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Commander Eric Erskine Campbell Tufnell RN (1888-1978)

Biography of marine artist Commander Eric Erskine Campbell Tufnell RN (1888-1978)

Eric Erskine Campbell Tufnell (1888-1978) was born in Bangalore in India, where his father Major Robert Hutchison Campbell Tufnell (1852-1908), who fought in the Afghan wars, was stationed.

Tufnell's future was settled for him in 1903 when at the age of fifteen he became a cadet at HMS Britannia from where he passed-out in September 1904 joining the twin screw battleship HMS Albion, shortly after it was recommissioned at Wei-Hai-Wei on the China Station. It may not have been a coincidence that his uncle Rear-Admiral Lionel Grant Tufnell RN was also on the China Station.

Tufnell was appointed Midshipman on 30 November 1904. He had made a good start to his career but seems to have quickly become disillusioned with the profession his parents had chosen for him. When he left Albion in February 1905, his commanding officer reported that he was satisfactory but 'lacked interest'.

After a further 24 years of service on nearly 20 different ships and submarines including HMS Ocean, HMS Hannibal, HMS Hebe, HMS Bonaventure and HMS Victory at Portsmouth, it would appear that the Royal Navy had nothing further to offer him and although his promotion to Commander would give him a higher pension, he left to support his wife and three children.

Tufnell returned to Portsmouth with only his small service pension and depended on his talent as a marine artist to top up his income. The Saville Row outfitters Gieves & Hawkes helped secure naval officers as customers and they commissioned Tuffnell to paint meticulously accurate watercolours of the ships on which they served. His charges were modest and his output large.

In the Autumn of 1938, with war imminent, Tufnell offered his services again to the Royal Navy and on the 12th September 1938, two weeks before the Munich Agreement brought the promise of ''peace in our time'', was posted to HMS President in London and sent on a meteorological training course.

In December 1938, Tufnell was posted as a Single Observer Forecasting Officer on the staff of the Commander in Chief, East Indies Station, in Colombo, Ceylon, a solitary job involving 'just me and a barometer'. Here he met a twenty two year old nurse Vera Jane Clark married to a fellow officer. They fell in love, she became pregnant and returned to England to have their child.

In July 1942, Tufnell returned to Britain to take up an appointment as Executive Officer at HMS Minos, the shore base in Lowestoft responsible for Harbour Defence. He was then posted to HMS President in London on the Staff of the Chief of Naval Information at the Ministry of Information where Lt Cdr Angus A Mackenzie RNR was also stationed. Mackenzie commissioned Tufnell to paint four of the five ships on which he had served, the exception being HMS Vimiera, the loss of which along with most of its crew haunted him for the rest of his life.

Tufnell remained at HMS President until he left the Royal Navy for the second time some months after the war ended. Eric Tufnell had been married to his second wife for thirty-three years when he died aged 91 on the 18th July 1978. His widow married a clergyman, lived another thirty years and saw out her third husband before she died in July 2010 aged 93.

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Commander Eric Erskine Campbell Tufnell RN (1888-1978) Related Lots

Lot MA16/866

Lot MA16/866: Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Constance

Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Constance - 'Co' Class Destroyer 1944-1956 signed and inscribed watercolour 26.5 x 37.5cm.

Estimate: £100 - £150
Realised: £80

No Image of Lot Available

Lot MA16/870: Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - H M.S Resolution

Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - H M.S Resolution - Revenge Class Battleship 1915-1948 watercolour 16.5 x 24cm, together with HMS Hawkins, Cavendish Class Cruiser 1917-1947, watercolour, and HMS Tyrian, 's' Class Destroyer 1919-1930, watercolour.

Estimate: £100 - £150
Realised: £80

Lot MA16/867

Lot MA16/867: Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Virago

Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Virago - 'V' Class destroyer 1943-1965 signed and inscribed watercolour 26 x 37cm.

Estimate: £100 - £150
Realised: £90

Lot MA16/865

Lot MA16/865: Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Asphodel

Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Asphodel - signed and inscribed watercolour 26 x 37cm.

Estimate: £100 - £150
Realised: £80

Lot MA16/877

Lot MA16/877: Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Falmouth

Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Falmouth - signed watercolour 18 x 23cm.

Estimate: £80 - £120
Realised: £70

Lot MA16/869

Lot MA16/869: Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Battleaxe

Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Battleaxe - signed and inscribed Weapon Class Destroyer 1945-1984 watercolour 18 x 26cm.

Estimate: £80 - £120
Realised: £70

Lot MA16/879

Lot MA16/879: Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Shropshire

Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Shropshire - signed watercolour 18 x 22cm.

Estimate: £80 - £120
Realised: £80

Lot MA16/878

Lot MA16/878: Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Duchess

Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Duchess - signed watercolour 18 x 23cm.

Estimate: £80 - £120
Realised: £70

No Image of Lot Available

Lot MA16/863: Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Kenya

Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - HMS Kenya - Colony Class Cruiser 9200 Tons signed and inscribed watercolour 26 x 37cm.

Estimate: £80 - £120
Realised: £70

No Image of Lot Available

Lot MA16/862: Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - H M.S Comus

Eric Erskine Campbell Tuffnell [1888-1978] - H M.S Comus - Caroline Class Light Cruiser 1914-1934 watercolour 15.5 x 24.5cm.

Estimate: £80 - £120
Realised: £70

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