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WW1 Artist, Ernest Burgess, Part 1

Posted by Sam Willis, on July 17th, 2014


The first of two sketchbooks, this is a collection of artwork by Ernest Burgess, who served as a Gunner in the Royal Navy during the First World War (1914-1918). These images depict naval vessels and action during the war, primarily in the Channel and Mediterranean theatres.

Burgess was born in London in 1888, and joined the Navy at the age of 15. At the outbreak of war in 1914 he was aboard the Hyacinth, and first saw action engaging the German light cruiser Konigsberg. A sketch of the Konigsberg is contained within.

From November 1915 to July 1917, Burgess was stationed ashore in Portsmouth. He returned to sea aboard the Attentive, participating in the Dover Patrol. Many of the images relate to this period.

The sketches enable a visual representation of naval tactics during the period. For example, figs. 4 and 11 depict the use of smokescreens to protect patrol vessels from shore batteries. Fig. 23 offers a vibrant example of ‘dazzle’ hull camouflage, intended to make a vessel’s location and course difficult to determine. Figs. 13 and 16 show airborne and seaborne forces acting in support of each other, with an air raid on Dunkirk and seaplanes in aerial combat respectively.

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