King of the Junglies immortalised on canvas
A recently completed painting of Sea King ZA 298 by accomplished military artist and army veteran Tony Byrne from Bideford in Devon was presented to 845 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset.
Sea King ZA 298, or King of the Junglies as it is colloquially known is no stranger to the world of media. It was the central focus of a BBC documentary, The Sea King - Britain’s Flying Past presented by the renowned television correspondent Jon Sergeant. This particular aircraft, which is still fling today, has seen service in all of the major conflicts since the Falkland’s war and has been hit by enemy fire on a number of occasions. The most recent was in Afghanistan where it was hit and badly damaged by an RPG round fired by the Taliban.
On completion of the presentation to 845 Squadron’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Punch, Tony explained, “I approached 845 Squadron some time back to see if they would be happy for me to produce a painting of this iconic aircraft. It was a tremendous honour and privilege to be told they would be delighted for me to do so. The work took over 3 months to create and was an incredible challenge, especially as it was my first painting of a Junglie Sea King. The response to the finished product has been fantastic and at times overwhelming.”
Lt Cdr Punch added, “In many ways ZA298 epitomises the Junglie Ethos. She has travelled the world, been to the frontline of most conflict regions over the past 30 years and, when at home, continued to work tirelessly for training and exercises, all this with a smile on her face. There is good reason she has become known as the King of the Junglies. Tony is clearly an extremely talented individual doing excellent work for many service charities. We are pleased that he has captured ZA298 in such impressive fashion. I, and 845 Naval Air Squadron, thank him for his excellent gift. The Squadron will be using it as a feature in our future charity auction and expect it to bring in a very good price for a good cause.”
Unlike many artists, Tony has considerable first hand experience of painting military aircraft as he had served with the Army Air Corps working on Scout, Gazelle and Lynx helicopters although he has painted a variety of aircraft from Concorde to the Vulcan bomber.
This painting along with 10 limited edition prints signed by Junglie Aviators will soon be displayed within the Squadron before being sold at auction to support a number of Service charities.
Tony Byrne Biography.
In Sept 1977, Tony enlisted as a Boy Soldier in the Junior Leaders Regiment Royal Artillery. He qualified as a Basic Gunner on 25 pdr Field Gun and was posted to West Germany where he qualified as a Gunner in the Rapier Air Defence Missile System.
In 1985 he transferred to the Army Air Corps working on Scout, Gazelle and Lynx helicopters.
Tony left the Army from the Royal Military College of Science in 1990 due to injuries he’d sustained whilst serving.
In 1992 he was diagnosed with PTSD and it took a number of years of persistent nagging by a welfare worker from the charity “Combat Stress” to get him to Tyrwhitt House,Surreywhere he could be treated.
He was then encouraged to paint by the Occupational Health Team and soon found he had an innate ability to paint aviation related topics.
In 2010 his painting “Holiday in St Ives” which was exhibited at the Armed Forces Art Society at the Mall Galleries, The Mall,London.
Tony has undertaken a number of commissions amongst them 19Sqn RAF Valley, 22 Sqn SAR RAF Chivenor. The Red Arrows and Royal Navy Lynx aerobatic team Black Casts have also endorsed his work.. More recently he has completed a commission for a painting of Concord and a BA747-400.
He has also donated a painting of an Apache helicopter landing at RAF Fairford for “Holidays for Heroes” which will be used to raise funds. Most recently the Devon RBL has requested a painting to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of WW1.