Provenance: Andrew Leslie, Leva Gallery, 1974; private collection.
Exhibited: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 38.
Literature: Grant M.Waters, Dictionary of British Artists Working 1900–1950, Eastbourne Fine Art Publications, Eastbourne, 1976, vol. 2, illus. no. 70.
WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 38, page 76.
This painting shows an Auxiliary Fireman, his plastron-fronted tunic buttoning on the right side and his fireman's hatchet in a holder attached to his belt. Potter, who had served in WW1, (enlisting in 1916 at the age of 29), would have been too old to fight in WW2, but is likely to have served on the home front. In this capacity it is possible that Potter himself served as an Auxillary Fireman - indeed this might even be a self-portrait.
Tethered barrage balloons – 1,100 of which were moored at 100-yard intervals around St Paul’s – defended the city against dive-bombers, forcing them to fly higher and into the range of concentrated anti-aircraft fire.
A British Pathe film clip from WW2 shows that many of the Auxilary Firemen who protected St. Pauls had day-jobs in the City and afterwork would change into their firemen's uniforms in the Crypt of St Paul's Cathedral before working through the night.
We are grateful to Andrew Cormack for assistance.