A major artwork commemorating 100 years of the Royal Air Force in Northern Ireland was launched in south Belfast on Saturday.
The Northern Ireland RAF 100 Mural focuses on the aircraft that were built locally under licence during World War One, and the pilots from throughout the island of Ireland who flew for the Royal Flying Corps and its April 1918 successor, the Royal Air Force.
Occupying a huge rear wall of the City Hospital on Belfast’s Donegall Road, the wall art project is being facilitated by Pete Bleakley/Shared History Workshop, along with the Greater Village Regeneration Trust and Archer Advertising Limited.
The mural was unveiled by Northern Ireland’s most senior RAF officer - Air Vice-Marshal David Niven CB CBE.
The finished artwork will dovetail perfectly into The Poppy Trail, a consecutive series of NIHE/GVRT murals running along the Donegall Road, depicting each year of the First World War and telling the stories of local men from both communities who served and paid the ultimate price.
Commenting on the project, Angela Johnston of GVRT said, “I would like to thank the board of the City Hospital for kindly providing the spectacular canvas for the Northern Ireland RAF 100 Mural. It really is the missing piece in our Poppy Trail, as we already have Army and Navy-related artworks along the Road, remembering the hundreds of men from South Belfast who fought in World War One.”
RAF historian Pete Bleakley has a personal, as well as professional stake in the Northern Ireland RAF100 Mural, as his paternal grandfather Robert joined the fledging RAF in 1918 and flew in the latter stages of the war.
“My main area of expertise is World War Two RAF, but I’ve been enjoying the research for this World War One project, as it has given me an insight into what my grandfather went through, at a time when aviation - which was still really in its infancy - was greatly accelerated by the demands of air reconnaissance and combat over France,” he said.
The mural project, which has been over two years in development and has included an educational visit for local primary school children to RAF Aldergrove, has been managed throughout by Belfast-based Wing Commander Tara Scott.
“From the Royal Air Force perspective, we wanted to have a lasting monument which reflected our one hundred years presence in Northern Ireland, and we feel the South Belfast mural is both informative and commemorative, and it is a good fit with the existing Poppy Trail murals, which recall the service and sacrifice of local people during the First World War,” Mrs Scott said.