Oil paintings, Fine art, Maritime Art Greenwich

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Lieutenant (Basil Charles) Godfrey Place, VC, DSC, 1921-94

BHC2954
Oil paintings

Object connections:

Collection Oil paintings, Fine art, Maritime Art Greenwich
ExhibitionsArt for the Nation, War Artists Advisory Committee Collection, War Artists at Sea
Gallery locationQH (Floor plans)
PeopleDepiction: Place, Basil Charles Godfrey
Publication(s)Treasures of the National Maritime Museum
Gloria Clifton and Nigel Rigby
View this book in the library

Object details:

Object ID BHC2954
Description A three-quarter-length portrait of Place, seated with arms folded, in a blue roll-necked sweater and dark green trousers. In 1942, as a 22-year-old Royal Naval lieutenant, Place commanded the midget submarine X7, which with three others (each with a crew of four), was towed by conventional submarine from Scotland to make an attack on the German battleship 'Tirpitz', in Kaa Fjord, northern Norway. This involved travelling at least 1000 miles from base and negotiating such hazards as a minefield, nets, gun defences and enemy listening posts. One of the X-craft was lost on the way when the tow parted; another began the attack run down Alten Fjord on 22 September but had to withdraw owing to technical problems and only three reached the Tirpitz in Kaa Fjord. Of these, X5 was spotted and sunk with all hands, probably by gunfire from 'Tirpitz'. Only X7 and X6, commanded by Lieutenant Donald Cameron, managed to lay their charges under the enemy's hull before both had to be scuttled and abandoned, during which two more men were drowned. The remainder, including Place and Cameron, were captured and were on 'Tirpitz' an hour later when their charges exploded, damaging her severely and putting her out of action for months. Place and Cameron were later transferred to Marlag-O, the German prison camp for naval officers at Westertimke, near Bremen, and in 1944 were both awarded the VC for the action. (Place later also accumulated a CB, CVO and DSO.) After the war he was both a sea-going commander in surface ships, a senior staff officer in naval aviation and finally Director of Naval Recruitment and training, retiring as a rear-admiral. He was a man of considerable reserve, characterized as 'monosyllabic' by a former NMM staff member who was a fellow-prisoner in Marlag-O. Something of this quality is apparent in the portrait. John Worsley was born in Liverpool, the son of a retired naval officer. He lived in Kenya, where his father ran a coffee plantation before returning to England and studying fine art at Goldsmiths College, London. He then worked as an illustrator for romance magazines before joining the Navy. As a midshipman he was one of the youngest war artists, taking part in the Allied landings in Sicily and on the Italian mainland. He was captured by the Germans in Italy while accompanying an amphibious raid but continued to paint while a prisoner of war, with materials supplied by the Red Cross, assembling such an impressive portfolio that German admirals visited the camp to admire his work. He had a very successful and varied post-war career in London, including as a marine painter, and was President of the Royal Society of Marine Artists in the 1980s. Both Worsley and Place were held in the German naval prison camp, 'Marlag O', where this portrait was painted in 1944. It is painted on a piece of bed-sheet, a design on the back showing it was previously used for scenery in camp theatricals, as no canvas was available. It is signed and dated 'John Worsley, Marlag 'O' Germany 44'. See also BHC 2597.
Date made 1944

Artist/Maker Worsley, John Godfrey Bernard
Place made Germany, Europe
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee 1947
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Overall: 12 kg; Painting: 762 mm x 635 mm; Frame: 927 x 798 x 75 mm
Parts
  • Lieutenant (Basil Charles) Godfrey Place, VC, DSC, 1921-94 (BHC2954)
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