Forgotten illustrations of feats of derring-do go on display

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The Independent Online

Rarely seen Second World War propaganda images, including illustrations of true stories of derring-do, have been discovered by researchers at the National Archives in Kew.

Rarely seen Second World War propaganda images, including illustrations of true stories of derring-do, have been discovered by researchers at the National Archives in Kew.

The 250 forgotten images, created more than 60 years ago by contemporary artists, will form part of an online exhibition which begins today as part of the National Archives' celebration of the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

Each of the pieces of work was commissioned by the Ministry of Information to boost the morale of British forces fighting on the front lines and feature the exploits of recipients of both the military Victoria Cross and civilian George Cross. Many of the posters and books, including contributions by artists such as Terence Cuneo, did not make it on to the billboards of war-time Britain.

One of the sketches, by an anonymous artist, depicts the courageous actions of Patrick Porteous, who won his Victoria Cross for his attack on a German gun battery during the ill-fated Dieppe raid of 19 August 1942. The citation reads: "Major Porteous, without hesitation and in the face of a withering fire, dashed across the open ground to take over the command of this detachment. Rallying them, he led them in a charge which carried the German position at the point of the bayonet, and was severely wounded for the second time. Though shot through the thigh he continued to the final objective where he eventually collapsed from loss of blood after the last of the guns had been destroyed."

Another poster, by Cuneo, recounts the selfless actions of a hospital porter, Albert Ernest Dolphin, who after German bombs fell on a hospital remained beside a collapsing wall to protect a nurse. When rescuers later found the two bodies, Albert Dolphin was dead while the nurse, lying underneath him, had survived. Dolphin was posthumously awarded the George Cross.

Cuneo, who died in 1996, began his artistic career as an illustrator, but it was his work as war artist which brought him national recognition. During the Second World War, while serving briefly with the Royal Engineers, Cuneo was the artist for the Illustrated London News in France. From 1941 he served as an official war artist, producing propaganda paintings for the Ministry of Information. In post-war Britain, Cuneo became an establishment artist for much of the latter half of the 20th century and was the official artist at Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953.

The Art of War, from Sunday 8 May at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/artwar

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