Tuesday 3 May 2011

Frank Bellamy and the Army

Horse Artillery c.1940

The recently BookPalace reprint Frank Bellamy's the Story of World War One
showed Bellamy's later prowess at drawing military subjects. In all the oft-repeated biographies on Frank Bellamy, they mention his service in the Army. We know that during the time he spent in the Royal Artillery, he continued to hone his craft and quite a few very early pieces still exist in the hands of collectors. Most of these from his war service  show aspects of military life and one wonders why they were not taken for the National Archives with 'secrecy' orders applied to them. But the one above is not of a contemporary subject so escapes that restriction thankfully.

David Bellamy, Frank’s son, mentions (in Time View: Complete "Doctor Who" Illustrations of Frank Bellamy) that Bellamy was always frustrated that he could not be posted to Africa, which he had longed to see since childhood (instead he met his wife Nancy, a local girl!) In 1939 that Bellamy was called up as a Gunner an soon became Lance Bombardier Bellamy, (the Royal Artillery equivalent of Lance Corporal, the lowest Non-Commissioned Officer grade i.e. one above a Gunner (Private)). Over the course of the 6 years he was in the Army, he went from Corporal to Sergeant. His posting to Deerbolt Camp (now a Young Offenders Institution) was recorded in the famous Dez Skinn/Dave Gibbons interview, where he spent six months painting the walls and ceiling of an “aircraft recognition room with every aircraft in use - RAF, USAF and Luftwaffe […] from every angle imaginable.”

“Rudiments of aircraft recognition” by Eric Wilton published in 1944, contains “sixty common types of aircraft […] selected as the minimum number capable of giving the novice a really solid groundwork [and] is broken down into small categories for easy study according to systems of classification: first the aircraft are considered in relation to the work they have to do; and in the second classification they are arranged in groups based on those details of outward appearance that are conspicuous to a ground observer and give a clue to identity”.

Unfortunately all attempts to track down any photos have to date been unsuccessful. I communicated with Frank T. Smith, the author of an article on Deerbolt, back a few years ago, but as with so many contacts, this one dried up. I made contact as result of reading the article in After The Battle #113 (still available for purchase from their website)

David Britton (one of the guys who set up the touring Eagle Exhibitions - to which I contributed in a vague way, just the once) emailed me a copy of a picture he bought "at an auction of Eagle memorabilia in Gloucester (1995?). On the back was (and it still has a Post-it note with the name Gilliam Hall (former wife of Christopher Hall) and printed name-plate of Frank with his address & telephone number in Morden Surrey. It was lot 185"

I queried with him why it had Nancy's signature on it. "Yes that is Nancy's signature. I showed it to her when she was our guest at the Eagle Dinner at Launde Abbey (1998) and I asked if she could confirm it was Frank's work. She did and kindly signed the mount as additional proof."

Now one of difficulties I have found, despite having had a Dad in the forces, is learning military vocabulary, let alone identifying pictures of such subjects. Luckily David provided this "It is meant to be the Horse Artillery (my father was a member before WWII, as he was able to ride a horse) in WW I drawing a carriage containing an officer through battle-scarred countryside. It is signed Gnr (I assume "Gunner")FRANK A BELLAMY." Absolutely right David and many thanks for sharing this

I have amended the entry in the Unpublished works by Bellamy listing (from 'Lance Bombardier' to 'Horse Artillery sketch'  and added a scan under the note

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