Ken Rush had the best seat in the house during the decisive Battle of Britain.
He was nine years old and stood on a shed roof in his back garden just outside London watching German planes coming over and Spitfires shooting them down.
He found it fascinating, and that time in 1940 obviously made a big impression on Ken, of Spalding, because it influenced the rest of his life.
Five years ago Ken had the privilege of meeting the three remaining pilots from the battle when he was invited to the 70th anniversary commemorations at the Cabinet War Rooms.
A Spitfire was parked in St James’s Park and Ken took a photograph of the pilots, as well as Vera Lynn, in front of the aircraft.
That photograph has been turned into a painting by Ken, who has just been made an associate member of the Guild of Aviation Artists – he hopes to have some of his work included in the Guild’s summer exhibition.
Among the paintings he submitted was one done at 16, at Dunstable Downs Gliding Club, when Ken was having lessons.
He says: “I think the war years inspired what I went on to do. I followed the war as a kid, reading about new aircraft and I finally got my gliding wings and did powered flying for a while.”
In fact, while at art school Ken spent time assisting Hugh Easton on the Battle of Britain Memorial Window in Westminster Abbey. He completed a rose and a lion’s head before deciding that work was “too slow, too cloistered”.
He went on to spend his working life as a commercial artist, mainly illustrating technical things for books, such as cars, tanks and aircraft. He has always painted aircraft on commission though.
Ken says: “I have had a charmed life really,” because even during his National Service commission in the RAF his artistic talents were recognised. Instead of square bashing and polishing boots Ken was painting the station commander and ended up producing RAF recruitment material, such as posters, and exhibition stands.
His most exciting aircraft experience though was being on Concorde when it broke the sound barrier. “It was fantastic,” says Ken.