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|Signatures on this item|
Private Alf Whitbread (deceased)
|Alf Whitbread, known in the war as "Lucky Jim" was born in Twickenham, London and when his father got a job in the Building Research Station in Garston the family moved to Watford. Alf Whitbread left school to become a machine engineer, but was encouraged to volunteer for the army after hearing a patriotic speech on the radio. On June 19th, 1940, Alf Whitbread went to the Edgeware recruiting office and joined the Royal West Kent Youth Battalion at the age of 18 and in 1942 in Ireland, Alf heard rumours about a newly formed airborne unit and volunteered. Alf said : "We thought we were going to be in the paratroopers, who were mad, but we finished up in the gliders and the paratroopers thought we were mad." Alf Served with 17 Platoon of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He landed as part of the Coup de Main operation on Glider No.6 into Pegasus bridge in the early hours of D-Day. Alf was part of the second group of gliders which landed first at Horsa Bridge, before taking part in the battle for Pegasus Bridge, (the subject of the film "The Longest Day".) They sent the message "ham and jam", a code confirming they had captured both bridges. The men held off many counter attacks by German troops and tanks until midday on June 6th. Alf would later say "Two of our gliders were sent to secure Horsa bridge and frankly, it was a walk over. Our platoon never lost a man. We secured the bridge and then, when another platoon relieved us, we went and joined John Howard on Pegasus Bridge." Alf Whitbread was later to take part in Operation Varsity, the last major battle of the war in Europe. On March 24th 1945 Operation Varsity was launched. The aim was to take a bridge over the Rhine again by gliderborne troops. Almost 1,500 men of the Ox and Bucks died during the operation, and Lucky Jim lived up to his reputation before his glider even landed. Alf would say: "They say dont volunteer for anything, but I did and it worked out to my benefit. I remember when we were set to get on a glider on the way for the Rhine crossing and it was too full. I was detailed to another glider. They both crash landed. All the troops in the first glider were killed. Only three of us got out of the other glider alive, after it broke in half." After the war Alf Whitbread joined London Transport as an engineer for 40 years and in all that time Alf never took a day off due to illness. With great sadness we have been told that Alf has passed away peacefully on 19th March 2011 at the age of 88. Cranston Fine Arts feel very honoured to have had Alf sign some of our art prints.|
|Private Billy Gray||The first man out of Glider No. 1 into Pegasus Bridge as part of the Coup de Main operation in the early hours of D-Day. He served with 25 Platoon of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.|
|The Aircraft :|
|Halifax||Royal Air Force heavy Bomber with a crew of six to eight. Maximum speed of 280mph (with MK.VI top speed of 312mph) service ceiling of 22,800feet maximum range of 3,000 miles. The Halifax carried four .303 browning machine guns in the tail turret, two .303 browning machines in the nose turret in the MK III there were four .303 brownings in the dorsal turret. The Handley Page Halifax, first joined the Royal Air Force in March 1941 with 35 squadron. The Halifax saw service in Europe and the Middle east with a variety of variants for use with Coastal Command, in anti Submarine warfare, special duties, glider-tugs, and troop transportation roles. A total of 6177 Halifax's were built and stayed in service with the Royal Air Force until 1952|
|Horsa||The Airspeed AS 51 Horsa named after Horsa the legendary conqueror of southern Britain in the 5th century was built by Airspeed Ltd during the second world war. The Horsa was a troop carrying glider that also could carry light vehicles. On the 19th / 20th November 1942 the Horsa was used for the first time for Operation Freshman, the unsuccessful attack at Rjukan in Norway on the German heavy water plant. The two Horsa gliders, each carrying 15 sappers, and one of the two Halifax Bombers used to tow the gliders, crashed in Norway due to bad weather. All 23 survivors from the glider crashes were executed on the orders of Adolf Hitler. In preparation for further operational deployment, 30 Horsa gliders were air-towed by Halifax bombers from Great Britain to North Africa but three aircraft were lost in transit. On 10 July 1943, 27 surviving Horsas were used in the invasion of Sicily during Operation Husky. During the Normandy landings over 250 Horsa Gliders were used by British and US Forces. The first units to land in France during the Battle for Normandy were at Pegasus Bridge where 6 Horsas were used in the capture of the bridge over the Caen canal, and a further bridge over the River Orne. In 1944 large numbers were also used for Operation Dragoon and Operation Market Garden, and in March 1945 Horsas again were used during Operation Varsity and the final operation for the Horsa when 440 gliders carried soldiers of the 6th Airborne Division across the Rhine. The Horsa Glider was towed by a variety of aircraft, usually bombers. The Short Stirling, Handley Page Halifax, Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and the Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle and also the Douglas C-47 Dakota. During Operation Market Garden, a total of 1,336 C-47s along with 340 Stirlings were employed to tow 1,205 gliders, and Curtiss C-46 Commando. They were towed with a harness that attached to points on both wings, and also carried a intercom between tug and glider. The glider pilots were usually from the Glider Pilot Regiment, part of the Army Air Corps, although Royal Air Force pilots were used on this occasion.|
