'Lancasters at War', watercolour, 55 x 35 cm.
Lancaster bombers bomb over the Ruhr Valley in Germany sometime on a moonlit night in 1943. The Ruhr Valley was the centre of Germany's heavy industry and so a frequent target for Bomber Command. As a centre of German war production, it was very heavily defended: the crews called it 'Happy Valley' with a touch of ironic and bitter humour. Radar-predicted flak is bursting all around the bombers, filling the air with flying shrapnel. The bombers flew in a 'stream' for protection but not in formation, which was usually impossible at night anyway. Here, the moonlight has allowed two bombers to fly in formation. The Lancaster closest to us, although the markings are not readily visible, is from 106 Squadron which visited the Ruhr many times. The aircraft at right has been hit, either by shrapnel or night fighters. Its No 3 engine has been shut down and the propeller feathered (turned into the slipstream to reduce drag). Some residual smoke is still coming from the engine and the jagged metal where either shrapnel or cannon shells have damaged the engine nacelle glints in the moonlight on top of the wing. This aircraft will not be able to maintain this altitude for long and will have to undertake the long trip home at lower levels on its own outside the protection of the rest of the bomber stream.
In reality, it would be unusual to deploy the bomber force on a night with such clear skies and bright moonlight - the aircraft would be too vulnerable to night fighters along the route. During the infamous 'Nuremberg Raid' of 1944 some 96 bombers were shot down on a mission during which upper cloud failed to materialise and left the bombers in bright, clear conditions. These aircraft are likely to use the cover of the clouds below them for cover on the way home. The aircraft are dropping bomb loads known as 'Usual'. The first part of this load would be hundreds of 4 lb incendiaries, seen leaving the aircraft on the right. After this would come a smaller number of 12 lb incendiaries and finally the 4,000 lb 'cookie' high-explosive weapon, just leaving the bomb bay on the lead aircraft. The bombers are receiving the Ruhr's usual rough reception but we should not forget either the suffering of the people below - we are reminded of this by the glow from the fires coming through the clouds.
The original painting was sold before publication.
A limited edition of 500 prints are available. The prints are available in our medium or large sizes:
Medium: Image 37 x 25 cm, £32 unmounted or £39 mounted to fit a 20 x 16" frame.
Large: Image approx 55 x 35 cm - £40 unmounted or £54 mounted to fit a 70 x 50 cm frame.
Please note that we can only provide framed prints for customers who can pick up from us in Mosstodloch - we are unable to post framed prints.
Medium framed print: £64
Large framed print: £89