Highly respected historical military artist, Drew Harrison, has completed two paintings that tell the story of two Australians serving in the famous Battle of Britain. Honouring the service of Howard Mayers and John Curchin as just two Australians among a group of airmen from all nations is seen by the artist as an important commemoration on the 75th anniversary of the battle.
“Traditionally 15th September has been recognised as Battle of Britain Day in England and I wanted to release these two important paintings to commemorate the 75th Anniversary” Drew Harrison said. “I have had the great privilege to speak with a number of veterans of the Second World War. They are normally very humble about their sacrifice. They deserve recognition.”
The two paintings are entitled “Defending the Capital” and “Cold Lines”.
Drew is well represented with paintings in the Royal Australian Air Force Collection and Aviation Museum of South Australia Collection. His artwork has been used in a number of historical military publications as well as the RAAF Calendar in 2013 and 2014. Drew has been a prize winner in the R.A.A.F National Heritage Awards (Art section) numerous times since 1998 including winning first prize in 2014.
Defending the Capital
During August 1940 the Battle of Britain continued to rage. The German Luftwaffe gradually began to shift their bombing focus towards the British airfields before later launching full out attacks against the capital London. The ubiquitous Hurricane and Spitfire, flown by pilots from several nations, bore the brunt of combat. 601 ‘County of London’ Squadron was a pre-war Auxillary squadron that earned the nickname ‘millionaires squadron’ due to the number of affluent pilots among the ranks. By WWII the unit was far more cosmopolitan! In early August 1940 Sydney born Howard Mayers had joined the squadron. He was soon thrown into action along with the daily routine of sleep deprivation, stress and extremely dangerous missions. In this depiction, Mayers, along with other pilots of 601 Squadron, are about to launch an attack against Do17 bombers over the Thames Estuary. Mayers was one of the leading Australian fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain and an ace. He survived the battles of 1940 and was later sent to the Middle East to command a squadron and then a Wing. Ultimately, Mayers was decorated with a DSO, DFC and Bar and Mentioned in Despatches although, sadly, did not survive the war.
John Curchin was a recognised Australian who flew with Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain. Having been assigned to 609 ‘West Riding’ Squadron just after the Dunkirk withdrawal, Curchin soon became a respected member of the unit and eventual flight leader and DFC recipient. As the Luftwaffe intensified their attacks during the English Summer of 1940 the Australian was regularly in combat flying Spitfires. Curchin also became a leading ace during this period. In this companion painting to Defending the Capital, Curchin and his wingman have been momentarily caught off guard by a diving Messerschmitt. The Spitfire and Bf109 were evenly matched so the outcome of this particular encounter could go either way. Scenes like this were a daily occurrence for the pilots who defended London during 1940.
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