It came on 9 April 1940 when German forces trampled through Denmark and seized Norway. Four weeks later, they turned their attentions south. On Friday 10 May, Hitler’s panzers rolled across the Dutch border heading for France. Overwhelmed by the onslaught Luxembourg and the Netherlands surrendered, followed by Belgium whilst an out-gunned and out-maneuvered British Expeditionary Force retreated to the beaches of Dunkirk and a humiliating evacuation. On 25 June France, too, capitulated.
Britain stood alone, ripe for invasion.
But before the Führer could sweep through Admiralty Arch on his way to Buckingham Palace, his army must cross 22 miles of water – the English Channel. It sounded little enough, men had swum it, but to cross it the Germans must take control of the sky – hardly a problem for the Luftwaffe, Goering told Hitler; after all, his air force was the most powerful on earth. Or so he thought.
For what Goering had overlooked was the tenacity of a few thousand brave young men to thwart his plans – the pilots of RAF Fighter Command. Mostly British, they also included volunteers from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and countries across the British Empire. They were joined by pilots who had escaped from the newly-occupied countries in Europe, and a handful of Americans brave enough to defy the laws of their country to fight for an ally.
The battle that followed was long and bitter, as important as any fought in a thousand years of British history, but after three months of fighting the once-mighty Luftwaffe had been held at bay and defeated – because now there could be no invasion. The Battle of Britain wasn’t “the end of the beginning,” as Churchill would later describe victory at El Alamein, but it did mark the beginning of hope. And with hope came resilience and a steadfast resolve that would, in the end, lead to victory.
Working with a combination of graphite and colored paints on “buff” colored paper to create a unique sepia effect, Robert Taylor’s outstanding Masterwork brings to life a moment during September 1940 at the height of the Battle of Britain. With an intuition unsurpassed by his peers, the world’s foremost aviation artist depicts a group of battle-weary Spitfire pilots from 92 Squadron after a long day’s fighting. Exhausted, they wait whilst ground crews hastily re-fuel and re-arm their aircraft at Biggin Hill ready for the next combat. No one knows when the alarm will sound but, when it does, they will, as always, be ready.
Many of the veterans that fought during this crucial period have sadly passed away since creating this edition, so we are proud that several of “The Few” had previously signed the prints. It is of great historical importance that during the centenary year of the RAF such famous veterans have authenticated what is likely to be remembered as a classic by the world’s leading aviation artist.
THE LIMITED EDITION
Joining artist Robert Taylor, every print has been personally autographed by two highly regarded RAF veterans who flew in combat during the Battle of Britain:
Wing Commander JOHN “TIM” ELKINGTON
Flight Lieutenant WILLIAM ROBERT “BOB” HUGHES DFC AE
THE ANNIVERSARY EDITION & ARTIST PROOFS
To help commemorate the centenary of the RAF, each print in these memorable FIVE signature editions is additionally signed by three prominent veterans who served during the Battle of Britain:
Flight Lieutenant ARCHIE MCINNES
Section Officer JOAN FANSHAWE
Leading Aircraftsman JOHN LOOSEMORE
THE MATTED COLLECTOR’S EDITION
Each print in these TEN signature editions is personally signed by a further two iconic Battle of Britain fighter Aces and conservation matted to include an original piece of WWII Hurricane and the original autographs of three further Battle of Britain Aircrew:
Wing Commander PAUL FARNES DFM
Wing Commander TOM NEIL DFC* AFC AE
The matted signatures:
Group Captain ARTHUR MONTAGU-SMITH
Group Captain BILLY DRAKE DSO DFC*
Flight Lieutenant ERIC PARKIN
Overall matted size: Approx 34¾ x 18¼