This Sceptred Isle
COMMEMORATING THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN 1940
For nearly a thousand years the white cliffs of southern England had taunted many a foreign army. These fortress walls of chalk, however, were defended by the moat-like waters of the Channel and together they had shielded the British from her enemies. Alongside Drake they had defied the armies of Spain and her great Armada and, in 1805, had halted the march of Napoleon’s Grande Armée. No enemy force since that of William the Conqueror in 1066 had successfully managed to cross the Channel in anger but, in May 1940, one of the most powerful armies the world had ever seen arrived at Calais. An invasion by Hitler’s all-conquering Wehrmacht was imminent – or so it seemed.
To cross the Channel and breach the English defences, the Luftwaffe simply had to gain control of the skies, and with massively superior numbers the outcome seemed inevitable. The fate of Britain lay in the hands of less than 3,000 young airmen from Fighter Command – Churchill’s ‘Few’.
By July the most famous air battle in history was underway and, over the next three months, under tranquil summer skies, the ‘Few’ battled to defend their Sceptred Isle. Impossibly outnumbered and flying daily to the point of exhaustion, by October these courageous young men had snatched victory and from the jaws of defeat, emerging defiantly victorious. The threat of invasion might be over but a terrible price had been paid – during that long battle for the survival of Britain 544 had been killed and 422 wounded; and of those who survived a further 814 would be killed before the end of the war.
It is to the valiant ‘Few’ that Robert Taylor once again pays tribute in this masterful painting portraying a fleeting moment of calm for the pilots of 74 (Tiger) Squadron during the height of the Battle of Britain. With his commanding officer Sailor Malan (ZP-A) to his right, Acting Flight Lieutenant John Freeborn (ZP-C) takes time to reflect on another day of intense combat while passing over the white cliffs and the familiar lighthouse at Beachy Head, as the squadron cross the English coast to head for home.
Overall print size: 24 ¾”wide x 18 ½” high
Image size: 19 ¼” wide x 13“high
The Military Gallery is extremely honoured that this edition carries the signatures of veterans that fought during the Battle of Britain, including John Freeborn who is featured in the piece. It is a poignant reminder that a number of these iconic men have sadly passed away since signing, giving enthusiasts the opportunity to add a piece of great historic significance to their collections.