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Star object: WGR masters collection

Alison Firth, Curator (Images) at the National Museum of the Royal Navy talks about The Royal Marines Museum's art collection of stunning watercolours and drawings by a talented amateur artist, Lt Col William Godfrey Rayson Masters. He painted and drew many art pieces over the course of 30 years as a Royal Marines Officer.

Lt Col William Godfrey Rayson Masters joined the Royal Marines as a Second Lieutenant in 1842. He served in India, being present at the Indian Mutiny (1857-1858), and in China (1859-1861). During the Second China War (1856-1860), he commanded the Second Battalion Royal Marines Light Infantry (RMLI) at the Attack on the Peiho Forts, 25 June 1859. He was severely wounded in this engagement and received a mention in despatches.  After returning to England, for many years, he served as the Barrackmaster at the Chatham Division, RMLI.

His drawings depict aspects of both dutiful active service and barrack life. They are rich in detail and in social comment as witnessed by a mid-Victorian Royal Marine. Fine details of uniforms and working life in and around the Royal Marines Barracks Chatham are highlighted within his work and they are captivating to view.

Masters’ sense of humour is never far from the surface in his work and ‘A Fancy Portrait of a Royal Marine, 1851’, which is also entitled: 'Flight of Imagination of Lieut. Masters 1851' shows this rather well.


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