AT THE DAYS END
by Robert Taylor
September 1940; and the fate of the free world hung in the balance. A year had passed since Hitler had ordered his armies to crush Poland, which they did in a matter of weeks. And, for a while, Europe had held its breath, waiting for the next move.
It came on 9 April 1940 when German forces trampled through Denmark and seized Norway. Four weeks later, they turned their attentions south. On Friday 10 May, Hitler’s panzers rolled across the Dutch border heading for France. Overwhelmed by the onslaught Luxembourg and the Netherlands surrendered, followed by Belgium whilst an out-gunned and out- manoeuvred British Expeditionary Force retreated to the beaches of Dunkirk and a humiliating evacuation. On 25 June France, too, capitulated.
Britain stood alone, ripe for invasion.
But before the Führer could sweep through Admiralty Arch on his way to Buckingham Palace, his army must cross 22 miles of water – the English Channel. It sounded little enough, men had swum it, but to cross it the Germans must take control of the sky – hardly a problem for the Luftwaffe, Goering told Hitler; after all, his air force was the most powerful on earth. Or so he thought.
For what Goering had overlooked was the tenacity of a few thousand brave young men to thwart his plans – the pilots of RAF Fighter Command. Mostly British, they also included volunteers from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and countries across the British Empire. They were joined by pilots who had escaped from the newly-occupied countries in Europe, and a handful of Americans brave enough to defy the laws of their country to fight for an ally.
The battle that followed was long and bitter, as important as any fought in a thousand years of British history, but after three months of fighting the once- mighty Luftwaffe had been held at bay and defeated – because now there could be no invasion. The Battle of Britain wasn’t ‘the end of the beginning’, as Churchill would later describe victory at El Alamein, but it did mark the beginning of hope. And with hope came resilience and a steadfast resolve that would, in the end, lead to victory.
Working with a combination of graphite and coloured paints on ‘buff’ coloured paper to create a unique sepia effect, Robert Taylor’s outstanding Masterwork brings to life a moment during September 1940 at the height of the Battle of Britain. With an intuition unsurpassed by his peers, the world’s foremost aviation artist depicts a group of battle-weary Spitfire pilots from 92 Squadron after a long day’s fighting. Exhausted, they wait whilst ground crews hastily re-fuel and re-arm their aircraft at Biggin Hill ready for the next combat. No one knows when the alarm will sound but, when it does, they will, as always, be ready.
Overall print size: 31 ½” wide x 12 ½“ high
Many of the veterans who fought during this crucial period have sadly passed away since creating this edition. It is of great historical importance that during the centenary year of the RAF such famous veterans have authenticated what is likely to be remembered as a classic by the world’s leading aviation artist.