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Information about our Signatures

WW2 Pilots   ---   WW2 Tanks Aces

At the time of writing, we have a database of around 2000 individuals whose signature is featured on our artwork.  Most of these signatures are WW2 pilots, with a number of military and naval signatures too, as well as a few other signatures of sports personalities etc.  This page is here to show our visitors where our signatures come from, how they are featured on artwork, and why they are collected.

Signatures on Prints and Originals.

Original signatures on prints and originals (normally pencil drawings) are signed in person by the signatory.  The published prints are physically taken to the signatory and then signed by them.  We often send packs of prints by courier to our signatories, or take them ourselves to rendezvous with pilots at air shows and other events.  On other occasions, the artist of the print will take the prints 'on tour', collecting many signatures on a pre-arranged trip.  In the photographs you can see exactly this process in photographs.  

Ernst Wilhelm Reinert signing 'Fighter General'.

Artist Graeme Lothian took his print 'Fighter General' on a trip to Germany, meeting many legendary German fighter pilots on the way, and obtaining their signature for the print edition.  The photographs show Ernst Wilhelm Reinert and Erich Rudorffer signing the prints.



Erich Rudorffer signing 'Fighter General'.


Graeme also took with him the original painting, with which he was photographed with a number of the pilots.  If you click on the painting title above then click the signatures names on that page you will see more photos from this trip.  Since then, Graeme has returned to Germany with other prints, and has also been on similar trips around the UK meeting pilots of the RAF from the Battle of Britain, and soldiers from the SAS.

Artist Graeme Lothian and pilot Erich Rudorffer with the original painting, 'Fighter General'.

Recently, we have had many original pencil drawings signed by surviving WW2 pilots and tank Aces, particularly in Germany.  Again, the artwork is taken to the location of the signatory, and is signed.  Here are a couple of examples of original artwork featuring the original signatures of people directly connected to the picture.

'Kampfgruppe Carius' - signed by Albert Kerscher.

'JG52 - Summer 1940' - signed by Gunther Rall

(Our logo is NOT on the original artwork)

Another technique employed in having original signatures on artwork is to have the desired signatory autograph a blank sheet, to which the artwork can be added later.  Many signatories will not sign a blank sheet unless they are convinced that it will be used appropriately.  Thankfully, we only deal with the most reputable signature company in Germany, who the signatories there are happy to work with, knowing their signature will be used correctly on an appropriate piece.

Similarly, there are some very old pieces of paper, featuring the original signatures of long dead personalities, like for example Billy Bishop, or the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen.  These are surviving pieces from almost 100 years ago, that were signed at the time by these individuals (see our special note on the Red Baron below).  Sometimes these are large enough pieces of paper for artwork to be drawn featuring the person who has signed the paper.  The rarity of such pieces means of course that the artist does not get a second chance should anything go wrong in the process of drawing, any mistakes must be made on practice pieces before the original is worked on!

Special Note : Manfred von Richthofen.  We are often asked how it is we can possibly have the original signature of Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, who was killed during the first world war.  Here is the answer we give : 

These rare signature pages and signature clippings are sourced by one of the leading German autograph companies on behalf of Cranston Fine Arts. The majority of the signatures of Manfred von Richthofen were signed in January - February 1918 on promotional train journeys across Germany to aid the recruitment by order of the Kaiser, with the train stopping at most train stations, where the Red Baron would sign autographs for the large crowds gathered. On these two, 3-day journeys, it is estimated he signed between 1500 - 2000 autographs each day. He would also have signed many hotel guest books along with other top Aces and on rare occasions you can find two or three of these signatures together.  


Mounted Signatures

Unfortunately, a large number of the signatories that have featured on our prints in the past, have passed away since.  Consider that the Battle of Britain was fought around 70 years ago and you will see that anyone who took part in that battle must be at least in their late eighties.  While this makes the signatures more valuable as they obviously cannot possibly sign any more prints in the future, it does not mean their signature cannot be included on new prints.  This is because we can source their original signatures elsewhere, whether that is on signed photographs or simply autographed card.  We can then mount the signature with the print in a special presentation package.  This allows us to include such rare signatures as the Red Baron (see above).  

'The Last Patrol' with the signature of Hannes Trautloft.

Above you can see one of our double mounted prints, featuring the signature of a WW2 pilot, mounted by the method described above.  This is an example of how our prints featuring mounted signatures are supplied.  You can see the signature 'keyhole' to the bottom left, as well as a photograph of the pilot in the lower right keyhole.  The other three keyholes are the print number, the print title and text, and finally the artist's signature.

'Merlin Roar', signed by Geoffrey Page.

Here is another example of a double mounted print, this time featuring the original signature of RAF pilot Geoffrey Page.  As you can see the layout is different to the mount opposite, and there is no photograph on this occasion.  Below is a close-up of the signature.

Finally for this section, here is an example of a slightly different kind of print.  It is a print that was signed in person by one pilot, then had a mounted signature added to it.  In this case, RAF pilot Johnnie Johnson personally signed each of the prints, and the mounted signature of Luftwaffe pilot Adolf Galland was added afterwards.  The reason?  The print features the aircraft of both these pilots flying together on the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

'Foes Now Friends', signed by Johnnie Johnson and with the mounted signature of Adolf Galland.


More Notes

Signature authenticity is clearly of paramount importance to us.  As said above, when it comes to obtaining new German signatures, we only deal with the most reputable signature company in Germany, a company that has built up its relationship with German military personnel over a period of decades.  

We have also purchased from many of the world's most renowned collections, including a large number of signatures Cranston Fine Arts have purchased from an autograph collector, whose colleague and friend was an author and professor of military history.  He obtained the signatures of many military heroes, both allied and axis, while interviews were conducted in the 1980's and 1990's.  During the interview, the personality signed several photographs and several sheets with multiple signatures on each sheet.  These signatures were planned to be affixed to the author's books and unedited interviews, intended for sale, but many were never published.  In the case of Hans Rudel, the interview was intended to be conducted at a Luftwaffe reunion, however Rudel was too ill to attend.  A friend of Rudel's took the blank sheets and bookplates to Rudel to be signed.  The sheets were signed and returned, but Rudel unfortunately died before the interview could ever be conducted.  The signatures have been kept in one collection, including some very rare signatures such as Gerhard Barkhorn and Erich Hartmann, until they were purchased by Cranston Fine Arts.  

Other signatures are sourced from artists and publishers who have undergone similar procedures to acquire the signatures from pilots, or have come from our own meetings with pilots at air shows and other similar events.


Signing Sessions

Over the last year or so (at the time of writing), we have arranged for around 15,000 signatures to be added to our prints.  Below you can see a recent signing session, with two veterans signing their way through a stack of perhaps 50 or so prints.  Here you can see u-boat veteran Joachim Joth signing "Atlantic Comrades" and one of the men who helped build the Hamilcar glider, Eddie Young, signing "Halifax Tugs Towing Hamilcar Gliders".


A recent print signing session.

We have arranged many more signatures to be obtained in similar sessions in future.  Recent signatures we have arranged include :



Search Our Signature Database - Click Here


SPECIAL - Knight's Cross Signature Editions

Knight's Cross Signatures


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