Puttalam Elephants by Robert Taylor features Fleet Air Arm Corsairs based on the island of Celyon.
The necessities of war often create unusual events - none more so than at a Corsair fighter station on a tropical island in the Indian Ocean.
The island of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, off the southern tip of India, was a strategic bastion commanding the sea routes from Europe to the Far East. In April 1942 the island had been narrowly saved from invasion by the gallantry of Canadian pilot Sqn. Ldr. Leonard Birchall who, flying a Catalina patrolling 250 miles south of Ceylon, sighted a huge Japanese invasion fleet. Under attack from Zero fighters he managed to radio the alarm before being shot down into the Indian Ocean. Alerted, the British forces withstood the heavy air and naval assaults that followed.
As the British expanded operations on the island, the hastily constructed airstrip of HMS Rajaliya was carved out of dense jungle at Puttalam. The soft grass strip, reinforced with metal Somerfield tracking, enabled the heavy American-built Chance Vought F4U Corsairs to use the runway, but during the monsoon season the Corsair's tricky landing characteristics often sent them slithering off into the water-logged ground. It was then that the Navy called in its secret weapon to haul the Corsairs back to firmer ground - The Puttalam Elephants!
Privately commissioned in 1984 by one of the Corsair pilots stationed at HMS Rajaliya in 1942, Robert Taylor's superb painting Puttalam Elephants is displayed in the wonderful art collection of the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton. Admired by many thousands of visitors, the painting depicts the unusual tactics employed at Puttalam in order to keep the land based naval fighters flying. Operating happily in conditions where towing tractors became quickly bogged down, the Puttalam Elephants provided an invaluable service, and became much loved by the pilots and ground crews.
Each print in Robert Taylor's Limited Edition, Puttalam Elephants - Fleet Air Arm Folio, is signed by the following distinguished Fleet Air Arm pilots:
Lieutenant ERIC BEECHINOR RN
Sub Lieutenant (A) GORDON DUNNELL RNVR
Sub Lieutenant TONY MAYLETT
Captain ERIC ‘WINKLE’ BROWN CBE, DSC, FRAeS, RN
Sub-Lieutenant VICTOR KAIRIS RN
Lieutenant CYRIL PRICE RN
Lieutenant PETER TWISS OBE, DSC*, RN
Lieutenant Commander BRUCE VIBERT RN.
400 Fleet Air Arm Folio
33 x 25 inches overall including borders.
This website is Copyright 2021. All Rights Reserved.