Lavery was in Ireland when the Great War was declared. He hastened back to London and was caught up in the general fervour of mobilization. From the start of hostilities he was anxious to place his skills at the service of the war effort, however, apart from a brief adventure with the Artists Rifles and the fundraising activities of his wife, Hazel, he was confined to the studio in 5 Cromwell Place. Hazel was injured in a car accident in Park Lane in 1915 and her recovery was protracted. When the bombing raids on London began, she would not let the painter out of her sight, even though he made several attempts to abscond. Lavery was, however, not without influence in the setting up of the Official War Artists scheme, and in 1917 was one of the first painters to receive a commission. He was however, disappointed at not being dispatched to the Western Front and had to console himself with a commission to record naval bases and armaments factories. This was not without its dangers. At Roehampton, for instance, he took the opportunity to fly in a kite balloon and was the first artist to record the experience with the present small oil landscape sketch. His first visit to Roehampton had apparently been in 1915 when he painted Kite Balloons, Roehampton (Imperial War Museum, London; see K. McConkey, Sir John Lavery, Edinburgh, 1993, pl. 157).
Given the precarious conditions under which it was painted, the present sketch is an extraordinary document. It presents the true impression of an early flyer, surveying a peaceful home counties landscape in time of war, confirming Lavery's own judgement that in his war experience, for the most part he 'felt nothing of the stark reality ... I saw only new beauties of colour and design'. This particular experience was nevertheless a preparation for the more intrepid sorties over the North Sea convoys the following year which the painter portrayed in A Convoy, North Sea, 1918, From NS 7 (Imperial War Museum, London; see K. McConkey, op. cit., pl. 172).