Date Posted: 7th June 2019

bombed church Caen

Last night, as part of the D Day celebrations, the BBC showed footage of the cathedral in Caen where French civilians had taken shelter during the D Day landings. This sent me up into the loft to find the folder of Percy Kelly’s army drawings.  I have attached his superb drawing of a bombed church in Caen.  

Percy and his twin brother John aged 20 volunteered to join the army in 1939.  John who was employed by a local builder was drafted to the Royal Artillery and Percy who was employed by the Royal Mail went to the Royal Signals where his skills in drawing were soon recognised and used.

Percy’s postings took him to many places in England including a time in the cabinet war rooms where he famously met Churchill during an air raid. He left Britain for the first time in 1944 on a Manx boat bound for Dunkirk. Communication was the key to the success of the liberation campaign.  He was sent to draw road maps - the French had removed all signposts to confuse the occupying force - set up telegraph communications and make diagrams of railway layouts. Photography was banned so he had to draw diagrams of accidents and incidents for future reference. He wrote I found solace in the excitement of a new landscape. As soon as the British and Canadian troops cleared Caen I was sent to set up a signal office on the main railway station. Bogged down by heavy shelling but when clear I went out to sketch ruined churches which I found fascinating. (This was not courage but another indication of autism I believe. He was mainly given tasks which he worked on alone. He was not good working with others and was resistant to army discipline!)

He was in France, Germany and Holland for 2 years until demob in 1946.  More about this in The Man who couldn’t stop Drawing available at and in bookshops and galleries … and Amazon.

Both Percy and his brother survived the war. John died a few years ago in his nineties.

*Have a Humbug at the Derwent Pencil Museum was extended 1 week but ends tomorrow – 8th June.