Vital Force by Richard Taylor

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For perhaps the sixth time today, profoundly outnumbered, the RAF's young fighter pilots will intercept yet another Luftwaffe force as the evil raiders invade their beloved airspace. It is August 1940, and the Battle of Britain is raging towards its ferocious climax all over southern England.

The sturdy Hawker Hurricane Mk1s, bearing the brunt of all the combat flying during the Battle, will account for no fewer than four-fifths of the air victories achieved by RAF fighter pilots. The simplicity of its construction enabled the Hurricane to survive heavy punishment in combat, at the same time providing its pilots with a reliable and stable gun platform. Beautiful, distinctive, tough and aggressive, this remarkable fighter, together with its courageous young pilots, earned the undying gratitude of a nation on the verge of defeat and ultimately, an unrivalled position in the annals of air warfare.

Richard Taylor's painting captures eloquently the urgency of a scramble - an everyday occurence during those frantic days in the summer of 1940. Battle of Britain ace Flight Lieutenant Ian Gleed leads a detachment of Hurricane Mk1s from 87 Squadron as they climb out of their Exeter airfield during the peak of the battle in the high summer of 1940. Each of the 450 prints in the edition carries the original signatures of three distinguished Battle of Britain Hurricane pilots from 87 Squadron.

Flight Lieutenant Peter Hairs MD
Peter Hairs joined the RAFVR in 1937, and was called up at the outbreak of war in September 1939 to complete his training. After being commissioned he converted to Hurricanes, joining 501 Squadron at Tangmere in January 1940. He went to France with the squadron in May, claiming a share in a Dornier Do17 a few days after arriving. 501 covered the evacuation of the BEF from Cherbourg before re-assembling in England. In September he downed an Me109, before being posted away from the sqaudron as an instructor. In December 1943 he was posted to join 276 Squadron, and in May 1944 to 19 OTU. He finished the war in India, receiving a Mention in Dispatches.

Flight Lieutenant Bill Green
Bill Green joined 501 Squadron at Filton, originally as a fitter, in 1936. In 1938 he joined a scheme to recruit NCO pilots, qualifying as a Flight Serageant and re-joined 501 at Bristol in July 1940 with no training on Hurricanes. Teaching himself to fly it he went on to squadron strength on 20 August, and flew from Kenley throughout the Battle of Britain until November, surviving being shot down twice, before being posted to 504 Squadron. After a spell instructing on Spitfires and Tomahawks, he converted to Typhoons, and from November 1944 served with 56 Squadron on Tempests. In February 1945 he was shot down and taken prisoner until the end of the war.

Group Captain Byron Duckenfield AFC
Byron Duckenfield joined 74 Squadron at Hornchurch in April 1940, flying Spitfires, and on 22 July was posted to 501 Squadron flying Hurricanes first at Middle Wallop, then to Gravesend, scoring his first victory, a Ju87, on the 29th. During August and September he scored three more victories. After a spell instructing he was posted to command 66 Squadron, and in February 1942 to command 615 Squadron, which he took to the Far East. In late December 1942 he was shot down in Burma and captured by the Japanese. He remained a POW until release in May 1945.

Overall print size: 34 5/8" x 22 7/8" high.

Image size: 28" wide x 15 3/8" high.