourage the U-boat captain to make a surface attack rather than use one of his limited number of torpedoes. The Q-ships' cargoes were light wood (balsa or cork) or wooden casks, so that even if torpedoed they would remain afloat, encouraging the U-boat to surface to sink them with a deck gun. There might also be pretence of "abandoning ship" with some crew dressed as civilian mariners taking to a boat. Once the U-boat was vulnerable, the Q-ship's panels would drop to reveal the deck guns, which would immediately open fire.
Lilliput Sept 1957, p.20
 Prebble's story concentrates on the name most associated with Q-Ships - Gordon Campbell who was awarded a Victoria Cross for his bravery. As he admitted himself Campbell's decoy ships were not his idea but as old as the Navy. But Campbell was the one who added theatrical trimmings to the 'panic party' that evacuated the smitten ship

The 'panic party' p.22 - Original art
 He insisted a stuffed parrot in a cage was carried by one member of the crew and that one dressed as a woman. He also had people squabbling as they left the ship in order to delay the evacuation and exasperate the U-Boat captain into moving closer and surfacing, only to be surprised by guns firing at his boat!

p.24 - Original art

Gun crew laying motionless p. 25 - Original art

Periscope up p. 26 - Original art
 On the original art, with 6 illustrations on one board, one can see that instructions were given to the art department to shrink these to one and 3/8 inches and to illustrate what that looked like here's the final page - on which an advert appears which takes up half a page!

Lilliput Sept 1957 p. 28 as published

Crew of the U-Boat trying to escape from the flooded vessel
p.28 - Original art
Christine Sheppard shared the board below which has the other two illustrations that were published in Lilliput at 3 and 1/4 inches.

p.23 shows the Q-Ship being hit
p.27 shows the conning tower being fired on
Lastly, the reason I like the 6 image board is because there's one image that was not published

Unpublished - Firing at the U-Boat - Original art
Gordon Campbell wrote a book which was reprinted many times called "My Mystery Ships" and is easy to find on Abebooks

Many thanks to Paul Liss for his kindness in allowing me to use the original art images and of course Christine Sheppard.

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