MoD seeks help to solve mystery of Falklands War painting

Huge artwork was found in disused classroom at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall
The mystery Falklands War artwork discovered at HMS Raleigh Photo: Defence Infrastructure Organisation

By Jim Dunton

05 Jan 2024

The Ministry of Defence has launched a call for help to identify the artist of a huge painting that graphically depicts one of the most deadly flashpoints of the Falklands War.

It follows the discovery of the artwork – which is 6m wide and 1.8m tall – in a disused classroom at the HMS Raleigh site in Torpoint, Cornwall.

While it is clear that the painting shows a scene from the June 1982 Bluff Cove air attacks, in which a total of 56 British personnel lost their lives, little more is known about the picture.

The MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation said the painting, which has now been restored and is on display at HMS Raleigh’s Trainees’ Bar, is at least 13 years old but could potentially be much older.

As well as identifying the artist, HMS Raleigh is keen to find out what they are doing now and learn about their motivation for the painting.

Jon Rickman-Dawson, DIO facilities manager at HMS Raleigh, found the painting in a building informally known as the Fieldhouse block, after Admiral John Fieldhouse, who led the retaking of the Falkland Islands.

“As part of my role looking after the built estate, I went into a disused building while demolition work was happening nearby to check the building was still in good condition,” Rickman-Dawson said.

“I walked into what was a classroom and, on the wall, I noticed a very unusual piece of artwork. I took photos of it and started to ask questions to people who have worked on the site for a long time as to what they knew about it and what it is of. 

“My hope is that someone will see the picture and it will make them remember something. It would be great to credit someone; other sites have so much history, they might have great gold-framed oil canvases, but we have got this.”

The mystery artwork is thought to feature a depiction of the burning landing ship RFA Sir GalahadMark Eve served as a chief petty officer in the Royal Navy during the Falklands War and worked on an ambulance ship helping those injured in the Bluff Cove attacks. He said he got very emotional the first time he saw the artwork.

“There are things in the painting that I can see, but nobody else can, but then when other veterans have looked at it, they see what I see,” he said.

“That’s the marvellous effect it has on you. It’s a little bit abstract in some respects, but it encapsulates everything about the Falklands conflict.

“Not only does this painting make me emotional, it also makes me immensely proud of what I did during that time. It was my duty, but I am still proud of what we all achieved.”

A total of 255 UK service personnel and merchant seamen lost their lives in the Falklands War. On the Argentine side 649 lives were lost. Three Falklands islanders also died in the conflict.

Anyone with information about the painting can contact csw.editor@civilserviceworld.com or dio-corporatecomms@mod.gov.uk.

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