War heroes are brought to life

Artist Ian Banfield
Artist Ian Banfield
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Artist Ian Banfield is preserving the memories of First World War soldiers by turning their old photographs into portrait paintings. Tim Birkbeck reports.

Most people have a relative who fought in the First World War and we commemorate their memories every year.

But there are still so many of these heroes whose past has been lost in history.

Now Emsworth-based artist Ian Banfield has begun to preserve these soldiers’ lives by recreating their old photos into paintings.

Ian, who also teaches art at Havant Sixth Form College, wants to protect the historical value of these photos and hopes to recreate as many as he can in a four-year period.

The 46-year-old is looking to complete his project to celebrate the 100-year commemoration of Armistice Day in 2018.

What sparked the idea for the artist was painting a portrait of his grandfather, and looking through his old war pictures.

Ian says: ‘When I was researching the portrait of my grandfather I noticed in some of his old war photos that there were a few people that no-one had any idea who they were.

‘I thought this was really interesting, as these photos were keepsakes to send home to their families, but somehow throughout history many of these people are getting forgotten.’

When some of his students saw Mr Banfield’s work they asked if he could recreate some images for a project they were working on, picking three names from the Havant war memorial and then researching the soldiers’ lives.

This kick-started Ian’s idea and he is now asking members of the public to send in copies of their relatives’ pictures for him to bring to life.

Fittingly, the Havant lecturer has decided to call his project Remembering Heroes.

With each painting comes its own unique story and history about the person featured.

HMS Queen Elizabeth returning to Portsmouth. Picture: Mike Parry

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‘I am calling the project Remembering Heroes because these images are the ones either people have forgotten about, whose photos have been lost in shoeboxes, biscuit tins, in the backs of cupboards and in some cases been found in a new house when people have moved in or junk shops,’ Ian adds.

‘Although they are known by the immediate families, even some of their own family members were starting to forget who they were or even know them at all.

‘Every painting has an interesting story behind them, but it is more about what happened to these people. I want to rescue these soldiers’ lineage.

‘I am going to be working on this body of work towards the centenary of the Armistice, as it will be a great way to round off the start of this project celebrating the end of the hostilities.’

n If you have a photograph of your relative and would like them to be included in the project you can email ian.banfield@havant.ac.uk

The process

Ian will be using a number of different techniques to give these images a fresh coat of paint.

He will start by monoprinting the images. This is a type of screen printing that gives the definition and outlines of the image. By monoprinting the photographs it will give the painting a more grainy effect, and will pick up faults in the picture, so the artist can reproduce the images accurately, compared with the original photograph.

Once the image has been printed, Ian then lightly sketches the finer details of the image on to the painting, before painting them with a light coating to given them this old tea-stained look.

The act of monoprinting also means that the images keep their original effect.

Ernest Dedman

Dedman was a gardener in Havant before enlisting on April 19, 1915.

He was part of the Royal Field Artillery and served with the 51st Highland division.

It was his job to help transport ammunition to all the different regiments.

He was in action at Ypres, Festubert and the Somme, when in 1917 he was wounded in his face, right leg and was shot in the spine, resulting in paralysis.

He returned to England where he received treatment in the hospital until he died from his wounds in January 1920.

Archibald Francis Campbell Paxton

Educated at Epsom College, Surrey, Second Lieutenant Archibald Paxton wanted to become a doctor but was told he was ill-educated to pass the exams.

Instead, he decided to join the army when be became a member of the 4th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment.

During his time in the army he was given the objective to seize and consolidate Fricourt Farm.

On July 1, 1916, Paxton led his men into the Battle of the Somme, where along with 19,000 other men, he lost his life on the very first day.

Robert Percy Musty

Musty was a 19-year-old carpenter and wheelwright, before enlisting in December 1915.

On July 19, 1916, he was posted to France, joining up with the 10th Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment.

He first saw action as part of the Somme offensive, in the north-east town of Albert, in an unsuccessful attack on the German line, which led to more than 130 British casualties.

Musty was also involved in various attacks and counter-attacks aimed at trying to take the strategically important territory known as High Wood.

It was there on September 9 he was wounded and sent back to the UK. After treatment at several different hospitals, Musty was honourably discharged in May 1918.

Sir Frederick Loftus Francis Fittzwygram

Sir Frederick inherited his title from his parents who owned the old Leigh Park estate. He was educated at Eton and Oxford before joining the Scot’s Guard.

He participated in the first battle of Ypres in 1914 and was later wounded in the head.

He was awarded the Military Cross for his actions at the Battle of Festubert, where he attacked German trenches, but was eventually captured and was only one of three survivors in is regiment.

He remained a prisoner of war until December 1918.

In April 1920 Sir Frederick was doing some gardening at his Leigh Park estate when he cut himself. Two weeks later he died from blood poisoning.

Stewart Clifford Beverly Baker

One of 13 children, Baker was born in Havant in 1896.

He was a stationer’s errand boy before enlisting in 1911 in Winchester.

Baker’s older brother, Beverly Thomas, also served in the forces as a Royal Engineer.

Stewart served in the second Battalion Hampshire regiment that fought in the Battle of the Somme. He died on February 11, 1917, whereas his brother survived.

He was later buried in La Neuville.