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Coming Home - Cornish Beaufighters

With so few examples left of the Bristol Beaufighter today, I find something intriguing in the historic images of these heavily-armed aircraft in action during World War II. Some of the later TF.X Beaufighters, loaded with rockets and torpedoes for anti-shipping roles, were based at RAF Davidstow in North Cornwall ranging out across the English Channel and Atlantic to attack Axis shipping and, if they were lucky, U-Boats.

This painting was a family commission for my brother living on the coast in Cornwall near the old RAF Davidstow airfield, and with a fondness for the Bristol Beaufighter. During my research into 404 Squadron (who were based at Davidstow) I found a lot about one particular aircraft that saw action on D-Day - NE355/EE-H

In 1944 with the build up of forces in the south of England during the approach to D-Day, Canadian 404 “Buffalo” Squadron (part of the Wick Wing in Scotlad) was moved to the South-West, arriving at Davidstow Moor at the beginning of May. The distinctive black-and-white stripe markings were applied on the eve of the invasion to wings and fuselage, and by the end of June the unit codes had been changed from Coastal’s single digit “2” to the two letters common to all aircraft in the area of operations (reverting in 404’s case to their earlier “EE”) with aircraft retained their individual single letter.

On D-Day the Squadron attacked three German destroyers, damaging two and probably sinking the third; three days later another destroyer was beached after a Squadron attack.

With this information about the Cornish Beaufighter, I thought it might be more of a poignant scene to depict the aircraft returning home with empty rocket rails and torpedoes dropped from battling on D-Day, crossing the beautiful and easily recognisable Cornish coastline on its way back to RAF Davidstow.

The Cornish scenery was very important in this painting as it connects the both the aircraft and the abode of the painting commissoner. One thing that always sticks with you when visiting the Cornish coast is wild, ruggedness of the cliff rocks mixed with the stubborn flora of moss, grass and lichens. The sea has an almost glowing turquoise hue near the bays that quickly darkens to midnight blue in the depths, and the skies are unpredictable and fast changing - blue and welcome whilst a heavy raincloud maybe emptying along the horizon at the same time.

I played around with these aspects a lot and had some fun with it. Working out where and how the aircraft would cross the canvas was always a balance, to work with the background to help each to compliment the other.

The rest of the painting came together rather quickly, the interesting coastal sunlight working around the Beaufighter to bed it into the scene. All in all a very enjoyable painting to work on and happily on its way to hang in a Cornish home overlooking a very similar landscape.


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