5th July 2013:
The buildings department at OA South has been recording the wall art at former RAF Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire. The art recorded thus far is predominantly located in barrack blocks within the domestic site, but there are also numerous examples within the Flying Field which we will be recording imminently. The majority of art was executed on the internal walls of military buildings by American servicemen during their occupation of the airbase in the Cold War.
War art is a valuable contemporary resource, providing personal and direct representation of 20th-century military activity and opposition to it. During the ‘spit and polish’ ear of the Second World War, artwork was discouraged. However, from the 1980s under ‘Project Warrior’, war art was actively encouraged by the authorities to promote group cohesion and encourage esprit de corps. Servicemen also used it to liven up living areas and reinforce ownership of space.
This is reflected in the war art at Upper Heyford, with many patriotic examples, including squadron emblems and images incorporating American colours and the RAF insignia. Other examples are casual graffiti to alleviate an aspect of service absent from most military history books: boredom. The great variety of images provides an insight into cultural and political life of the era, and demonstrate a very visually-aware generation. There are images of Judge Dredd, Garfield and various Doonesbury characters from American newspapers, as well as impressive artistic murals.
Some examples are more sinister reminders of the very ‘hot’ political climate of the era, including atom bombs and fighter planes. One early 1990s image shows an F111 with Saddam Hussein in the centre of a target with the words, ‘This is not what I meant when I said I wanted to be in the center of things.’