• Lancaster

Through Cloud, Through Storm, Through Night

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For long moments they were alone, caught between the safety of earth and the unimaginable wonders of space.

They’d completed another bombing mission, finding their targets in the dark, navigating through the incessant blackout, fighting not only the cold but scouring the blackness for the ever increasing presence of the hunting night fighter. All they now wanted was to get home, get the debriefing done and rejoice in a glorious cup of tea. They needed some luck but they all had faith in their skipper to get them home.

They’d been heading home, eyes sharp for enemy retaliation, when they saw it: a lone Messerschmitt prowling the night sky, on the hunt. They knew what to do; the Lancaster’s four Merlins beating so reliably for the past five hours were now asked to perform to exhaustion – they needed height; they needed safety. Up high, higher than he’d ever been before, and the rear gunner felt true awe at the immensity of the distance between himself and the familiar world below on which he had grown up. He’d almost allowed his self-belief and discipline to slip, almost called out to his comrades to ‘look! Look, can you see this?’ The strain was palpable… was that a shadow or a silhouette; why could his mind not focus?

But he’d regained himself in time and had merely watched the vastness of the world unspooling beneath him. Then, responding to the leader, the others had dived away from them, descending back through brown wispy clouds, leaving the gunner alone with his imagination..

He thought, “What would happen if we just stay up here, stay and fly along the curved edge of space forever?” Through cloud, through storm, through night. One eye on the ever-changing, eternal stars, and the other on the clouds below, for he knew the moonlight would cast a shadow on any enemy intent on doing them harm. Tonight the moon was a friend, but an even greater friend was nearby – 120 feet below the swirling mists of cloud would act as an escape from danger – skipper was a master flying through cloud – he would see us through.

But then practical considerations asserted themselves and the Lancaster descended into the atmosphere. A glimpse through the misty clouds at last revealing the waters of the Channel shimmering a welcome glow – Skip knew where he was. The Merlins softened their growl and their ears popped – could he finally relax a little?

His radio shook him from his reverie. It felt as if he was in a world of his own, isolated in the burgeoning cold and noise. Then his headset crackled and the captain spoke reassuringly: ‘alright there, Tail-End Charlie? Thought you’d decided to stay up there, go visit the moon!

The Lancaster’s captain toggled his transmitter to protest or apologise, then changed his mind. He was so tired….

The tail gunner was pleased to talk.. ‘It crossed my mind, sir, I thought about it.

Skip smiled knowingly.. ‘Didn’t we all, laddie, didn’t we all.’

..but all he wanted now was that cup of tea.

Night Bombers

Eastward they climb, black shapes against the grey
Of falling dusk, gone with the nodding day
From English fields.
Not theirs the sudden glow
Of triumph that their fighter-brothers know;
Only to fly through cloud, through storm, through Night
Unerring, and to keep their purpose bright,
Nor turn until, their dreadful duty done,
Westward they climb to race the awakened sun.

Owen Chave (1943)

Pigment inks on 271gsm satin paper, professionally hand-bonded onto a 5mm cast acrylic panel.

Limited Edition of 30 prints:

  • 10 at 48″ (w) × 20.4″ (h)
  • 10 at 36″ (w) × 15.3″ (h)
  • 10 at 24″ (w) × 10.2″ (h)

Each limited edition acrylic print comes with a signed Certificate of Authenticity, and is ready to hang.

FREE delivery.

Starfield image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble)