Yesterday we spent an interesting afternoon visiting Hughenden Manor in Buckinghamshire.
Formerly the home of Benjamin Disraeli, (Queen Victoria’s favourite Prime Minister), during the Second World War Hughenden housed a vital and top secret mapping unit, codenamed ‘Hillside’. Its purpose was to create accurate target maps for RAF bombing missions over Germany and occupied Europe. By 1941 it had become clear that with the rough maps then available, only a small proportion of bombs were falling within even five miles of their target,. Thousands of bomber crews’ lives were being lost to no purpose. More accurate maps were needed. Being a mapmaker myself during my Royal Engineers National Service days in the fifties (when we drew maps for the military forces during the Malayan Emergency), I was particularly intrigued with this aspect of the Manor. Situated near Bomber Command headquarters it was requisitioned by the Air Ministry, and a team of Royal Engineers were called in, using old German road maps as a starting point. From these they drew and painted new maps, adding up-to-date landmarks found from aerial reconnaissance photos and viewed in 3D through a stereoscope. (Having only one good eye I annoyingly never could see the stereoscopic effect). This old photo shows some of the artists at work.
Woods were coloured a dark green, fields were grey, and rivers a silvery colour- as they would appear in moonlight on a night bombing raid. Roads were coloured red using ox blood as paint. This was found to show up best when the maps were photographed for printing the bomber crews’ copies, but the paint pots had to be kept covered to prevent the flies eating the paint!
We spent a leisurely time not only looking over the house, but about an hour or so wandering through the garden, which was beginning to burst into springtime life.
This is one of several statues dotted around the garden…
… and a sculpture of the great man by Charles Bell Birch.
On Friday I finally finished my painting of the Duke of Edinburgh against a background of the three stained glass windows he commissioned after the Windsor Castle fire a number of years ago.
And The Wentworth Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle Company have just informed me that they will be producing a wooden jigsaw depicting my painting ‘The Carousel’ next month. This company always includes pieces that they call ‘whimsies’ so I look forward to little horses and other fairground items featuring in the puzzles.
We spent many hours last week completely cataloguing all the paintings and drawings I’ve ever exhibited in the various Societies and Galleries over the past thirty odd years. A really big job, but now it’s finished I’ll be able to see at a glance where and when I exhibited, what awards were won, and most usefully of all, to make sure I don’t exhibit miniatures for a second time in a specific gallery or Society exhibition.