Books

New Supermarine Swift WK275 artwork

Swift WK275 pictures Gary Eason

The Flight Artworks depictions of WK275: book cover (left) and in flight over the English countryside.

Colchester, 21 September 2017

If you are going to Duxford Airshow this weekend, look out for aviation author Guy Ellis who tells me that he will be signing copies of his new book about Supermarine Swift WK275 in the Aviation Bookshop marquee.

It is being formally published by Grub Street Publishing next week but is being launched at the show. I am excited to see it because I did the cover art.

Guy first approached me back at the start of January to see if it was something I could take on. Following my usual practice I drafted some initial ideas and he chose the sort of picture he wanted.

We then refined the precise angles in the composition - working by this time also with the publisher and their designer - showing the unique aircraft "almost as if it were 'climbing'  the cloud", as he put it, in my background photograph. 

SWIFT BY NAME . . . 

It is only fair to say the Swift was not the most successful aircraft the RAF ever got involved with - but from my point of view it is certainly not unattractive, perhaps quite a perky looking number whose lines live up to its name. As did its performance: an F.4 like this was, briefly, the holder of the world airspeed record, having attained 737.7 mph (1,187 km/h) over Libya, 64 years ago this week, in the hands of Vickers Supermarine's chief test pilot, Mike Lithgow. 

I say that WK275 was unique because as I understand it no other Swift airframe ever had its precise configuration, and it is the only fighter variant still in existence.

It was used as a test frame for various developments, including what they call a slab-type tailplane - in other words with wholly moving horizontal stabilisers instead of fixed ones with moving elevators on the trailing edges. Later, no longer flying, it was used for noise research.

By this time, the 1960s, it was already a very faded, tired and sorry looking specimen. It then became a "gate guardian" at an outdoor clothing and camping store in Herefordshire. Up on bricks in all weather, it was rotting away. 

It was rescued in 2012 by a private buyer, Tim Wood - who set out to buy his son an ejector seat and ended up with an entire aircraft - and he got the remarkable guys at Jet Art Aviation to do the seemingly impossible job of restoring it to (non-flying) splendour.  

I asked Tim whether getting it flying again had ever been on the cards. He had inquired, he said. It would have cost another £3m. 

DETAILS, DETAILS . . .

Not knowing anything about the Swift before I started on this project I had to get up to speed on the general outlines to begin with, then the peculiarities of WK275. 

For example, there is a stub on the top of the nose where you might expect to find a pitot-static tube, but the instrument itself had been moved to the starboard wing.

I was also keen to get the subtleties of such things as air vents and the various warning labels as correct as I could. Jet Art kindly answered some of my questions about specifics and sent some close-up snaps for reference. 

To create the picture I worked initially from a small model I commissioned of an F.4 converted from an FR.5, the more successful low-level reconnaissance version. But there was a great deal of pixel painting to do. 

My work on this as on everything else was interrupted by a delightful few weeks travelling around New Zealand and making landscape photographs

But eventually the finished picture was completed, tweaked and signed off in April, five months ago, and my job was done. Meanwhile, of course, the publishers had a book to make! 

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To buy prints of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I also do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes.  To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, on Twitter @flightartworks, and on Instagram @flight.artworks.


Flight Artworks RAF Memorial Flight depictions unveiled

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Colchester, 26 April 2017

Three recent commissions of mine have now been published in full colour in the RAF Memorial Flight Official Club Yearbook: a terrific read, by the way, and well worth getting hold of even if you are not a member of the club. 

They are all available as prints in various formats, sizes and prices through the Flight Artworks website and authorised print partners. 

As you can see above I put together a loose 'finger four' of Desert Air Force Spitfire Mk IX fighters from 92 Squadron over Tunisia, which forms the top of a double-page spread. In the foreground is EN152 QJ-3 - the scheme that the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's MK356 is going to represent (even though it is a different mark). I wrote previously about the research that went into the colour scheme for that. 

