The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company played a vital role in securing victory in the two World Wars. In this short clip, Naval Historian and TV Presenter Professor Eric Grove discusses the magnificent ‘Surrender of the German Fleet’, painted in 1919, by Arthur James Wetherall Burgess. The painting shows the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company vessel, King Orry leading the German High Seas Fleet in to the Firth of Forth on 21 November 1918. The King Orry and her mainly Manx crew had served with the Royal Navy throughout the First World War.
The painting corresponds closely to photographs and official reports of the surrender. The long line of ships, biplanes and an observation balloon add to its authenticity. The King Orry is in her dazzle camouflage paintwork of blues and blacks (in reality, there were also yellows and reds), believed to have been designed by the naval and maritime artist Norman Wilkinson and introduced by the Royal Navy in 1917.
She flies three White Ensigns which form the traditional flag of the Royal Navy. Burgess’ meticulous attention to detail is illustrated by the Blue Ensign on HMS Phaeton which she was told to fly on special orders to the fleet, identifying her as a leading vessel.
Symbolically the King Orry, the only merchant ship amongst the elite vessels of the amassed British and German navies, is shown leading the surrender of the German Fleet. Behind the King Orry is HMS Phaeton, leading a column of seven German Light Cruisers.
King Orry was given (along with four other vessels) the role of repeating ship relaying flagship communications to all other vessels. Behind the King Orry is HMS Phaeton, leading a column of seven German Light Cruisers.
‘Surrender of the German Fleet’ was one of three paintings conserved for our new Military History Gallery thanks to the kind support of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. For more detail on the painting visit