War at Sea

  • 1st December 2011 − 14th October 2012 | Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The South and East Coast Ports

Between March and May 1918 Lavery made several journeys to naval ports on the south and east coasts of England. Southampton received and despatched vast numbers of American, British and colonial troops for the Western Front, India and other theatres of war. Dover, which before 1914 had been trying to re-invent itself as a fashionable destination for cruise liners, was soon jam-packed with the huge fleet of warships and auxiliaries comprising the Dover Patrol. Outside the main naval harbour, the Admiralty Pier received a constant stream of ferries bringing back the wounded from France. From Dover they were taken by train to hospitals in London.

While in Kent, Lavery visited the temporary port at Richborough, on the north bank of the Stour Estuary. It had been built in little over a year, opening in 1916. As well as the port with its railway, cranes and gantries, there was a large encampment to house the Royal Engineers and workshops for building barges and train ferries. In 1919 cars, lorries and buses were shipped back on these, the first roll-on, roll-off ferries. Harwich, north of the Thames, was an important Destroyer base and the port where the German submarine fleet surrendered in 1918.

Next: Aftermath: France 1919