Keith Vaughan: Resting Soldiers on Fatigues, 1942


Pen and ink and wash on paper,
Studio stamp on reverse
13.5 x 22 cm
Framed in oak

Artist’s estate, private collection

This drawing comes from a wartime sketchbook made at Codford Camp in 1942. No. 9 Company of the Pioneer Corps were given the task of clearing the grounds of Ashton Gifford House in the summer of 1942. Vaughan and his fellow recruits were employed as cheap labourers over the course of that year. He wrote:
I live with as much purpose and enthusiasm as a cow. A belly-filling existence. Driven and chivvied all day by NCOs we have no idea of the beginning or the end of a job or what its purpose it. This more than the labour itself is what makes it exhausting. Day followed day with no more change than the date on the calendar. (K.V, Journals, July, 1941)
The clearing of the woodland not only offered worthwhile community service but also provided fuel for the army in the form of wood. Dozens of trees had to be felled and blistering, backbreaking employment ensured No. 9 Company spent the hot summer months sweating at their labours.
Vaughan made dozens of sketches of his company’s activities in in pen and ink and sometimes pencil. He filled several sketchbooks with rapidly executed figures studies and related material. Some were drawn at great speed and capture the dynamism of figures breaking the tree boughs and splitting and hauling branches. Others, such as this drawing, depict them at rest on a hot summer day.