NOSE ART

Another is my dive bombing scene featuring low-back, clipped-wing Supermarine Spitfire XVI TD240 when it was the aircraft of the Officer Commanding No 131 (Polish) Wing, Gp Capt Aleksander Gabszewicz in 1945. It carried his colourful boxing dog nose art. This is the scheme that the BBMF's XVI, TE311, is being repainted to represent. 

Kangaroo nose art Gary Eason after Vic WattsThere is more colourful nose art for BBMF Lancaster PA474 as it morphs into W5005, AR-L for Leader of 460 Squadron RAAF at the end of September 1943. 

This showed a kangaroo in Wellington boots playing bagpipes - a reflection of the tri-national Australian, Scottish and Welsh crew who commissioned it from squadron artist Vic Watts.

The story of how we pinned down the details of who created the original nose art, and when, and what the colours might have been (only black and white photos exist) bears telling separately in full. Look out for a future blog on the subject. 

PA474 is being repainted to depict W5005 on its port side although, following convention, it will retain its own serial number I understand. On starboard PA474 will be the 50 Squadron Lancaster LL922 / VN-T. I have now also depicted that reincarnation. 

COVER PICTURES

The latest piece out of the Flight Artworks studio is an air-to-air visualisation of the only extant Supermarine Swift F4, WK275. Its restored (but not airworthy) airframe currently resides alongside Avro Vulcan XH558, sadly no longer flying either. 

Swifts were not the most successful aircraft ever deployed by the RAF and not many were made but they had a certain style, I think you'll agree. A very different version of the picture will be appearing as a book cover later this year. 

Talking of covers, if you wondered who created the Sea Harrier artwork for the cover of the May issue of The Armourer magazine about the Falklands War - that would be me

[A version of this article, with a special discount offer, appeared in a newsletter to registered users of the Flight Artworks website]. 

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To buy prints of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes.  To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, on Twitter @flightartworks, and on Instagram @flight.artworks.


Westland Lysander on clandestine operation

Westland Lysander secret ops Gary Eason

Colchester 18 April 2017

On a moonlit night in July 1944, an RAF Westland Lysander IIIA comes in low over a field of lavender in the South of France, to land on the makeshift grass airstrip beyond.

On board are three passengers, who disembark down the Lysander’s fixed ladder, while three others get in for the trip back out to its forward operating base in the Mediterranean island of Corsica.

This was the second attempt at the secret operation codenamed Tamise. The first run, two nights previously, had had to be abandoned because of heavy cloud and electric storms - as well as flak and a night fighter to evade, according to the book We Landed by Moonlight (Secret Landings in France 1940-1944) by another Lysander pilot, Group Captain Hugh Verity.

There should have been two Lysanders but the other was unable to locate the landing zone, which was codenamed “Spitfire”. It went back successfully two nights later to finish the job.

Their contact on the ground was the Service d'Atterrissages and Parachutages (SAP) officer “Archiduc” - real name Camille Rayon. Among the agents brought out on the first trip was Neil Marten, later the MP for Banbury, who worked with the Resistance in France and in Norway during the war.

SEARCH FOR INFORMATION

His pilot, the subject of my depiction (right), was Flying Officer Henri “Frankie” Franklin of 148 (Special Duties) Squadron - but he knew nothing about the individuals in the back of his aircraft. Following standard protocol they were all - men and women - just “Joes” to the RAF aircrew who transported them.

Frankie Franklin detail Gary EasonThe squadron, comprising mostly Handley Page Halifax aircraft, was at this time in WWII based in Brindisi in Italy, reaching out to partisan fighters in Northern Italy, Yugoslavia and Poland. But the Lysanders of ‘C’ flight were detached to Corsica.

My picture was commissioned by one of F/O Franklin’s nieces. My researches into the details of the aircraft - such as whether it carried the squadron's identification letters, FS - led me via the Operation: Dark of the Moon website about 148 Squadron, and its associated forum, where Bill Pogson kindly passed on my request for information and I was contacted by the author Oliver Clutton-Brock. By chance he has just completed a history of 148 Squadron, which is due to be published shortly.

