Gulf War artist's exhibition reflects on life in a combat zone
PUBLISHED: 13:16 26 January 2018 | UPDATED: 08:43 31 January 2018
Archant Norfolk 2018
While troops fought in the First Gulf War, soldier and artist Major Robin Watt captured powerful images of life in a combat zone.
During Operation Desert Storm he was war artist for the 7th Armoured Brigade and produced some 200 works looking at all aspects of the tour.
His images of burning tanks and casualties lay bare the true horror of war while other works give an insight into the everyday lives of soldiers living and training in the desert.
Now people can see some of Major Watt’s drawings and paintings from his four-month tour in his Reflections on War exhibition at Norwich Cathedral’s Hostry.
“The whole thing is really to try and get information out to the general public, people who maybe haven’t been to a war and to say a little bit about soldiering and about the nature and the atmosphere of warfare,” said 70-year-old Major Watt who lives in Beeston, near King’s Lynn.
“This is the Gulf War 1991. I went out to Saudi Arabia in December 1990 and I stayed there until the end of the war which was in March 1991.”
He hopes the exhibition will raise vital funds for Veterans Norfolk and put a spotlight on the demands soldiers face in battle - including coping with fear, dealing with the moral justification for war, the physical demands of the battlefield, and the long-term psychological impact.
He said his own career as a soldier stood him in good stead for his time as a war artist.
“If I had been a civilian I think would have found it rather rough but I didn’t because I was a soldier,” he said.
“The only problem was that there was so little time, and what an artist needs is time to draw something, but very often one didn’t have that time and one just had to leap up on a tank and go somewhere else...I always took a camera because of that, because sometimes I literally had about 20 seconds to pick up information.”
As well as depicting the war, he also felt it important to record the everyday lives of the local people and the wildlife in the desert.
“I always thought it was terribly important to have a balance, to show the timelessness of the desert, for instance, and the fact that the herdsmen continued as normal, the camels were always there in the background,” said Major Watt, who is a now a professional wildlife artist.
“What you need to do is focus on the balance, that life goes on, because it gives us hope.”
Reflections of War runs until February 16. Visit www.cathedral.org.uk
For more about Veterans Norfolk, including how you can donate to the charity, visit www.veteransnorfolk.com
A soldier and an artist
Educated at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Major Robin Watt was commissioned into the 10th Hussars.
He saw action in the Dhofar War in the early 1970s and served eight tours of duty in Northern Ireland. He trained in Libya, France, Kenya, Malaysia and Cyprus, did an exchange with the Canadian Army, and served as a civil-military liaison officer in the Falkland Islands during the post-war re-construction phase.
He served as both a fighting soldier and war artist in Operation Desert Storm in the First Gulf War. As war artist to the 7th Armoured Brigade, working on behalf of the Army Benevolent Fund, he created an illustrated diary called A Soldier’s Sketch-book which was published by the National Army Museum in 1993 and also the subject of an exhibition at the museum.
Nowadays the self-taught artist, who retired from the Army in 1993, focuses on painting animals and wildlife and uses his work to raise funds for serving soldiers and veterans in need.