The architect and the bomber – Raymond McGraph and his aircraft illustrations

Richard Maddox

AUSTRALIAN -BORN RAYMOND McGRAPH was a man of many interests. Most noted as an architect and interior designer he was also an author, poet and illustrator.

Having gained a Fellowship at Clare College, Cambridge, England, and set up his architectural practice, his first commission was the original interiors for the art-deco style Broadcasting House in London, England in 1931.

He was just 27. (1)

He is also remembered for the design of St Ann’s Court, a residential property at Chertsey near London – a Modernist, drum-shaped house made from reinforced concrete. (2)

He then moved to Dublin, Ireland where he would spend twenty years as Senior Architect at the and then Principal Architect at the Office of Public works. Here he worked on many of the country’s major public buildings. (3)

The illustrations shown in this post are from a number commissioned by the British Ministry of Information in 1940.

Using a palette of muted colours they clearly show his interest in light, form and structure.

They all are very precise, not only in their execution but in the way the elements are placed in the picture frame.

In addition the illustration of aircraft hangars (left, IWM catalogue reference ART LD 141, original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/18605) ‘plays’ visually with the idea of camouflage.

The shapes of the painted designs on the hangars are continued onto other buildings, the sky and the airfield taxyways. The idea of an irregular pattern – used for camouflage on the hangars is echoed in the decayed brickwork on where the sandbags are stored.

The two illustrations on the right were commissioned for a book in 1940. They show aircraft under construction with a Bristol Blenheim (top, IWM catalogue reference LD 152. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/18608) and a Supermarine Spitfire, which is having its having its Rolls Royce Merlin engine worked on (bottom, IWM catalogue reference LD 142. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/18606).

The Blenheim picture is almost completely completed in greys with just a camouflaged wing with a blue and red RAF roundel providing a splash of colour.

In both pictures the complexity of the machines, the construction process and the factory is suggested without the details that a photograph would provide, enabling a clutter-free representation that is clean, bright and modern.

The image below is in the same style and uses the elements we have become familar with – restrained but precise detail, limited colour with a subtle accent, unusual view point, light and shade – to create interest.

Additionally the picture shows Armstrong Whitleys P5002 and (almost certainly) P5004 under construction probably at the company’s main factory in Coventry, England.

A VIEW OF ARMSTRONG WHITLEY bomber aircraft being constructed. Five Whitley rear fuselages, complete with rear gun turrets are lined up alongside each other with a section of under construction further back. A number of workers are visible. Image Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference ART LD 149. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/18607.

A VIEW OF ARMSTRONG WHITLEY bomber aircraft being constructed. Five Whitley rear fuselages, complete with rear gun turrets are lined up alongside each other with a section of under construction further back. A number of workers are visible. Image Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference ART LD 149. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/18607.

Even by this early stage of the war the design of the Whitley – which had been rushed into production as a replacement for the biplane bombers that equiped the RAF in the mid-1930s – was obselescent.  However, it continued with RAF’s Bomber Command and Coastal Command until 1942 when – like other British bombers it found new life in second-line duties such as transport and operating as a glider tug.

More than 1800 examples were built. (4)

Coincidentally IWM’s photographic archives has an image of P5004 in service with No.77 Squadron Royal Air Force at Royal Air Force Station Topcliffe in Yorkshire on 19 November 1940 – just over a year after Britain declared war.

P5004 was lost in the early hours of 26 June 1942 while serving with No. 10 Operational Training Unit RAF.  The aircraft – now coded ZG – G and captained by Pilot Officer William Wilson Collegde Royal Canadian Air Force – was returning from the ‘Thousand Bomber’ raid on Bremen, Germany when it ditched in the North Sea. All the crew were rescued by an Air-Sea Rescue launch and Colledge was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions on that day.

Just over a year later on 1 July 1943 he was killed in a flying accident. (5)

ARMSTRONG WHITLEY Mk IV KN-U (serial P5004) of No. 77 SSquadron at RAF Topcliffe, Yorkshire, 19 November 1940. Image Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference HU 104648. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205229770.

ARMSTRONG WHITLEY Mk IV KN-U (serial P5004) of No. 77 Squadron at RAF Topcliffe, Yorkshire, 19 November 1940. The aircraft is probably shown under construction in the illustration above. Image Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference HU 104648. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205229770.

Armstrong Whitley P5002 was also lost returning from a raid over Bremen.  On 30 August 1940 – when serving with No. 58 Squadron RAF as GE-T –  it ran out of fuel when it too came down in the North Sea, near Hornsea, East Yorkshire while returning to its base at RAF Linton-on-Ouse. (6)

Although four members of the crew survived, Sergeant Mathew Hill’s parachute carried him out to sea. The twenty-five year old is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial to the Missing. (7)

Sources

(1) https://architectureau.com/articles/flashback-raymond-mcgrath-in-britain/https://architectureau.com/articles/flashback-raymond-mcgrath-in-britain/ – retrieved 22 July 2019

(2) https://www.ajbuildingslibrary.co.uk/projects/display/id/2869 – retrieved 22 July 2019

(3) https://www.themodernhouse.com/directory-of-architects-and-designers/raymond-mcgrath/ – retrieved 22 July 2019

(4) https://www.tangmere-museum.org.uk/aircraft-month/armstrong-whitworth-whitley – retrieved 22 July 2019

(5) http://www.aircrewremembered.com/parsons-norman-rennison.html – retrieved 22 July 2019

(6) https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=22192 – retrieved 22 July 2019

(7) https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1800124/hill,-matthew/ – retrieved 22 July 2019

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