Introduction

Jack Berry is an autistic teenager who uses his artwork as a form of communication and release. His favourite hobbies are aircraft and racing cars and he regularly shares his love of these on social media through his artwork. Art is in the eye and mind of the artist, and Jack’s drawings and paintings show the world of aviation, and the odd racing car as he sees them, with a vibrancy and optimism that cannot always be conveyed through a photograph. Jack’s art has a lovely tranquil, radiant and fresh quality to it which is really uplifting and enchanting.

 

Jack wanted to create and publish his own artwork book with his favourite aircraft, accompanied by a write up from his favourite pilots and aircrew. This delightful book has become a lovely link and formed a wonderful friendship bond between Jack and many aviators of the modern day, and those with a personal history in aviation stretching back over decades and generations. He formed an artistic bond in particular with John Henry Meller, who served as a wireless operator in Bomber Command during the Second World War.

 

Created in a period in our history when people have been isolated by a pandemic which has divided and isolated, Flying High In The Sunlit Silence has reached out and linked households and airfields in union. Proof indeed that kindness finds its way across any obstacle.

www.bombercommandbooks.com

B-25 Mitchell

About the book

Jack and John Henry Meller
Photo: Maxine Grundy

Flying High In The Sunlit Silence is an eclectic mix of Jack Berry's aircraft and Formula 1 car paintings accompanied by captions provided by many well-known people and organisations familiar with the subject and also poetry, autism in art, charity, kindness, remembrance, and friendship.

 

The tone of the book is set by the heartfelt introduction by WWII Bomber Command veteran John Henry Meller.

Friendship and kindness are common themes throughout the book, be it in the words of poet A.F. Harrold, the shared experiences that caption Jack’s paintings, the NHS Spitfire, a teddy bear called AB or the bond between aircrew across the world. Without the friendship of strangers this book would not have been possible.

Obviously in a book that contains the word 'art' in its title, Jack’s paintings take centre stage. His paintings are not presented in chronological order but its easy to see how Jack’s skill has improved as the book project progressed. His paintings are vibrant, charming and often cheeky; painted through the eyes of a 13-year-old autistic child.

Over 80 people and organisations were asked to contribute to Flying High In The Sunlit Silence - we didn't receive a single refusal. Some of contributors are very well known names in the worlds of aviation, Formula 1 racing and publishing; however, many are not well known but their contributions are of no less importance or interest.

  

Another theme of the book is remembrance. WWII veterans and the crews of Bomber Command are remembered in art, tributes and charity. The book title itself remembers those verterans; being taken from a line in the aviators poem High Flight, written in 1941 by a 19 year old Anglo-American Spitfire pilot and poet called John Gillespie Magee Jnr. 

Flying High In The Sunlit Silence is quite different to any other book you may have seen before. 

 

It will make you smile.

Book Preview

Allow us to share a brief preview of Flying High In The Sunlit Silence.

 

High Flight

John Gillespie Magee Jnr
1922 – 1941
Spitfire pilot

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth

of sun-split clouds and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air.

 

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.

Where never lark, or even eagle flew.

And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Spitfire LF Mk.IXe MK356
Photo: Karen Shortland

Mighty Fin: The backstory

By Ailsa Snaith

Mighty Fin was written in January 2019 as the last operational flight of the GR4 approached. I wrote my first poem aged 16 when I was struggling with the concept of going to school. I was grateful, after a period of absence, that the school chose to publish my poetry in their magazine rather than telling me off for not attending! I started writing in earnest in 2015 as a way of expressing myself having given up full time work as a doctor to support our family goals of travelling abroad. My husband Chris (‘Snakey’) has been in the RAF since 1994 and has served 6 tours on the Tornado GR4. As a young couple we met after his return from Germany and moved to RAF Lossiemouth in 2002. Our times as part of the Tornado GR4 family were magical and led to shared moments, laughter, tears and lifelong friendships; families supported each other whilst the squadrons were away from home on deployments for months on end. Mighty Fin was an attempt to capture the shared sense of pride and love that the squadrons, and their families, had for the jet that was such a big part of their lives and travels around the world. I also wanted to convey the shared loss of ‘the ones who did not land’ during conflict and training. We will not forget them, or the jet that has such a special place in all of our hearts. The poem was read at a dinner in the Officers’ Mess at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus celebrating the last operational flight. I was very lucky to be adjacent to the runway taking photographs as the jets took off and landed for the last time at RAF Akrotiri.

 

Jack is an inspiration. The arts (music, art, photography, poetry, singing etc) are a great outlet in difficult times. Supporting each other is not a single moment but a journey; Jack’s paintings have brought us all together and it has been a privilege to be a part of that. I look forward to seeing his next collection of paintings.

