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'Liberating Kuwait on the D108' - painting HMS Cardiff

In the run-up to Chirstmas 2021 a lady asked if I could paint Naval subjects - destroyers to be precise, for her husband's 50th birthday. I'd prefer an aviation subject, but yes I can. She replied along the lines of "Well, my husband retired from the Royal Navy as a flight controller, so yes - a Lynx helicopter included in the painting would be good".

That sweeted the prospect - okay I'd certainly like to do it, but it was a little close to Christmas - many of my chocolate advent calendar doors were already open. I was a little loaded with other work on the easel meeting Christmas deadlines, after which I'd planned to spend the day with a glass in my hand instead of a paintbrush.

It was unfortunate to have missed her husband's 50th birthday, but at least the pressure was off.

Fast-forward to Spring 2022 and I had time in the calendar to look at researching and painting the ship - HMS Cardiff D108. HMS Cardiff was a British Type 42 destroyer and the third ship of the Royal Navy to be named in honour of the Welsh capital city of Cardiff.

She served in the Falklands War, where she shot down the last Argentine aircraft of the conflict and accepted the surrender of a 700-strong garrison in the settlement of Port Howard.

Of more relevance to my commissioner, HMS Cardiff also served During the 1991 Gulf War, which is when her husband served onboard. It was during this time the ship's Lynx helicopter sank two Iraqi minesweepers. Here she also was dubbed with the slogan "Liberating Kuwait on the D108".

Not having much familiarity with warships, I decided to keep things simple by focusing on photographic reference material that already existed of HMS Cardiff at sea. To these I heightened the drama of the ocean by adding a large bow wave, similar to those I'd seen the ship create in some of the reference photographs and films.

The helicopter in service aboard HMS Cardiff during the 1991 Gulf War was a Westland Navy Lynx HAS3, painted in an overall grey colour scheme with a fetching Union Jack flag on the side.

Until their recent retirement from the Royal Navy, I would hear these very distinctive sounding helicopters buzz overhead on a near daily basis being close to RNAS Yeovilton, so I was more than happy to include a Lynx here. In fact I originally planned to add two of these into the painting and in a more dominant placement, but quite rightly, I was talked down and reminded that the ship is the hero of the painting!

I decided to use the same wide, narrow stretched canvas I used for my Snowy Sea King painting, as the slender profile of the ship fits nicely on here. I got stuck in with the sky and sea first and made some quick progress - until I caught COVID-19.

Wow - I had proper man-flu symptoms for a a few days but made a quick recovery and was able to get back behind the easel again. The painting came together rather painlessly, although there were quite a few google research stops along the way as I tried to better understand the unfamiliar hardware items on the deck and superstructure that I was trying to paint from the reference photos.

Happily there were a few tears of joy shed when the new owner of the finished painting saw it for the first time and I feel a lot more confident in tackling paintings of the other ships he served on - as long as he includes another helicopter or two...


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