Saturday, October 18, 2008


I am engaged in a series of paintings of aircraft shadows and am presently working on the penultimate one of a Warwick aeroplane dropping a lifeboat suspended beneath parachutes.

I am taking the shape of ingredients from memory during the time when I flew during the war in these – not very good – and sometimes dangerous machines.

I had reached to ten preliminary A4 paintings (pastels) when I realised that the undersides of these particular aeroplanes must have been white, not camouflaged green and brown.

So I was about to visit a library in the splendid RAF museum, Hendon, to do some research into parachute numbers for the under slung lifeboats that we were prepared to drop, camouflaged patterns, general colours and shapes, etc., when Margreet said she’d look it all up for me on the internet. I bet her 10 P that google hadn’t even heard of a Warwick. I lost. There was a mass of information.

The person who runs a museum on the airfield from which I flew in Cornwall became an internet “contact”. So I thought I’d be of help to his archive and supplied him with the following email:

Dear Rod,

In the course of my training to become a pilot I was posted to RAF Davidstow Moor from 15.03.1944 to 15.05.1944.

As part of my flying experience, I was taken up in Warwicks as an observer next to the pilot.

I did 20 hours in the aircraft, once doing a nine hours sortie over the Bay of Biscay with a lifeboat beneath.

The only excitement that I can recall was that, with others looking downwards, my job was to look skywards.

I was fortunate to see a German Focke-Wulf Condor before any on that aircraft saw us.

I got on to the intercom to tell all aboard (the noise in those aircrafts was enormous) but the communication broke almost as soon as I spoke.

Pointing out the German aircraft to the pilot, we dropped down to sea level (being vulnerable from an attack from below) and headed back (at full throttle I image) to Davidstow.

Another point I remember and tell to incredulous ears is that back in the mess (canteen) we were guaranteed an egg.

Another incident, this time on the ground at Davidstow, is that I inadvertently entered a ladies’ lavatory and was delighted with its cleanliness, when I heard a lady cough nearby. To be found in a ladies’ convenience would have been (probably) a court marshal offence.

I left like a rocket and (most thankfully) no one saw me leave.

This is not much, but small vignettes like this help to build up a picture of the time.

With best wishes,

Jim Page-Roberts