The story behind the painting really began in the summer of 1950 when a young National Service Airman was sent along with many others to Egypt and the Canal Zone as it was then known. H.M.T.S. 'Empress of Australia' made port at the Grand Harbour in Malta to take on supplies, and the young man like many before him gazed from the rails of the great ship at the battlements around the edges of the harbour, and wondered about the history that surrounded the great island.
A sailor standing next to him told him about the three aircraft that in the early days of the war had valiantly fought off the entire Italian Air Force, and managed to make history in the process, - it was a story that lodged in the memory of the young man for many years until early in 2004 - when now as a practicing artist and sculptor, he read about the Malta Celebrations that were planned to take place in September 2005, and as part of the celebration, plans to establish a fly past of the famous Hurricane and Spitfire over the Memorial to the Royal Air Force just outside the gates of Valetta.
Sadly though, no Gloster Gladiator remains to join the famous two in the fly past, as none survived that were capable of flight, - the only remaining Gloster Gladiator being the fuselage of 'Faith', now on display in the War Museum in Valetta.
To read the entire history of the three aircraft is in itself legendary - from the first pleas of the Royal Air Force Station Commander at Hal Far Fighter Flight, to a colleague in the Royal Navy for permission to borrow five Sea Gladiators from the Royal Navy storage depot at Kalafrana, the collection of five of these aircraft in crates, the volunteers who helped to assemble the aircraft, and finally the volunteer pilots who quickly went into training to fly the aircraft -some for the first time too, as they had been trained upon other types of aircraft earlier in the United Kingdom.
Talking to people in Malta who remembered those dark days of 1941 when the Church of St Publius received a direct hit that destroyed a large part of the building, and how they remembered the valiant efforts of the three aircraft and their pilots in trying to defend the island.
The people of Malta still kept their faith in the church and its teachings. As one elderly lady told me:
'It was as if an Angel tried to help us, every day we prayed,
and every day there was hope.'
The three aircraft shown in close formation flying over the bombed remains of St. Publius can be identified by the fuselage markings as 'Faith' N5520, 'Hope' N5531, and 'Charity' N5519. The Gloster Gladiators were powered by the 850 h.p. Bristol Mercury IX air cooled radial engine, carried four Browning Machine Guns, two mounted in troughs just forward of the cockpit at each side of the aircraft, and two mounted beneath the lower wing, contained in streamlined pods. The top speed of the aircraft in level flight was about 250 m.p.h., and on a full tank of fuel could stay in the air for some two hours, or approximately 420 miles.
With a wingspan of 32' 3", Length of 27' 5", Wing area of 323 sq, feet, and a weight (fully loaded) of just 4,750 Ibs. it made the aircraft quite maneuverable, a factor that made it a formidable fighter aircraft against the faster Italian fighter and bomber aircraft. That, together with the remarkable and daring skills displayed by the young pilots who flew the Gloster Gladiators, made them the legend they were to become.
The Church of St. Publius also holds a special significance for the Maltese people too. In 60 AD, St. Paul decided travel to Rome, but the ship he was on encountered a great storm, and St Paul found himself shipwrecked upon the shores of Malta. His presence there was soon to establish Christianity, and he set up the first organised church by appointing the first ever Bishop of Malta, St. Publius, yet another reminder of the history of this great island.
Thanks are due to the many people who helped me in the research for the painting, but especial thanks to Ron & Lynn Vassallo of Brockholes, Huddersfield for all the encouragement, and to Joseph Tedesco (Curator at the Malta War Museum) for all his help in providing me with the most valuable background material for the project. To each and every one who freely gave me valuable time to tell me stories of those days past, memories or legend, all have their part to play., a most sincere Thank You!
About the Artist Brian (Hugo) Goodall
Early training as a Lithographic Artist provided the opportunity to study Photography, Lithography, Layout and General Graphic Design at the Leeds College of Art.
The influences he encountered there were soon to reveal themselves in some of his early works, in particular 'Don Quixote' and 'Aquarium' which were the first abstract sculptures to be accepted by the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Engravers (London 1964) Annual Exhibition.
In 1966 his painting The Prisoner Escapes' was awarded first prize at the Leeds Show, where it caused considerable comment for the then new approach to political awareness, highlighting the imprisonment of individuals for political offences.
Whilst a major part of his work has been Sculpture he has also contributed many fine paintings and prints. Of particular note was his ink and colour wash of Selby Abbey in North Yorkshire for the 1969 Centenary Celebrations, the original of which was presented to Her Majesty the Queen, by Selby Urban District Council. Paintings and Sculptures have been exhibited in many countries, with several of his works going to Canada, the United States of America, Spain, France, Germany, Russia and the West Indies and now in private collections.
Several of his Paintings and Sculptures have been used in television productions, and his two sculptures for The City of Wakefield 'Eurofare 92' led to invitations to exhibit in Russia and France.
Until retirement in early 2005 he taught 'Woodcarving and Sculpture' with the Workers Educational Association at the Manygates Centre, Wakefield, and has taught at several Adult Education centres throughout the region. He has also made several contributions at Harewood House near Leeds, in the Education through the Arts Programme, and is a Member of the Free Painters & Sculptors.
A limited signed edition of the painting are available both in Malta and the UK.
To order from Malta please contact:
Wirtner Shops Limited
To order from the UK please contact the artist direct:
50 Healey Road
Tel: 01924 - 270 936
Cost of the limited edition signed print in the UK is just
£32-00 plus post and packing charges of £3-65
(Total Cost £35-65)
Cheques should be made payable to Hugo Goodall
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