By mid-summer 1944, the skies over Europe had not seen a day or night without battle in several years. During the first phases of World War II, the possibility that Hitler’s Axis forces would prevail seemed great...only the combined efforts of freedom-loving nations cooperating with maximum effort could defeat this spreading evil.
Following D-day in June ’44, the tide began to turn; Over 130,000 troops from more than eight Allied countries including Britain, the United States, Canada and other Commonwealth nations, landed on Normandy’s beaches in the first 24 hours. These nations combined to drive Nazi forces from France, paving the way to eventual surrender, and their firm alliance in the air was finally beginning to wither Goering’s Luftwaffe. But like a cornered animal, the enemy’s resistance would grow more desperate over the final months.
Around the clock bombing of Germany had begun one year before, from British precision bombers at night, and USAAF B-17s and B-24s by day. Allied fighters played a critical role, not only in the defense of the ‘Heavies', but also by waging an effective offense. American and RAF fighters would routinely work together in this incredible effort, the latter of which would be comprised of pilots not only from Britain, but also Commonwealth nations including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and others. Not without great cost, the solidarity of these countries and their combined effort ultimately brought an end to the tyranny that threatened the world during history’s greatest conflict.
This powerful piece from master aviation artist John D. Shaw, features legendary Wing Leader “Johnnie” Johnson, the highest scoring RAF Ace of WWII, leading the Spitfires of No. 144 (Canadian) Wing during the weeks following D-Day. Having picked up a formation of USAAF B-17s on a bombing mission to Germany, the Canadian Wing’s Spitfire Mk IXs stay with the American bombers to fend off attacks from prowling Luftwaffe fighters.
ARTIST’S NOTES: the inspiration behind the painting:
The painting was inspired in part by quotes from Johnnie’s classic 1956 memoir “Wing Leader”. Having read the book a number of times I was moved by a particular passage that stuck in my mind.“We joined together and flew above the white, fleecy blanket towards our rendezvous point with the Forts. As usual, they were dead on time; they flew a converging course with ours, and I thought how beautiful and stately they looked when they winged their way through the high sky in a good, balanced formation”…
“We saw the glinting bombers from a great distance, for the bright sun reflected from a hundred places on each silver aircraft. They made a most impressive sight when they pounded their stately way through the skies in battle array. Flak and fighters could not stop them. Here and there, a bomber fell burning to the ground below, but the rest pressed on, determined, irresistible, blazing a new daylight trail over Europe and somehow symbolic of the country’s star they bore”.
‘Johnnie’ Johnson, from Wing Leader, 1956
I’d seen few photographs or artwork of the Spitfire and B-17 Fortress flying together, but the idea of depicting these two great warbirds in the same scene absolutely fascinated me, and immediately brought to mind the way the Allies worked together during the crucial days of the War. Additionally, for years I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Johnnie Johnson’s son, Mike and thought it would be a great tribute to his famous father to feature his beloved Mark IX Spitfire. Both Johnnie and Mike had a great affection for the B-17, so this seemed a natural fit, and an appropriate choice of aircraft to feature in this scene.Signatures:
Signed & Numbered Edition All prints in all editions are individually numbered and personally hand-signed by the artist along with two B-17 veterans who flew over Europe and legendary RAF Ace ‘Johnnie’Johnson:Air Vice Marshal J.E “JOHNNIE” JOHNSON CB CBE DSO** DFC* DL Joining 92 Sqn in August 1940 and then 616 Sqn, Johnnie flew briefly in the Battle of Britain but was withdrawn for an operation to rectify an old broken collar bone injury which was affecting his flying. He returned to 616 Sqn in December, flying Spitfires with the Tangmere Wing under the leadership of Douglas Bader and scored his first victories in the summer of 1941. He led 610 Sqn on operations over the Channel and France, and during the great air battles over Dieppe before taking command of 127 Canadian Wing in March 1943, flying Spitfire Mk IXs. In March 1944 he became the Wing Leader of 144 Canadian Wing in the build up to D-Day and throughout the battle for Normandy, returning to 127 Canadian Wing shortly after D-Day. Claiming most of his victories with the Canadian Wings he scored his final victory in September 1944 with 443 Sqn RCAF over the Rhine, finishing the war in command of 125 Canadian Wing flying the Griffon engine Spitfire Mk./XIV. One of the most inspirational Wing Leaders of the war Johnnie led his Canadians across France from Normandy, Arnhem and Nijmegan, the Battle of the Bulge and finally into Germany itself finishing the War as the highest scoring RAF Ace – also the top Allied Ace in Europe – with 38 victories.
