The painting depicts MacDonell leading 64 Squadron in a scramble from Kenley at around 1pm on 18th August 1940. Eight of the Squadron’s aircraft were scrambled, the right hand aircraft is MacDonell’s and the nearest, that of Sgt. Peter Sydney Hawke.
The Squadron were scrambled in response to the raids which were to strike Biggin Hill, Croydon and most heavily, Kenley, where 64 Squdron were flying from. In the subsequent combat MacDonnell damaged the Me110 of of Ruedger Proske.
MacDonell was shot down by German ace Wener Molders in March 1941. He spent the rest of the war as a PoW, and continued to serve in the RAF until 1964. He was awarded the DFC, and attained a CB for his services. He died in 1999.
MacDonnell describes the experience of a 64 Squadron scramble at Kenley, which inspired this painting:
“When the order came, the orderly answering the telephone would shout ‘SCRAMBLE’ at the top of his voice and each pilot would dash for his aircraft. By the time one got there a mechanic would already have started the engine; the other would be holding the parachute up and help me strap it on. Once that was done I would clamber into the cockpit. He would pass my seat straps over my shoulders and help me fasten them. When I gave the thumbs-up he would slam shut the side door and I would pull tight the various straps. Next I would put on my helmet, plug in the R/T lead, and check that the engine was running properly. If all was well I would move forward out of my blast pen and across the grass to the take-off position. Once there I would line up, open the throttle wide and begin my take-off run with the rest of my pilots following as fast as they could. The whole thing, from the scramble order to the last aircraft leaving the ground, took about a minute and a half.”
Oil on Canvas Board, Size c. 20"x16". Price £723 (+p&p large)