My earliest recollections of Hal Bevan Petman, the artist, go back to the early 1960s when he used to summer at the quaint Golf Hotel Bhurban. It was an ideal setting for an artist to savour the tranquility of the place just sitting in the lawn surrounded by the beauty that only nature could bestow upon it. Please bear in mind, there was no PC Bhurban in those days.

My brother-in-law (Mr. Dost Muhammad Khan) and sister were regular lodgers at the Golf Hotel and on my visits there would see Mr. Petman, sitting, weather permitting, in the lawn or verandah, with his easel, paints and brushes. If I remember correctly he would be smoking a cigar. Sometimes he used to be in the company of visitors, perhaps, customers. Mrs. Petman used to be hovering nearby. My glances were rather oblique as it was considered rude to stare.

Change of scene, May 1969, I had just been commissioned and was on maneuvers with my Cavalry regiment at Kharian when I was asked to report to my Commanding Officer who at that point of time was at Rawalpindi. Upon arrival I was informed that my late brother Major Mian Raza Shah S.J. (Shaheed)’s portrait – the first Pakistani officer to lay down his life in the 1965 Indo-Pak War - was about to be finalized by Mr. Petman and the texture of his hair was proving to be a bit of a problem. In those days most photographs were black and white, hence the problem. This was my formal introduction to Mr. Hal Bevan Petman. In a sense I modeled for him to get the hair of the subject correct.

Apart from the hair texture, the photograph, although done by the famous Rollo and Sons of Lahore, showed a smiling face with the teeth showing. Mr. Petman in his professional capacity advised us that visible teeth would not complement the person in the portrait and hence another photo was provided from which the mouth was taken.

I remember him working in the garage, which he had converted as his studio. One had to pass by his car to reach him, which incidently was an immaculately shining Wolsely , perhaps a 1940’s model. What struck me at the time was that the underside of the mudguard of his Wolsely was as clean and shiny as its exterior.

I had occasion to meet him, perhaps half a dozen times, in connection with other portraits of my brother done for the Armoured Corps Officers Mess Nowshera and another one for our family. Please bear in mind that due to a bout of polio, early in life, Mr. Petman had lost the use of his lower limbs. At the time of my later visits I was the proud owner of a Volkwagon car. Mention of the car is significant because of a related incident. On one of my visits it was rather late in the day and he asked me how I would get to Kharian Cantonment. When I answered proudly that I had a Volkswagon car he remarked that he did not care much for it because it was manufactured in Germany. It rather dampened my spirits because as a young subaltern I thought the world of my car. I realized later that Mr. Petman had been through the horrors of the London bombings by Germany during World War II and his distaste for anything German surfaced on this occasion. The locations of the 3 paintings of my late brother, done by Hal Bevan Petman are:-
Officers Mess, 11 Cavalry (Frontier Force).
Officers Mess, Armoured Corps Centre, Nowshera Cantonment
Residence of Rear Admiral (Retd) Mian Zahir Shah, Sardar Kili, Umerzai, Charsadda District.

Contributed by:
Lieutenent Colonel (Retd)
Mian Liaquat Shah

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