Completed British 20th C, except portraits, Maritime Subjects 66 Can anyone supply more biographical information on Charles E. Turner than appears in Archibald's 'Sea Painters'?

The Sinking of the 'Bismarck', 27 May 1941
Topic: Artist

The information is basically that Turner was born in Lancashire (just, see below), did a lot of illustrative work for the 'Illustrated London News' and, I think, 'The Sphere' during WWII and lived the later part of his life at Looe in Cornwall. The matter is partly raised to resolve what his variably given second name was, as I noted as follows in the National Maritime Museum database in March 2014 concerning this 'Bismarck' canvas (NMM BHC0679):

'Note that this is an oil version of an earlier [and clearly water-based] illustration of the same composition by Turner, used as a double-page spread in the 'Illustrated London News' of 7 June 1941. Sir Bruce Ingram of the ILN appears to have specially commissioned the repetition for the Museum. Turner's second name is variably recorded as 'Eddowes' and 'Edward': the latter is more likely since it appears in relation to probate on his will (estate of £5312) granted to his widow Rita May Turner and his solicitor on 7 July 1965 following his death, aged 81, on 14 April at Liskeard (presumably in hospital since his home address is given as Treliss, North Road, West Looe, Cornwall). It was also a Charles Edward Turner who was baptised at Manchester Cathedral on 27 October 1883, having been born on 14 September (the usual date cited for the painter) at Beswick, son of Charles Edward (occupation 'fitter') and Grace Turner. Beswick lies east of Manchester towards Bradford, so reports that Turner was born in 'Lancaster' are wrong save that Beswick is just within historic Lancashire.'

The early edition(s) of Archibald comment that he was a 'reticent' man hard to find much about, but perhaps there is something now more discoverable.

Pieter van der Merwe, Maritime Subjects, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The request for further information about the artist resulted in a biography of Charles Edward Turner being produced for Art UK.

Biographies derived from Art Detective discussions are available on request to artdetective@artuk.org

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing it for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.

65 comments

‘The Dictionary of British Artists 1880–1940’ (1976), p. 510 lists ‘Turner, Charles E., Exh. 1912–1919; Painter. Heaton Norris, Stockport, Lancs. 1912; South Reddish, nr. Manchester 1913’, exhibited Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (5), Manchester City Art Gallery (2), Royal Academy (1).

Jamie Rountree,

The only things i can add after a bit of research we did on him last year when we acquired an oil painting of a Britannia plane :

Turner was a Captain in the RAF in WW1, and then spent WW2 working as a War artist.

He was also commissioned as a designer for Churchill Cigar Boxes.

Not much i fear.

Simon Kidner,

The 1911 census shows him, aged 27, living at 8 Bournville Avenue, Heaton Norris - a suburb of Manchester. His occupation is given as "Artist (Designer, Process and Lithographer)".
His widowed mother, Grace, aged 48, is living with him as is his younger brother Arthur,18, an apprentice Lithographic Artist.

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Simon Kidner,

Note that in the 1911 census mentioned above he gives his birthplace as 'Lancs, Bradford, Manchester'. Bradford is a suburb of Manchester, and not to be confused with &c &c. -for southerners like me :-)

Cliff Thornton,

Just before the start of WW II, the Government undertook a survey of residents in England. That 1939 survey shows Charles E Turner living on his own at 3 Connaught Avenue, Chingford, Essex. His DoB is given as 14 September 1883 which confirms your other data. An interesting annotation against his entry states that he was/or became a Captain in the RAF Voluntary Reserve. All the evidence suggests that his middle name was Edwards. His parents named most of their other sons with a middle name starting with E i.e. Edwin, Ernest, and Ellis (which was also his father's middle name).
His birth was registered in the Prestwich district of Manchester. This location is interesting, as in 1881 and 1883 the family appear in the Census living in Devon!

E Jones,

He didn’t always seem to use the E. when exhibiting.
He exhibited in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1942 under the name of Charles Turner.