Tornado GR4 - RAF Akrotiri

RAF Tornado GR4s taxi after landing at RAF Akrotiri following their final operational sortie

Tornado GR4 - RAF Akrotiri
Photos: Ailsa Snaith

Susan Harvey 

I first met Jack’s Mum Sara on Twitter and we have since become good friends. Sara asked me if I’d like to contribute to the book that Jack was doing, and write a piece about Autism and Art, which I happily agreed to do. I’m a Mum to an adult son with autism, and my previous job was a Lead SEN Mentor and an Art Tutor, working for a post-16 alternative provision. Many of my students had emotional and behavioural issues and some were also on the autism spectrum.

 

During the creating of the book, I was able to offer Sara an ‘ear’ and support as behind the scenes she had so much to do, plus collating all the information and generally trying to tie it all together – not an easy task.

Sara wanted to highlight Autism in the book, especially with Jack having this condition and how art can help. Most people have heard of Autism, but are unaware of exactly what it is and how it can affect people. It is classed as a neurodevelopmental difference in the brain, including social and communication challenges, sensory processing issues and some repetitive or restrictive behaviours. We are more aware now, that autism is a brain difference, as opposed to deficits. All autistic people are unique and have their own specials skills and abilities, which deserve as much recognition as the areas they have difficulty in.

 

Art can be a wonderful way of helping neurodiverse children and adults create expression and help process their thoughts in a more flexible way; it can be used as a form of communication, especially for those who are non-verbal. Any form of art, be it drawing, painting, collage etc., can also re-direct attention from worries and helps calm the nervous system. It can be used to express any verbal difficulties and works towards improved patterns of thought.

 

It was lovely to see not just Jack’s work, but the passion he has for war history and how he uses his art to re-create all the planes he loves. I can also see how this passion encapsulates people and I found this book so wonderful to read and am honoured to be a small part of it.

Susan Harvey - Artist

We Will Remember Them...

Emma Brealey
Managing Director, Petwood Hotel

Bomber Command: two words that embrace the war efforts of over 1 million men and women from 62 nations around the world. The loss of life was enormous - 55,573 of 125,000 aircrew alone - and we remind ourselves that many of these “Bomber Boys” were an average age of 21, many as young as 19 when they died for their country. For a few members of Bomber Command, the Petwood was their wartime home as it was an Officers’ Mess from 1942-45 for 97 Squadron, 619 Squadron and 617 Squadron. Over the years, we have been privileged to meet some of these Bomber Command veterans at reunions at the hotel where they have shared their experiences with us, particularly what it was like to live here during the war. They have spoken to us about the sadness of losing their friends who never came home. They have regaled us with their tales of mischief and fun. They have spoken of how they met and married their sweethearts. All these stories form their legacies, and we will continue to share them with generations to come. Lest we forget.

617 Squadron after Tirpitz Raid Nov 1944
617 Squadron after Tirpitz Raid Nov 1944

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Avro Lancaster notebook
Avro Lancaster notebook

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Squadron Bar - Dambusters plaque
Squadron Bar - Dambusters plaque

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617 Squadron after Tirpitz Raid Nov 1944
617 Squadron after Tirpitz Raid Nov 1944

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Photos: Petwood Hotel

Exploring Newark Air Museum with Jack

By Howard Heeley

Towards the end of October 2020, just before the second lockdown I was privileged to host a visit to the museum by a young man called Jack Berry. I had made contact with Jack through the museum’s Twitter account, and on Twitter Jack had been sharing some imaginative aircraft pictures.

Jack and I established a dialogue over the Internet, and it became apparent that one of Jack’s favourite RAF pilots was Seb Davey, from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Having mentioned that Seb had done part of his multi-engined training on our Jetstream aircraft, the scene was set for Jack to pay us a visit, not least to see “Seb’s aircraft”!

Once a date had been fixed for the visit, I undertook a review of the aircraft opening Risk Assessments and in consultation with Jack’s mum Sara I arranged a special one off access for him into a selected number of museum aircraft, including his beloved Jetstream.

Jack in Puma HC.1, Newark Air Museum
Jack sitting in Captain Seb's seat
Photos: Karen Shortland

A special cleaning routine was carried out before and after the visit, which was undertaken in a socially distanced manner and with everyone wearing face masks. As the visit progressed it became apparent that I had made a connection with Jack, and we had a wonderful time looking around the aircraft. This included colleagues showing him inside the Puma and the Chinook.

Going into the Jetstream was quite a moving experience as Jack spent a good few minutes looking behind the curtains to try and find Seb; undeterred he had a wonderful time in “Seb’s aircraft”. It was quite a cold day and the visit was relatively quick as the family were scheduled to visit other aviation sites in the local area.

Since the visit took place various pieces of Jack’s artwork have been compiled into a book, that was published in late January 2021.