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Thread: Private Cameras at Operational Squadrons

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    Default Private Cameras at Operational Squadrons

    I'm wondering if anyone can confirm for me what the policy was on individuals having cameras at operational squadrons. I am sure I have read somewhere that they were not permitted.

    The reason I ask is that Sgt John Robinson, who was the flight engineer on the 149 Squadron Stirling I am researching, definitely had a camera and took a number of photographs of various crew-members, including himself. The snaps are casual and show the men standing outside Nissen huts or other similar buildings. What I am curious to know is when and where they were taken. If there was a strictly enforced ban on individuals having cameras on operational stations, it seems unlikely that they would have been taken at Methwold, but perhaps might have been taken during training. (If a camera had been found among his possessions after he went missing in action, it would be interesting to know what would have been done with it.)

    Would be curious to hear your opinions on this.

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    Natalie,
    Nobody seems to want to play with you on this one! I can't answer your question(s) directly but only give you some indication of the likely procedures.
    Cameras on operational Stations - don't know.
    Cameras found in the Personal Possessions of KIA/MIA personell would be subject to the rules (at the time) governing the Committee Of Adjustment on whatever Station. This Committee would go through the deceased/missing personal effects and decide things like 'what stuff belonged to the person and what stuff belonged to the RAF'. Any outstanding Mess Bills, etc, would be paid. Sometimes some of the stuff of the deceased might be auctioned on the Station to provide funds to pay these and for widow/children, etc. The remainder of the personal effects would usually be sent to the Next Of Kin. They probably would have been "sanitized" first - after all one didn't want the grieving widow to be presented with photos and love-letters from the girl-friend!!!
    Had a camera been found my guess is that any film in it would have been stripped out and exposed to the light, and the camera either auctioned or returned to the NoK.
    The Experts will comment on the above (and correct me where I am in error) but that is the general outline of what would have happened.
    HTH
    Peter Davies

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    I am not sure how this was related to RAF squadrons, but I have seen an official licence for taking photographs of a Polish airman serving with a Polish squadron in Britain. The document was signed by the station commander, I think. I know that the policy was similar in Poland before WW2: there was a general ban on taking photos with private cameras, but every now and then some members of the personnel were officially granted permission to take private photos. IIRC in some cases it was just a general permit to take photos in a military base, while in some it was stated clearly that the photos have to be 'personal' or 'private' and cannot show any military installations or equipment.

    Regarding unofficial photographs: a couple of years ago I talked to a photographer serving with a PR unit (he was British and served in RAF proper). He said they were never short of unused film sections and paper which they used for private photographs. On one occasion when they were leaving a location they decided not to carry all the paper and film they still had with them, and promptly sold it to a local photographer. For whatever reason the unit move was postponed a few days and they were quite worried when they saw nice ladie's portraits on display in the window of that photographer's shop where you could actually see that the paper was marked CROWN COPYRIGHT on the back. As they were the only RAF unit there and the only British military outfit with photographic material in quantity it wouldn't be difficult to identify where the paper came from. Fortunately none of the superiors saw that.
    I have also met a son of a squadron photographer in Fighter Command (each squadron had a photo section for camera gun film processing) and saw his albums. Obviously, his father also had free access to film and paper. I suppose this was similar in bomber squadrons which also had photo sections for processing of raid assessment photos taken automatically by bombers.

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    In my father's letters home he mentions that he had to get special permission for a crew photo on an operational squadron from the station Adjutant. I think having a camera was permitted but taking any pictures on a station could get someone in trouble unless permission was given first.
    Regards
    Dave Wallace

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    Hi exactly as Dave wrote.
    You can have an camera but for taking snapshots in Military zone you need a permission. I know some examples that on special events like Squadron anniversary there were official photographs and few photographs - airmen who got the special permission and there werer mentioned in the daily order that they are allowed to take snaphots.

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Quote Originally Posted by VoyTech View Post
    Regarding unofficial photographs: a couple of years ago I talked to a photographer serving with a PR unit (he was British and served in RAF proper). He said they were never short of unused film sections and paper which they used for private photographs. On one occasion when they were leaving a location they decided not to carry all the paper and film they still had with them, and promptly sold it to a local photographer. For whatever reason the unit move was postponed a few days and they were quite worried when they saw nice ladie's portraits on display in the window of that photographer's shop where you could actually see that the paper was marked CROWN COPYRIGHT on the back. As they were the only RAF unit there and the only British military outfit with photographic material in quantity it wouldn't be difficult to identify where the paper came from. Fortunately none of the superiors saw that.
    This must have been a Colonial Squadron!

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    Ron Mayhill, in his excellent autobiography "Bombs on Target" was obviously a keen amateur cameraman, as well as being the bomb-aimer on the crew (75 squadron). He alludes on many occasions in his book to the fact that cameras were not allowed on operational squadrons: at HCU they pranged a Stirling but lived to tell the tale, he says "We took our concealed cameras to snap the port wheel and oleo leg some distance away..." He also took his camera on ops. and took photos from the b/a's position, some of which are included in his book. One particularly dramatic one is of the "master of ceremonies" and two deputies far below with bombs exploding just in front of them. Makes you realise just how dangerous this role was!
    Regards
    Max

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    Natalie

    from the veterans that I have spoken to, personal cameras were not permitted and photographs were either taken covertly at oportune moments when they thought that they could do so without getting caught or it had to be official photos. I have several official crew photo's taken in what appears to be the same location at Breighton of different crews. In most cases these have been taken either when the crew finished its tour or in one case when the bomb aimer finished his tour and the rest of the crew had to continue on. This photo includes two bomb aimers which confused me greatly at first.

    I don't know if there was a blanket ban imposed by the RAF or if it was left up to individual Commands, Groups, Stations or Squadrons.

    Hope this helps

    Daz

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    Not sure if this helps any. I made good use of photographs taken by pilots, before and during the war in my book on 607 Squadron. They seemed to have a free hand when it came to taking photos. Outside of this a little, they also had a free a hand in various POW camps, including the guards posing as well.

    Best Wishes.
    Robert.

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    I have just had a random look at the casualty files of twelve Australian airmen killed while on ops (Lancasters, both RAF and RAAF squadrons). In every one of these files a camera is included in the list of personal effects forwarded to next-of-kin, so it appears that personal cameras were very common at operational units.
    Last edited by Ken MacLean; 1st November 2008 at 08:06.

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