Norwich Cathedral exhibition brings into view the memory of a WW2 soldier

Clifford Hardestry (right) during the Second World War - photo supplied by Pamela Hardesty

Clifford Hardestry (right) during the Second World War - photo supplied by Pamela Hardesty - Credit: Archant

Sight, Memory, Making, and Prayer, is the latest exhibition at Norwich Cathedral's Hostry.

Pamela Hardestry art exhibition Credit: Emma Knights

Pamela Hardestry art exhibition Credit: Emma Knights - Credit: Archant

Emma Knights finds out more from artist Pamela Hardesty.

When artist Pamela Hardesty found some old photo albums and notebooks belonging to her father, they opened up a new window for her into his world as an American soldier based at Horham, in Suffolk, during the Second World War.

And the journey that followed has led to her latest exhibition – Sight, Memory, Making, and Prayer – which is at Norwich Cathedral's Hostry until September 30.

'I found some photo albums in my mother's house that my father had kept from the war, notebooks, a lot of information that I had never seen before,' said Pamela, a lecturer in fine and applied art who grew up in West Virginia and now lives in Cork in Ireland.

Pamela Hardestry art exhibition Credit: Emma Knights

Pamela Hardestry art exhibition Credit: Emma Knights - Credit: Archant

'My father died in 1982 and finding the notebooks just opened up something of his life as a young man in England.'

Pamela's father, Clifford Hardesty, had been a Technical Sergeant in the 336th Squadron of the 95th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, and he had been stationed at Horham from 1943 to 1945.

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He had worked with the Norden bombsight, a specialist machine used by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) to ensure greater accuracy with bomb targets.

After finding her father's notebooks, Pamela set about researching all she could about his three years at Horham, and the result is a huge floor collage which forms the striking centrepiece of her exhibition and echoes the memorial floor slabs seen within Norwich Cathedral.

Pamela Hardestry art exhibition Credit:Paul Hurst

Pamela Hardestry art exhibition Credit:Paul Hurst - Credit: Archant

'[Before] The only thing I knew about my father was that the base was halfway between Norwich and Ipswich, that's the only thing in our family he ever said about his time in the war, I had no idea where it was, exactly what he did, what a bombsight was,' said Pamela, as she pointed out elements within her floor collage.

'I collected as much as I could online about the base at Horham - this is a map of Horham – and about the Norden bombsight, that's a drawing of it over there.

'Then I have my father's own records, so that is his registration certificate, things from his notebooks, all kinds of records of squadron information, that's a B-17, and that's the insignia of his squadron, 336th.

'This is like a fragment of his life journey and, like we all have, a kind of patchwork of memory.'

Norwich Cathedral Credit: Wendy Keeley

Norwich Cathedral Credit: Wendy Keeley - Credit: Wendy Keeley

This aerial landscape of memory is framed by six more of Pamela's works which all took their inspiration from the viewfinder of the Norden bombsight.

'The bombsight was this amazing machine, a classified top secret weapon that the Allies used,' said Pamela.

'It was designed by engineer Carl Norden because he was a devout Christian and he wanted to make bombing more precise so there would be less civilian casualties. The idea was that they would allow the Allies to target specific factories and bridges.

'I thought about prayer being like a precision focus as well so I did six paintings as like prayer targets on different stages of prayer.'

Penitence, Praise, Petition, Thanksgiving, Meditation and Contemplation are the six prayers interpreted by Pamela's unique, thought-provoking works.

When asked what she hoped visitors would gain from visiting her exhibition, Pamela said: 'I would hope people would get a sense of the value of each life story and that they get some sense of prayer when they look into the prayer works.

'Also I think it is important to remember the legacy of war because if we don't remember history we repeat it.'

Pamela, 60, added: 'My generation is the bridge generation, we are the children or nieces and nephews of the people who were involved in that conflict, so it's only a generation away, we are touching it in our lives…we have to do our part to pass on the memory, so this is my bit.'

Sight, Memory, Making and Prayer is at Norwich Cathedral's Hostry until September 30. Entry is free. F

or more information, visit the Norwich Cathedral website and for more about Pamela Hardesty's work, visit her blog.

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