Special Ships, page 2

HMS Repulse battle cruiser, Empress of Australia

The late Ray Chandler was a patron of the artist from 1982 until his death in 2006. Ray was an extraordinarily talented man, entrepreneur, bussinessman and councillor, who had a wide variety of interests. He was an avid collector and a great lover of marine paintings, collecting work by Burgess, Mason, Gardiner and Dawson.

He served in the Royal Navy in the 1930's and WW2. He purchased several of Robin's paintings and also commissioned three canvases.

Marine painting: HMS Repulse

Drawing of HMS Repulse Original sketch of the composition

Escort to the Royals

May 9th 1939
H.M.S. Repulse
Oil on canvas
18" x 30" (46 cm x 76 cm)

Exhibited at The Royal Society of Marine Artists, Mall Galleries,
London 1984.

H.M.S. Repulse is shown, hove to, collecting the Royal Mail which was attached to a Dan-boy, which was thrown overboard from the Empress of Australia in the mid Atlantic, Tuesday May 9th, 1939. The mail contained personal and official letters from the King and is thought to be the only incident ever of Royal correspondence being collected in this way.

This incident was recorded on 16mm film by Ray and it was a unique occurrence. HRH King George VI and the Queen were in transit for Canada on a Royal visit, but the situation in Europe was deteriorating. It was thought to be unwise for the Repulse to be withdrawn from European waters.

The transfer of the mail -

" 'Repulse' steamed up alongside 'Empress of Australia' and cheered the ship. The King acknowledged the cheers and then the 'Empress of Australia' dropped the cask containing the mail over the stern. The 'Repulse' turned 360 degrees to port and picked up the cask with a grapnel at the first shot. The 'Repulse' then set course for the UK and the 'Empress of Australia' set course for Canada." - Vice Admiral Conolly Abel Smith 1983

The resulting painting was carefully reconstructed by the artists examining the film and the ships' logs and charts.

The quote below is from a letter received by Mr Ray Chandler in 1986.

"The Queen Mother was very pleased to see the photograph of the painting you have commissioned of the mail being transferred to H.M.S. 'Repulse' from the 'Empress of Australia' from the mid Atlantic 1939. This painting does indeed bring back many memories to her Majesty."
- Frances Campbell Preston, Lady in Waiting to The Queen Mother. 1986

Repulse was a battle cruiser, a displacement of 32,000 tons, main armament of six 15 inch guns and a complement of 1,181.

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