“The Vinegar Johnnie”
Convoy Signal V.J: (Close up and keep Station)

His address in 1942 was recorded as - Treliss Cottage, Looe, Cornwall


There’s also quite a collection in the ‘Imperial War Museum’ as Charles E. Turner
https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/search?filters[makerString][Turner, Charles E]=on

Tony Tibbles,

He married Rita M Offlow in Epping, Essex, in the Oct-Dec quarter of 1939.

Kieran Owens,

In the Royal Navy Register of Seamen's Service, the record for Charles Edward (sic) Turner states that he was born at Beswick, Manchester, on the 14th September 1883, and the he served on the "President II" (Chingford) from the 1st May 1916 until the 5th June 1917. His height was given as 5' 9.5" and his occupation was given as a "Cholographer".

The 1936 Register lists Charles E. Turner as living at 3, Connaught Avenue, Chingford, again with the birth date of the 14th September 1883. He was listed as "Divorced". His occupation is given as "Artist, Illustrator, painter" and he is noted to be an R.A.F. Volunteer (?) Reserve Captain.

In December 1939, Charles E. Turner married Rita May Offlow in the Epping district of Essex.

Rita May Offlow was the daughter of Thomas Offlow, a wholesale stationer, and his wife May. She was born in Hackney, London, on the 26th October 1899, where she was registered as a voter until at least 1936. According to the 1939 Register, the family were living at Looe, in Cornwall, to where Charles must have moved after their marriage.

In August 1940, the three-bedroom Treliss Cottage was one of the Freehold sale lots, with Vacant Possession, of the estate of Isabel Mary Ingleby, deceased. It can presumed that Charles and Rita May bought it.

On the 13th December 1949, on the "Bjorn Clausen" of the Yeoward Line, Captain Charles Turner, aged 66, artist, and his wife Rita May, aged 50, both of Treliss Cottage, Looe, Cornwall, departed Liverpool on a 1st class round trip voyage to Las Palmas and Santa Cruz, Teneriffe, via Greenore.

In January 1952, Charles Edward (sic) and Rita May, of the same Cornwall address, sailed from Lisbon to London on the Royal Mail Lines "Highland Princess".

On the 6th January 1955, Charles Edward (sic) Turner, artist, born 14th September 1883, and his wife Rita May, housewife, born 29th December 1899 (sic), of the same Cornwall address as above, arrived at Plymouth from Teneriffe on board the "Venus", of the Bergen Steamship Company.

Rita May Turner, died at Treliss Cottage on the 27th May 1978. At grant of probate, her estate was valued at £33,363.

A photograph, captioned "Charles Edward (sic) Turner", from the Mary Evans Picture Library, can be seen here:

https://www.agefotostock.com/age/en/Stock-Images/Rights-Managed/MEV-10981390

Since 1973, Treliss Cottage has been a Grade II Listed Building (see attached photo):

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1282827

On no record from various genealogical websites is Charles E. Turner's middle name given as Eddowes. In all cases where it is shown, it is given as Edward.

Cliff Thornton,

Apologies for some errors in my previous post. I took some information from a Turner family tree posted on Ancestry. Please ignore my comments about his family being in Devon in 1881 and 1891. My comments about his siblings having middle names are also no longer valid.

Kieran Owens,

Wow, that was some response. My apologies Pieter, for any repetition of facts as the previous posts were sent while I was composing mine.

Attached is the pic of Treliss Cottage.

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Thanks all: still a bit of sorting out to do but a definite advance, which we can keep open for a while to see if anything else comes out of the woodwork!

Kieran Owens,

As it appears, Turner was sending work to the Illustrated London News until 1961. Rather strangely, for all of those many contributions over so many years, no obituary appeared in that paper after Turner died on the 14th April 1965.

In 1978, the ILN presented the Imperial War Museum with 3,000 archival drawings of the Second World War, many of which were be Charles Edward Turner.

Simon Kidner,

@Tim Williams: I think that you have indeed repeated the error.

