Capturing all the excitement and drama of warfare at sea in the twentieth century, this graphic painting depicts the events of 17th October 1917 which resulted in the loss of the British destroyers H.M.S. Strongbow and her consort Mary Rose. In this work, Dawson shows the opening salvoes of the action with, as yet, little hint of the tragedy to come.
The two sisterships, along with two armed trawlers, were escorting a convoy of twelve merchantmen from Norway to the Shetland Isles when, 75 miles east of Lerwick, at about 6.00am. on 17th October 1917, the lookouts on Strongbow sighted a pair of German minelaying cruisers which had broken through the Royal Navy's blockade and were now running loose in open water. The 4,385-ton enemy cruisers, another pair of sisters, Bremse and Brummer, were each armed with 4-5.9in. guns and capable of 34 knots. Despite their comparable speed, the 850-ton British destroyers were no match for their German adversaries yet neither's Captain hesitated and both turned their ships to attack immediately. Strongbow was hit before she could even get within range and, totally disabled by a shell bursting in her engineroom, had to be abandoned; she sank at 7.30am. with the loss of 47 men from her total complement of 86. Outgunned by her opponents, who could now concentrate their fire on her alone, Mary Rose was soon badly damaged as well and forced to a halt. Nevertheless, Lieutenant-Commander Fox continued to encourage his men to fight from the bridge until their ship sank beneath them with her colours still flying but with the loss of all but 5 of her crew of 88. Bremse and Brummer then sank nine of the merchant ships before returning, unchallenged, to port to await their next foray.
H.M.S. Mary Rose was one of the extensive 'M' class of destroyers ordered, in several phases, during the Great War. Constructed in numerous yards across the country, the group - including Mary Rose - was built by Swan, Hunter on the Tyne, with Mary Rose herself being launched on 8th October 1915. Strongbow, a later modification of basically the same class, was built by Yarrow's at Scotstoun and launched on 30th September 1916.