The D-Day artist history forgot: Remembering Albert Richards
Had he lived, he might have become one of the great artists of the 20th century. As it is, he is now forgotten
Shortly before 1am on June 6 1944, the men of the 9th Parachute Battalion began to drop into Normandy. They were on a top-secret mission to take out the powerful German battery guarding Sword Beach, before the armada arrived. The success of D-Day would hinge on operations like this.
Among the figures dropping out of the night sky and into the unknown was an unlikely hero – a shy young man carrying sketch book and pencils among his heavy military kit. Albert “Bertie” Richards, 24, was the youngest of three British war artists – along with Eric Ravilious and Thomas Hennell – to be killed in World War 2.
In the few hours that followed he would take part in one of the most dramatic operations of the war and, once victory was achieved, he stopped to sketch the scene – producing two paintings that captured the moment for posterity: The Landing: H Hour Minus 6 and Withdrawing From the Battery. His whole war had led to this extraordinary day. In the months that followed he would capture, like no other artist, the devastation caused by an army in advance and the detritus left by one in retreat...