He had been in touch with Franklin’s daughters and had a copy of the pilot’s logbook.

"Nothing interesting, I’m afraid, Gary. Just that he took in 3 Joes and brought 3 out in Lysander IIIA '9498'. The Tamise trip, at night, took 4 hrs 35 mins," he reported.

"As to whether or not the Lysanders carried FS on their fuselage or not I can’t say for certain one way or the other, but the evidence would suggest that they didn’t."

One of Franklin's daughters very kindly provided me with photographs she had taken - one of which forms part of the background in my picture - and a map compiled by Air-Britain historian Serge Blandin, which had helped her to pinpoint the site on a recent visit.

LAVENDER FIELD

This is remote countryside. Even to this day the roads in the immediate vicinity are just dirt tracks. The grass landing field, now marked by a small information board, was approached over a field of lavender.

The board commemorates an action a month later on the same field when a much bigger, twin-engined RAF Dakota aircraft from 267 Squadron dropped key French personnel ahead of the Allied landings on the south coast.

It tried to bring out 31 passengers, including US airmen who had been evading the Germans and Vichy French forces after being shot down. But its undercarriage became entangled in the lavender strip that you see in my picture, which had been planted across the middle of the grass to disguise its use as a runway. Eight of the passengers had to be ordered out by “Archiduc” before the Dakota could manage the take-off from the shortened field.

The Dakota and its crew went back the following night as they had promised. But if you need an indication of just how dangerous these operations were, no-one was there to meet them and the isolated farm adjacent to the field - Le Castellet - had been burnt down, its occupants shot by the Germans.

This Dakota operation formed the basis of a fictionalised account by English author Deborah Lawrenson: it forms the starting point for The Lavender Field, the mid-section of her triptych novel The Sea Garden.

Ms Lawrenson, who lives in the south of France, also kindly passed on to me what she knew about the scene.

TOUGH JOB

The quirky-looking but rugged Lysander, with its automatic wing slats, variable incidence tailplane and solid undercarriage, and a fixed ladder on the port side for rapid access by passengers, was perfect for these clandestine operations on short, makeshift strips in occupied territory.

It had been designed in the 1930s to be an army co-operation aircraft, providing photographic reconnaissance and eyes in the sky for artillery units. It proved too slow for that, but splendidly capable for these secret ops - and for its other main niche role, air-sea rescue.

The pilots who undertook the missions behind enemy lines performed brilliant feats of navigation, alone and at night with only the most basic equipment.

Grp Capt Verity, speaking to the RAF Historical Society in the late 1980s, described how the planning process involved picking good landmarks along the way.

Pilots would then cut up 1:500,000-scale maps to cover 50 miles on each side of the  planned track and fold them like a concertina, with a larger scale section for the target area.

They memorised the key features and compass bearings. They then flew the planned headings and speeds very accurately until any error in the forecast wind showed up as they drifted off course - after which some mental geometry was used to adjust accordingly.

The final, short leg was a timed run to where the target should be "when, lo and behold, you would see the agreed Morse letter flashing up from the dark ground - and that was really quite a thrill".

Remarkable.

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To buy prints of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes.  To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, on Twitter @flightartworks, and on Instagram @flight.artworks.


The Halifax, the night fighter ace, and the crew that got away

Halifax III above clouds Gary Eason

Colchester, 3 December 2016

My latest picture features a Handley Page Halifax III of 158 Squadron. On the night of 12 May 1944 it headed for a target in Belgium – and did not come back.

But the crew all did, eventually.

The story was not one I knew about when I started making the picture, which is the opposite of how things normally go.

More often than not I am either working on a scene that I have had on my lengthy 'to do' list for a while, or I have been commissioned by a relative or an editor to make a picture focusing on a particular event.

