December 9 2013 Latest news:
Retired soldier and war artisit Robin Watt has painted a special watercolour featuring the Household Cavalry at Holkham beach, which is being sold to raise money for the regimental charity - Robin with the final work. Picture: Matthew Usher.
Monday, August 12, 2013
A retired war artist has captured the annual spectacle of the Household Cavalry’s traditional summer visit to Norfolk in watercolours to raise money for the regimental charity.
It’s a majestic combination of military horsemanship and equine grace which would make a worthy canvas for any artist.
But there can be few whose talents would be more suited to the annual visit of the Household Cavalry to Norfolk than Major Robin Watt, the retired soldier and war artist who now specialises in painting horses.
And after spending a year capturing the Summer Camp in all its splendour, Mr Watt has donated his masterpiece to the regiment so that prints can be sold to raise money for battlefield casualties.
Mr Watt, who works from his home studio in Syers Lane in Beeston, near Dereham, served in Northern Ireland and Oman before becoming a war artist to the 7th Armoured Brigade during the first Gulf War.
Having witnessed the horrors of conflict first-hand and recreated them through his dramatic watercolours, he chose to leave his wartime memories behind to concentrate on painting animals after leaving the army.
But he said the Household Cavalry presented a unique opportunity for him to draw on his experiences and abilities to help raise money for wounded soldiers and the families of fallen comrades.
The cental image of the composite painting, entitled Summer Camp, features the cavalry soldiers splashing in the surf on Holkham beach – an annual event which draws visitors and photographers to the expansive sands of the north Norfolk coast every year.
It forms part of the regiment’s relaxation during its summer camp at Bodney, near Watton, where the other activities have also been depicted in watercolours after painstaking research and sketching.
The original painting was donated to the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR) in July, and the prints reproduced from it will generate funds for the Household Cavalry Foundation (HCF).
Mr Watt said: “When I left the army, I had seen enough of destruction and I wanted to move into a more tranquil world of animals, so I could concentrate on horses and dogs and wildlife.
“In this case, it fits particularly well. It is easy for me to work alongside professional soldiers, and I am primarily an equestrian artist, so I approached the regiment to ask if I could do some studies of their horses. I said I would produce an original painting for the regiment and then they could sell the prints in aid of battlefield casualties. That is the most important thing.
“I am hugely lucky to be in one piece, physically. There are an awful lot of people who are a quarter of my age who are minus a limb, or maybe more.
“I feel one’s service continues and if I can serve them in this very small way, then I am doing what I think I should be doing. It does not earn me any money. The point is that I am in one piece and they are not.”
As a 10th Hussar, Mr Watt saw action with 16 Parachute Brigade during multiple tours of duty in Northern Ireland, and during an attachment to 22 SAS in Oman.
He has also undertaken Special Duties in Northern Ireland. His final posting was as war artist to the 7th Armoured Brigade during the first Gulf War, raising funds for the Army Benevolent Fund through his sketches and paintings of soldiers living, training and fighting in the desert.
“I like to think as a professional soldier I was understanding what I was seeing,” he said. “If someone stood in front of me with a rifle, I would understand that rifle, and if a tank was in front of me I would know the ins and outs of that tank. Knowledge is very important in modern painting and if the knowledge is not there the paintings don’t stand up.
“I was also very conscious that I wanted to produce a written and pictorial account that was balanced. I did not just concentrate on the horror of it, I looked at plants and animals of the desert, whether they were scorpions or butterflies.
“At one end you have got the life of the desert and right at the far end you have got the destruction of the Mutla Ridge on the Basra Road. That was where the Americans ambushed the Iraqis coming back from Kuwait and there was a two-mile trail of destruction.
“There are things that live with you – they don’t go away but it is all part of a soldier’s life. But you don’t want to dwell on it, you want to move on. So that’s what I did.”
Mr Watt’s paintings can be found in public and private collections around the world, including the collections of the Queen and the National Army Museum.
Prints or cards of the overall image of Summer Camp, or any of its individual components, may be ordered through the Household Cavalry Foundation at HQ Household Cavalry, Horse Guards, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2AX. Email email@example.com or telephone 0207 8394858.
Major Robin Watt can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.