In 2005, following the death of Lady Marian McEvoy, a long time friend of the Museum and generous benefactor, the McEvoy family donated to the Museum three magnificent oil paintings.
These paintings of Spitfires and a Hurricane in flight were commissioned in 1996 by Lady McEvoy in memory of her late husband Air Chief Marshal Sir Theodore McEvoy who died in 1991, aged 86. The commissioned artist was Tony Sargeant.
Sir Theodore was an outstanding fighter leader who had a long and distinguished service career in spite of being disabled by spondylitis, a progressive disease of the curvature of the spine. Born in 1904, he was educated at Haberdashers and entered Cranwell in 1923, passing out two years later with the coveted Sword of Honour.
In 1934 he arrived at Tangmere to join No 43 Squadron flying Hawker Fury biplane fighters. A year later, following promotion, he took over command of Tangmere’s other squadron, No 1. In 1938 he emerged from the RAF Staff College for a career change as a staff officer. He began his work at the critical time of Chamberlain’s return from Munich, with a spell at the Air Ministry on fighter operations policy. It is thought that it was McEvoy who persuaded Dowding not to release any Spitfire squadrons to France prior to the Battle of Britain. In 1943 he was appointed Senior Staff Officer, No 11 Group and subsequently commanded No 84, the fighter group supporting the Normandy landings. In spite of his increasing disability, he continued to fly throughout his career, including flying the RAF’s first jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor.
After retiring from the RAF in 1962, Sir Theodore and Lady McEvoy moved to the south coast to Aldwick Bay, close to Tangmere. Sir Theodore particularly enjoyed turning out in a golf four-some with the legless Douglas Bader, the fingerless Arthur Donaldson and the one-armed Gus Walker!
ONE OF LADY McEVOY’S PAINTINGS MAY BE FOUND IN THE MUSEUM’S PICTURE GALLERY AND THE OTHER TWO ARE HUNG IN THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN HALL.