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National Service - Frances Watt (1923-2014), dated 1954
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National Service - Frances Watt (1923-2014), dated 1954

Measurements: 39.5cm (15.5in) x 65cm (25.5in)

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National Service - Frances Watt (1923-2014), dated 1954

Oil on board. Signed and dated lower right ‘Frances Watt 1954’. Signed and inscribed with title and the artist's address on a label on the reverse.

An atmospheric study of a familiar scene at railway termini in the postwar years, Frances Watt’s image of soldiers in transit captures the arrival / departures of national servicemen. National Service as peacetime conscription was formulated by the 1948 National Service Act. From 1 January 1949, healthy males 17 to 21 years old were expected to serve in the armed forces for 18 months, and remain on the reserve list for four years. There were exemptions for those employed in the essential services: farming, coal mining and the merchant navy for a period of eight years. In October 1950, in response to the British involvement in the Korean War, the service period was extended to two years. National Service personnel were used in combat operations, including the Malayan Emergency, the Cyprus Emergency, in Kenya against the Mau Mau, and at Suez. In Korea national servicemen in the Gloucestershire Regiment took part in the last stand during the Battle of Imjin River. National Service ended gradually from 1957 and call-ups formally ended on 31 December 1960.

Frances Watt was born in Falkirk and educate at Aberdeen High School for Girls and in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1941 she went to Hornsey School of Art and later to the Byam Shaw School, where she was to later teach. She began exhibiting her paintings in the early 1950s at the Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Academy, Royal Institute of Oil Painters and elsewhere. She was a member of the Highgate Artists Group.

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