George Worsley Adamson

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George Worsley Adamson joined the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve in 1940 (1066341 122329). After training at the Initial Training Wing at Paignton, Adamson was posted to the United States in 1941 (Course One British Training School at Hangar No. 1, Dallas School of Aviation, Dallas, Texas) and to Canada (Ontario and Dorval, Québec). He recorded his return trip crossing the Atlantic as an air observer (navigator), delivering a new Hudson to Prestwick, in two full-page pen and wash drawings published in the Illustrated London News (December 26th, 1942, pp. 716-17).1

He was posted to 210 Squadron at Sullom Voe, the Shetlands, and served with the squadron on detachment to north Russia, protecting convoys taking supplies to the Eastern Front. By September 1942 he had joined Tim Healy’s Catalina crew as second navigator. ‘This crew had already done outstanding work in the Arctic Circle, so I was in good company,’ Adamson later wrote. ‘By the end of the month Tim had died in a Ju88 [Junker 88] attack and the aircraft was in poor shape in Grasnaya being refitted.’ .2

He continued his service in Coastal Command, becoming flight-lieutenant, navigating Catalina flying boats on the Western Approaches from Gibraltar to Murmansk.3 He undertook further training on Liberators in Nassau, the Bahamas. He left the RAF in January 1946.

During a short rest from operational flying he was appointed an official War Artist to Coastal Command by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC), under the chairmanship of Sir Kenneth Clark. Seven drawings were bought by WAAC, of which three are in the Imperial War Museum collection, and three in the RAF Museum at Hendon (see Work in Public Collections).

‘By the end of 1943,’ wrote Adamson, ‘I was appointed an official War Artist to Coastal Command and the Committee had bought a few drawings I had shown the CO. I could go to any UK Coastal Command station and draw whatever I liked. At certain points, with two or three finished drawings I was required to take them to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square to show and to leave with the Committee. When Hector Bolitho had ’flu I had to show him as well, in his bedroom at the Savoy.’4

1  In the caption to one of the pictures Adamson wrote, ‘In the first drawing ... the navigator has clambered slowly aft from his desk--careful of his oxygen tubes and unable to exert himself under these conditions. He opens the hatch and stands, rather cramped, in the fuselage. Dim forms of auxiliary fuel tank, seamarkers and luggage grow gradually from the darkness. He holds his bubble sextant and records an average ‘sight’ of the elevation of a certain star--information which, in conjunction with his books of tables, helps him to determine his position. It is very cold up here, and the stars peep weakly through a veil of cloud. The rush of air past the open hatch is like a giant’s hollow breathing.’ Back to main text
2  Adamson recorded the events of September 25th, 1942 in his diary: ‘There was the bark of gunfire and the metallic splutter of hits we were receiving. The pilot’s cockpit was dulled with smoke ... I looked through the window over my table to see a glimpse of a Ju88 heading away at right angles to our track.
    ‘Tim was falling from his seat. I caught him heavily and pulled his weight from the stick. The Winco called out. Two of us got him through the doorway and laid him huddled on the floorboard; unconscious, if not dead. I thought how futile it was, a fine lovable young man one moment, a helpless body the next. And I thought this is war. We gave Tim a charge of morphia, for what help it might have been, and laid him more comfortably, his head resting on my knees; and covered him with a sleeping bag in the hope that only shock and wounds were the trouble.’ Above passages are quoted in Ernest Schofield & Roy Conyers Nesbit: Arctic Airmen: The RAF in Spitsbergen and North Russia in 1942, William Kimber & Co Limited, London, 1987, p. 211. Back to main text
3  See Mike Seymour & Bill Balderson: To the Ends of the Earth: 210 Squadron’s Catalina Years, Paterchurch Publications, 1999. Back to main text
4  The New Zealand born writer Henry Hector Bolitho (1897-1974). As he states in the introduction to A Penguin in the Eyrie, the book based on his R.A.F. diaries, he ‘began the war as an Intelligence officer in the Air Ministry--then as editor of the R.A.F. Journal ... ’. He ended his work as editor in the late summer of 1942 and was appointed editor of the Coastal Command Intelligence Review at Coastal Command Headquarters at Northwood, Middlesex. He published biographies of Edward VIII (1937) and George VI (1937) as well as lives of Albert and Victoria. In 1944 his book Task for Coastal Command: The Story of the Battle of the South-West Approaches came out and A Penguin in the Eyrie was issued in 1955. Back to main text

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