This could hardly have been a more surprising coincidence since, 2 days later, I set off for RAF Valley to begin my conversion course to the Hawk trainer aircraft as a prelude to taking command of 208 Squadron in March 2001.

On arrival on 208, I mentioned the painting to my colleagues, including Flight Lieutenant (soon to be Squadron Leader) Keith Hildred, who had served on 208 Squadron during its Buccaneer years, and who was passionately involved with the Squadron Association and its history. I told Keith of my encounter with Robert Taylor and ‘Balloon Buster’ and was surprised to discover that neither the Squadron nor the Association had been involved in its production, and that no-one had even heard of the painting, or of the incident it portrayed. Therefore, whilst the staff of CFS Flight set about me and my conversion to the Hawk, Keith set about researching the painting with ‘The Military Gallery’ of Bath, which managed Robert Taylor’s work at the time.

It transpired that Robert Taylor had begun a project some while beforehand to paint the exploits of the last surviving German fighter ace from WWI as he closed in for the kill of an Allied aircraft in his Fokker Dridekker DR1 over the Western Front. Such combat scenarios were typical of Robert’s work at the time. Unfortunately, the German pilot had died (of old age) during the project, and it was felt inappropriate for Robert to continue. However, rather than abandon the idea, the Military Gallery undertook further research to find out if there were any more surviving fighter pilots of the era who might have undertaken actions that would be suitable as the subject of a fine art painting.

As a result of this research, in 1998 they had discovered former Flight Lieutenant Henry Botterell who, at the age of 102 was still alive and living in a Toronto nursing home. Although he had flown many operational sorties in the War, he had been credited with only one ‘kill’ – that of the German observation balloon in the painting. Nonetheless, it was a sufficiently engaging scenario for Robert to embark on the creation of this particular work of art – ‘Balloon Buster’.

Click here to read about Robert Taylor’s painting ‘Balloon Buster’:

The painting had been completed in 1997, and Henry Botterell had signed the entire limited edition print run.

However, returning to Keith Hildred’s own research into the painting, what was even more astonishing to discover was that in 2001, at the age of 104, Henry Botterell was still alive and still living in his Toronto nursing home. There was therefore no time to lose, and nothing else to do than to arrange a visit to meet him as soon as we possibly could.

Balloon Buster 100 - 03

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1916-1939 Articles (6)

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Balloon Buster 100 - 04 Balloon Buster 100 - 02 Balloon Buster - The Painting - 01