A 'Type 11' Radar Station [1946]

RAWLINSON, William [1912-1993]

William Rawlinson was born in Liverpool on 19th January 1912, the son a schoolmaster, Thomas, and Emily Brockliss. He attended Quarry Bank High School in its earliest years in the 1920’s and went on to study at Liverpool College of Art. Taking advantage of a City travelling scholarship he visited several European countries before returning to Liverpool in 1935 to take up a  post as an art teacher at Liverpool Institute High School in. In 1936 he married Patricia Martin and by the time of the outbreak of the Second World War they were living at 19 Sunnyside, off Devonshire Road in the pleasant environs of Princes Park. In 1941, at the age of 29, Rawlinson  joined  the RAF, serving in North Africa and Italy. It was in 1943 that his military career took a notable turn when he was appointed as an official war artist. His extensive collection of drawings provide a fascinating account of the everyday business of wartime service, depicting ground crew engaged in the humdrum occupations of cooking and washing clothes against the backdrop of a testing and hostile desert environment. Frequently his charcoal drawings were made with just the light from a kerosene lamp in a desert bivvy, capturing the exhausted features of the air crew as they came off duty to snatch a few hours respite before their next mission. He was also commissioned to produce a series of paintings illustrating the development of radar which were exhibited in the Imperial War Museum.

Leaving the RAF in 1946, Rawlinson returned to teaching, firstly at Wimpole Park Technical College (1947-48) and then moving to Cheshire to serve as the county’s organiser for art and craft before being appointed H.M. Inspector of Schools in 1951. Returning to teaching in 1953 he spent the next 24 years in two girls’ secondary schools in the Midlands. He remained in the Midlands, at Harvington, near Evehsam until his death at 81 in 1993.

Alongside his ‘day jobs’ as an educator, Rawlinson continued to produce his own art. He gained international recognition in the medium of wood engraving, being described as 'the English master of the overall half-tone grey of engraving' by Albert Garrett in his History of British Wood Engraving (1978). A Gold Medallist in engraving at the 1960 Paris Salon,  became a member of the Society of Wood Engravers in 1972. His style has been described as “completely individual, independent and free of the dominating influences of his era”.  Trees and flowers were a favourite subject alongside his beloved cats.

One of his prints was presented to the Mayor of Dresden at a special ceremony in 1985. The Frauenkirche in Dresden was destroyed by British bombs in 1945 and there were very few pictorial records of the original building. However, Rawlinson still had a drawing made during his student travels before the war and was able to use this as the basis for the print.

Rawlinson's appointment as an official war artist was reported in the Liverpool Daily Post on Tuesday March 2nd 1943.


There is little biographical material available on William Rawlinson, the obituary which appeared in the Independent being the most detailed source.