Simon Kidner,

@Tim Williams - my comment above reads much more harshly than intended. The entire artworld, almost without exception, has done the same :-) Indeed, the use of 'Eddowes' is so widespread that I wonder if Charles Turner himself didn't invent it to add interest to his 'back story'.
His father, also Charles Edward, had been a fitter; his grandfather, Ralph, a greengrocer and fish dealer (1871).

Kieran Owens,

By using the name Eddowes, it might be that someone in the past wished to associate Charles Edward Turner with the animal portrait painter William Eddowes Turner (1836 - 1st December 1904), of Snenton/Sneinton, Nottinghamshire. Of the latter, who was the son of the Nottingham lace manufacturer and sometime painter George Johnson Turner (1804 - 1838), the Nottingham Evening Post carried the following "In Memoriam" notice:

"TURNER.—In loving memory of William Eddowes Turner, artist, died December Ist, 1904. Gone, but not forgotten. — Herbert and Emily."

More can be read about him here:

https://suffolkartists.co.uk/index.cgi?choice=painter&pid=4149

Thomas Murrell,

Hi ,,, can anyone recognise the location, event and year (approx) of this Turner painting.
Oil on canvas 46x61cm
Would anyone know or suggest a title for the painting?
I am the owner of it based in Perth Australia. I inherited the painting.

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Thomas Murrell,

Thank you Jacinto. Would they use these races as naval training? If yes would he have painted this as a war artist during 1939-45? Looks like some of the sailors have a khaki uniform on?

Jacinto Regalado,

That much I would not know, Thomas. I expect you can find out more by searching online.

'Rounding the mark' is certainly what is shown in your painting, so the title would fit, so if the size does it may be the same one even if you don't have exact recent provenance. It looks like normal post-war'class' dinghy-racing', nothing to do with naval training.

I have to admit to some confusion about Turner's service record as supplied above: it looks as though he joined the Naval shore establishment 'President II' -then at Chingford - as an RNVR rating from 1 May 1916, was put in charge of its Photo Section as a commissioned Flight Lieutenant RNVR( i.e. presumably RNAS) in June 1917 and moved with it to Calshot (where 'President II' seems to have shifted) in August that year and was bumped up to 'Captain (Tech)' in April 1918. I can't see how that translates in a post-WWI reference to 'RAF Reserve' rather than RNVR since the RAF doesn't have captains as far as I know, and quite what 'Acting Flight Lt. 5.18 RNVR (Photo Off)' means is also a puzzle given it post-dates the 1917 ref. to him already being a Flight Lieutenant. He was certainly an 'artist of war' 1939-45, but not as far as I can see an official War Artist', though if wrong I beg correction

If someone could list -if short- his full post 1940 RA or (other obvious) exhibiting record that would help.

Kieran Owens,

Pieter, attached is the 1939 Register extract with the reference to Turner's being an RAF Reserve Captain.

Also, via the RA's Chronicle 250 online list of exhibitors, there are only two entries for him, the first recorded in the 1919 exhibition as"

"177. The Channel Patrol: F2A Flying Boat "taking off"...Captain C. E. Turner".

His address is given as "Gorton Villa, South Reddish, near Manchester".

The second entry is from the 1942 exhibition, and is listed as:

"246. 'The Vinegar Johnnie': Convoy Signal V.J: (Close up and keep Station)....Charles Turner".

His address is recorded as "Treliss Cottage, Looe, Cornwall".

There are not other post-1940 RA entries for any of his work.

Osmund Bullock,

Pieter and Simon, the officer ranks of the Royal Air Force as we know them were not introduced until August/Sept 1919. For the short period between the RAF's creation on 1st April 1918 and then, army ranks were used (as they had in essence been in the RFC).

