15 Inch Gun Turret, HMS Repulse

Freedman, Barnett (CBE)1942

Imperial War Museums

Imperial War Museums
London, United Kingdom

The British war effort was dependent on the supply of essential foods and materials across the Atlantic. This became the focus of the German U-Boat fleet and the sinking of merchant shipping became critical during 1942 when average monthly losses were 96 ships. The solution came in the form of convoy protection. This was the role that the battle cruiser HMS 'Repulse' occupied when Freedman took a commission to work on board. Freedman’s painting explores the increasingly complex relationship between technology and operator in contemporary warfare.The sophistication of the engineering is apparent, as well as the physical and technical demands it placed on the operators. The enormous 15 inch gun fired shells weighing almost a ton. The crew are wearing training gear, not ‘flash’ gear, so this is a practice drill, part of an endless need to improve efficiency and master the immaculate choreography required to operate the gun. The breach is shut and the shell loaded. Above the turret, deck and the smoke of gun fire, the gunnery officer would know the gun was ready and could aim and trigger it remotely.The machinery weaves a web around the sailors; shaping their working lives in this claustrophobic environment. For example, tuberculosis was common amongst crew working in these cramped, damp conditions. This is a fragile environment, the close circumstances creating potentially life threatening risks through machine failure or operator error and also acting as a false barrier to the dangers of the sea and enemy fire. Above all, it controls the vision of the crew, specifically denying a view of the target. These guns had a range of 15 miles, the operating crew, a vision of a matter of metres.


  • Title: 15 Inch Gun Turret, HMS Repulse
  • Creator: Freedman, Barnett (CBE)
  • Creator Lifespan: 1901 - 1958
  • Date Created: 1942
  • Location: UK waters
  • Physical Dimensions: w2921 x h2006 mm (unframed)
  • Provenance: © IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 2295)
  • Type: painting
  • External Link: Imperial War Museum website
  • Medium: oil

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