Artist's extraordinary military paintings feature in new book

Artist Mike Bailey with his painting which is now in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library at the Fo

Top aviation artist Mike Bailey of Norwich who has illustrated the new book on RAF Bomber Command. - Credit: Antony Kelly

“How old are you now?” I asked Mike Bailey….looking at his exquisite pictures of aircraft in a wonderful new book by Ron Mackay.

“I am 87,” he replied…with a smile.

He is a man whose work has illustrated many books and has paintings hung on walls, in public and private collections, around the world.

Yes, we can all be proud of “our” Mike.

A dozen of his paintings appear in Ron's tome, RAF Bomber Command ‘Strike Hard, Strike Sure’ 1936-1945.

The Blenheim which flew out of RAF Swanton Morley.

The Blenheim which flew out of RAF Swanton Morley. - Credit: Mike Bailey

Mike and Ron are a great double act.

It is a companion to the  RAF Fighter Command: Defence of the Realm 1936-1945 which was published to great acclaim three years ago.

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And you may have read some of their previous books including Liberators Over Norwich and Second in Line: Second To None, - also with Steve Adams - a history of the American 2nd Air Division during the Second World War.

The new book is dedicated to all members of Bomber Command who “rode in the deadly night skies over Europe” during the Second World War and who paid an individual and corporate price in bringing to an end the forces of autocracy.

And there are many stories and rare photographs looking at the air bases across Norfolk and Suffolk at a time when East Anglia became a giant airfield – shared by the British and Americans -  where so many airmen died fighting for our freedom.

Be warned, this is no light-weight offering. It is a hefty book comprising of more than 520 pages. A fascinating and important offering telling the story of Bomber Command in depth and is for sale in this country and in the USA.

And they are experts in their field.

Ron was born at Wick in Scotland were the local Coastal Command airfield stimulated his interest which has led to 28 books and a working knowledge of German expanded his field of study into the Luftwaffe.

The Halifax, of 10 Squadron.

The Halifax, of 10 Squadron. - Credit: Mike Bailey

His latest goes into extraordinary detail of the life and times of Bomber Command during the Second World War. Every page tells a story.

The book contains rare photographs of life on the air bases and events, goes behind the scenes, highlighting the exploits of Bomber Command which claimed the lives of so many men.

A total of 55,338 aircrew members failed to either complete their operation tours or were killed over Britain in flying or ground incidents.

To the 47.106 falling into the MIA (missing in action) category were added 9,838 POWs, although 162 among that number died during incarceration.

We get a great insight into how the aircraft looked from Mike’s paintings.

Growing up in Norwich during the war it was visits to the American air base at Horsham St Faith, with his mate, which would shape the rest of his life.

“I was 10 at the time. It was such an exciting place. We could climb all over the Liberators. The airmen welcomed us. It changed my life forever,” said Mike.

They counted the planes out and counted them back…many never returned from missions over Europe.

It changed his life. He began painting their planes and others. And still is….

He spent his working career, from 1950 to 1995, as a printer at Jarrold in Norwich. He and his wife Maureen married in 1960 and they still live in the city.

Has Mike any thoughts of hanging up his brushes?

“I’ve just been working on a new book about American aircraft,” he said.

What a great character and a huge talent we have in our midst.

RAF Bomber Command ‘Strike Hard, Strike Sure’ 1936-1945 by Ron Mackay and Mike Bailey is published by Fonthill Media at £45 and also in America.