In this case there was a peg of sorts - just a suggestion from someone whose parents were both in 158 Squadron during the Second World War. As she put it, "my dad was with the 'u bend em we mend' group, and mom was a cook in the sergeants' mess".  

In that sense they were not affiliated with any particular aircraft. As I was minded to make a Halifax III anyway I set about browsing my books and the internet for a likely candidate.

By and by I stumbled across HX334, based at RAF Lissett in Yorkshire, which carried the NP-C codes of 158 Squadron.

It was shot down by a Luftwaffe night fighter over Belgium early on 13 May 1944 after bombing the railway yards at Hasselt - one of some 15 attacks on the same target in less than two months, as the Allies attempted to degrade the transport infrastructure in German-occupied Europe ahead of the planned invasion a few weeks later (D-Day, 6 June).

This was not the most successful operation as much of the ordnance apparently landed in adjacent fields and only a few bombs hit the marshalling yards.

Halifaxes formed the majority of the 111 aircraft taking part, and of the losses. Unopposed on the way to and over the target area, the bombers were however harried on the way out.

HX334, piloted by Fl/Sgt John Haydn Evans, was one of three shot down by a Messerschmitt 110, the others being LK883 of 426 Squadron and LV919 of 466 Squadron. Their attacker was not just any night fighter, but that of Oblt Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, recently appointed Gruppenkommandeur IV./NJG 1: the Evans Halifax was I believe his 63rd victim.

Schnaufer would go on to nearly double that number of 'kills' by the end of hostilities in 1945. As an aside, he became a wine merchant after the war until he was seriously injured in France a few years later when his car was hit by a lorry which spilled its cargo of metal gas cylinders. He died from a fractured skull two days later.

On the Hasselt operation the crew of HX334 all took to their parachutes. They were gathered, fed and sheltered by members of the Belgian resistance - a number of whom were subsequently arrested by the Gestapo.

The gunners, both Australians, were picked up by the Germans and became prisoners of war.

The other five, four Brits and a Canadian, all continued to evade capture until the advancing Allied forces swept over them.*

So there you go. It started out as 'just' a portrait of a Halifax. But as we know, every picture tells a story.

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*If you want to know more about the pilot's story there is a book by Greg Lewis called Airman Missing: The True Story of WWII Bomber Pilot John Evans' 114 Days Behind Enemy Lines. Newman Books (April 2008). ISBN: 978-0955869907. Out of print but available secondhand. 

To buy prints of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes.  To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, on Twitter @flightartworks, and on on Instagram @flight.artworks.


Here's one I made earlier: silver Spitfire PR Mk XIX PS852 - or is it PS915?

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The Flight Artworks 'silver Spitfire' as it appears in the BBMF Visitor Guide

Colchester, 29 October 2015

A complimentary copy of the new Official Visitor Guide to the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight plopped on to my doormat this morning, to my delight.

The reason I have been sent a copy is that the whole of page 34 is given over to one of my pictures, as you can see at the top of this article. 

The editor, Clive Rowley, asked if I would be interested in having a shot at making it, to help them out of a hole. 

The visitor guide has, as you would expect, articles on all the flight's aircraft, including their history - and why they carry the colour schemes and squadron markings that they do, which change from time to time. In this case, Spitfire PR Mk XIX PS915, one of the relatively rare 225 photo reconnaissance Spitfires made.

Big Griffon

For the 2016 season it is going to be in the guise of another of the type, PS852, which was based in the early 1950s with 81 Squadron at Kai Tak, Hong Kong, where it was the usual mount of the record holding pilot Flt Lt Ted Powles. 

The trouble was, the guide had to go to press long before the BBMF Spitfire was going to be repainted - so no photograph of it would be available.

Hence the idea of having one of my Flight Artworks depicting the all-silver finish that PS852 bore from 1952 and PS915 will be getting.

