A cruel sea: the sinking of HMAS Armidale

Jan Senbergs' series of ten drawings,acquired by the Australian War Memorial, evolved as a collaborative project between the artist and architect Col Madigan, one of the HMAS Armidale survivors. Madigan gradually revealed to his long-standing colleague and friend his memories of the sinking:

There were many consultations with Col regarding the appearance of the corvette; questions about what type of armory it had, how many Japanese planes attacked, how the ship went down, how Col left the Armidale, how the raft was made up, how the whaler was patched up . . . These details triggered my imagination and also prompted Col to make sketches which gave me more information for my drawings.

(Jan Senbergs, "A note on the evolution of the Armidale drawings", Armidale '42: a survivor's account, 1999)

The idea of depicting the story of the Armidale as a series of large drawings in the manner of an imaginary narrative strip developed from Senbergs' viewing of the Bayeux tapestry in Normandy in 1997. Beginning with the attack on the Armidale and ending with the rescue of the survivors, the works retain a sense of narrative commentary. Yet the drawings are, above all, a deeply personal interpretation of the event, rendered in Senbergs' characteristic style, based on an expressionistic treatment of the subject.

  • Read more about the circumstances surrounding the sinking of HMAS Armidale

The Attack
Jan Senbergs 

The Fatal Wounding
Jan Senbergs 

Col Madigan leaves the Armidale
Jan Senbergs 

Strafing the water
Jan Senbergs 

Dry Docking the Whaler
Jan Senbergs 

Separation of the Raft and the Whaler
Jan Senbergs 

Delusion in the Whaler
Jan Senbergs 

The Doomed Raft
Jan Senbergs 

The Rescue
Jan Senbergs 

The Whaler breaks up
Jan Senbergs