Thunderheads Over Ridgewell Artist Proof by Robert Taylor

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In the early days of the USAAF daylight bombing campaign, before the arrival of long-range fighter escorts, rarely was a mission flown without Luftwaffe interception and the ever-present barrage of anti-aircraft fire. The Eighth Air Force crews literally fought their way through swarms of enemy fighters and thick flak to hit their targets, then fought their way home again. Seldom a formation returned without losses and casualties, but inexorably the American bomb groups struck deeper and deeper into enemy territory.

Bomber crews lucky enough to survive a complete tour were few and far between. They knew this when they arrived in England at the start of their tour, and the awesome task they faced banded the flyers together like brothers. They flew and fought for each other, their country and liberty with determination and a camaraderie that only those who went through the experience could fully appreciate. In his tribute to the USAAF bomber crews, Robert Taylor has selected the 381st Bomb Group to represent, and pay tribute to all those who flew the perilous daylight raids out of bases in England into the heavily defended skies above enemy occupied Europe.

Robert's emotive painting shows 381st Bomb Group B-17 Fortresses returning to Ridgewell on a summer afternoon in 1944 during a period when the Group reached the peak of it effectiveness- for several months it was the top ranked outfit in the Eighth. Between June 1943 and the end of hostilities the 381st completed 297 combat missions, hit almost every important target in German hands and was credited with the destruction of 223 enemy aircraft.

One aircraft, more than any other, came to symbolise the great bombing campaign of the USAAF in Europe during World War Two, and in his spectacular new painting Robert Taylor captures the magnificence of Boeing's legendary B-17 Flying Fortress. In his inimitable style the artist brings to life an exact wartime scene, a battle-damaged aircraft making apparent the fearsome task tackled daily by those who flew the hazardous missions to occupied Europe during the greatest air war ever fought.

Colonel Turner G. Brashear
Joining up on 1 June 1943, Turner Brashear arrived at Ridgewell in time to fly his first combat mission on 24 November 1944, with the 535th Bomb Squadron, 381st Bomb Group. He flew as aircraft commander on 27 missions right up to VE-Day. On 11 April 1945 returning from a mission to Munich, his B17 suffered a mid-air collision over the Rhine, as another aircraft descended into his, shearing off the right horizontal stabilizer. The bomber spun downwards for 8000ft before Turner managed to control his aircraft home with great skill.

First Lieutenant Vincent J. Peters
Vincent Peters flew his first combat mission in October 1944 flying B17s with the 535th Bomb Squadron, 381st Bomb Group out of Ridgewell. He flew missions to attack the Nazi capital Berlin, to Cologne and Dresden, as well as targets in the Ruhr Valley. On 1 January 1945, during a mission supporting the Battle of the Bulge, his aircraft was hit and he and his crew were force to bail out.

Major Edward A. Klein
Edward Klein joined the USAAF on 21 September, 1941. As a Bombardier he was posted to England, and became part of the 381st Bomb Group, based at Ridgewell, flying B17s with the 534th Bomb Squadron. Ed Klein went on his first combat mission, to Germany. on 8 October, 1943, and the following day was under constant fighter attack for four and a half hours. On 31 October he went to Schweinfurt. On 6 March 1944 he flew on the first bombing of Berlin by American bombers. Finishing his 25-mission tour in March 1944 he had been Squadron leader, and Group Leader. Ed Klein retired from the service in 1963.

Overall print size: 32" wide x 24" high approx.

Image size: 25 1/8" wide x 16" high.