We chose to have it almost head-on from a little above. This showed off the long Griffon engine cowling and the very smart red and white spinner on the five-bladed propeller, high above the South China Sea. It also allowed for a composition that could be used horizontal, vertical and square, as required. 

Free copy

The visitor guide is a beautifully put together, 42-page, 21cm (8in) square publication, with a glossy cover whose silky smoothness has to be felt to be believed. Well worth £3 of anyone's money I would say and perhaps you will pick one up if you go to visit the flight at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. 

If you want to support the BBMF it is worth joining the official Club - whereupon I gather you will be sent a free copy of this guide as part of the membership pack (see comment below). 

If you would like to have a picture of just the Silver Spitfire they are available to order as high quality photographic posters and fine art prints in a variety of sizes - as well as greeting cards and other products - via the Flight Artworks website at www.flightartworks.com, and selected print partners. 

The picture is also available to publishers to license via Alamy or you can contact me direct.

 


Licensing Flight Artworks aviation pictures

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Left to right: Recently licensed Flight Artworks scenes from the Phoney War and the Battle of Britain © Gary Eason

Colchester, 21 September 2015

You will know already that you can buy aviation prints through the Flight Artworks website at www.flightartworks.com but I also welcome enquiries from publishers who are interested in using my work.

My photorealistic aviation pictures are regularly licensed either from me directly or, increasingly, through my gallery on the Alamy agency. You can see some recent purchases - for a book - at the top of this column. 

And it is not only publishers. I am also happy to talk to people interested in making ranges of aviation-related consumer goods. 

For the most part these are rights managed licences of the Flight Artworks, so prices vary widely depending on the particular use - but also licensing my 'straight' aviation photographs from airshows and elsewhere

On the subject of printing though, a reminder that all my pictures are made to order. They come to you fresh from the printers, and have not been sat in a storage box after being run off in batches. This applies equally to the photographic prints of aviation pictures and to the fine art prints, in a range of sizes. 

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 TO BUY PRINTS  of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes.  To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, and on Twitter @flightartworks.


A Mk I Spitfire and a PR Mk XIX silver Spitfire: my latest Flight Artworks

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"Up against it": F/Sgt Charles Sydney of 92 Squadron

Colchester, 15 September 2015

The house and office move mentioned in the Preface to my first book was completed relatively painlessly as these things go, although the unpacking and decluttering took longer than I had imagined.

I then spent a delightful few weeks in the US this summer, and have only recently got back into the groove. Consequently it has been a while since I have written anything, so this is by way of  a catch-up.

My first priority on return from holiday was a commission for the RAF Memorial Flight (BBMF). This came about because one of their Spitfires - PR Mk XIX no. PS915, is being repainted to represent another of its kind that achieved a certain amount of fame in the early 1950s.

Spitfire PS852 of 81 Squadron, RAF, was used by Flt Lt Ted Powles AFC to make unofficial daring spy flights over Chinese territory during the Korean War, pushing it to the extreme limit of its fuel range.

Silver Spitfire

He also took it to a world altitude record for piston engine aircraft of 51,550 ft (almost 16 kms high!) on 5 February 1952. When the cabin pressurisation malfunctioned he then made an extremely fast descent, although the actual speed he attained is disputed.

The Memorial Flight repaint is going to be in the colours PS852 wore when it was based at RAF Kai Tak, Hong Kong. The exact date of the original colour scheme is uncertain, but there is a blurry photo from 1954/55 that shows how it looked: overall 'silver', which was actually RAF Aluminium.

Spitfire-PS852-at-altitude-Gary-Eason-SMThe Memorial Flight Spitfire's repaint has not been done yet but they need pictures for their publicity materials - and that is where I came in, with my depiction of the original. Here's a small version (right): look out for it if you are visiting RAF Coningsby.

I love the way this picture has turned out. When you see it full size the Spitfire seems to leap out of the frame.

