Completed British 20th C, except portraits, Maritime Subjects, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 23 Is the aircraft carrier in the background at far right HMS ‘Vindex’?

Topic: Other

I have been researching my father's war service. One of the ships on which he sailed was the auxiliary aircraft carrier HMS ‘Vindex’. During part of that research I read ‘Escort Carrier’ by Chris Pooley, which describes an incident during which the ‘Vindex’ slipped its anchor and rammed the ‘Queen Mary’ in the Clyde Estuary just after returning from the USA with Churchill on board.

I noticed in the background at the far right of the picture an escort carrier which may have been HMS ‘Vindex’. Can anyone confirm that the carrier portrayed is indeed the ‘Vindex’?

Phillip Green, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. It was not possible to confirm that the aircraft carrier in the far right is the ‘Vindex’. However, the previously empty description now notes that the twin-funnelled ship in the foreground appears to be a Clyde ferry in wartime grey paint and the aircraft carrier in question is painted in dazzle-camouflage, which was invented and developed by Norman Wilkinson during the First World War.

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


Rick Smallman,

If the three stacker is Queen Mary, then it is the right place. I quote: After the last Russian Convoy of World War 2 we reached Scapa Flo on VE Day, so we took on more fuel and went straight down to our anchorage at Greenoch — next to the QUEEN MARY. Regards

Louis Musgrove,

Not HMS Vindex- the superstructure above the flight deck is wrong.Although the image is small and impressionistic Norman Wilkinson really knew his stuff WWII ship wise - so if it is a R.N. escort carrier my guess is that it looks very like a Bogue class carrier- we had 34 of them.

Jacinto Regalado,

That last attempt worked, and it shows the Vindex in 1945.

Louis Musgrove,

Rick Smallman's quote is from the BBC peoples war archive,,,,
If this is supposed to be the Clyde on VE day then Norman Wilkinson has got the relative size of the superstructure wrong- as you can see from Jacinto's eventual successful posting ,Vindex's superstructure above the flight deck was quite small.
Here is a page on Vindex with another photo showing the small superstructure.

The NMM warship-identification specialist says that it would be useful to see a blow-up of the carrier in the painting and others comparable of Vindex than immediately obvious on the internet. He says Wilkinson is usually accurate enough to be clear what is intended, agrees the superstructure looks too big and has never seen any photographs of Vindex with the camouflage scheme Wilkinson shows. The twin funnel vessel in the foreground seems to be a Clyde ferry but not one he (or I ) can identify.

Louis Musgrove,

Peter-- the vessel in the foreground has loads of soldiers on deck-another similar vessel is going alongside the Queen Mary.Obviously painting depicts unloading of probably american soldiers from the QM..

Thanks: hadn't spotted that. My colleague corrects me in saying it's a ferry though not necessarily one built to work on the Clyde, but perhaps there for war reasons. If the collection record has any note on its identity perhaps they could say so (?). I assume they don't on the carrier or we might have heard by now.

Merseyside Maritime Museum,

Hi I'm Rebecca Smith, one of the curators at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Many thanks for posting the painting, one of our favourites. Thank you for the comments and information which have been interesting to read and insightful. The painting is currently on display in our Battle of Atlantic gallery, please do visit.We also have a new gallery, Life on Board, opening the end of March 2020. Thank you again.

Dylan Watson,

Hiya Phillip, I am trying to find information out about H.M.S vindex as my great grandad was the pt instructor, officer and photography for the vindex, I was just wondering if it’s alright if you could
Email me and see if you have anymore information about the vindex or anyone who has some information about it ?

My email is:

Kieran Owens,

The Birmingham Daily Post, of Saturday 6th November 1943, reported that, while President of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, Wilkinson showed a work at the Institute's exhibition at the Royal Academy titled "Queen Mary - Entering a Northern Port". As the medium in which this discussion's portrait has been painted is in doubt, could this be that 1943 painting? There are many artists (e.g. Sir Frederic William Burton) whose watercolours were painted in such a way as to appear like oils. If this is in oils, perhaps Wilkinson's Institute exhibition version was a watercolour study.

Also, the aircraft carrier on the right would appear to be painted in the sot of dazzle pattern that Wilkinson himself was credited as inventing for the camouflaging of US and UK war ships as early as 1917:

Kieran Owens,

"portrait" above should really have been "work"...

Try this book if you haven't already done so: its a principal source for the Wikipedia entry on the ship, and probably easily found second-hand.

Kenneth Poolman, 'Escort Carrier 1941–1945: HMS Vindex at War' (London: Ian Allan, 1972)

This reminds me to prompt for a hi-res detail of the ship that may be 'Vindex' in the back far right here, so we can try and wind-up on the original question asked.

Jacob Simon,

Do we assume that Pieter's request from October 2020 for a hi-res detail of the ship that may be 'Vindex' has got nowhere? Or can Art UK try Liverpool again before winding up this discussion? It'd be good to gain clarity.

Since the hi-res detail requested in 2020 of the distant aircraft-carrier at far right has not appeared, I suggest we wind this up. We have not seen sufficient evidence to identify it as the otherwise well-documented 'Vindex'. The initial expert view, from an NMM colleague, was that the superstructure looks too big and that he had never seen images of 'Vindex' in dazzle-camouflage, as shown here by Wilkinson (who was, indeed, the inventor of 'dazzle-painting' as has also been noted). He also identified the ship centre right as a Clyde ferry carrying troops, though not which one.

Art UK may like to add under 'more information'.

'The twin-funnelled ship in the foreground appears to be a Clyde ferry in wartime grey paint, with troops crowding the fore-deck. There is also an aircraft carrier in the right distance, as yet unidentified but painted in dazzle-camouflage, which was invented and developed by Norman Wilkinson during the First World War.'