Date: 9 May 2008
Congratulations to Fred McGlade, who has just had a successful viva. Fred's thesis was on 'The creation and development of The British Army Film and Photographic Unit in the Second World War'.
As Fred observes, at the outset of the Second World War an Army Film and Photographic Unit (A.F.P.U.) was formed under a subsection of the Directorate of Public Relations at the War Office. In contrast, the Nazi hierarchy had, at an early stage, fully recognised the importance of controlling the depiction of military conflict in order to ensure the continued morale of their combat troops by providing a bridge between the soldiers and their families. Promoting the use of the photographic record allowed the Nazis to exercise control over negative depictions of the war. However, British reluctance to embrace the propaganda benefits of film and photographic material in the build up to and the early months of the Second World War meant that when it was finally accepted as useful the P.R.2 Section and the British Military found itself in a 'catch up' situation. Despite the disadvantages of such a slow start, the British combat cameramen grew in strength throughout the conflict, producing films such as Desert Victory, Tunisian Victory, Burma Victory, The True Glory and a huge stock of both cine and still material lodged as 'Crown Property' in the Imperial War Museum, London. The British Army Film and Photographic Unit's material represents some of the most frequently used records of historical events and key figures of the period. It is utilized by film producers and television programme makers without the cameramen who shot the footage being listed in programme credits. Fred's thesis does not seek to denigrate the work of others such as Accredited War Correspondents, but it does seek to accord to the combat cameramen of the A.F.P.U. the recognition they are entitled to, but have never received, for their enormous contribution to the historical record of the Second World War.
Associated departments and research centres: History