His Early Work

Since early boyhood, I’ve been aware my dad’s job was a little bit different to the other boys I encountered at school. For a start he was an artist and that conjured up the impression of a Bohemian lifestyle forged perhaps in a rooftop garret in Paris surrounded by huge canvases on easels and scantily clad female models.

The fact my dad worked at home was a novelty as he was there to take me out and to school when invariably the bus didn’t turn up. But unlike the archetypal artist’s studio, his was more like a design office with rows of books, a large drawing board and with pens and airbrush equipment as prominent as brushes and paints.

We still have dad’s first painting of a Spanish galleon which he did in his teens but by 1942 when he was barely 18, dad was in print with line drawings of famous aircraft appearing in the Air Training Corps Gazette, no doubt to fuel the interest of wood-be young fliers at a time when Britain was still desperately in need of pilots.

Rather than be called up to join the RAF which potentially could have robbed me of a father and the loss of a treasury of great illustrative artwork, dad’s talents for technical drawing and his passion for aeroplanes were spotted and acted upon. Instead he joined an aircraft factory to help produce illustrations for manuals to assist aircrew and maintenance personnel, the theory being that a picture speaks louder than a thousand words.

Dad finally settled on Fairey Aviation Ltd at Hayes in Middlesex which he could reach by bus, tube and train every day. The Fairey Firefly two-seat Fleet Air Arm fighter was being manufactured at the time and dad completed a large cutaway drawing of the Firefly, his biggest and best work to date.