“I sat on my helmet in the skull-splitting heat and painted the soldiers as they slept or chatted.” Michael Alford
The National Army Museum has acquired Michael Alford’s painting, Patrol at Pan Kalay Police Station (above) for its national collection.
The painting, a 9×12 oil sketch, was done while Alford was embedded as war artist with the 1st Mechanized Brigade in Helmand in May of 2013. It is one of a series of sketches done in the field showing the day-to-day realities of life for soldiers on the frontline of the Afghan conflict.
As he wrote to the jury that selected his work:
“This sketch was done during a visit to a patrol base near Gereshk when a patrol of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was organized to prepare the ground for a Shura (a meeting with local Afghans) to take place in the nearby compound of the Afghan Police Station at Pan Kalay.
After we arrived, some fusiliers guarded the road outside the compound while others covered the British officers taking part in the Shura, since they were unarmed. The rest of the patrol rested in the minimal shade provided by the compound wall—at midday, the temperature was in the high 90’s or low 100’s.
It was a huge relief to take off our helmets. I sat on mine in the skull-splitting heat and painted the soldiers as they slept or chatted. Entertainment and food was provided by a 14-year-old boy, the son of one of the policemen, who practiced his English on us and brought us plates of chapattis and potato curry. Unfortunately, he didn’t stand still long enough to be included in the painting.”
Staff from the National Army Museum chose the sketch for its “technique and its authentic depiction of a little-known side of the Afghan conflict”. Alford’s work will become part of the National Army Museum’s extensive collection, a world-class resource that charts the history and influence of the British Army through the centuries.
As Alford remarked: “I’m delighted to have my work included in the NAC’s collection. Coincidentally, they also have a Probyn’s Horse uniform that belonged to by grandfather, Cecil Boyle. He served in Aghanistan, then part of what was called the Northwest Frontier territories, around 1918-1920. My family just can’t seem to stay out of Afghanistan, it seems.”