Local artist depicts 1940 bombing
Graphic artist Simon Grant recollects one of his earliest memories was of his father pointing out a Spitfire fighter when they drove past Victor Beamish Avenue, the main entrance to RAF Kenley. The Spitfire, a ‘gate guardian’, had been used about ten years earlier in the movie Reach for the Sky filmed on and around Kenley aerodrome in 1955-56.
Simon is currently the creative director at RLH Advertising and Marketing in Surbiton. Born at Redhill hospital in 1960, as a child he lived in nearby Whyteleafe Road and grew up with stories from WW2 – his father having served as a gunner in North Africa and Italy; an uncle on his mother’s side had been a Lancaster bomber pilot; and his mother-in-law could recollect seeing aerial dog fights in the skies above nearby Old Coulson.
As a keen artist from the age of six, at school Simon loved to draw; indeed, he drew so much that his teachers told him ‘you must do better at other subjects’. Advice he chose to ignore. At the age of 17 he attended the Reigate School of Art and Design which has enabled him to pursue his love of design, drawing and painting all his working life.
Simon, who still lives close to Kenley airfield, decided to apply his interest in aircraft and Kenley to the August 1940 bombing of the airfield by the Luftwaffe. For the 75th anniversary of the bombing raid he drew two limited edition prints depicting the event.
“It was something I had always wanted to do.” he says. “I based them on Alfred Price’s book of the Kenley raid entitled The Hardest Day, Battle of Britain, 18 August 1940 and I chose a 1930s industrial art style to reflect the period.”
The first shows two Hurricanes in front of a hangar at Kenley with a Spitfire flying overhead. The other vividly depicts the nine Luftwaffe Dornier bombers during their low-altitude raid on Kenley on 18 August 1940 with a Hurricane from No. 111 Squadron lining up to attack them from above.
As a result of seeing the two Kenley prints the owner of R4118, the only Hurricane from the Battle of Britain still airborne today, commissioned Simon to design and draw a set of six posters based on the fighter.