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Seaham artist produces series of ‘The Battle of Britain’ paintings

Aug 10, 2022 | Leisure & Lifestyle

A Seaham artist has produced a series of paintings which show how the RAF defeated the Luftwaffe in the North-East of England on 15th August 1940

The paintings, entitled The Battle of Britain in North-East England 15th August 1940, have been produced by Denis Harry Fox, a military history and landscape artist who was born in Seaham in 1944.

Over the last three years he has been working on producing a series of paintings which show how the RAF defeated the Luftwaffe in the North East on 15th August 1940.

The great air battle was given the name “Black Thursday” by the German high command as many of their aircraft were shot down and damaged from close-range attacks made by RAF Hurricanes and Spitfires and also from accurate anti-aircraft gunfire.

Denis said: “Monday 15th August 2022 celebrates the 82nd anniversary of this famous victory over the Luftwaffe which not many people know about but it was a significant victory which paved the way for the ultimate victory two months later on 31st October 1940.

“The action taken by eight squadrons of the RAF based in North-East England over approximately one hundred and forty German bombers and fighter-bombers raised moral from a nation that was still suffering from the evacuation of the British army from Dunkirk two months previous. If the Luftwaffe had broken through the fighter screen on 15th August 1940 many airfields would have been put out of action, shipyards, iron and steel works buildings, collieries, munition works and railways would have all been destroyed.

“The German high command informed the Luftwaffe that there were no RAF fighter aircraft in North-East England, how wrong they were! Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding had a policy of resting experienced RAF pilots in the north of England. Young RAF pilots were well trained and ready for combat and were led by squadron leaders many of whom saw aerial combat in Northern France.

“I must point out that women played a vital role in the defeat of the Luftwaffe working as ground aircrew, flying fighter aircraft from factories to the airfields, wireless operating, plotting enemy aircraft approaching the mainland, operating at radar stations, working in munition factories and forming teams operating searchlights and anti-aircraft guns.

“The great air battle started in the early afternoon fifteen miles east of the Farne Islands and ended over Flamborough Head in South Yorkshire. Seaham Harbour saw a great deal of the action and sadly some civilians lost their lives.

“The average age of an RAF fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain was twenty years.

“My research for my paintings involved reading through newspaper archives, reading autobiographies and biographies connected with the Battle of Britain, visiting aircraft museums and meeting families of the RAF pilots who took part in this great victory who allowed me to study pilot logbooks and original battle information which I found to be very useful in how the composition of my paintings would look. My thanks go to a very good close friend of mine who took me up in his light aircraft so that I could take aerial photographs from where the air battle started to where it ended.”

Denis continued: “My grandfather who fought in the First World War became a Home Guard at Seaham and saw a great deal of the action over the docks at Seaham Harbour. I can still remember him telling me with great enthusiasm how a Hurricane pilot from 607 (County of Durham) Squadron flew over the docks and shot-up a Heinkel He111 German bomber which crashed into the sea some five miles out from the harbour entrance. The RAF pilot was Flt Lt William Francis Blackadder OBE, DSO who became a fighter ace in the Battle of Britain. My grandfather also witnessed the shooting down of a Me Bf 110 fighter-bomber which crash-landed in the docks at Seaham. The RAF pilot was Flt Lt Eric Lock DSO, DFC & Bar of 41 Squadron who became a top Spitfire ace in the Battle of Britain.”

Denis’ exhibition of paintings and the stories connected with them has been touring northern England. This month his exhibition can be seen in the King’s Hall at Bamburgh Castle and next month at Hexham Abbey. Kirkleatham Museum will be exhibiting his work from October till the middle of December.