Sussex’s Sonia Imprint

Today a strange story. Firstly a bizarre imprint ‘artwork’ created in a violent accident. Then a design process by my friend and colleague, professional artist Ronne Olsthoorn, to explain the imprint.

On 26 July 1945, the British cruiser HMS Sussex was attacked by two Japanese bomber aircraft acting as kamikaze suicide weapons. One bounced off the water and smashed into the side of the ship. The bomb it was (presumably) carrying failed to explode – it may’ve been knocked off when hitting the water – and Sussex avoided significant damage as a result. (Close examination shows a dent in the centre of the crash where the heavy engine would’ve hit – the rest of the aircraft has a light structure and wouldn’t significantly effect the ship’s steel hull.)

This may have been all that was to be said, except the aircraft left an imprint mark on Sussex, which shows remarkable detail, in a spookily similar way to the marking left by a bird that flies into a window and in a similar way – the bird leaving a dust mark from the powder in the feathers ejected by the collision, the aircraft paint marks and oil transferred, also by the collision.


[The above image, by David Fancher, from here with an explanation of bird imprints. More bird imprint images here.]

There was some dispute over what the aircraft type it was that had hit HMS Sussex. Ronnie took a number of graphical elements and put them together in the GIF below as an elegant explanation that the aircraft was a Mitsubishi Ki 51 ‘Sonia’.

Accidental design, translated by graphic design illustration.

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

Copy of the image the story is built on, on Flickr here. The other from the AWM here. GIF process copyright Ronnie Olsthoorn Aviation Art page used with permission.

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