Adams’ Prang

Australian official war artist Dennis Adams was in a Short Stirling heavy bomber that crashed (‘prang’ in the vernacular of the time) on 16-17 July 1944. He survived (two of the crew didn’t) and is seen here examining the inverted nose of the bomber a week afterwards. Adams head and left leg were injured, and he noted: “I was lucky to be alive, we all knew that, those of us who survived.”

He then created a painting inspired by the event, in the AWM collection and shared by the Memorial on Facebook here. Writing to the Memorial about the painting, he wrote: “Figures scrambling out of the burning wreck of Stirling bomber. (This would be painted from memories still very vivid in my mind!).”

Sadly there does not seem to be a full length biography of Adams, born in 1914, online, not even at the national institutions that hold significant collections of his artwork. In brief, extracted from a longer biography from the Australian National Maritime Museum, here:

In 1942 he was appointed an official war artist to represent the activities of the Australian and US Navies and the merchant marine in the South Pacific. He was made Captain in Military History Section AIF in 1943. He served in New Guinea, Middle East, Italy, Egypt, UK, France, Belgium, Newfoundland, Canada, the Bahamas, USA, and Japan.

After WWII Dennis Adams established a career as an artist specialising mainly in maritime and war art and also taught art at the East Sydney Technical College. He completed numerous public works of art, mostly in bronze including the Second World War Servicewomen’s Memorial 1990, the Royal Australian Regiment Memorial, 1976 in Sydney, and paintings and sculptures at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, including Survivors 1968-73, a bronze and concrete memorial to merchant seamen, and Ship bearing red ten, 1967, a quiet intense red cedar work based on an officer at watch in the collection. In 1989, he was awarded the order of Australia Medal. He died in 2001.”

Adams also completed several notable sculptures; including the merchant marine ‘Survivors‘ now displayed outside the Australian War Memorial and ‘Bomb Dive’ in the AWM collection. I highlight another war artist’s artwork arising from their experience of a crash, here with Frank Hinder.

[Note: This is a follow up post, filling gaps in the 2019 year, actually written on 19 July 2021.]

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