Incidentally, while researching this I came across a delightful book by Valerie Ann Penlington called Winged Dragon: the History of the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force. It features that blurry photo of PS852 on page 100, as well as lots of colour ones of aircraft and pilots, and a string of flying anecdotes. There is an enthusiastic review of it on this website

Unsung hero

At the head of this article is my next project, produced for the man who maintains a memorial in south-west London to one of The Few - unsung hero Spitfire pilot Flt/Sgt Charles Sydney of 92 Squadron, who was killed in one of the many engagements between RAF Fighter Command and the Luftwaffe on 27 September 1940.

A ceremony is being held, along with many others this year, to mark the 75th anniversary. I was asked to depict his aircraft, Spitfire R6767, coded QJ-N, and here you see the result.

According to the squadron's operations record book in the National Archives, Sydney had already made one short sortie from Biggin Hill that morning, from 0710 to 0740. He was one of nine pilots ordered up again at about 0845. It is a bleak record: he is marked "Missing" and two of the others "Crashed".

At the time, the fighting on the 27th was regarded as having been very intense. The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was moved to send a message the following day to the Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair, which read in part: “The scale and intensity of the fighting and the heavy losses of the enemy ... make 27 September rank with 15 September and 15 August as the third great and victorious day of the Fighter Command during the course of the Battle of Britain."

Mailly-le-Camp

Understandably there has been a heavy focus recently on the Battle of Britain, with numerous magazine specials, TV programmes and social media comment. Indeed I am writing this on 'Battle of Britain Day' (15 September) and a flock of WWII fighters has just gone past within earshot of my office, part of the mass flypasts that began at Goodwood.

Next however I am going to be turning to a very different phase of World War II, featuring the memorable attack by RAF Bomber Command near the village of Mailly-le-Camp in the Aube area of north central France.

To set the context, if you do not know it: as part of the build-up to D-Day, 346 Lancaster bombers and 14 Mosquitoes were sent out on the night of 3/4 May to bomb the German military barracks near the village.

Communication difficulties forced a delay before they could bomb. It gave the defenders time to get organised. While circling the target under clear skies and a bright three quarters moon, and on the way back, the Lancasters fell prey to numerous German night fighters. A total of 42, almost 12% of the attacking force, were shot down: a loss of some 300 men.

'Milk run' (not)

Despite the heavy RAF losses that night the attack itself was very successful.

Mailly-le-Camp marked a turning point however. Until then there had been a perception that the long hauls to Germany and back were far more perilous operations than the softening up of enemy positions in France prior to D-Day, which sometimes were even characterised as "milk runs".

This extended to the official view of how many successfully completed operations a crew should have to make to complete a tour of duty. Ordinarily this was 30 but the shorter trips to France were being counted as only one third of an op - until several of them, and notably Mailly-le-Camp, showed just how deadly they could be. The policy was changed.

One thing is certain: anyone who was there would never forget it. But - spoiler alert: I will say no more at this stage about the picture I am making. Watch this space. 

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 TO BUY PRINTS  of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes. Publishers' enquiries are also welcome: many images are available already to license through the Alamy agency.

To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, and on Twitter @flightartworks.

 


First Flight Artworks book published

 

 

 

Flight Artworks Volume 1 by Gary Eason
High Wycombe, 12 May 2015

I am delighted to present my first book drawn from my growing collection of Flight Artworks​: 32 pages, available now in printed and e-book versions.

It contains captions, commentary and points of note – but the focus is on the images and they occupy most of the space. You can see some sample pages above and below. 

To preview or purchase the books please visit the Blurb bookshop.

I built it using their self-publishing software BookWright in 'standard landscape' size (25x20cm / 10x8in), in three formats from £19.99.

The production was straightforward if time-consuming. I lost count of how many times I thought it was done, then spotted something that was not quite right - which I suspect could become an endless process if you are not careful.

In fact it turned out that their existing software cannot properly reproduce it as an ebook without divine intervention by the Blurb support staff, so that is an ongoing project. 

