Simon W. Atack

Simon W. Atack

Simon W. Atack

It gives us great pleasure to announce that renowned and celebrated aviation and maritime artist Simon W. Atack has given his strongest endorsement to The People’s Mosquito project by offering the project his official support.

Simon explains: “I support this project wholeheartedly. Because I recognise something kindred-like here. There is a spirit unique to the British character that does not accept the impossible as impossible.

Never underestimate what can be achieved with collective will and thought…and  a big helping of enthusiasts’ time and financial support. This sorely missed aeroplane will fly in British skies again one day.  You just watch!

Here’s to rolled-up sleeves!”

OtWotS

On the Wings of the Storm by Simon W. Atack – ©2013 Simon W. Atack

“On The Wings Of The Storm”

Simon has given us the honour of being one of the first places to publicly display his latest work depicting Mosquitos of 105 Squadron in action on a training sortie off the coast of Scotland.

Simon writes:

“The Mosquito had a big impact on me as a young lad after seeing the movie “633 Squadron” and its famous 6-3-time theme music written by the late, great Ron Goodwin. I have forever thought of this fabulous aircraft with low, fast flight over water and its own theme tune! Now, as a grown-up, I still love the movie and the Mosquito is as potently beautiful as ever she was.

I wanted to show this magnificent aircraft, made of natural, organic materials within an elemental setting, away from an obvious combat zone. That’s for another painting! And to focus on its aesthetic beauty and pure flying capability.

Having previously operated Blenheim IVs, 105 Sqn was the first unit to receive the Mosquito.  During the Command of Wing Commander John De Lacy Wooldridge DSO DFC & Bar DFM it gained a colourful appearance with Disney cartoon characters and progressive ‘Ops’ mission marks for its nose art and a continuing reputation for excellence in the low level precision strike role for which the aircraft would become legendary.

I chose the rugged coastline of north-western Scotland as a setting where the unit carried out many training and low-level practice sorties. This gives a stark background of elemental forces, winds and flying spray, to contrast with the elegant line of the Mosquito IV bombers of this Squadron. A scene many a Mosquito pilot and navigator would recognise immediately.

As a former RAF serviceman turned artist and a musician myself, John De Lacy Wooldridge’s character appeals to me too.

A man of contrasts, he began his career as a Sergeant pilot flying Avro Manchesters with 207 Sqn RAF Bottesford and became a highly effective officer and wing leader, despite the affectionate nickname “Dim”. During his wartime flying career he completed 97 bombing operations, some of which were as a Flt. Lt. Flight Commander with 106 Sqn. under Guy Gibson.

He was aerial advisor to the Petroleum Warfare Department in the development of Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation, better known as FIDO, as an anti-fog aircraft runway landing aid.

In 1944 he wrote an excellent book called “Low Attack” describing the experience of flying the Mosquito operationally in the Daylight Precision Bombing role.

After the war, he returned to his chosen, more peaceful career as a musician and composer. He was a great friend and contemporary of William Walton and wrote the music for 14 feature films. This included the score for the 1952 Dirk Bogarde war film “Appointment In London”, one of the best post war British films depicting life on an RAF Bomber Command unit during WW2.

It is the more tragic to conclude that John De Lacy Wooldridge was killed in 1958 in a road traffic accident at the age of 39.”

Copies of this work in various formats are available to purchase from www.simonatack.com.

“Hopgood’s Courageous Run”

To commemorate the recent 70th Anniversary of the Dambusters raid, Simon has produced a most striking and emotive painting portraying the last seconds of RAF Lancaster ED925 AJ-M (Mother) under the command of Flt. Lt. John Vere Hopgood DFC & Bar as he made his ill-fated attack on the Mohne Dam in the early hours of 17th May 1943.

Hopgood's Courageous Run

Hopgood’s Courageous Run by Simon W. Atack – © 2013 Simon W. Atack

Simon writes:

“I have been inspired many times to portray human stories and examples of outstanding courage. Few match that of 21-year-old Flt. Lt. John Vere Hopgood DFC & Bar and his gallant crew of AJ-M Mother. It is a graphic example of outstanding courage and selflessness so often displayed by that generation of young people during World War Two.

Here was a crippled aircraft flown for an hour by a seriously wounded skipper with badly wounded crew. “Hoppy” pressed on with his attack on the Mohne Dam, flying all the way into the storms of relentless German fire. Right to the end, he fought to keep his blazing aircraft flying to a height that could give his crew a hope of escape. Three managed to bail out; two survived. Two families and their respective generations were saved by John Hopgood’s selfless devotion to duty”.

As Gibson’s second In Command on Operation Chastise, Flt. Lt. John Hopgood was part of the leading element of three Avro Lancasters. He was flying alongside Wg. Cdr. Guy Gibson in ED932 AJ-G (George) and Flt. Lt. Harold ‘Mick’ Martin in ED909 AJ-P (Popsie) in the first wave of nine ‘cooler’ aircraft detailed to attack the Mohne Dam.