This is doubly confusing, because the RNAS had already been using their own set of ranks (or more correctly appointments - officers also held ordinary naval ranks), which quite closely resembled (and greatly influenced) the ranks adopted by the RAF in 1919. For pilots this was Flight Sub-lieutenant, Flight Lieutenant, Flight Commander, Squadron Commander (two grades according to service length), Wing Commander and Wing Captain. For observers the word 'Observer' replaced 'Flight' in the bottom two, and 'Commander' in the next three - there were no observers of the top rank.

Osmund Bullock,

Part of the confusion about Turner's first appointment as an officer, effective 6.6.17 [on service record page 3], is due to a misreading This does not, I think, read 'F Lt: RNVR', but 'S Lt: RNVR'. Sub-Lieutenant was his substantive rank in the RNVR - had he been a pilot he would have held it alongside an 'appointment rank' in the RNAS of Flight Sub-lieutenant. But as he was neither a pilot nor an observer, his attachment to the RNAS seems not to have attracted a different appt rank; technically he was just a Sub-Lt in the RNVR, attached to the RNAS.

Osmund Bullock,

The full ins and outs of the ranks and dates apparently in April/May 1918 [s/record page 1] are more confusing. '1.4.18' was the date of the RAF's formation, at which point he seems to have been promoted Captain (Tech, i.e. Technical Branch) in the new service - this is and was equivalent to Lieutenant in the navy, and the 'Lt. / RNVR (photo off)' must refer to that (there is no separate date given). This must be his rank in both services, immediately before and after the RAF's formation. Had he stayed in the RAF until the new rank system was introduced later in 1919 he would have become a Flight Lieutenant (and that had also been the 'appointment rank' for a pilot of naval Lt rank in the RNAS).

What the 'A F.L.' and '5-18' signify is less clear: a date of May 1918 seems very likely...but I am not convinced that the other part stands for Acting Flight Lt. And if the date is indeed May 1918 then it cannot be. More thought and research required.

Osmund Bullock,

Bingo. 'AFL' stands for Air Force List - it is the reference/date for where the other information was published (in lieu of an announcement in the London Gazette). We need to check the Air Force List for May 1918 - happy for someone else to do it, if not I will later tomorrow.

Louis Musgrove,

Bit curious about the minutiae of the service record.Looking at this picture-A very important moment in the war after the disaster of HMS Hood. The fact that Turners illustration was chosen for the cover speaks volumes for his work at this moment in time!

Thanks Simon,Kieran and Osmund: that all disentangles things. Louis: to best recollection (and without checking, though it was some time ago), the ILN illustration (7.6.41) of 'Bismarck 'was an internal double-page-spread: if on the cover too I didn't spot it.

Louis Musgrove,

Yes - my mistake- front cover just has advertising on it. The double page illustration is in June 07th 1941 issue- pages18/19. Funny thing- in the May 30th 1941 issue there is another illustration of the Bismark on the bottom half of page 13. I think I have managed to grab it.Wonder who drew it?

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Not technically as good as Turner I think. There is probably a big gap to be filled in knowledge of 'illustrator/artists' of the early to mid 20th century doing this class of work. You don't have to scan manny pages of the ILN, The Graphic, The Sphere, or others to realise there were many very competent practitioners whose names are now -like Turner - rather forgotten compared to those like Wyllie, Wikinson, Dawson etc.

The attached is what I now make of Turner from the above, subject to any correction. The service record remains a little enigmatic,the implication being it is only as an officer, sine Kieran (at 3.2.2020 above) cites the Royal Navy Register of Seamen's Service, showing he was an RNAS 'Cholographer' (whatever that was - 'cholography' seems to exist, but web search turns both into 'choreographer/-phy')
from 1 May 1916 to 5 June 1917, before becoming a sub-lieutenant RNVR.

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Kieran Owens,

Pieter, as for the definition of Cholography, one meaning ascribed to it describes it a very early form of x-ray examination in the medical world and can usually be found accompanied by reports of cholecystography, the latter being "a radiological procedure used to visualize the gallbladder and biliary channels, developed in 1924 by American surgeons Evarts Ambrose Graham and Warren Henry Cole." It also seems to have a connection to "angiocholography". In the early 1900s, developments in this area of research were ongoing, especially under the guidance of Major Dr. John Hall-Edwards:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hall-Edwards

It could, of course, have another meaning more easily understood in the period of 1916.

