Legendary Wing Leader “Johnnie” Johnson, the highest scoring RAF Ace of WWII, leads the Spitfires of No. 144 (Canadian) Wing during the weeks following D-Day. Having picked up a formation of USAAF B-17s returning from a bombing mission to Germany, the Canadian Wing’s Spitfire Mk IXs stay with the American bombers to fend off attacks from prowling Luftwaffe fighters.
By mid-summer 1944, the skies over Europe had not seen a day or night without battle in several years. During the first phases of World War II, the possibility that Hitler’s Axis forces would prevail seemed great…only the combined efforts of freedom-loving nations cooperating with maximum effort could defeat this spreading evil.
Following D-Day in June ’44, the tide began to turn; Over 130,000 troops from more than eight Allied countries including Britain, the United States, Canada and other Commonwealth nations, landed on Normandy’s beaches in the first 24 hours. These nations combined to drive Nazi forces from France, paving the way to eventual surrender, and their firm alliance in the air was finally beginning to wither Goering’s Luftwaffe. But like a cornered animal, the enemy’s resistance would grow more desperate over the final months.
Around the clock bombing of Germany had begun one year before, from British precision bombers at night, and American B-17s and B-24s by day. Allied fighters played a critical role, not only in the defense of the “Heavies,” but also by waging an effective offense. USAAF and RAF fighters would routinely work together in this incredible effort, the latter of which would be comprised of pilots not only from Great Britain, but also Commonwealth nations including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and others. Not without great cost, the solidarity of these countries and their combined effort ultimately brought an end to the tyranny that threatened the world during history’s greatest conflict.
ARTIST’S NOTES – The Inspiration Behind the Painting
The painting was inspired in part by quotes from Johnnie’s classic 1956 memoir “Wing Leader”. Having read the book a number of times I was moved by a particular passage that stuck in my mind.
“We joined together and flew above the white, fleecy blanket towards our rendezvous point with the Forts. As usual, they were dead on time; they flew a converging course with ours, and I thought how beautiful and stately they looked when they winged their way through the high sky in a good, balanced formation”…
“We saw the glinting bombers from a great distance, for the bright sun reflected from a hundred places on each silver aircraft. They made a most impressive sight when they pounded their stately way through the skies in battle array. Flak and fighters could not stop them. Here and there, a bomber fell burning to the ground below, but the rest pressed on, determined, irresistible, blazing a new daylight trail over Europe and somehow symbolic of the country’s star they bore”.
Johnnie Johnson, from “Wing Leader”, 1956
I’d seen few photographs or artwork of the Spitfire and B-17 Fortress flying together, but the idea of depicting these two great warbirds in the same scene absolutely fascinated me, and immediately brought to mind the way the Allies worked together during the crucial days of the War. Additionally, for years I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Johnnie Johnson’s son, Mike and thought it would be a great tribute to his famous father to feature his beloved Mark IX Spitfire. Both Johnnie and Mike had a great affection for the B-17, so this seemed a natural fit, and an appropriate choice of aircraft to feature in this scene. –John D. Shaw
THE MAIN EDITION
All prints in the editions are individually numbered and personally hand-signed by the artist along with two B-17 veterans and legendary RAF Ace “Johnnie” Johnson:
Air Vice Marshal J.E “JOHNNIE” JOHNSON CB CBE DSO** DFC* – RAF Spitfire Ace who led the Canadian Wing / highest scoring Allied Western Ace with 38 victories
Lieutenant Colonel IRVIN POFF 3 Air Medals – B-17 pilot with 2nd Bomb Group, 15th Air Force / Flew 50 missions
First Lieutenant KEN SHARP 3 Air Medals – B-17 pilot with the 388th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force / Flew 18 daylight Operations
THE COLLECTORS EDITION AND ARTIST PROOFS
With all the signatures of the Main Edition, these prints are additionally personally signed by a B-17 veteran and three Spitfire Aces who flew with the Canadian Wings:
First Lieutenant CHARLES “NORM” STEVENS DFC, 4 Air Medals – B-17 Bombardier with the 351st Bomb Group / Flew 34 daylight Operations
Wing Commander J.F. “STOCKY” EDWARDS DFC* DFM – 127 Canadian Wing RCAF / 16 ½ victories
Wing Commander JAMES LINDSAY DFC* – 416 Sqn RCAF /11 ½ victories in WWII and Korea
Lieutenant General DON LAUBMAN DFC* – 412 & 402 Sqn RCAF / 15 victories
In preparation for this release, “Johnnie” Johnson, Don Laubman, James Lindsay and “Stocky” Edwards personally signed the archival paper sheets used for this edition several years ago. This historic edition allows collectors the rare opportunity to acquire a new release from one of the world’s foremost artists, personally endorsed by legendary WWII Fighter Aces.
With all the signatures of the Collectors Edition, each Remarque copy is embellished with an original pencil Remarque hand drawn in the lower border of the print by master artist John Shaw. The three Remarque editions include a single Remarque drawing, two Remarque drawings or the Artist Special Remarque which features a substantial and extensive pencil scene.
John Shaw’s pencil work is remarkable and he is renowned throughout the aviation art field for his devotion to meticulous detail. He is somehow able to capture in graphite, exquisite works of art in the border of the print that are simply breathtaking, making his Remarques highly sought after collector’s pieces.
THE CANVAS GICLÉE EDITIONS
Using the most sophisticated digital Giclée technology under the direct supervision of the artist, each Proof is printed directly on to fine canvas replicating the look and feel of the original painting.
Each individually numbered canvas is signed, custom hand embellished and varnished by the artist John Shaw.
The edition is exclusively limited to 75 canvas Proofs and are available as 36″x 24″ and 42″x 28″ canvases. Custom sizes are also available, please ask for details