men, who could be utterly relied upon not to let their mates down. I did a couple of actions with
Marine Commandos and Army ditto, but more of that later.
During a training session I had accident which put me in hospital for a spell and, on discharge,
was sent to the Para Holding Battalion at Derbyshire. It was here, whilst I was kicking my heels,
waiting to re-join the mob, that an offer appeared on the notice board. It simply said, “Parachutists
required to volunteer as Cameramen.”
Nothing more, no clues as to what it meant. So, in my usual fashion of volunteering for anything
that took my fancy I applied and was interviewed by the major commanding the Army Film Unit -
along with some others; waited awhile, still clueless as to what we were to do, then six of us
received our marching orders and were posted for training as photographers, Cine and Still, to, of
all places, Pinewood Film Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire.
When we arrived at Slough Railway Station, the COs car and driver were waiting to take us to the
Studios. V.I.P. treatment indeed, and what, we wondered, was the catch? There wasn’t one, it was
just the way they did things there. It was that incredible thing in the Army, a unit of civilians
wearing uniform. But all the niceties and military decorum were observed. The Officers, all in the
Motion Picture or newspaper business, were ‘Sir’ and the remainder were sergeants (like myself),
also from the film and newspaper business, and they were a marvellous crowd who showed us a
way of life that we never knew existed, and I think we also taught them something of our way of
They asked us what we knew about photography in general and, with the exception of one bloke,
the answer was in the negative. We didn’t know an ‘F’ stop from a roll of film, that’s how ignorant
we were, but the instructors were patient and taught us to a very high standard in the sixteen
weeks duration of the course. We ended up making our own film, shooting 100 feet each against a
script each of us had written, so that not only could we photograph but do it with continuity, writing
up the ‘dope’ sheet with each shot so that a commentator or caption writer could pick up the story
quite easily; all in black and white, no sound.
We were told that the reason we had been selected for training as cameramen was that the
existing cameramen, whilst able and willing to accompany any ground troops in action, hadn’t
taken the parachute training course and therefore no airborne operations up to then had been
photographed, so in their wisdom and to our delight, they thought it better to train seasoned
paratroopers as photographers and cameramen than vice versa.
Just as our training was completed we were wakened up by the continuous roar of aircraft passing
overhead, there was so many of them, in wave after wave, that we reckoned that the Second
Front had opened, and of course we were right and were very disappointed not to be a part of it.
Shortly afterwards we said farewell to Pinewood and went to join a reception area for onward
transmission to Normandy, where we met up with the other cameramen who, in the main, had
seen a lot of action and were very skilled operators.
We got a good welcome and myself, and another Para (we worked in pairs) attached ourselves to
the 6th Airborne Division who had done such a marvellous job of securing vital bridges, with the
Commandoes, and making the way open for the sea-landing force. But it was a bit of a stalemate
at that time as we were building up for the big push that was to capture Caen and, eventually,
surround and destroy the German forces in France, leaving the way open to Paris, Brussels,
Antwerp and into Holland.
When the time came for the push (which was to be known as the ‘Battle of Falaise Gap’) I was
detached from the 6th Airborne and sent to the start line of the action, where I attached myself to a
Highland regiment. My instructions were to record the build-up, the artillery barrage and the
advance of the infantry and then get out, back to our own unit with the film, so that it could be