Lieutenant Colonel IRVIN POFF 3 Air Medals Joining the USAAF in December 1942, Irvin completed Pilot training and joined the 9th Bomb Sqn, 2nd Bomb Group, 15th Air Force in April 1944, as a Co-Pilot flying B-17s from Foggia, Italy. Keen to fly as often as possible he volunteered for any mission he could get, volunteering for aircraft that were short of crew, and by June 1944 had completed 50 missions as both a Pilot and Co-Pilot - a staggering achievement in such a short space of time. Regularly escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen, his operations included the oil refineries in Ploesti and Austria and targets in Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece and Northern Italy. After the war he continued as an instructor until 1967.
First Lieutenant KEN SHARP 3 Air Medals After volunteering for the USAAF in March 1943, Ken completed flight training and was posted to the 8th Air Force in England. Serving as a Pilot with the 388th Bomb Group he flew B-17Gs with the 561st Bomb Sqn from RAF Knettishall in Suffolk and carried out his first combat mission in January 1945. He went on to complete a total of 18 perilous daylight Operations over occupied Europe which included numerous strategic missions to bomb Berlin and the Ruhr Valley, and - as the war in Europe was coming to an end – he carried out a special mission to pick up 30 French POWs from Linz in Austria to return them home to Paris.Collector's Editions
: With all the signatures of the S&N Edition, these prints are additionally personally signed by a B-17 veteran and three Spitfire Aces who flew with the Canadian Wings:First Lieutenant CHARLES "NORM" STEVENS DFC, 4 Air medals Volunteering for the USAAF in April 1943 ‘Norm’ was posted to the 351st Bomb Group, 8th Air Force as a Bombardier. Commissioned soon after, he and his recently formed crew flew a brand new B-17Gs from Nebraska to their new base in England, joining the 509th Bomb Sqn at Polebrook in Northamptonshire. He flew his first combat mission on 14 June, 1944, a raid on Le Bourget airfield near Paris, followed by operations to targets across occupied France, Holland, Belgium and Germany. His final mission was a bombing raid on the Luftwaffe airfield at Kassel on 22 September, 1944 and he finished the war having completed a total of 34 daylight Operations.
Wing Commander J.F. “STOCKY” EDWARDS DFC* DFM Joining the RCAF as a Sergeant Pilot in October 1940, he was posted to 92 Sqn RAF in the Western Desert flying Hurricanes and Kittyhawks. After moving to 260 Sqn as a Flight Commander he saw a great deal of action, scoring a significant number of victories. His second tour saw him flying Spitfires with 417 Sqn RCAF in Italy, then with 92 Sqn, before taking command of 274 Sqn flying Spitfire IXs during D-Day. After a spell in England flying Tempests on anti-V1 sorties in August 1944, his final tour was in command of 127 Canadian Wing RCAF and he finished the war with 16½ confirmed victories.
Wing Commander JAMES LINDSAY DFC Enlisting in the RCAF in February 1941 he qualified as a Pilot and was posted to 403 Sqn RCAF in England, in March 1943. Flying a Mk IX Spitfire over France he scored his first victory in May 1944 and was prolific during the Normandy invasions scoring 7 victories during his first tour, including 3 in one minute on 2 July. For his second tour he flew with 416 Sqn from April 1945 until the end of the war. In 1952 he was posted to Korea attached to the USAF flying F-86s claiming 2 MiG 15s and two damaged, for a total of 9 victories in WWII and Korea.
Lieutenant General DON LAUBMAN DFC* Joining the RCAF in September 1940 he served as an instructor and with 133 Sqn in Canada until his first posting to England with 412 Sqn RCAF, flying Mk.V and then Mk.IX Spitfires. He was prolific throughout D-Day and the Normandy invasion including the destruction of German forces at Falaise and he downed 8 German fighters over Arnhem, becoming one of the leading Aces in the 2nd TAF. For his second tour he commanded 402 Sqn RCAF in April 1945 but after only a week with the unit he was forced to bail out after his Spitfire was hit by flak, becoming a POW for last few weeks of the war, having scored 15 aerial victories.
In preparation for this release, ‘Johnnie’ Johnson, Don Laubman, James Lindsay and ‘Stocky’ Edwards personally signed the archival paper sheets used for this edition during their lifetimes, giving collectors the rare opportunity to acquire a new release from one of the world’s foremost artists, personally endorsed by legendary WWII Fighter Aces.