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P-40B Tomahawk
Desert Sharks

by Noel Barnes



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Keeping with my large format aviation paintings, here is one called "Desert Sharks". It is an oil painting on stretched canvas and is about 100cmx90cm. I was inspired by a black and white period photograph. I wondered what it might look like in colour and this is the result.

This image now resides on the official 112 Squadron website amongst other period photos, some of which have been taken moments before or after this shot. The aircraft's name is Menace, but the name of the pilot was a mystery. A few months ago, I received an email from a lady who recognised the man in my painting as her father. His name is Neville Bowker. She sent me the accompanying photo of Neville standing next to his aircraft after one of it's repaints.

I have recently been in contact with the pilot's wife Colleen Bowker, who has kindly provided a brief history of her late husband.

"The Menace was definitely his machine but I think the serial number was --218 as looking through his log book that was the machine he flew most of all.



He was born in Kimberly, South Africa on 17th September 1918 but left with his parents when he was two, for Rhodesia, where he grew up. He joined the Southern Rhodesian Air Force in February 1940, then was transferred to the RAF in Iraq to finish his training. He was sent to 112 Squadron in Greece and then Crete flying Gladiators, and escaped on the last evacuation ship the "Orion". After recovering in Cairo he returned to 112 Squadron, then in the desert, where they were eventually equipped with Tomahawks. He was shot down on the 27th December 1941, and ended the war as a POW in Stalag 3. He also received the DFC and was mentioned in dispatches twice.

After the war he returned to Rhodesia where he farmed, moving to Northern Rhodesia and then Mozambique where he lost everything to Frelimo. After moving back to Rhodesia and then South Africa he eventually came to Australia.

He died on the 21st May 2005 leaving a son and three daughters, ten grandchildren and four great-grandsons."

This project has been very fulfilling to me on a number of levels. Not only was the painting a challenge and pleasure to do, but the sequence of later events have pieced together more of the historical puzzle and provided answers to questions previously unknown. I would like to extend a special thanks to Robert Brown (The Webmaster of the 112 Sqd Website) and to Sue Hayden and Colleen Bowker for their willing help in contributing to this article.

This and other paintings may be seen on my website. www.noelbarnes.net .

Text and Images Copyright 2005 by Noel Barnes
Page Created 29 November, 2005
Last Updated 29 November, 2005

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