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 00.27.55Am I pleased with the book though? Yes very. It was launched this morning, and when I went to look in my account for something a few hours later, I had already sold two. 

I'm afraid I can't do anything about the price: the fixed costs imposed by Blurb, including shipping, mean I barely get the price of a pint from each copy and I would have to sell a very large number indeed to cover the time invested in its creation. 

My son works in the book selling business and he will tell you (if only when he sees his pay slip) that for the vast majority of us, publishing and selling books is rarely ever going to be a get rich quick scheme.

The pictures I have used are not new, apart from a few I have adapted to fit the book design. In fact many people have prints of them hanging on their walls. And as regular followers of this blog will know, a number of others have appeared in print already in magazines and elsewhere. 

Also, as an aside, I am increasingly licensing them through my Alamy account – although I do not usually know where they will end up, because sales are reported to us contributors simply in terms of "Editorial magazine" or the like, and maybe not in a country or language I am likely to see. 

So what's the point of producing the book? Is it all vanity? 

Oh, come on – can anything beat sitting down with a cup of coffee on your most comfortable sofa, savouring turning the pages in a book of your favourite things? 

So when I say "first" Flight Artworks book published, will there be more? Oh yes.  

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 TO BUY PRINTS  of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes. Publishers' enquiries are also welcome: many images are available already to license through the Alamy agency.

To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, and on Twitter @flightartworks.


Flight Artworks pictures in D-Day special magazine

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As previously trailed, four of my pictures are in a Classic Magazines special 'bookazine' about the RAF involvement in the Allied invasion of Europe, published to mark the 70th anniversary this June.

There is other marvellous contemporary artwork alongside archive photos in 132 packed pages of history. (The cover features a painting of Spitfires by Robert Taylor).

The bookazine was compiled by historian Clive Rowley ( ex-fighter pilot and O/C the RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight) and is published by Mortons. You can find it on this link.

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 TO BUY PRINTS  of any of my works please visit www.flightartworks.com.

I do private commissions, for individual aircraft or bigger scenes. Publishers' enquiries are also welcome: many images are available already to license through the Alamy agency.

To get in touch visit the Contact page on my website. Find Flight Artworks on Facebook, and on Twitter @flightartworks.

 


A DFC and a shoal of Hurricanes

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'Crossing the Siegried Line' © by Gary Eason / Flight Artworks

High Wycombe, 31 Jan 2014

These pictures began life at an airshow.

I did not set out with the idea of making a 'Phoney War' picture, let alone two - in fact I knew little about that early period of World War Two.

What triggered the research that led to the pictures' being made was having the beautifully restored Hawker Hurricane P3351 in my camera viewfinder at the Imperial War Museum's  'Flying Legends' airshow at Duxford in July 2013.  

This venerable crate has had a remarkably colourful life but is now resplendent in the black/white/bare metal undersides it began with in 1940. One could write a book about the aircraft itself - somebody probably has - but it was the camouflage scheme (if camouflage is quite the word) that piqued my interest.

I knew already - witness the logo I use on social media - that the RAF had some peculiar ideas about how to paint the undersides of its fighter aircraft at the onset of hostilities with Nazi Germany. Captivated by the black and white scheme in my pictures of the Hurricane, I started reading up on its history and that of the two RAF Hurricane squadrons attached to the Advanced Air Striking Force near the Franco-German border, No 1 and No 73.

This led to my learning about the short but remarkable fighting career of Flying Officer Edgar James 'Cobber' Kain of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).  Kain's squadron, No 73, was based at Rouvres-en-Woëvre, a village about 35 miles from the frontier.

'Finest fighting spirit'

This phase of the war was characterised by aerial skirmishes - which is not to minimise the deadly nature of what the pilots were engaged in. On 2 March 1940, Kain and another pilot (Donald Sewell) gave chase to seven Heinkel bombers but after a few minutes they were pounced on from behind by a pair of Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters.

