BELGIUM 1918 Naval Raid on Zeebrugge (Artists Proof) by P. de Soete for Fisch. The finished product was to be 82mm x 47mm. This silvered bronze obverse only. example is 95mm x 58mm / 115 grams.
Obverse: depicts a semi-naked female hovering above a smoking Zeebrugge Mole Viaduct, ZEEBRUGGE ON ST. GEORGES DAY APRIL 23 D 1918 / P DE SOETE, stamped ÉPREUVE D'ARTISTE, NO. 5
Reverse: is blank, but if it was the regular issue medal and not an artists proof it would be embossed ‘To Six Very Gallant Gentlemen: Lt. R.D. Sandford, V.C.,R.N.; Lt. J.Howell-Price, D.S.O.,D.S.C.,R.N.R.; Sto. H.C.Bendall, C.G.M.; Ldg. Sea. W.G.Cleaver, C.G.M.,D.S.M.; Petty Officer W.Harner, C.G.M.; E.R.A. A.G.Roxburgh, C.G.M., 1918-1927’
Provenance: From the estate of the artist, Pierre de Soete (1886-1948)
The Zeebrugge Raid 23 April 1918
The aim of this raid was to sink several old ships in the canal entrance at Zeebrugge to stop German U-boats from using the port.
HMS Vindictive, along with the requisitioned Liverpool ferryboats Iris and Daffodil, carried parties of Royal Marines and sailors.
Their job was to subdue the German defences located on the mole that protected the harbour whilst other naval personnel sank the block ships in the shipping channel.
The attacking Royal Navy forces lost their element of surprise when the smoke cover cleared revealing their positions to the German forces defending the harbour. Thereafter they came under intense attack.
Under heavy fire Vindictive berthed further away from the planned position. The landing parties then faced a daunting barrage as they crossed specially contrasted gangplanks and descended about five metres from the top of the wall to the main level of the mole.
Despite several gallant actions they failed to neutralise the German guns which made it harder to sink the block ships in the planned positions. After an hour the British naval forces retreated.
Ultimately, the raid had limited success as the canal only remained blocked for a few days.
Pierre de Soete was put to work at the age of eight. He was orphaned at the age of fourteen. He enrolled at the Molenbeek Academy of Drawing and taught himself to model clay. He did a multitude of jobs before finding himself in the polishing workshop of the Compagnie des Bronzes in Brussels (1900). Promoted to the fitters workshop, he saw sculptures by Julien Dillens, Constantin Meunier and Jef Lambeaux pass through his hands.
A skilled and observant self-taught man, he wanted to become a sculptor, with the help of a brief introduction to drawing at the Molenbeek Academy. In 1911, a bronze foundry in Anderlecht entrusted him with the management of one of its departments.
But neither his new position nor the Great War distracted him from his passion for sculpture. After the Great War, he was asked to create monuments to the victims of the world conflict, and from 1924 onwards he devoted himself almost exclusively to sculpture; two years later, the monument to the heroes of the Air Force in 1914-18 was his first major achievement. From then on, he responded to official commissions (busts, medals, portraits), while continuing his personal work made up of small-scale works of very varied inspiration, sometimes highly original, in a very classical style.
Signatory of some monumental public works reminiscent of the official statuary of the authoritarian regimes of the 1930s, he claimed not to belong to any school, and to have only his personal conception as a guide. He excelled in subjects such as motherhood, sport and dance. He was the creator of effigies for the automobile industry and the famous radiator cap for Minerva cars.
He was also known as an athlete. As such, he travelled to the United States in 1927 for the Gordon Bennett Cup Competition and was a finalist in the 1928 Olympic Art Competition in Amsterdam.