One of a large collection of Messageries Maritimes commemorative paintings, showing a clearly-marked hospital ship hit by a torpedo. Two of Klaus Bergen’s remarkable canvasses that convey, with superb detail, the overwhelming challenge of U-boat warfare in a hostile ocean. Bergen has captured to perfection the loneliness and hardship of those long cruises.

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...

Charles Dragonette dealt authoritatively with images of ocean liners in World War II. The evocative color of Fleming’s slides was replaced by an almost uniformly drab and gray-painted flotilla of ships.

Dragonette showed some before and after pictures of the second and brand-new America. The image to the lower right shows the vessel immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor. She is in the midst of being painted overall in gray, obliterating the large letters of her neutrality markings along her flank. That paint job marked her conversion into a full-fledged, wartime troopship that would be renamed West Point for the duration. (bottom of the page)

One of his slides that was not necessarily a great painting but at least a colorful canvas, showed Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth passing Sydney Heads. In fact, the view was more wishful thinking than reality for there was insufficient room within Sydney harbor to accommodate both Queens at anchor. They could never be in the port at the same time; one had always to proceed further south to Tasmania in order to embark troops.

Another view of a famous vessel showed inbound Europa moored for the first time in post-war Le Havre. She had just been handed over as a prize of war to the French Line. In December 1946, a fierce gale blew up and the ex-German record-breaker dragged her anchors and was rammed and sunk upright by the bows of capsized Paris, long a Havrois relic since her catastrophic fire of April 1939.

The afternoon’s talks were among the most enjoyable ever offered to an Ocean Liner Museum audience. Your Editor and President extends his warmest thanks to both experts and trusts that they will understand and accept the necessity for some editorial cropping of their images.


About the


Become a




This page, and all contents, are Copyright (C) 1995 - 2001 by the Ocean Liner Museum and/or its suppliers.
For more information about the Ocean Liner Museum, click here or call us at 212.717.6251