What resulted was an action for which Kain was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross). The official citation read:

"In March, 1940, while on patrol with another aircraft, Flying Officer Kain sighted seven enemy bombers about 5000 feet above him, and while giving chase well into Germany, he was attacked from behind by an enemy fighter. Showing the finest fighting spirit, this officer out-manoeuvred the enemy and although his own aircraft was badly damaged he succeeded in bringing the hostile aircraft down. Thick smoke and oil fumes had filled his cockpit and although unable to see his compass, he skillfully piloted his aircraft inside Allied lines in spite of being choked and blinded by the smoke."

I wanted to know more about what had happened. At this point let me plug a book: Cobber Kain, by Richard Stowers, a terrific read and a beautifully produced publication with plenty of photographs from the time. I e-mailed Richard in New Zealand with some detailed queries and he was as helpful as he could be in reply.

For example, I knew I needed to tweak the Hurricanes' appearance to restore them to Mk I configuration and earlier roundels. But I was wondering whether I should be rendering them with the early two-bladed props or the three-bladed ones that were being introduced. H

Richard said: "My research tells me Kain was flying L1808, which was a three-blader as Sewell stated he couldn't keep up with Kain because he was flying a two-blader (L1958)."

Cockpit filled with fumes

So back to the story: Kain did not immediately realise that Sewell, with his less powerful  airscrew, was no longer keeping station behind him. Glancing back he saw an aircraft where he expected the second Hurricane to be and assumed that was him. He got a rude surprise, as Richard Stowers's book recounts:

"'The next thing I knew was 'wang' and I saw the tip of my wing disappearing into the blue.'"

It had been hit by cannon fire. Kain then realised that Sewell had already been shot down (he managed to land safely - in my picture you can just see him far below, trailing white vapour).

Kain was now in a twisting dogfight with the two 109s. Eventually he was able to fire "a longish burst from behind" into one of them, sending it down in black smoke. But the other got on his tail and blew a big hole in his Hurricane's engine - sending oil all over the windscreen and fumes into the cockpit.

He tried to chase the 109 as it flew past him but had lost engine power. He expected his foe  "to come back and teach me to play the harp" - but for whatever reason, perhaps lack of ammunition, he did not.

Collapse

So there was Kain, far behind enemy lines with a dead engine and a cockpit filling with smoke. He opened the canopy to jump out - but realised his parachute harness had come off his shoulder.

So he got back in and, incredibly, glided some 30 miles to Metz aerodrome where he made a force landing. He clambered out of the badly damaged Hurri - and promptly collapsed, to be rescued by some French soldiers.

Quite a tale, and that is was I decided to make a picture about. Happily I had in my collection of cloudscapes a suitable background photo taken in roughly the same area and altitude.

I also had a lower level photo of the French countryside for the other picture in this sequence. This began as a sketch about events on 26 March when there was a bigger aerial combat - during which Kain, with shrapnel in his leg,  did bale out of his burning aircraft:

Combat in France sketch idea

You can see how this overlaps with the finished item at the top of the page. But in playing around with compositions I had already decided that I really liked the effect of a 'vic' cluster of the black and white Hurricanes - reminding me for all the world of a shoal of tropical fish we used to have in a tank when I was a child:  

Phoney-War-Hurricanes

'Rising to the challenge' © by Gary Eason / Flight Artworks

So rather than carve out a dogfight I thought I would show the beginnings of the action, and that is how the second picture came to be made.

Soon Eddie Kain had notched up five aerial victories becoming the RAF's first "ace" of the war, feted in the British newspapers and interviewed on the BBC.

In May the Battle of France began. Kain rapidly achieved further combat successes and his total had risen to 17 when, exhausted, he was ordered back to England in early June.

Kain said his farewells to his squadron but as he was leaving decided to do some low-level aerobatics over the airfield. He slammed into the ground doing a third flick roll, was flung out of his exploding Hurricane and killed outright.

He was a few weeks short of his 22nd birthday.

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