HMS Exeter

Two paintings by Robin Brooks

The last war ship which took part in the Falklands conflict of 1982 has retired from service on 27th May 2009

HMS Exeter crest
"Semper Fidelis"

'HMS Exeter D89', marine painting by Robin Brooks

'HMS Exeter D89'

20" x 30" (51cm x 76cm), Commissioned by Beach Bros in 1979 and presented to the city and people of Exeter in 1980. The original painting hangs in Exeter's historic Guildhall.

In 1979, the Directors of Beach Bros, a specialist timber company based in Exeter, were looking for an opportunity to mark their 40th Anniversary of moving to the city of Exeter in 1939/40. Beach Bros were originally based in Dover and were considered to be of special importance to the war effort. The Dover base was considered to be high risk. The company's 40th Anniversary coincided with the 40th Anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate, (in which the heavy cruiser bearing the name HMS Exeter played a significant part in 1939). Wally Beach, the company's managing director, was a keen yachtsman and, being interested in nautical things, was aware of the forthcoming commissioning of the new Type 42 Destroyer, HMS Exeter. The company decided to mark these significant anniversaries by commissioning Robin Brooks to paint the soon to be completed ship, HMS Exeter. The city council were approached by Beach Bros to ascertain if the council would accept the painting as a gift to the city and people of Exeter.

Commission accepted and work begins

HMS Exeter was still under construction at Swan Hunter's, Wallsend-on-Tyne. Arrangements were made by the Studio to loan a Ministry of Defence model of the prototype for the class, HMS Sheffield, so that some ideas could be discussed with the client (Sheffield differed in some details from later ships of the class). Robin presented two possible compositions to the Directors and the broadside view was then chosen for the commission.

In January 1980, preliminary work could now start. At Swan Hunter's, the building and fitting out of Exeter was nearing completion, but not advanced enough to make a visit worth while. However, because of the timescale, Robin needed to see a ship of similar class actually at sea. The Ministry of Defence was able to arrange a visit for Robin at Portsmouth Naval Base in early April 1980, and for him to go aboard HMS Coventry, and view HMS Cardiff at sea.

Black Days in May 1982

"Rarely, does the marine artist of today get an opportunity to paint a major subject from life. Sometimes, a ship or an event comes along, which somehow not only captures a poignant moment in one's own life, but in history generally. One such event was the day I visited 'HMS Coventry' and 'HMS Cardiff' in April 1980. Little did I know, that less than two years later, I would be watching the news on TV of the Falklands Campaign, with horror, as firstly 'HMS Sheffield' was sunk by an Exocet missile, with the loss of twenty people and then 'HMS Coventry' was sunk with the loss of 19 people. Both ended up to the bottom of the South Atlantic." - Robin Brooks.
HMS Coventry and the Volvo, sketched by Robin Brooks
High tide and heavy rain: HMS Coventry and the Volvo with the Sheffield in the back.
'This intimate experience with 'Coventry' renewed a special affection that I had had for the ship from 1978, when I had met her first captain, Captain Christopher Burne. This accumulative of experience was of enormous help in gathering my thoughts and putting together my composition. In my first morning of arriving at Portsmouth, I had sketched the 'Coventry' with my car in the foreground. Coincidentally, in the rear of the car, was the six foot long model of the 'Sheffield', which I thought may have come in useful in comparing the ships of the class.

Background information on HMS Exeter

"In the Studio, work progressed on the commissioned painting. However, I was much excited and stimulated by the visit to the 'Coventry' and decided to explore the possibilities presented by the 'Coventry' experience, in a second painting of the 'Exeter' and so I began a larger canvas—this time a starboard three-quarter view of the ship at speed. This second canvas was an altogether more spirited painting and definitely my favoured composition and was to become 'Defence of the Realm'. By June 1980, both canvases had become well established and 'Exeter' was sufficiently advanced to make a trip to Swan Hunter's Shipbuilders Limited worthwhile."

Bridge of HMS Coventry Bridge of HMS Coventry Stern of HMS Coventry Stern of HMS Coventry with domes on flight deck. Frigate HMS Lowestoft F103 approaching. Sunset over HMS Coventry Sunset - HMS Coventry. Photo from MoD Police Launch.

This historic pre-Falklands painting of HMS Exeter was created from life in Swan Hunter's Neptune Yard, Wallsend-on-Tyne, in the early summer of 1980. Press to read more.

Photo of the HMS Exeter painting
The Mayor of Exeter Mrs Pat Spencer points to the painting by Robin Brooks and hears a first hand account of HMS Exeter's part in the Falklands war from her commanding offer Captain Hugh Balfour.
Presenting the HMS Exeter painting

The Mayor of Exeter, Mrs Joan Richardson and the Commanding Officer of HMS Exeter, Captain Dreyer, hold up the oil painting, watched by the directors of Beach Bros. Ltd.
Sunday 2nd November 1980.

Exclusive Offer - ONE copy only!!

HMS Exeter print by Robin Brooks

In late 1980, Beach Bros published a full size Limited Edition Print of the painting that they had presented to the city and people of Exeter. This print was limited to 250 copies only and was numbered and signed by the artist. It was counter-signed on board HMS Exeter in Devonport by her first commanding officer, Captain Jeremy Dreyer RN.

The print will be despatched, wrapped in acid-free tissue, in a heavy duty postal tube, together with a certificate of authenticity, plus Black Dog Studios guarantee. The parcel will require a signature upon delivery.

***Rare Print***

Visit HMS Exeter's official website at

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