Charles Goldhamer

March 1, 1999 by Jennifer Morse

With calmness and precision, Charles Goldhamer created lasting impressions of life in the air force, including sketches and paintings of airmen who had suffered severe burns. From top to bottom: Servicing Aero Engine, Burnt Airman and Captain Herbert W. Reeves.

War artist Charles Goldhamer’s sketches and watercolours are loaded with detail. He was a precise draughtsman and WW II airman who used his talent to calmly record the daily grind of air force life, including some of the horrific injuries suffered by airmen.

Born in Philadelphia in 1903, Goldhamer came with his family to Canada in 1904. He studied in Toronto at the Ontario College of Art where he also taught before moving on to Central Technical School.

Goldhamer joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943 and was commissioned as a pilot officer. He spent the next year supervising art and hobby programs for air force personnel at isolated postings along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

His appointment as an official war artist came in September 1944 and lasted until July 1946.

In the fall of 1944, Goldhamer was sent overseas to join the staff of RCAF Overseas Headquarters in London, England. He was promoted flight lieutenant in February 1945, but prior to that had spent a lot of time doing paintings of various air force personnel, including members of the RCAF’s 407 Squadron.

In the summer of 1945, Goldhamer visited Queen Victoria Hospital at East Grinstead, England. The hospital specialized in plastic surgery and the rehabilitation of airmen who had been severely maimed or burned. Some of the hospital’s patients had to undergo as many as 16 operations. Goldhamer used his skill to create detailed watercolours of the surgeries and the painful healing process.

After completing his assignments for the RCAF in 1946, Goldhamer returned to civilian life and resumed teaching at Central Technical School. He continued to paint until his death in January 1985.

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Many of the Canadian War Museum’s ­holdings are ­available in reproduction at affordable prices. For more information, contact Image Reproduction Services, Canadian War Museum, 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa, ON K1R 0C2; tel: 1-819-776-8686; fax: 1-819-776-8623; e-mail:

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