Portrait of Wing Commander Athol Forbes


Reproduction of Eric Kennington, 1940
Dimensions: 92cm x 68cm
Material: Reproduction

To listen to the audio description of this object either click the object audio MP3 file below which will play it in your default audio player, or press the play button which you will find after the object audio MP3 file and this will play it from within the web page. The play button can also be used to pause the audio. This button is followed by the elapsed and remaining time, and a further button to mute the audio.

Portrait of Wing Commander Athol Forbes Audio MP3 File

This is a portrait of Wing Commander Athol Forbes, a reproduction of a painting by war artist Eric Kennington, produced in 1940. This reproduction portrait is about one meter high and half a meter wide.

The life-sized portrait shows the upper body of Forbes; his body is facing the viewer but his head is turned to his left so his face is in profile. He is wearing his blue RAF uniform and lighter blue overcoat, white shirt and black tie. He has neatly styled short dark hair and has a slightly wistful expression on his face as he looks into the distance. The background is a plain green/blue colour. Forbes is one of ten Battle of Britain aircrew who feature in the book, “Ten Fighter Boys”. Athol is affectionately described as “The old boy of the squadron, being some 30 years of age, he is tallish, slim and looks a bit of a Casanova. He has slanting, deep set green eyes, a large beak-like nose, and rather long hair curling up over each ear and looking like a pair of horns. Without doubt Athol is one of the most pleasant blokes alive – I never knew him in a bad mood. Being of a most hospitable nature and always ready for a party, his wine bill was something phenomenal”.

During the Battle of Britain in 1940, Forbes flew with the newly formed Polish 303 Squadron. He was one of three RAF pilots posted to the Squadron to co-command the Squadron with Polish officers. He spoke French and so was able to communicate with the Polish pilots who spoke limited English, but had learnt French whilst flying in the Battle of France.

303 Squadron became incredibly important during the Battle of Britain. Formed primarily of Polish aircrew, they were the most successful squadron of the Battle. In Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding’s own words, “Had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of the Battle would have been the same.”