Living History Group
Army Film & Photographic Unit
The following guidelines are intended to help anyone wishing to portray an AFPU cameraman within a World War Two living history context; because you owe it to these guys to get it right.
General - Unlike the official War Correspondents, AFPU personnel were recruited from the ranks of the British Army and thus were not civilians but trained soldiers. Therefore, they were trained and skilled in field craft and equipment handling much as their infantry counterparts. Upon graduating from their training at Pinewood they attained the rank of Sergeant.
Cameramen were generally assigned to units in pairs, one ‘stills’ and one ‘cine’, and were party to ‘O’ group meetings and other discussions amongst officers as part of their briefing on what to expect for a forthcoming attack etc. Whilst on attachment to a particular unit they were relatively free to cover the units activities as they saw fit.
Cameras - One of the most challenging aspects is both acquiring the correct type of camera and then getting used to using a camera that is entirely manual and has no light meter. Therefore, shutter speed and aperture must be judged and then set to suit the light conditions. For stills use we would recommend using either a Super Ikonta 532/16 or 530/16, and these should have the black surround to the lens and not the post war chrome surround.
For cine use getting hold of a suitable working 35mm cine camera is a little more challenging, as the De Vry, the 35mm Bell & Howell 'Eyemo' and the Vinten K are somewhat rare and expensive. Furthermore, the processing of the 100 foot rolls of 35mm film is quite expensive and one roll only equates to about 90 seconds of action.
However, using anything other than the correct period camera will a) not look right and b) not get the best period feel pictures.
Insignia - The only insignia worn by the AFPU was the shoulder flash and was worn in the same location as the Divisional or formation badges. The flashes that we wear are reproductions based upon , and colour matched with, an example held by the Imperial War Museum and were also specially reproduced for us by the company (Hand & Lock) in London that made the originals inthe 1940's. An example of our badges can be seen on the Home page.
With the shoulder flash as the only form of insignia, AFPU personnel retained the badge of their former regiment on their headgear, be it GS cap, beret, or Glengarry etc.
To be honest we have seen a few variations over the years including those displayed in museums, but as far as we are concerned ours are as close as you can get to the originals worn by the likes of Ian Grant, Jimmy Mapham and Peter Norris in the European theatre.
Uniform - In terms of uniform, AFPU cameramen wore the same standard issue 37 or 40 pattern BD (Battle-Dress). Light combat order usually comprised waist belt, holster and ammunition pouch. Full combat order would resemble that of the standard infantryman; i.e. 37 pattern basic pouches, water bottle & carrier, entrenching tool & carrier and gas mask & case. Because of their increased film load (up to ten rolls of 100ft film) we have reason to believe that on occasions instead of the small pack (Webbing Haversack) they carried the Bergen (as carried by the Commandos) to provide greater capacity, usually for carrying cine film stock etc..
Equipment - As noted previously AFPU cameramen were armed with a .38 calibre Webley Mark IV revolver which was carried in the later shorter drop version of the 37 pattern RAC holster issued to armoured forces personnel (i.e. with external ammunition loops and sleeve for cleaning rod).
Headgear - The AFPU cameramen were equipped with the RAC Mark I (Royal Armoured Corps Pattern Steel Helmet) helmet, as issued to armoured fighting vehicle crews. The helmet had the same manganese steel shell as the airborne helmet and the Mark I despatch riders helmet. The difference being that the RAC 1 had the same liners as the standard infantry Mark I and Mark II steel helmet plus the chin strap was a simpler elasticated band.
Paperwork - The most important piece of paperwork carried by all AFPU cameramen post D-Day was their special SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) War Photographers pass, which had a copy of Eisenhower’s signature and instructions that "He will not be interfered with in the performance of his duty by the Military Police or any other Military organisation". Jeff and I both have reproductions of these based upon an original held by the Imperial War Museum in London.
In addition each cameraman, either 'cine' or 'stills' carried an A5 format pad of 'Dope Sheets' usually contained within a 'Cover for Army Book 153'. This fits comfortably in the left leg patch pocket of the BD trousers; and was used to record the details of the scenes shot. As these were attached to the exposed film for shipping back to Kays in London for processing, they were the only way of informing Pinewood what the subject matter was. A large collection of these is now held by the Film Archive department of the Imperial War Museum in London.
So hopefully the above will be of assistance to any aspiring re-enactor who wants to take on the portrayal of an AFPU camerman. However, getting the uniform and camera equipment right is only half of it......the difficult bit is getting the shots to look like they were taken in 1944!
Guidelines for AFPU re-enactors....
All pictures copyright of Gary Hughes & Jeff Ball unless otherwise stated
You owe it to the former members of the AFPU to get it right