As for his service record, attached is the relevant extract from the Royal Navy Register of Seamen's Service. In 1916 he was 33 years of age.



Osmund Bullock,

It's an (understandable) misreading. The RN Register of Seamen's Service says he was a photographer, not a 'cholographer'. See original attached.

A cholographer (if one existed) would be, extending the OED's definition of 'cholography', a person who writes a treatise on bile!

I've more precise detail on his career from various sources, including the London Gazette & the Air Force List, and there's another misreading of his RAF record to point out. No time to pull it together now, but will do so later tonight or on Saturday.

Osmund Bullock,

Sorry, dual posting of register page in overlapping posts - Marion, you can edit my post accordingly if you like.

Thank you Osmund: much clearer - obviously called up as a photographer rated 'Petty Officer (Mechanic)' RNVR, assessed as of 'very good' character and 'excellent' ability in December, so went on to 'temporary lieutenant' in June 1917 in charge of the RNAS photo section of 'President II' from then on even if not originally in it -though quite probably was from the beginning. Will wait for any additions over w/e before wrapping up.

E Jones,

Just one more small point...
Charles E. Turner was a skilled craftsman and had worked within the genre of ‘Letterpress Printing’ in his formative years. During this period he was also a member of ‘The Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers, Engravers and Process-Workers’ for sixteen years until he resigned in 1921. His profession is also described here as a ‘Process Artist’

The details found in the register of the union are as follows:

Register of Members

Register no. - 3000
Surname - Turner
Christian Name - Charles Edward
Date of Birth - 1883
Date of Admission - 3/4/1905
Profession - Process Artist
Branch - Manchester
Remarks - Resigned 1921

As we now have a clearer understanding of his military history, I’d like to think that the painting published in the ‘Sphere’ in March of 1917 entitled ‘With the R.N.A.S’ could be much more of a biographical image.

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Louis Musgrove,

Found this online about HMS President,which for biographic purposes means it is almost useless :-(

HMS PRESIDENT is/was the London Accounting Base for numerous naval ships and establishments that were not self-accounting. The sub-divisions I, II, II etc were merely a means of dividing up the various 'customers'. The same principles apply to HMS VICTORY I, II, II etc, except that Victory was the Portsmouth Accounting Base. Both these two (and others) are/were shore-based offices.

Kieran Owens,

Mae maxima culpa! Photographer!!! It is so obvious now, Osmund. Blushes will subside by the morning.

That Union membership record suggests Turner probably did an apprenticeship as a lithographer, perhaps from the age of 15 or 16 (c. 1898), depending on its length though he was working for Taylor, Garret and Evans from 1904. Very neatly found.

Is the 1917 RNAS seaplane image by him? I can't see an artist name or signature.

E Jones,

Yes, the image Is by Charles E. Turner.
In my wisdom, I had managed to crop the name straight off.
It does feel that he was painting what he knew though, and knew well.

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Thanks for confirming: interesting he was working for the illustrated magazines so early, and while called up. One could clearly clearly chase the span of that further, though for present purposes I won't.

If anyone has ready sources for the titles of works he showed at the Walker, L'pool, and Manchester AG from 1912 (see Marion's note at top) that might confirm the general nature of his pre-WWI/WWII subjects: he was also called a 'landscape' painter, but we've so far seen none other than a late view of dinghy racing off Looe.

Thanks for taking the trouble to do that list Kieran: looks like he rapidly became a reliable 'old pro' in the illustrative line, able to turn his hand to anything. Good to see that his dramatic RA picture of 1919 is included, which therefore seems to be the one now called 'Channel Patrol' in the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovil:

https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/channel-patrol-40707/view_as/grid/search/makers:charles-e-turner-18831965/page/1

Wearing another hat, I'm also interested to see the various images of theatrical performances, since I suspect these (by him and perhaps others) are probably a rather under-recognized as useful reference sources.