|Artist Details : Robert Taylor|
|Click here for a full list of all artwork by Robert Taylor|
The name Robert Taylor has been synonymous with aviation art over a quarter of a century. His paintings of aircraft, more than those of any other artist, have helped popularise a genre which at the start of this remarkable artist's career had little recognition in the world of fine art. When he burst upon the scene in the mid-1970s his vibrant, expansive approach to the subject was a revelation. His paintings immediately caught the imagination of enthusiasts and collectors alike . He became an instant success. As a boy, Robert seemed always to have a pencil in his hand. Aware of his natural gift from an early age, he never considered a career beyond art, and with unwavering focus, set out to achieve his goal. Leaving school at fifteen, he has never worked outside the world of art. After two years at the Bath School of Art he landed a job as an apprentice picture framer with an art gallery in Bath, the city where Robert has lived and worked all his life. Already competent with water-colours the young apprentice took every opportunity to study the works of other artists and, after trying his hand at oils, quickly determined he could paint to the same standard as much of the art it was his job to frame. Soon the gallery was selling his paintings, and the owner, recognising Roberts talent, promoted him to the busy picture-restoring department. Here, he repaired and restored all manner of paintings and drawings, the expertise he developed becoming the foundation of his career as a professional artist. Picture restoration is an exacting skill, requiring the ability to emulate the techniques of other painters so as to render the damaged area of the work undetectable. After a decade of diligent application, Robert became one of the most capable picture restorers outside London. Today he attributes his versatility to the years he spent painstakingly working on the paintings of others artists. After fifteen years at the gallery, by chance he was introduced to Pat Barnard, whose military publishing business happened also to be located in the city of Bath. When offered the chance to become a full-time painter, Robert leapt at the opportunity. Within a few months of becoming a professional artist, he saw his first works in print. Roberts early career was devoted to maritime paintings, and he achieved early success with his prints of naval subjects, one of his admirers being Lord Louis Mountbatten. He exhibited successfully at the Royal Society of Marine Artists in London and soon his popularity attracted the attention of the media. Following a major feature on his work in a leading national daily newspaper he was invited to appear in a BBC Television programme. This led to a string of commissions for the Fleet Air Arm Museum who, understandably, wanted aircraft in their maritime paintings. It was the start of Roberts career as an aviation artist. Fascinated since childhood by the big, powerful machines that man has invented, switching from one type of hardware to another has never troubled him. Being an artist of the old school, Robert tackled the subject of painting aircraft with the same gusto as with his large, action-packed maritime pictures - big compositions supported by powerful and dramatic skies, painted on large canvases. It was a formula new to the aviation art genre, at the time not used to such sweeping canvases, but one that came naturally to an artist whose approach appeared to have origins in an earlier classical period. Roberts aviation paintings are instantly recognisable. He somehow manages to convey all the technical detail of aviation in a traditional and painterly style, reminiscent of the Old Masters. With uncanny ability, he is able to recreate scenes from the past with a carefully rehearsed realism that few other artists ever manage to achieve. This is partly due to his prodigious research but also his attention to detail: Not for him shiny new factory-fresh aircraft looking like museum specimens. His trade mark, flying machines that are battle-scarred, worse for wear, with dings down the fuselage, chips and dents along the leading edges of wings, oil stains trailing from engine cowlings, paintwork faded with dust and grime; his planes are real! Roberts aviation works have drawn crowds in the international arena since the early 1980s. He has exhibited throughout the US and Canada, Australia, Japan and in Europe. His one-man exhibition at the Smithsonians National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC was hailed as the most popular art exhibition ever held there. His paintings hang in many of the worlds great aviation museums, adorn boardrooms, offices and homes, and his limited edition prints are avidly collected all around the world. A family man with strong Christian values, Robert devotes most of what little spare time he has to his home life. Married to Mary for thirty five years, they have five children, all now grown up. Neither fame nor fortune has turned his head. He is the same easy-going, gentle character he was when setting out on his painting career all those years ago, but now with a confidence that comes with the knowledge that he has mastered his profession.
More about Robert Taylor
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