Just before 8am on the morning of 29 August 1918, Flight Lt Henry Botterell climbed his 208 Squadron Sopwith Camel out of a forward airfield at Tramecourt, in northern France. Carrying four bombs, he headed West southwest towards his target at Vitry, just over 50 miles distant and well into enemy occupied territory.
Some 35 minutes into his mission, flying at around 100mph at 12,000 feet he noticed a German observation balloon as he passed over Arras, and he made a mental note to give it his attention on his return journey. Arriving over Vitry he dropped his bombs in the aea of the Railway station in an effort to disrupt communications, and headed back on a reciprical course.
As he passed to the north of Arras he could see the ground crew furiously winching the balloon down, although aware of the danger of attacking normally heavily defended balloon installations, he couldn't resist the opportunity to make an attack. Putting his Camel into a dive he swooped down pumping some 400 rounds into the target. With the balloon now hauled down to around 1000 feet, the observer aboard had just seconds to make his escape, leaping from his basket and pulling at his parachute in the same motion.
Robert's painting captures the scene a few moments later; the balloon is aflame, the basket and a tangle of ropes and guys, binoculars, telescopes and maps plummeting towards the ground. The observer's parachute snaps open, as Henry Botterell banks his fighter clear of his victim - close enough to see the fear in his eyes that he too may fall victim to the Camel's guns. However, in the traditions of gallantry that prevailed among World War 1 pilots, Henry merely waved a salute before heading back to base - no sense waiting around to identify whether the other aircraft that had suddenly appeared were friend or foe. Below the drama, the rolling landscape of northern France unfolds, pockmarked with bomb craters yet tranquil in its natural beauty.
The Print is Signed by First World War Fighter Pilot Henry Botterell:-
Flight Lt Henry BOTTERELL - 208 Squadron
The Print measures 25.5 x 23.5 Inches
This is now a rare Secondary Market Print - I have one copy in Mint Condition with CoA and Brochure.