The combined talents of Messrs. Peter Fleming and Charles Dragonette made for an extremely informative
and polished afternoon’s entertainment last October 27th.
Mr. Fleming, who spoke first, had previously shown us the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of his
exquisite collection, made up of postcards reproduced exclusively from paintings rather than photographs. Now he shared some more evocative images of the same ilk.
Among them, a remarkable selection of images of Messageries Maritimes vessels, all of them
torpedoed in the Mediterranean, including the hospital ship Portugal (top right). The lecturer pointed out not only how many of the company’s liners were wartime casualties but also how few were dazzle-painted.
Many of the ensuing slides concerned submarines. In fact, German postcard artist Klaus Bergen
was actually dispatched to sea aboard U-boats with an eye to faithfully capturing the trials of warfare at sea. The representations of a German commander’s life at sea were riveting, beautifully painted with glistening decks and, quite terrifying, the size of mid-ocean waves seen from the incredibly low vantage point of a submarine’s bridge.
One of the self-confessed mysteries of Peter Fleming’s collection was a Schulze portrait of what
Fleming thinks to be a Canadian Pacific Empress, reproduced at the top of the page opposite, with U-21
nearby, as though posing at a naval review! She is vulnerably on the surface in plain sight, too close to be in ambush and one wonders at the rationale behind the artist’s mis-en-scene. Might it be a British submarine?
Close examination of the flag above the conning tower seems possibly a Royal Naval ensign but the German ensign on that small a scale would have been very similar. A mystery indeed...