Kieran Owens,

Pieter, as a point of interest, there were no references that I could find in the newspapers to any of his submissions to the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (5), Manchester City Art Gallery (2), as per Marion's list.

It does seem that in the inter-war years he was commissioned to supply works of cultural rather than military significance. Throughout the late 1920s and the early 1930s he supplied many illustrations of Royal Tournaments, scenes in South Africa, sailing (particularly from Cowes) and images of Royal children. By 1938, however, he returns almost exclusively to images of war preparations and throughout the period of WWII he illustrates battles and air raids etc.

Regarding the "Channel Patrol", I will post a suggestion on the Fleet Air Arm record that the name might be changed to that of its RA submission.

Osmund Bullock,

Johnson & Greutzner (1976) only mentions Manchester [City] Art Gallery as a venue covered. It’s confusing, though, as at least some of MAFA’s shows seem to have been held in the same building.

Re C E Turner’s exhibiting elsewhere, he in fact showed another work at the Royal Academy shortly after WWI; but it was part of an exhibition by the IWM of ‘The Nation’s War Paintings’ held at Burlington House Dec 1919-Jan 1920: ‘The Attack – Handley Page Bombers attacking Zeebrugge’, a watercolour, was or afterwards became part of the IWM’s permanent collection. See attached and https://bit.ly/2SdvCod.

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Osmund Bullock,

I should have looked at the introduction to the exhibition (attached), which makes clear that Turner's work, along with 924 other paintings and 18 'models' (?sculpture), were already held by the nation - either by the IWM or the Ministry of Information. The full catalogue is here: https://bit.ly/2vmVRiQ

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Osmund Bullock,

The London Gazette recorded his naval commission as temporary Sub-Lieut RNVR 6/6/1917 (as per his RAF service record), but also a promotion to temp. Lieut RNVR effective 7/10/1917; there is no mention of any specific appointment or attachment in either announcement. His commission in the newly-formed RAF does not seem to have been gazetted, but under a sub-heading of ‘Technical Branch’, his transfer to the unemployed list on 17/5/1919 is noted.

The RAF List was apparently not published until Feb 1919 (the May 1918 one referred to on p.1 of his RAF service record must have been for internal use only); but in the first published one he is in the list of ‘Technical Officers – Captains’ with the 1/1/1918 date of the rank.

Louis Musgrove,

Looking at "Channel Patrol". As you can see a second sea plane to the right and a building through the spray in the background this plane must be just emerging from RNAS Felixstowe- which was on the north side of the Languard peninsular (where the big ships now dock :-) ) ,so actually the Orwell Estuary. Funny thing- the vessel on the left may be HMS Vindex- the lunp to the rear may be the seaplane hangar.The WWI Vindex ,formerly SS Viking of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. was based at RNAS Felixstowe during the war.

That's all useful and I think we can probably start to wrap this one up: other bits an pieces will no doubt emerge, but from practically nothing we now have rather more than probably necessary.
Second draft attached and subject to any other tweaks I'll recommend closure in the next day or so.

I hope FAAM Yeovilton note the details immediately above (Louis) if they don't already have them.

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Simon Kidner,

One very minor point: "..Beswick, between Manchester and Bradford.." Bradford in this context is a suburb of Manchester, and is now, amongst other things, the site of Manchester City's Etihad Stadium. The 'other' Bradford is 40 miles away!

I stand corrected, not least since I spent four student years in Manchester , mostly before £-s-d went decimal and don't remember even hearing of the Beswick or Bradford areas, let alone ever being in them, though occasionally in 't other more distant latter!

I recommend this discussion now concludes: final amended draft on Turner attached. One or two extra points from Osmund and from information kindly supplied by the Mary Evans Picture Library have been added in -including the source of the portrait photo of Turner that Kieran found with them on 3 February, as above.

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