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Air Chief Marshal Sir Lewis Hodges KCB CBE DSO DFC* (deceased)
|Lewis Hodges flew with 49 Sqn from June 1940 until he was shot down over occupied France in Sept 1940 and taken prisoner by the Vichy French. He managed to escape and made his way back to England, rejoining 49 Sqn. He took part in the attacks against the German Channel dash operation in Feb 1942. In Nov of that year he joined 161 (Special Duties) Sqn, flying Halifaxes, Lysanders and Hudsons landing and parachuting agents into German occupied territory. Among the people he brought out of France were two future Presidents - Vincent Auriol and Francois Mitterand. He died 4th January 2007.|
Captain Murray Anderson DFC*
|Commissioned in the Royal Tank Regiment from RMA Woolwich in 1939, Murray Anderson was seconded to the Royal Air Force in 1940. He flew Spitfires with No.1 Photo Reconnaissance Unit at RAF Benson until 1943. He then joined 161 (Special Duties) Squadron flying Lysanders, and was the most successful pick up pilot for the whole of that year even though in May 1944 he was posted to 65 Squadron 2nd Tactical Air Force, flying Mustangs. After a rest period he was posted to 52 Sqn at Dum Dum in May 1945.|
Group Captain Hugh Verity DSO* DFC (deceased)
|Learning to fly in the Oxford University Air Squadron in 1938, Hugh Verity flew Beaufighters in Coastal Command and night fighter squadrons before volunteering to join 161 (Special Duties) Sqn. In 1943 he commanded this squadrons Lysander flight and became the Squadron Commander. On his 29 successful pick ups, of which 24 were in Lysanders, he brought back to England a total of 93 people from the meadows of occupied France, lit only by pocket torches. He died in 2001.|
Lieutenant Colonel Francis Cammaerts DSO (deceased)
|Born in 1916 the son of a Belgian poet Emile Cammaerts, he was a pacifist at the beginning of the war but his views changed when his brother was killed in the RAF, and in 1942 joined the Special Operations Executive (SEO). Flown to France (by Hugh Verity), he was to join a circuit which he soon found to be insecure. Over 15 months in the field he hardly ever stayed in the same house for more than a night or two. By 1944 he was the inspired leader of thousands of well trained and armed resistance fighters in the South of France. His sabotage teams excelled at cutting railway lines when the time was required after D-Day. Before the Allied landings in the South of France in August 1944, he was given command of all Allied missions in SE France. His guerilla army held open the Route Napoleon from Cannes to Grenoble to allow the Allied army to by-pass the strong enemy forces near the lower Rhone. He died 3rd July 2006.|
Wing Commander Len Ratcliff DSO DFC
|Len Ratcliff joined the RAFVR in early 1939 to train as a pilot. In 1941 he completed a full tour of 30 operations in Bomber Command with 49 Squadron. After a rest period he was posted to 161 (Special Duties ) Sqn as Flight Commander flying agents and supplies in and out of France, Belgium, Holland, Norway and Denmark. He then spent a period in charge of A.I.2.C at the very centre of clandestine activities in the whole of occupied Europe. He returned to 161 Squadron in 1943 as Flight Commander and later Squadron commander.|
|The Aircraft :|
|Lysander||The first Lysanders entered service in June 1938, equipping squadrons for army co-operation and were initially used for message-dropping and artillery spotting. When war broke out in Europe, the earlier Mk Is had been largely replaced by Mk IIs, the older machines heading for the Middle East. Some of these aircraft, now designated type L.1, operated with the Chindits of the British Indian Army in the Burma Campaign of the Second World War. Four regular squadrons equipped with Lysanders accompanied the British Expeditionary Force to France in October 1939, and were joined by a further squadron early in 1940. Following the German invasion of France and the low countries on 10 May 1940, the Lysanders were put into action as spotters and light bombers. In spite of occasional victories against German aircraft, they made very easy targets for the Luftwaffe even when escorted by Hurricanes. Withdrawn from France during the Dunkirk evacuation, they continued to fly supply-dropping missions to Allied forces from bases in England; on one mission to drop supplies to troops trapped at Calais, 14 of 16 Lysanders and Hawker Hectors that set out were lost. 118 Lysanders were lost in or over France and Belgium in May and June 1940, of a total of 175 deployed. With the fall of France, it was clear that the type was unsuitable for the coastal patrol and army co-operation role, being described by Air Marshal Arthur Barratt, commander-in-chief of the British Air Forces in France as "quite unsuited to the task; a faster, less vulnerable aircraft was required." Nevertheless, throughout the remainder of 1940, Lysanders flew dawn and dusk patrols off the coast and in the event of an invasion of Britain, they were tasked with attacking the landing beaches with light bombs and machine guns. They were replaced in the home-based army co-operation role from 1941 by camera-equipped fighters such as the Curtiss Tomahawk and North American Mustang carrying out reconnaissance operations, while light aircraft such as the Taylorcraft Auster were used to direct artillery. Some UK-based Lysanders went to work operating air-sea rescue, dropping dinghies to downed RAF aircrew in the English Channel. Fourteen squadrons and flights were formed for this role in 1940 and 1941. In August 1941 a new squadron, No. 138 (Special Duties), was formed to undertake missions for the Special Operations Executive to maintain clandestine contact with the French Resistance. Among its aircraft were Lysander Mk IIIs, which flew over and landed in occupied France. While general supply drops could be left to the rest of No. 138's aircraft, the Lysander could insert and remove agents from the continent or retrieve Allied aircrew who had been shot down over occupied territory and had evaded capture. For this role the Mk IIIs were fitted with a fixed ladder over the port side to hasten access to the rear cockpit and a large drop tank under the belly. In order to slip in unobtrusively the Lysanders were painted matte black; operations almost always took place within a week of a full moon, as moonlight was essential for navigation. The aircraft undertook such duties until the liberation of France in 1944. The Lysanders flew from secret airfields at Newmarket and later Tempsford, but used regular RAF stations to fuel-up for the actual crossing, particularly RAF Tangmere. Flying without any navigation equipment other than a map and compass, Lysanders would land on short strips of land, such as fields, marked out by four or five torches. They were originally designed to carry one passenger in the rear cockpit, but for SOE use the rear cockpit was modified to carry two passengers in extreme discomfort in case of urgent necessity. The pilots of No. 138 and from early 1942, No. 161 Squadron transported 101 agents to and recovered 128 agents from Nazi-occupied Europe. The Germans knew little about the British aircraft and wished to study one. Soldiers captured an intact Lysander in March 1942 when its pilot was unable to destroy it after a crash, but a train hit the truck carrying the Lysander, destroying the cargo|
|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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