Harris Museum marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain with stories from Preston

Rarely seen works of art, ordinary people's stories about the Second World War and a Spitfire installation are all in place to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston.

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 3:45 pm

Curators at the Harris asked for local people to send in their Second World War stories and were overwhelmed with the response.

Now the tales, as well as photographs of some of the people who've contributed, are taking centre-stage in an exhibition, which will be open to the public once coronavirus restrictions allow.

The photographs have been put on canvases and arranged in an installation to look like a Spitfire by artist Anthony Padgett, and are alongside three paintings on loan from the Imperial War Museum and other rarely-seen paintings from the Harris' own collection.

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A painting of Lieutenant R W Daish

Mr Padgett said: "It has been an honour and a privilege to hear the stories about brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers during the Second World War.

"Stories about being a child during the war, people meeting partners, working at Preston station, serving in Germany and Burma and in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Many of these stories have not been heard outside the circles of family and friends.

"They are part of the vast history of the pains and joys of Preston and Britain in wartime that the exhibition shines a spotlight on. We would like to thank everyone who has taken part.”

Collections Assistant Holly Nesbitt said: "The Imperial War Museum approached us about doing this last year and we were only meant to get one painting from them. But unfortunately two other galleries meant to be taking part have been unable to, so we have got the paintings that would have been sent to them as well."

Some of the memories shared by Prestonians

The paintings on loan are:

- An Aerial Battle by Francis Dodd

- Untitled, a surrealist painting by Eileen Agar

- Squadron Leader George L. Denholm by Thomas Dugdale

Art of the Second World War at The Harris Museum - Marlag O Winter

>>>For more information about the paintings, click here

Holly added: "Working with any gallery on a project is always great, and war paintings are always well-received.

"Having the people's stories makes it all more personal, and we're hoping that when restrictions allow, we can have a place in the gallery where visitors can go and share their stories as well."

What stories have the people of Preston told?

Harris Museum Fine Art Curator Lindsey McCormick looking at the painting of Squadron Leader G L Denholm

Participant Edward Nutter said: "A man in an Army grey overcoat and large cap walked into our home and put a kit bag on the floor. This is the first memory of my father when he returned home from the war."

Stephanie Sturges recalls her response to her father’s stories of the War. She said: "This made me realise my Dad, just like so many others seemed ordinary, but in reality was extraordinary. It taught me never to judge a book by its cover."

The exhibition Art of the Second World War: Commemorating the 80 th Anniversary of the Battle Britain can be seen online on the Harris website and will open to the

visiting public as soon as current covid restrictions are lifted. The exhibition runs until March 13, 2021.

What was the Battle of Britain?

The Battle of Britain was a major air campaign fought over southern England in the summer and autumn of 1940.

Artist Anthony Padgett with his Spitfire installation

After the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk and the Fall of France, Germany planned to gain air superiority in preparation for an invasion of Great Britain.

The pilots of RAF Fighter Command, flying iconic aircraft including the Hurricane and Spitfire, were supported by a vast network of ground crew during the battle. Ultimately, the Luftwaffe was defeated by Fighter Command, forcing Adolf Hitler to abandon his invasion plans.