AN artist’s dramatic depiction of a momentous day in the Battle of Britain played out in the the skies above the North-East will form the centrepiece of commemorations at the weekend.

Denis Fox, of Durham, has spent the last year and a half on a series of paintings capturing the events of August 15, 1940 – which became known by German Luftwaffe as the Black Thursday because of their heavy losses.

On Sunday, the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain will be marked in Durham with an exhibition of paintings by Mr Fox in the Main Hall of the Town Hall, from 10am to 3pm.

The Luftwaffe suffered heavy losses after launching a series of raids aimed mainly at RAF bases, and for the first time attacked the North from German bases in Norway.

This attack by some 100 German bombers and fighters was repulsed by RAF fighter squadrons, including No.607 (County of Durham) Squadron, which were “resting” after the retreat from France. At that time the squadron was based at the former RAF Usworth, now the site of Nissan plant, near Sunderland.

The squadron was commanded by Flight Lieutenant, later Wing Commander, Francis Blackadder DSO OBE, who was credited with destroying seven German aircraft. Sunday’s commemoration will include a replica Hawker Hurricane fighter in the Market Place until 4pm. It was the same type of aircraft flown by Flt Lt Francis Blackadder and members of his squadron.

The RAF ensign will be flown above the Town Hall on the same day.

Special guests will include Air Vice Marshal Ranald Munro, Commandant General Royal Auxiliary Air Force and Libby Smyth, the daughter of Wing Commander Francis Blackadder.

Retired RAF Squadron Leader Tony Cowan, who helped co-ordinate the event, said: “Special thanks are due to Mr Terry Collins, chief executive of Durham County Council, Councillor Elizabeth Scott and Adam Shanley of the City of Durham Parish Council, Robert King, culture operations officer at Durham City Town Hall and, of course, Durham artist, Denis Fox.”

Mr Fox said: “I have carried out extensive research for my paintings from RAF documents, newspaper archives, visits to aircraft museums and eyewitness accounts from my relatives.

“I have even had the experience of being flown in my friend’s aircraft and taken up along the North-East coast. This was a bonus for my strategy of how the composition of some of my paintings would look.

“At times it has been very emotional even just to imagine what it would have been like waiting for the call to scramble, flying in close formation, ascending to high altitude and seeing an enemy whose intention was not only to kill you but destroy your homeland.”

Durham Cathedral will also be hosting a small service later in the day to include representatives from the Royal Air Forces and dignitaries.

The event, organised by the City of Durham Parish Council and Durham Markets Company, is will also feature a Heartbeat vintage bus, a 29th Field Kitchen HQ, World War II food and rationing display and a special nostalgia production by a local group known as Time Bandits.

City of Durham Parish Council, chair Councillor Elizabeth Scott said: “2020 is such an important year for Remembrance, not least this important anniversary of the Battle of Britain where so many brave men and women fought for the freedoms we have today.

“The City of Durham Parish Council is delighted to be commemorating this anniversary in this way and to work with our partners the Durham Markets Company on this special event.

“Of course, this anniversary is particularly poignant for Durham City. On August 1940, the German Luftwaffe attacked the North East of England from their bases in occupied Denmark and Norway and this attack, by some 100 German bombers and fighters, was repulsed by RAF fighter squadrons, including No607 Squadron from County Durham. We owe so much to that brave generation and the sacrifices they made”.

Managing Director of the Durham Markets Company Mr Colin Wilkes said: “The exhibitions will have appeal across all ages, making this an ideal opportunity for families to visit the city to commemorate the events 80 years ago, learn from the exhibits and enjoy the city.

“We ask people to enjoy the event safely and remain aware of social distancing guidelines. We recommend you bring along your cameras; we may not be able to interact with the exhibits as much as normal, but we can all take away photographs to share and enjoy.”

All of the necessary precautions including signage, pedestrian barriers, social distancing ambassadors and hand sanitisers will be in place on the day to ensure that this is Covid-19 safe.