The year was 1940, and we were one year in to World War II.

The government, concerned about Germany’s rearmament programme in the late 1930s, had already started building additional aircraft factories to shadow the existing facilities and bolster national capacity, and South Marston had been selected to take one of these. The choice was an obvious one – not only was there sufficient land for a major factory, but bosses could draw on the highly skilled engineering workforce in the GWR works.

However, as the South Marston factory took shape, Government officials suddenly spotted a problem. The completed building was certainly going to be large enough to turn out the required number of planes, but ironically it was also going to be a perfect target for German bombers itself.

The plans changed, and new smaller construction sites were established at Blunsdon and Sevenhampton.

This painting depicts the Blunsdon factory, which was acquired during the war by engineering giant Vickers Armstrong, as seen in 1942. The young man who painted it, Walter Poole, was Swindon-born and bred, the son of a GWR coppersmith, and a member of Swindon Artists Society.

He had studied at Swindon School of Art and, unusually for a very young man, had exhibitions at two prestigious London venues, the Leger and Burlington Galleries. But war was on the horizon, and in 1939 he was enlisted to join the Royal Air Force, and posted in Northumberland. Fortunately for Poole and for us, he was granted special leave to continue his studies at the Newcastle School of Art.

Throughout the war his considerable talent and potential continued to be recognized well beyond our borough. Further exhibition appearances followed at the Redfern Gallery and the Royal Academy in London, and in 1944 Poole was introduced to Henry Moore. The two men became firm friends and Moore helped him secure a place at the Chelsea School of Art, where he studied life drawing under Ceri Richards.

After four years at Chelsea, where he worked closely with John Minton, Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, and a number of further London exhibitions, Poole began to develop an interest in promoting the work of other contemporary artists.

By 1952 his attention was shifting away from the capital and back towards the West, and in that year he opened the Fimbarrus Gallery in Bath, the first gallery outside London devoted solely to contemporary works.

Although Poole occasionally exhibited his own paintings during the 1960s and 1970s, he generally spent far more time and energy running the gallery than on his own art, and some felt it a great loss.

But Poole had the satisfaction of knowing that he helped bring on other artists and raise awareness of the fabulous seam of contemporary talent in the mid 20th Century.

And some of the work he produced during the 1940s, like our aircraft factory painting, stands the test of time and recalls the innovation and ingenuity of a justly acclaimed Swindon artist.

You can find out more about Swindon’s story at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 4.30pm.