"THE GALLANT OHIO"
Autographed by Tony Holland, Lord Lewin, P.B. (Laddie) Lucas, G G. Marten and Peter Twiss.
L/E 850. Signed and numbered by the artist
Size: 32" x 23"
Of all the tortuous Malta convoys, Operation Pedestal was perhaps the most crucial. By August 1942 the tiny island's airfield and naval base were virtually out of action owing to lack of fuel, the air and sea defenses depleted of ammunition and the island population close to starvation. Unless immediate supplies could be shipped in, the Allied's only base in the Mediterranean faced surrender.
Capitulation would give the Axis forces a free hand in the theater. Churchill knew it and so did Hitler, and as a result Operation Pedestal became the most heavily defended and heavily attacked convoy in history.
Combining his world-renowned skills as a painter of aviation and maritime subjects, Robert Taylor has recreated a poignant scene from one of the most heavily fought air/sea battles of World War II, to produce a masterpiece of historical art.
Depicted some 60 miles out of Malta, the American tanker Ohio lies dead in the water, her decks almost awash. The destroyer HMS Bramham is lashed alongside the stricken tanker. A second destroyer, HMS Penn is closing on her starboard quarter, while a third, HMS Ledbury positions herself astern to provide steerage. An ocean-going tug and a minesweeper have arrived to assist.
Above, Spitfires of 126 and 185 Squadrons bring down an enemy aircraft making a last desperate attack upon the gallant flotilla.
In Robert Taylor's inimitable way, this brilliant artist has encapsulated an air of cool determination within a panoramic scenario of desperate and crucial action, to produce a truly remarkable historic military painting.
Limited edition prints are individually signed by Spitfire pilots who took part in the pivotal air battles for Malta, and distinguished naval personnel who took part in the epic Operation Pedestal convoy which played such a vital role in saving Malta, and ultimate victory in the Mediterranean.
In the summer of 1942, under the utmost secrecy, a convoy comprising fourteen of the fastest merchant ships afloat, departed Scotland bound for the tiny island of Malta, in the eastern Mediterranean. Under orders from Winston Churchill the convoy was to be escorted by the heaviest concentration of naval warships ever assigned to protect merchant shipping. At worst some of the ships must get through, or Malta would fall. Churchill instructed that he be kept informed as to the progress of the convoy at every stage.
THE GALLANT OHIO
On August 10, 1942 the most heavily defended convoy of W.W.II slipped quietly through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean. Carrying food, diesel oil, coal, and vital aviation fuel, 14 merchant ships escorted by 59 naval warships would attempt to get through to the beleaguered island of Malta. During the three days and nights that followed, the convoy - codenamed Operation Pedestal - would endure the most ferocious and heaviest bombardment of any convoy during World War II.
After two years of continuous aerial attack, the dockyards on the beleaguered island of Malta had been blitzed out of operation, allowing Rommel's supply ships to cross to North Africa almost unopposed. By April 1942, Axis Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Kesselring reported Malta neutralised. The island was facing starvation and unless at least a proportion of the Pedestal convoy could be fought through, Malta would face surrender.
Central to the convoy and a focus of constant enemy attacks was the large American Texaco-owned tanker Ohio. Without her valuable cargo neither Spitfires nor submarines could operate from Malta's bases; Rommel's supplies to North Africa would continue unhindered, and Churchill's plans to invade occupied Europe from the south would be abandoned. Such monumental issues formed the background to the epic saga of Operation Pedestal and the tanker Ohio.
After three days and nights of continuous attacks by German and Italian submarines, E-boats, dive-bombers and torpedo planes, several naval vessels had been lost and only 5 of the 14 merchantmen still survived. The Ohio had received a bomb in the engine room and collected two crashed aircraft on her decks, but miraculously her crew had put out the fires, however her rudder was jammed over and, without power, she was stopped in the water.
Crowded with survivors from sinking merchant ships, three Royal Navy destroyers stayed with the stricken tanker, aiding and supporting her heroic efforts to reach port. With a destroyer lashed to each side to provide power, and a third roped to her stern giving steerage, the creaking waterlogged tanker barely afloat, limped into port on August 15. Crowds lined the harbor walls to give the crews a tumultuous hero's welcome.
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Joining artist Robert Taylor in signing each print in the Edition are FIVE distinguished signatories, representing The Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm and The Royal Air Force, who fought for the Defence of Malta and the Malta Convoys.
Flight Lieutenant TONY HOLLAND DFC, AE, DFC (US).
Tony Holland joined the RAFVR in June 1939, and after training was posted to Central Flying School as an instructor until January 1942. Posted to 603 (City of Edinburgh) Auxiliary Squadron, his first operational tour started in April 1942 when 603 Squadron flew the first Spitfires off USS Wasp to Malta. Involved in numerous interseption sorties, he shared in the destruction and damage of six enemy aircraft. His second tour included destroying three V1 flying bombs, strafing V2 rocket sites and escort missions, including cover for Arnhem, and a period of attachment to 352nd US Fighter Group.
Admiral of the Fleet LORD LEWIN GCB, MVO, DSC.
Joining the Royal Navy in 1939 Terence Lewin first saw service on HMS Valiant in the Mediterranean. He was a young officer on board the Tribal Class destroyer HMS Ashanti during Operation Pedestal which gave close protection to the Ohio. He also later served on the North Russian convoys, the invasion of North Africa and in the Channel operations. He had a distinguished post war career; he became Chief of Naval Staff and First Sea Lord, and was then Chief of Defense Staff during the Falklands War.
Wing CoMMander P.B. (LADDIE) LUCAS CBE, DSO, DFC.
Laddie Lucas joined the RAF in June 1940 and after training was posted to 66 Squadron in August 1941. Posted to Malta in February 1942, Laddie Lucas commanded 249 Squadron at the height of the battle for the island, flying Spitfires. He twice flew to Gibraltar to lead reinforcements of Spitfites for Malta, flying off carriers. He was one of the leading Malta Aces. In 1943 he was posted to command 616 Squadron and later the fighter wing at Coltishall. For the last six months of the war he led 613 Squadron Mosquitos in support of the advancing Allied armies.
Lieutenant Comander G G. MARTEN LVO, DSC,
George Marten joined the Royal Navy in 1931 and served in destroyers both before and throughout World War II. He was First Lieutenant of the P-Class destroyer HMS Penn during Operation Pedestal and he boarded the Ohio to take charge of the recover operations following tile attacks by Stukas. From 1943-45 he commanded HMS Wilton (Hunt Class) in the North Atlantic. After the war he became Equerry to King George VI.
Lieutenant PETER TWISS OBE, DSC*.
Peter Twiss joined the Fleet Air Arm in 1939 and served initially on Catapult ships flying Hurricanes. During the Malta convoys he flew with 807 Squadron, firstly on Fulmars, and then Seafires from the carrier HMS Furious. Peter later took part in the North African landings, and was heavily involved in night fighter operations. After the war he was chief test pilot for Fairey Aviation and became holder of the world speed record in 1956, flying the experimental Fairey Delta 2.