They came together Naval Officers, Pilots, Engineers, Industrialists, Designers, Ambassadors of Charity, Dignitaries, Guests and the celebrated Artist, Sherree Valentine Daines at the Chelsea Harbour Hotel, a few days before Remembrance Day to celebrate.
To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the introduction into service of the Sea Harrier, at the Annual Ambassadors’ Dinner of the Navy Wings Charity, in aid of the Nation’s Naval Aviation Heritage. Sherree painted a Swordfish during the evening.
In Chelsea Harbour boats reposed peacefully under the quiet, dark skies. There was no such peace when the Sea Harrier and Swordfish were played a pivotal role in battles.
Guests were welcomed at a champagne reception where they could view the splendid lots donated to the auction, which was led by International Fine Art Auctioneer, Hugh Edmeades. The lots included some amazing pieces of Sea Harrier Heritage e.g. a Sea harrier Pegasus LPI Boardroom fan table, the Blue Ensign flown by HMS Prince of Wales on her maiden voyage, A flight in a Tiger Moth and a Pegasus combustion Coffee Table and so much more. The Star lot was Sherree’s Swordfish painting.
The Guest of Honour was Commodore Ade Orchard OBE. of the Fleet Air Arm. Guests were addressed by former First Sea Lord, Sir George Zambellas GCB., DSC., DL., who spoke of the great British industrial success story of The Sea Harrier and the remarkable development of the aircraft leading ultimately to the U.K’s F-35B Lightning jets operating from the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. Speakers included Sir Peter Rigby DL and Mark Fitzgerald who are restoring a Sea Harrier FA 2 and a two-seat Harrier T8 to full flying condition.
I was privileged to meet Sherree Valentine Dainton with her two sisters. Her contribution to the evening was wonderful. As we dined, she painted a Swordfish in full flight. This was nostalgic for her as her father, Ralph Valentine Daines, aged 97 served as a Telegraphic Air Gunner flying Swordfish from HMS. Indefatigable.
I was so pleased to meet Sherree; her warm and friendly personality lights up a room or ship and she is committed to serving Charities. She has a wonderful family; artist husband, artist son, sculptress daughter, and violinist daughter. Amazing. One of her works was to paint Rick Stein in aid of the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust.
She is known for familiar (FAMILY***) scenes, children on the beach, older people in the shade of the trees, Ascot, Henley, The Ashes match at Lords. These very English scenes, which those who served in the forces defended from the enemy in two World Wars.
Sherree has exhibited at the Tate, Barbican and Royal Society of British Painters. She painted a picture for the Queen on her 90th birthday; a rare honour, which now hangs in Windsor Castle. She studied at Epsom College and used to be a legal Secretary. She told me firmly that it was not her scene!
Sherree has been invited to be an artist in residence on the three Queens of Cunard lines. Cunard and Clarendon Fine Art Gallery have an exclusive partnership to reimagine art at sea.
The development of Britain’s Naval Aviation Heritage is truly remarkable. Swordfish is a torpedo bomber and aerial reconnaissance plane made by Fairey Aviation. First introduced in 1936 and retired in 1945 it was nicknamed ‘string bag’!
The Sea Harrier, a strike fighter made by Hawker Siddeley, was introduced in 1978 and retired in 2006. It was used in the Falklands War and in the Balkan Conflict. Its ability to take off and land vertically was brilliant breakthrough
Early flying in WW1 was unarmed. Eventually, a gun was fixed on the front. It was not particularly accurate. Superiority in the air was essential as trench warfare was so very slow.
From its earliest beginnings in 1909 to the new aircraft carriers of today, naval aviation has been a story of epic achievement, daring, sacrifice and heroism, combined with leading technological advancement.
The Charity, Navy Wings is based at RNAS. Yeovilton. Somerset. It flies a collection of rare, beautiful historic naval planes. These include two Swordfish, two Sea Furies, two classic Fleet Air Arm jets, a Sea Hawk and a Sea Vixen. Navy Wings maintains and restores these planes. They keep them flying. The Charity seeks to inspire future generations to remember the sacrifice and service of naval flying and to promote a deeper understanding of the part played by RNAS and the Fleet Air Arm in the history of our country.
Image copyright Tony Hisgett