Flying at tree-top height to avoid enemy radar and fighters, the flight of three Lancasters ran into an unexpectedly intense searchlight and flak defence en route over Holland, just one hour’s flying time from their target. AJ-M was coned in the beams and raked by enemy fire. Her port fuselage took the brunt and her wing was severely damaged; her port outer Merlin engine was hit, causing oil smoke to stream behind her.

Worse however was suffered by her crew.

Burcher the rear gunner was hit by shell splinters in the stomach and groin; Minchin the wireless operator had one of his legs almost severed by a cannon shell. Gregory, the front gunner was either killed or so seriously wounded that he was unable to answer his intercom or operate his turret.

Hopgood had sustained a severe head wound. As Brennan his Flight Engineer tried to staunch the blood flow he was heard to say, “Christ, look at the blood….”
Hopgood replied, “I’m OK. Just carry on and don’t worry.”

No thought was given to turning back. Nobody could have blamed them if they had done, but they pressed on, trimming the throttles to compensate for the loss of power from the damaged port outer engine and holding perfect formation with Gibson and Martin. All three Lancasters reached the dam.

Gibson made the first attack with his Upkeep Mine exploding underwater against the dam face. As Martin circled in the distance, awaiting his order to attack, Hopgood gathered himself for his, the second, bombing run-in.

Now, with full knowledge of the RAF’s method of attack, the German gunners defending the approaches to the dam knew exactly where to concentrate their fire. Equipped with 20mm four-barrel “Flakvierling” anti-aircraft cannons, they poured thousands of rounds of tracer fire down the reservoir into Hopgood’s path.

Into a blizzard of enemy fire, Hopgood fought to get his Lancaster down to the point where his twin spot lamps met their figure-of-eight, 60ft off the surface of the water. Further hits tore into her fuselage; no fire returned from her front turret. She became heavy on the trim but Hopgood held her down to the release point. John Fraser, his bomb-aimer, called ‘BOMB GONE!’…

As the 5-ton mine skimmed the surface for the first time in a plume of spray, Hopgood’s Lancaster took the full force of a 20mm cannon burst right into her starboard wing. Engines and fuel cell were hit and the starboard wing immediately caught fire. The Lancaster would have swung violently under torque as the trim fell to the straining portside engines. Hopgood used all his remaining strength to prevent the Lancaster from dipping a wing into the water. His left hand on the column, he desperately tried to correct the trim-wheel with his right. Still taking fire from the twin towers and from a third battery protecting the dam, Hopgood, his starboard wing ablaze, cleared the dam top.

And so did his mine.

Released just a moment too late, it bounced over the crest and fell deep into the lee of the dam to destroy the power station in an enormous explosion.

For Hopgood there was only one course left. He ordered his crew to prepare to abandon aircraft. He would have known what would happen next. He opened the throttles to summon all the power that his doomed aircraft could give. With little hope remaining he gave his final order to jump. The hydraulics had failed so Burcher hand cranked his rear turret and released the door as Minchin dragged himself the length of the fuselage. Burcher helped the badly injured Minchin clip on his parachute, hauled him to the rear escape hatch and pushed him clear, pulling the rip cord of the parachute as he fell. Minchin’s chute failed to deploy in time and he did not survive the descent.

“Get out you damn fool,” Hopgood shouted to the rear gunner. He was struggling to get enough altitude so that at least some of his crew could escape. He knew that he would not survive.

Fraser and Burcher, knowing the height they had would give little chance of their chutes opening in time, pulled their chutes inside the Lancaster. Fraser made a successful escape but before Burcher could jump there was a terrific explosion and he was thrown out; he hit the tailplane and broke his back.

At a mere two hundred feet above the ground, they were two of the lowest successful bailouts during the war. Both he and Fraser would become POWs for the remainder of the war.

As they fell into clear space, M-Mother’s blazing wing collapsed and the aircraft fell, taking Hopgood and his remaining crew down with her.

Copies of this work in various formats are available to purchase from www.simonatack.com.

10 thoughts on “Simon W. Atack

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  3. Why Hopgood doesn’t have the VC is beyond me. The non-awards for the pilots and crews who bombed successfully but failed to return are a bloody disgrace to this day.

  4. You are a very talented artist. People’s Mosquito will be glad of your support.

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  6. Phenominal artwork! Congratulations!! Absolutely stunning … and brings these moments of history into present day so well. As an author, I am passionate that stories of those who served during WWII should not be forgotten … but equally as they say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ and it is vital these images live on and are preserved for all those generations to come after … offering a wider understanding about war and what it means in terms of personal endurance and courage as well as those left behind. I would love to make mention of you in our Association magazine of which I am Editor, that goes around the world to all those who served under Bomber Command in RAF 100 Group Association. You are more than welcome to contact me direct.

    • Thanks for your comment Janine. I will pass your message on to Simon. Not only does he produce the most stunning art, but he is such a great guy too. Met him at Duxford yesterday and his passion for the subject, detail and above all the personal stories just shines through. He is truly a partner The People’s Mosquito can be proud of having on board – it seems we are driven by the same passion to keep the memory of these amazing people and their feats, struggles and sacrifices alive. – Nick

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