Vaughan responded to the urban devastation wrought by the air raids of the early 1940s with a series of drawings and gouaches which he collectively titled Destruction of the Human City. One of the most elaborate of these, Devastation (ii) of 1943 is reproduced in Malcolm Yorke's book (see M. Yorke, Keith Vaughan his Life and Work, London, 1990, pl. 1, half-title).
In it, amid the burning buildings and naked dispossessed people, the foreground is dominated by a huge coiled and twisted shape, like some malevolent science fiction monster, but surely in fact derived from an instrument of salvation, the fire hose. Vaughan wrote an interpretation of this monstrous shape, and of the weird conical creatures, like wasp tails, peering out of windows, characterising them as representing the primitive life force asserting continuity even in the midst of physical destruction. The present work, while depopulated and much less violent, is closely related and features the same coiled debris and the waspish cones in the shattered windows. It is a powerful surrealistic evocation of the random malignancy of modern warfare, a theme that Vaughan returns to again and again in his writings.