The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is hosting an International Fleet Review in October to mark the centenary of the Australian fleet’s first visit to Sydney Harbour on 4 October, 1913. Being something of an armchair sailor, my thoughts turned to art of a maritime nature….
- Australian War Memorial, 1942
During the years of the Second World War, and for a number of years afterwards, the Australian War Memorial published a series of books highlighting the various branches of Australia’s armed forces, featuring the writings and art of serving personnel as well as official war artists. These volumes remain some of the best sources for the reproduction of Australian art created in the heat of conflict, and the four volumes dedicated to the RAN contain some truly striking maritime art that rarely gets reproduced elsewhere. Some of the stories can be pretty affecting as well, and all of these volumes contain hidden treasure.
English poet and editor Alan Ross wrote this very fine study of British art of the Second World War as a response to what he felt was an unjustly neglected genre of visual art in the 20th century. As a sailor who had served on destroyers during that war, including terrifying incidents on the notorious Arctic Convoys, it comes as no surprise that the chapters on naval matters are particularly striking.
It has been a few years since I visited the National Maritime Museum in Sydney, but I have fond memories of a remarkable collection ranging from bark paintings to the warship HMAS Vampire berthed alongside. The sea has always featured heavily in the life of the nation, and these are just a few of the countless stories collected by this wonderful museum on the harbour.
If (like me) you think a ship is a work of art in itself, then this extraordinary recent addition to the Library’s very strong shipping collection is a must-see item. There is something particularly moving about transitional eras when the old and the new briefly coexist (aka. Steampunk), and this profusely illustrated study of naval vessels of the Victorian era demonstrates the passing of sail and the arrival of steam through hundreds of breathtaking photos and diagrams.
A virtual family-history of Australia’s navy and its vessels from the beginning of European colonisation, this comprehensive history encapsulates the way in which an island, no matter how vast, is shaped by its surrounding sea.
The remarkable HMAS Castlemaine from the Allan C. Green Collection. One of the few Australian corvettes from World War II still afloat, and you can climb all over her at Gem Pier in Williamstown!