Home » Blog » diary » Portsmouth, HMS Victory and Pickle

Portsmouth, HMS Victory and Pickle


Just back from an awesome visit to Portsmouth brought about by one of my “icon” marine paintings, “I have urgent dispatches”  http://www.frickers.co.uk/marine-art/urgent_dispatches.html,  WOT! you don’t have a copy in your collection yet? and it is going to be shown on TV? ~ available exclusively from this site as a limited signed edition.

Yesterday morning I joined Tom Cunliffe and the Forum Film team boarding HMS Victory at 07.30 to film part of an episode of “The boats that built Britain“,  and was pinching myself by 08.00 in the Admiral’s great cabin wondering if this was really happening…  The_great_cabin_IMG_6492_d.jpg

The setting has been returned to as close as the best modern research can get it, mostly by Peter Goodwin and his team, to the condition it was in when occupied by Admiral Horatio Nelson (you may have heard of Admiral Horatio Nelson?).

I found myself at 07.30 on a chilly December morning, in Nelson’s day cabin being asked about the mind set of the sailors after the battle of Trafalgar and giving a character reference for Lt Lapenotiere of HM Schooner Pickle (he of possibly the most miss pronounced miss spelt name in British naval history) ~ and this was to go on National TV?!

I have a huge respect for the achievements of the men of that period, feel the ship is still visited by their spirit, even felt contacts with them while painting “Trafalgar Dawn(http://www.frickers.co.uk/marine-art/trafalgar_dawn.html) which is mentioned in Trafalgar Dawn, further reading (picture available as a signed edition exclusively from this web site).

This all in a good cause, for the forthcoming BBC C4 documentary series “The boats that built Britain“, due to be first shown in Britain in the spring of 2010.

It is an amazing experience to be on HMS Victory early in the morning when only Victory‘s  Royal Navy staff are present.  Victory_IMG_6485_d.jpg

Forum Films (address below)  had me flown Toulouse to Gatwick (before you jump to conclusions,  I’m not that grand a film star, no private jet, I used Easyjet) where I hired a nice silver Seat Leon from Europcar and drove through a very wet and some times flooded Sussex countryside via Midhurst and Chichester to Portsmouth where I found sunshine.

I was “billeted” in a guest house in the old town, run by an hospitable ex merchant navy chef RP Stewart,  “The Sailmaker’s Loft”, with fine views of the harbour and lots of pubs and restaurants nearby.

Up at 06.15 I had to be at the Unicorn Gate of the Royal Naval Base by 07.15 for security passes.

Tom Cunliffe is a big man in many ways, hugely experienced sailor, author, expert on pilot boats etc.

Tom Cunliffe is an excellent interviewer, thoughtful, focused and enthusiastic.

You can read Tom Cunliffe’s  profile on the Yachting World web site,  Tom Cunliffe is a regular contributor.

The rest of the team were equally professional, I was amazed at the director’s ability to carry his script mostly in his head and while himself filming, to keep us on course when inevitably the huge subject took us off on a tangent!

Our few hours flew by and by “time up” we were all wishing we might have more time together on the subject and there was talk of further meetings, maybe another joint project like the war of 1812…

I did not have breakfast on Victory, just as well when you see how tiny Victory‘s restored galley is, the work of her brilliant, eccentric and dogged Curator, Peter Goodwin.   Victory__s_galley_IMG_6505_wp.jpg

Hard to imagine though, that 850 hungry seamen were fed via that galley and the iron cooking range alongside it ~ the  range is x 4 bigger than the galley!

I was treated to a good cuppa in the wardroom, the mug marked “HMS Victory” with Emma Newland Press Officer, Fleet Media to keep me company.

This respite also gave time to speak to the Victory‘s current commander and to the officer of the day.

They seem of the opinion the ship should have a copy of my work onboard and the CPO mess a copy of I have urgent dispatches as the CPO mess at Portsmouth originated “Pickle Night” (4 Nov).

How do you think that felt at 08.30 on a December morning?

This though was only the start of an amazing day, next I phoned my friend and colleague Peter Goodwin, who’s quaint job title “Keeper and curator of HMS Victory” conceals a man devoted to the ship and period, author of 12 acclaimed books on ships of the period, sailor, engineer, detective, a man not afraid to confront and challenge an often intransient establishment with new (well founded) research  which unsettles cherished views …   Peter_Goodwin__Victory_curator__IMG_6500_d.jpg

It has been my privilege and pleasure to work on a series of paintings with Peter Goodwin for HMS Victory, first together as far back as 1993.

I learnt loads from Peter and in turn was able to contribute some ideas and information mostly about paint and paintings, which artist’s, which parts of which paintings are reliable and why,  which greatly aided his researching, (Peter said I “opened his eyes to the possibilities of paintings“) also encouraging and inspiring other significant ideas, a process which happily still continues to our mutual benefit.

The paintings are viewable on this web site, several can be seen on page


Some of the others are in the archive section, 2 are avaiable as time limited signed numbered editions exclusive to this web site.

Peter Goodwin generously stopped his regular work to give me a lengthy tour of his work on the ship, thoroughly updating me from my previous visit 18 months before.

We also discussed future projects ~ as Peter colourfully put it, “at this point in life which appears from my perspective a time when we really start  producing our best, sound sustainable work, when we attain less fears and critics can simply sod off“.

We have several projects in mind, including the contrary view to compliment my “Trafalgar Dawn” (one of the reasons I am going soon to the Musee Marine, Paris) as part of my Victory 2005 series, the war of 1812 and a favourite of Peter Goodwin’s   the Alert cutter and Lexington  brig engagement (he wrote the Anatomy of a ship book on “Alert”)

I was last in H.M. Dockyard Portsmouth for BAE Systems (Surface Fleet Solutions) preparing a painting of the Type 23 frigate, Ex HMS Marlborough for the Chilean Government who had the frigate converted to their requirements and renamed Almirante Condell.

You can read more of that amazing and very successful painting by following the links on page


I have to go to Paris tomorrow (a showcase at the British Ambassador’s Residence) so will write up the rest of this day for you when I get back, along with several other back dated stories such as an outing to the Tavistock Inn on Dartmoor with a “Jane Banks” connection…

To much has been happening to fast for me of late…

Form Films

15 Charlecote Mews


SO23 8SR

Tel: 01962 870 173