9th Dec, 2021

Coventry artist's pictures helping bring The Blitz 80 exhibition to life

Tristan Harris 23rd Sep, 2020 Updated: 23rd Sep, 2020

A COVENTRY artist is one of 33 involved in a special exhibition to mark 80 years since the start of The Blitz.

Family history website Ancestry has commissioned the new collection of 80 pieces depicting life during The Blitz and the Second World War.

‘Rescue Party’ by Michael Snodgrass. s

One of Michael Snodgrass’ pieces ‘Rescue Party’ shows the bravery displayed by Sidney Cecil Hill who carried out rescue work at Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital.

During an enemy air attack a ‘large delayed action bomb’ exploded, wrecking part of the hospital’s basement and burying many people.

Sidney led a party down one of the tunnels and at great risk rescued many of the patients.

In ‘Messenger’ he showcases the dedication to duty by messenger Glyndwr Williams who – during the Coventry Blitz – displayed the greatest courage to take a message to Central Control to report on casualties at the height of the bombings.

The Blitz had a devastating impact on Coventry when, on November 14, 1945, it suffered the biggest concentrated attack on a British city during the Second World War.

Hundreds of lives were lost, many more people were injured and one of the biggest cities in the country was reduced to rubble by the German Luftwaffe.

Over 500tons of explosives and around 33,000 incendiary bombs and parachutes were dropped as part of operation ‘Moonlight Sonata’.

‘Messenger’ by Michael Snodgrass. s

Another local artist Jennifer Shufflebotham from Kenilworth reimagines a ‘trunk call’ at Towcester, Northants, where an elephant paraded the town collecting money for the Red Cross and the YMCA.

The 80 pieces of art are all based on real-life stories discovered in wartime records available on Ancestry.

The collection aims to bring to life the extraordinary ‘everyday’ lives and efforts of people all over the country and the British spirit that shone through whilst they lived and served on the home front.

The new collection was inspired by the War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC), established at the outbreak of the Second World War by the UK Government’s Ministry of Information.

‘A Trunk Call’ by Jennifer Shufflebottom from Kenilworth. s

Its aim was to compile a comprehensive artistic record of Britain throughout the war and by the end of the conflict, it included 5,570 pieces.

The original records are held at The National Archives, in Kew.

Russell James, Family History expert at Ancestry, said although The Blitz was a time of tragedy it also truly demonstrated the great British spirit.

“By preserving these stories in a new and engaging way, we hope we can shine a light on what our families went through during that time and encourage people now to discover their connection to The Blitz and the Second World War.’’

Using artistic mediums ranging from digital illustration to oil painting, 33 artists from around the UK have created contemporary interpretations of records and images.

Dr William Butler, Head of Military Records at The National Archives, said described the project as ‘fascinating’.

He added: “The Civilian Gallantry Award records are a treasure trove of stories, highlighting the incredible and often dangerous work carried out by individuals working as air raid wardens, first aid workers, firewatchers and messengers during the Second World War.

“They provide vivid details of the exploits and heroic deeds of civilians fighting a war away from the battlefields and highlight the sacrifices so often made on the home front.”

Visit www.ancestry.co.uk/Blitz80 for more information about Ancestry’s Blitz art collection and StoryScout.

Go to www.ancestry.co.uk to access Ancestry’s records and discover untold personal stories from the Second World War.

And use the hashtag #Blitz80 to search for posts on social media about the 80th anniversary of the start of The Blitz.

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