You're probably wondering why I'm writing about an art print when this is a book review site. Well, one of the books in my collection, and one of the better memoirs to be published in recent years, is From North Africa To The Arakan by New Zealand Spitfire ace Alan McGregor Peart DFC. With the assistance of Kiwi aviation historian Larry Hill (author of the recently released An Aviation Bibliography for New Zealand - possibly one of the most 'dangerous' books ever published ... dangerous to your wallet!), Alan has commissioned artist Ron Fulstow to capture one of his more dicey flights. Alan provides a brief outline of the action:
"During the Japanese assault on Imphal, in Burma, [81 Squadron] provided air cover over the second Chindit expedition approximately 200 miles behind the Japanese lines. It did this from a strip code-named 'Broadway'. It was from this strip that an air battle took place between two of our Spitfires and more than 20 Japanese fighters. The sole surviving Spitfire is shown in combat in the print."
The date was March 17, 1944 and the other Spitfire was flown by S/L William 'Babe' Whitamore DFC who was a remarkably experienced fighter pilot having flown in the UK and North Africa with 66, 92, 112 and 601 Squadrons before joining 81 in India. During the action on March 17 - in which he and Alan were jumped by more than 20 Oscars as they took off from 'Broadway' - he added an Oscar to his score of 8.5 victories before being killed by fire from the three Japanese aircraft on his tail. Alan meanwhile flew for his life for the next 40 minutes until the Oscars had to turn for home low on fuel but not before losing one of their number to a head-on pass against our hero.
Only one opportunity to hit back occurred when one of the Oscars tried a head-on attack and we both fired at each other. I saw cannon strikes on his fuselage before he shot past and the army later confirmed to me that he had crashed. - page 162, FNATTA.
Alan's aircraft did not escape entirely unscathed though with the Mk VIII being hit behind the cockpit by a cannon shell which exploded under the seat. Fortunately the armour plate protected Alan from injury. However he threw the Spitfire around the sky (and the Oscars) to such an extent that upon later inspection it was found "the tail rivets were sprung, the wings had extra dihedral, and the engine mounting was damaged."
So, certainly a remarkable action to reproduce in a painting. Interestingly, research by Alan and Larry indicates this is possibly the only art print to depict an RAF Spitfire in action against Japanese aircraft.
Now the business side of things. Other than Alan's signature, the print is also signed by F/L WJ Robinson who joined 81 in early 1943 and also served with 485 Sqn in the UK; F/L Clarke, another 485 Sqn flyer; and F/L Laugeson, a ferry pilot who delivered Spitfires across Africa to the Middle East squadrons.
The print itself is printed on top quality art paper and measures 840 by 580mm and is priced at NZ$205 including P&P. For customers in the UK, the print is available for 75.00 GBP including P&P. If you are lucky to own a numbered copy of Alan's book (sold direct by Alan) he will try to send you the matching numbered print for the special price of NZ$170 including P&P. All prints come with a certificate of authenticity and a letter from Alan giving a few details of the action. A very limited number of Remarque copies are also available but you will need to speak to Alan for further information on these.
If you are interested in this wonderful print, please contact Alan at alan.peartATxtra.co.nz (replacing the AT with @ of course). Alan will reply with details for payment.
I know what I will be adding to my wall in the near future!
Incidentally, the two books mentioned above - Alan's From North Africa To The Arakan and Larry Hill's An Aviation Bibliography For New Zealand - will be reviewed on ABR in the near future.