Per Ardua Ad Astra: Through adversity to the stars

In these days of social media and internet savvy, it is genuinely difficult to ever have an exclusive that will get people excited about something that happened almost 30 years ago. But I think that this is one time that I can claim an exclusive that will get fans excited.

Back in 2004, I was in Her Majesty’s Forces as part of the Royal Air Force and I was working at a unit where my boss wanted to raise the profile of the unit. Without actually saying what the unit was, it was and still is the unit that is responsible for the medical care of military personnel that are medically evacuated from all the corners of the world. If you think that the NHS do a great job, then you know how good I still think my oppos were.

As a result, I was very proud to be associated with them. And my boss was very proud to be in charge of them. He wanted to find ways to raise the profile of the unit and he had seen a print that our parent unit sold to raise funds for items that were not provided by public resources. And the fact that it raised the profile of the parent unit never hurt either. (In non-military speak, a parent unit is the site that provides all major and minor support functions to those units that are within their care.)

As a result, I had mentioned that I knew of an artist that could do our unit justice and my boss gave me permission to contact them providing that I could prove that the artist was up to scratch. When he gave me this task, the grin on my face could not have been wider.

The artist that I wanted to engage with already had strong links to the Royal Air Force as he had wanted to be a pilot, but his medical standard had let him down. More importantly for the project that I was engaged in, I could get examples of his work for nothing (In the modern era of budgets, free stuff can never be underestimated) from the RAF Leuchars Airshow team. I wrote to them and eventually I got this envelope back. In this envelope were examples of the work that this artist had carried out for the RAF Leuchars Airshow programme from 1988 until 1997. I showed these to my boss and he agreed that this was the calibre of artist we wanted to engage with.

To that end, I sent about half a ream of paper of photographs and articles as reference material to the artist for him to consider the project. Alas, the artist came back with the answer that while he was honoured to be considered, he just had too much work on to take this on as an additional commission.

Now the letter he sent back was one that I wanted to keep as it would have been my only example of the artist’s autograph at the time. But as it was addressed to the Unit, I could not consider it as something I could take and keep. However, the letter from the RAF Leuchars Airshow team was another matter. The letter and the envelope were addressed to me so that any attachments could be considered as my property. And it was with a heavy heart that I realised that once the artist had advised us of his inability to consider this as a commission, I could keep the copies of his covers of the Airshow programmes from the 1980s and 1990s.

Now, people who attended the Leuchars Airshow during this period and are comic fans will know the artist that I am referring to. For the rest, I will put you out of your misery and let you know that the artist was Ian Kennedy. After chatting with Ian, I have now found that he had done 13 of these covers, so I now need to begin my search for the final three. And for the first time online, I now put up the covers for your delight.

Airshow 1988 resize Airshow 1989 resize Airshow 1990 resize Airshow 1991 resize Airshow 1992 resize Airshow 1993 resize Airshow 1994 resize Airshow 1995 resize Airshow 1996 resize Airshow 1997 resize

In case you are wondering, the originals ended up in the crew rooms of the RAF Squadrons that were at RAF Leuchars and an agreement was put in place that if RAF Leuchars ever closed, then the originals would be returned to Ian Kennedy or his family. However, when RAF Leuchars closed, seven of the originals were found and returned to Ian. So we can only wonder where the other six have gone. If I need to translate any terms from RAF to English, then let me know. All images (c) MOD.

Article updated 30 January 2016.


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