L Ashwell Wood’s 6 Pounder Anti-Tank Gun
by Jeremy Briggs
Leslie Ashwell Wood is an artist most associated with one publication and one style of illustration as he produced nearly two thirds of the almost 1000 cutaway illustrations that appeared in Eagle comic during the 1950s and 1960s and which made him the title’s longest serving artist. His work ran throughout the entire run of original Eagle from the first issue dated 14 April 1950 to the penultimate issue dated 19 April 1969 and even in those issues that showed images that were not technically cutaways, his accuracy invariably still made his paintings of educational value. Eagle published several photos of Wood throughout its run with the first appearing in the first anniversary issue of the comic, which featured a selection of small circular photos of some of the comic’s artists.
Modern Wonder magazine in the late 1930s and early 1940s, a series of hardback books for Odhams during the 1940s and, after Eagle, a series of small books entitled Inside Information published by Benwig on the cusp of the 1970s. Since the National Archives hold examples of his work it is fair to assume that at some point he also worked for the Ministry Of Information as many other artists did during the Second World War.
has been covered in Bear Alley before when Steve went to some length to try to discover his date of birth and also presented a list of the books that featured his illustrations. That list included the various Odhams hardbacks that he worked on including the series of related books on warfare published between 1940 and 1944 that included Britain's Wonderful Fighting Forces, Britain's Modern Army, Britain's Wonderful Air Force, Britain's Glorious Navy and Britain's Merchant Navy. These books all featured illustrations by Wood as well as other artists to complement their black and white photographs. The last of the warfare books was published in 1944 and was entitled Warfare Today with the sub-title 'How Modern Battles are Planned and Fought on Land, at Sea and in the Air'. This 256 page book featured sections on all three armed services and reused some of what had already been published in previous titles. The book is credited to Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon, Major-General J. F. C. Fuller and Air Marshal Sir Patrick Playfair as joint-editors and between them they brought many decades of service experience in the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force.
Ordnance Quick-Firing 6-Pounder 7 Cwt, a 57mm towed anti-tank weapon introduced in 1942 and commonly referred to as the 6-Pounder, an illustration that had not appeared in any of the earlier books.
The pencil prelim of the gun’s breech, the rear of the barrel where the shell is loaded, shows the breech in both its open and closed positions in the one illustration. This saved Wood from drawing the breech section in pencil twice and when he transferred the sketch to the art board that he would paint on, he would have simply used the one pencil for the two final versions, omitting the appropriate sections as required.
The discovery of some of Leslie Ashwell Wood’s original preliminary pencil layouts gives us a little more information on how he created these excellent paintings which, nearly 70 years later, still impress with both their accuracy of detail and the simplicity with which they explain their subject matter.