Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,

Canada's War at Sea; In Two Volumes

by Stephen Leacock and Leslie Roberts

Published in 1944 by Alvah M. Beatty Publications, Ltd.


The author chosen for the first section of the book,  Canada And The Sea,  a maritime history of Canada, was the renowned Stephen Leacock. He was Canada's most popular writer and humorist,  now a retired professor of economics at McGill University in Montreal.  It is surely no coincidence in the awarding of the commission to Eric that his father Carl and Leacock were long-time members and cronies at the McGill University Club.

Eric Riordon provided twelve paintings of ships that had played an important part in the Maritime development of Canada, each preceding a chapter written by Leacock. The publication plans soon added a second section, Canada And The War At Sea, by Leslie Roberts, a fine writer and well known broadcaster.  He recounted the story of Canada's massive nationwide WW II effort in building, deploying and manning hundreds of new warships, mostly convoy escorts. Roberts, who had spent three months aboard convoy escorts to gain first-hand knowledge of his subject, told many gripping tales of recent RCN battles against submarines and weather in the North Atlantic.  For this section of the book Riordon contributed ten additional works depicting convoys and convoy escorts in their various roles. They were painted in the same 6" x 8" format of the subsequent North Atlantic Convoy series and several depicted the same subjects and events. There is little doubt that these paintings were an inspiration and model for the subsequent convoy series.  Six of these, #s 2, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are original versions, precursors of subjects that appeared in the convoy series.  These are indicated in the descriptions.

An advertisement appeared in the Montreal Gazette of May 30, 1944 requesting the public view Riordon's paintings for the upcoming publication of Canada's War At Sea in the windows of Eaton's department store. The book was eventually released for sale in October of 1944. 

The location of only one of the ten convoy themed paintings is known, #3, Depth Charge Attack. This painting is also unique in that we have the photograph from which it was painted.  The painting is held at the War Museum and the photo at Library and Archives Canada.

The twelve paintings for the Stephen Leacock section, Canada And The Sea, are also shown here along with contemporary advertisements and newspaper reviews of the book.  The original Riordon paintings for the Leacock section were donated to McGill University by  the book publisher Alvah  Beatty in 1945 and remain in the collection.   

The reproductions here are courtesy of the McGill University Visual Art Collection.

Canadas War at Sea, Steven Leacock, Eric Riordon, Canadian Painter, War Artist, Royal Canadian Navy, Naval Artist, North Atlantic Convoy, HMCS Kenora, HMCS Fundy,  His Majestys Canadian Ship, Laurentians Landscape

Canada's War At Sea, Eaton's Advertisement, May 30, 1944, Montreal Gazette

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,

13 Jan 1945, Montreal Gazette

"The painting caught the destroyers at their jetty on the point of departing on the first sea patrol"

River Class destroyers moored together, likely at Halifax.  They were built between 1929 and 1934 and were the main elements of Canada's navy in 1939.  Their names were Saguenay, Skeena, St. Laurent,  Fraser, Ottawa and Restigouche.  Only Restigouche and St. Laurent survived the war in service.

Location unknown

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,

#1. The Call to Arms

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,

#2. Of Corvettes and Suchlike

This painting of a ship (a corvette shown here) dropping depth charges was a favorite subject of Riordon's.  He painted several versions including a similar one with the same title in the North Atlantic Convoy series, #25, "Depth Charge Attack".

Location unknown

HMCS Pictou in action. 

The carrier is still attached to the depth charge in this early model thrower.  It was later redesigned to throw only the barrel of the depth charge in order not to waste valuable metals.  

Titled "Action Stations" on verso in Riordon's hand.  "Canada's War At Sea" is also written in the same hand.

This is the only one of the ten convoy paintings used in the book whose location is known.  The  provenance is unknown.  Beaverbrook Collection of War Art Canadian War Museum, Accession# 79067

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

#3 Depth Charge Attack

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

Photograph of a depth  charge attack


 

This photo shows the corvette, HMCS Pictou, in action in 1941.

Riordon clearly used the photo, which had been published in contemporary newspapers, to paint #3, Depth Charge Attack.

Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN No. 3393539

"The painting shows RCN corvettes and destroyers steaming in line ahead as they shepherd another convoy to Britain"

Location unknown

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

#4 The Navy Grows Up

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

#5 Night Attack... Action At Dusk

"A veteran corvette shepherding a precious convoy across the North Atlantic has just flushed a U-boat lurking in the depths of the ocean with a well-laid pattern of depth charges.  The skipper of the corvette has decided to ram the U-baot and send it to the bottom for all time." 

A similar version was painted for the North Atlantic Convoy exhibition, #27, "Coming In For The Kill"

Location unknown


"The painting shows the sleek, rakish lines of this deadly greyhound of the seas.  The Tribal is slim-waisted for speed and poses a deadly punch, for the armament in those forbidding grey turrets is almost as lethal as that of a light cruiser."

A similar version was painted for the North Atlantic Convoy series, #7, Tribal

Location unknown

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

#6 The Tribal Destroyer - The Largest Ship Of War Ever Built In Canada



Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

#7 Mare Nostrum

Mare Nostrum means "Our Sea" in Italian.   By May of 1943 the battle against the U-boats had begun to turn in favour of the Allies and by the end of the year the North Atlantic had become "Our Sea".

A similar picture, "Ahead to Eastward Lies The Dangerous Night" was shown at the 1943 RCA exhibition and purchased by the Fine Arts Museum of Quebec.  

This painting also resembles #16,  Sunset, painted for the convoy series. 

Location unknown

A similar version was painted for the North Atlantic Convoy series, #12 Convoy Forms Up Under Air Cover

Location unknown

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

#8 Ships Of The Seven Seas

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

#9 The Life Line of Liberty (Burning Tanker Torpedoed)


"The vivid hues of flaming gasoline from the vitals of a torpedoed tanker recall the grim days when gasoline was the lifeblood of the defence of Britain and the U-boats strained every effort to make the precious tankers priority targets."

A  similar version was painted for the North Atlantic Convoy series, #19, "Inferno".

Location unknown

Always referred to in newspaper stories as "An East Coast port", Halifax was the main RCN training base, RCN East Coast headquarters and a major point  of departure and arrival for the convoys throughout the war.  New York City took over as the primary North American initial departure port in late 1941.  This view of a convoy passing The Narrows was a familiar one for Riordon.

Location unknown


Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

#10 Out Of Halifax - Under Sealed Orders


Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

Canada's War At Sea Review, Jan 13, 1945 Montreal Gazette

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

Canadas War At Sea Review, Calgary Herald, Jan 27, 1945

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

Gifts to McGill p.1, 15 Feb, 1945, Montreal Gazette

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

Gifts to McGill p.2, 15 Feb, 1945, Montreal Gazette

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape, Viking Ship,

#1 The Norse or Viking Ship, Earliest Vessels in our Ocean waters

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape, The Grand Hermione,

#2 The Grand Hermione of Jacques Cartier, First Vessel to Ascend the St. Lawrence

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape, The Griffin,

#3 The Griffin of Cavelier de La Salle, First Sailing Vessel on the Upper Lakes

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape, St Lawrence Bateau,

#4 The Bateaux of the St. Lawrence, The Days Before the Steamboat

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape, Topsail Schooner,

#5 The Topsail Schooner Nancy of 1789, Its Hull is Still Preserved

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape, Atlantic Packet,

#6 The Atlantic Packet, The Swan Song of the Days of Sail

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

#7 Sail and Steam on the St. Lawrence, The By-Gone Fleet of Yesterday

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

#8 The Lake Schooner, Its  Pride of Place Sank to Humble Uses.  

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

#9 A Nova Scotia Schooner, Once Known in the Seven Seas and not Vanished Yet.  Riordon also painted the most famous of these ships, the Bluenose.

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape, Inland Navigation,

#10 The Queen of Inland Navigation, The River and Lake Passenger Steamer

Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape, Welland Canal,

#11 The Great Lakes Freighter, Nothing Else Like It in the World - The distinctive vertical lift bridge identifies this waterway as the Welland Canal.  Riordon traversed the canal in August of 1942 on his way to the war in HMCS Kenora.


Canadas War at Sea, Canadian Publication, War History, Eric Riordon, WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, North Atlantic Convoy, RCN, Naval Artist, Canadian Art, War Art, Steven Leacock, Leslie Roberts, McGill University,  Laurentians Landscape

#12 Ocean Liner Off Quebec

Using Format