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Thread: War Portrait -VX52404 Francis Henry Stainer "The Old Digger"

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    Default War Portrait -VX52404 Francis Henry Stainer "The Old Digger"

    I was in 2 minds whether to post this up as its something quite personal to me.

    My grandfather, Francis (Frank) Henry Stainer, served in WW2 and after serving in the Middle East and Nth Africa in 1941-42 in 1944 he found himself with the working in their tank workshops in Southport Queensland (his rank was CFN - Craftsman). While with the 4th, he met . John Frawley was always doing sketches and drawings for other soldiers to send home and he came to the attention of his commanding officer , Brigadier who asked Frawley to paint a portrait of him. He must have been happy with it as he appointed Frawley as a war artist and sent him to New Guinea to paint and draw the brigade in action.

    In August 1945, Macarthur-Onslow secured an official commission for Frawley to paint the portraits of 25 of the brigades senior officers. My grandfather, who was also an artist, took a great interest in the work of his friend as the officers were also his officers and spent some time watching them being painted. Those portraits now hang in the Royal Armoured Brigade Tank Museum at Puckapunyal.

    After the war, both Frawley and my grandfather moved to the hills of Upper Ferntree Gully, Victoria and were early members of the Ferntree Gully Arts Society from the late 1940's until their deaths. In 1993, almost 50 years after they met, John Frawley asked my grandfather to sit for a portrait of an old soldier, called " The Old Digger ". Below is a photo of my grandfather actually sitting for the portrait in 1993.

    John Frawley and my grandfather were happy with result and the portait was entered in the 1993 Veterans Affairs Art Competition and took out first prize. Below is a photo of John Frawley (left) and my grandfather with the painting at an unknown RSL where they were awarded the prize. John Frawley was 78 years of age when he painted the portrait, my grandfather was 73 when he sat for it.

    My father purchased the painting directly after and it was around this time (or maybe a year before) that I stopped contact with my father.

    In the last couple of years I have been doing my family history and obviously you start thinking about what your family has as keepsakes that can be handed down to future generations. My father remarried, to a cow of a woman and adopted her 2 daughters. As my father is now getting older, I started thinking about what would become of this painting. Personally, I could see my fathers wife burning it or something as my grandfather hated her. I spoke to my auntie, my fathers sister, who is also estranged from him, about it and told her I wouldnt mind trying to get the painting so that it could be guaranteed to be kept in the family. She agreed with my concerns.

    In 2004, my grandmother died and I was amazed to find at the funeral that she had a daughter (who was at the funeral) before she married my grandfather. I met her briefly that day.
    Since then she has stayed in contact with both my father and my aunt. When my aunt had a chat with her a couple of weeks ago, she mentioned the painting to her and she said "leave it to me". She rang my father , asked him to hand it over to me and he agreed. I received it last week. It was still in the original plastic from when he got it, so he has never even looked at it since. It was covered in dust and cobwebs, so I presume it has been in his garage or something. I have given it pride of place on my wall, displaying it proudly as it should be displayed. My grandfather was a remarkable man in many ways and spent a whopping 1671 days on active service...starting 3 weeks after he married my grandmother.

    My grandfather died in 2007 aged 87 and John Frawley passed away in 2012 aged 97. Both were accomplished artists, but my grandfather refused to exhibit any work until 2005, 2 years before his death. He studied art at RMIT with accomplished and The photo below is of my grandfather in 2005.

    The Australian War Memorial was a lot of Frawley's drawings, but only one oil which is of Lieutenant General Arthur Fitzgerald Janes. It can be seen here

    John Frawley's Obituary can be seen here

    He also painted portraits of

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