This drawing is by official war artist, Anthony Gross.
In 1942 he was sent on a troop carrier, the m.v. Highland Monarch, from England to Egypt via Sierra Leone and the Indian Ocean. He made a series of drawings during the voyage, which took around eight weeks, which are a fantastic record of daily life on board the ship.
As he was charged with making an official record, presumably the hens in the foreground of the picture really were on board.
I read a fantastic account of life on a long sea journey in
From Trincomalee to Portsea: The Diary of Eliza Blunt 1818 - 1822 transcribed and explained by Mary Hope Monnery
which involved carrying an enormous quantity of livestock but that was in the nineteenth century. I'd never thought that during WW2 the ships would be carrying hens. I can't see that the eggs would have stretched very far between all those troops. Maybe just for the officers?
Is this guy frying eggs? And notice how many hammocks there are just on this one deck.
Looking at Anthony Gross' drawings I'm struck by how crowded the troop ships were. I've got some more of the drawings on my I Think I Prefer the Tinned Variety Blog and you can find them all on the Wikicommons website. I think this is a wonderful collection of drawings. The Imperial War museum has released them into the public domain and I only stumbled over them by chance one afternoon when I was googling for any new images of HMS Spurwing.
Anthony Gross (1905 - 1984) was a painter and printmaker who lived in France and England after his WW2 war service. Some of his paintings are in the Tate, or at least on their website where there is a short biography. There's a slide show of his more abstract paintings on the BBC - Your Paintings website.
I thought the drawing below really matched with what my dad wrote in his diary:
Sunday 17th October 1943
"Picked up a convoy somewhere off Ireland – 12 vessels.
As we get further into the Atlantic the ship rolls and heaves more and more.
Fried eggs at breakfast produces a queer feeling in stomach."
Wednesday 20th October 1943
"Had my first meal since Sunday and managed by dint of perseverance to keep it down. We are now somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic and the cold is intense.
This together with the remains of sea sickness makes life intolerable."
Looking at Anthony Gross' drawings has given me some real insights into my dad's experiences and I'm really pleased I found them.
You might also like
I Think I Prefer the Tinned Variety: The Diary of a Petty Officer in the Fleet Air Arm during World War II.
Available as an ebook in the Amazon Kindle Store.
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Just wanted to say a big thank you to any readers of my blog who've downloaded Cabbage and Semolina. I hope you enjoyed reading the ebook as much as I enjoyed writing it.
And a further big thank you to anyone who has posted a review for Cabbage and Semolina. I really appreciate your kind words and that you've taken the trouble to share your thoughts with other readers.
April 30th 2015