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Lieutenant Donald Cameron, VC, 1916-61

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings, Maritime Art Greenwich
Gallery locationQH (Floor plans)
PeopleDepiction: Cameron, Donald

Object details:

Object ID BHC2597
Description A three-quarter length portrait to right seated wearing blue battledress, a shirt showing white collar and cuffs and lieutenant's stripes on the shoulders. Cameron sits with his arms folded and stares straight ahead to meet the gaze of the viewer. The background is implied in ochre and sketchily painted. In 1942, as a 27-year-old Royal Naval Reserve lieutenant, Cameron commanded the midget submarine X6, 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 X6 and X7, commanded by Lieutenant Godfrey Place, 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. Cameron died on 10 April 1961 while serving on HMS 'Vernon' at Portsmouth in the rank of Commander. 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 Cameron 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 as no canvas was available and is signed and dated 'John Worsley, Marlag 'O' Germany 44'. See also BHC2954.
Date made 1944

Artist/Maker Worsley, John Godfrey Bernard
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee 1947
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Frame: 927 mm x 772 mm x 74 mm;Overall: 12 kg;Painting: 762 mm x 635 mm
  • Lieutenant Donald Cameron, VC, 1916-61 (BHC2597)
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