In 1918 Fergusson was offered a six-week commission by the Ministry of Infomation's Propaganda and Record Department and given access to Portsmouth Docks. Kirsten Simister (Living Paint: J.D. Fergusson 1874-1961, Edinburgh, 2001, p.75-6) writes, 'Fergusson arrived in Portsmouth at the end of July 1918 and in a series of letters written to Alfred Yorkney, secretary of the British War Memorials Committee, he reveals the immediate enthusiasm which he felt for the project. He produced many conté and pastel drawings, which he later transformed into a series of distinctive studio-based paintings. In them his tendencies towards a new language of simplified geometric shapes portrayed within shallow space evolved ... The solid, static shapes created by the moored warships in the docks ... were transformed into images of calm monumentality and dignity, far removed from the carnage and destruction of the war'.