Chain Rock, St. John’s 1943-2017

Chain Rock is on the Battery (city) side of the narrow entrance to St. John’s Harbour opposite Pancake Rock 174 metres away. As early as 1770 a defensive chain was stretched between both rocks at nightfall to prevent entry of enemy ships. In World War I the chain was replaced with anti-submarine nets. In World War II each side (designated as Fort Chain Rock and Fort Amherst) had camouflaged anti-naval and anti-aircraft defences. From Tinning’s Diary: “Wed 25 Aug 43 In morning did work cleaning up stuff til 10:30 – reports etc. – car then for Chain Rock. Did a w-c of one of the 75 mm guns and gunners. [CWM #19710261-5575] No good. Lunch at Chain Rock.

75 mm Gun, St. John’s Newfoundland 1943; watercolour on paper; 38.5×50.7 cm; CWM 19710261-5575; Photo Dec. 2017 by Tinning’s grand-nephew.

From Tinning’s Diary: “Mon 30 Aug 43 Shot rifle out on rocks with Ron and Sergeant Major Lasson – hell of a cold I have. Lunch. In afternoon did some work on the “Pay Parade” picture. Did a sketch of Machine Gun position point No. 2 gun – and other sketches.” [One of these sketches is seen below as CWM# 19710261-5623.]

Fort Chain Rock 1943; sketch drawing; coloured pencil on paper; 25.2×32.8 cm; CWM 19710261-5623; Photo from December 2017

Tinning Christmas Card 1950

“From My Window” Christmas Card 1950; watercolour on paper; 15.6×13  cm ; Courtesy: MJMAG

This sketch of the Montreal skyline is a view painted from the rear window of Tinning’s atelier/apartment at 1178 Phillips Place where he lived between 1947 and 1963 and in which he saw many changes to his beloved adopted city. In the distance is the soaring hulk of the Sun Life Building. Tinning never tired of this cityscape and drew it many times throughout the four seasons. The Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery (MJMAG) has two watercolour variations of this scene. In the early 1960s his view of the Sun Life was obliterated by the massive Place Ville Marie complex. Tinning writes in a sketchbook that this building will cast its shadow over Montreal, cut off [his] views, and disrupt proportions of the city.

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion

In February 1944 Tinning observed a training exercise by the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion on Salisbury Plain. Conducted to simulate an invasion of Normandy the Canadian paratroopers were dropped wearing full gear alongside metal containers packed with mortars and ammunition. The object of the exercise was to drop 500 paratroopers with supplies and have the drop zone cleared of men, supplies and parachutes within fifteen minutes. One particular difficulty involved gathering up the parachutes that had become fouled in trees. The three paintings below show a progression of events as Tinning (an official army war artist) recorded them for posterity. At left – a paratrooper opens a container on the field; in the centre is a preparatory sketch of a container parachute fouled in a tree; and on the right is a “finished” oil painting of the scene. These works are in the Tinning fonds at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and the Canadian War Museum (CWM) in Ottawa.