I have finished the last flag in The Signalman series (you can read about the other two flags and a bit of background to the work here and here). This last flag is made in response to events that took place during the 3rd night action of the Battle of Jutland and specifically the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron engagement.
This action was devastating for the HMS Southampton as it was hit by twenty 4.1” and 5.1” shells. Three guns and two searchlights were knocked out and the ship’s radio was destroyed. Lieutenant Stephen King-Hall wrote: ‘75% of the upper deck men on Southampton had been killed or wounded. It had been a point blank engagement. Southampton was burning so badly that a friend of mine who was five miles away on one of the 5th Battle Squadron ships read a signal on the bridge by the light of our fires’.
My grandfather was very lucky to survive the action.
Flag 3: Night action
Fires started. Flames engulfed the forebridge.
Signal method: Flags
Linen, cotton duck, cotton, brass
Written by Charlie Sewell in his memoire.
‘… at 10.20pm the roar of the claxon sounded and action stations were manned again. I took my place on the upper bridge and as soon as I could accustom myself to the darkness it was clear that a line of light cruisers was just before us on the starboard beam, steering, what appeared almost a parallel course, gradually closing upon us …. finally, both seemed to challenge at the same time and immediately there were exchanges of gunfire and torpedoes, an action which historians state lasted 15 minutes, but to me five minutes….’
The ‘U’ flag – The Royal Navy Handbook of Signalling (1913)
I am having a bit of a dilemma. My original intention was to set fire the flag in order to blacken it (but obviously not to fully destroy it). Now it comes to it, I can’t decide ….. I wonder if it may seem trite rather than powerful …… what do you think?
The exhibition details are:
The Archive Project @The Cello Factory
33-34 Cornwall Rd., Waterloo, London. SE1 8TJ
Thursday 4th May – Friday 12th May 2017,
Open daily 11.00-17:30 (16:00 on last day)
MEET THE ARTISTS Saturday 6th May 11:00-17:30.