Photographing World War 2 Bomber Command Veterans

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: March 2, 2020

Category: Kit | Photography

Sunday last week I was at the wonderful Aces High Gallery in Wendover, Buckinghamshire to photograph a number of World War 2 RAF Veterans who were there for a signing event.

I’m incredibly happy to get to know the folks at the gallery and that together we are putting plans in place for how we can work together in a way that is mutually beneficial. A few days beforehand I was at the Gallery having a meeting discussing future events and also how the gallery are looking to support my 39-45 Portraits Project and help with raising the £50,000 goal for Veterans Charities namely the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans and The Veterans Charity; I’ll keep you posted as and when I have more details.

Wing Commander John Bell MBE DFC Ld’H
After training as an Observer he flew his first tour as a Bomb-Aimer with pilot Bob Knight’s crew in 619 Squadron until the whole crew were transferred to 617 Squadron flying the famous Lancaster named Thumper Mk III. He completed a total of 50 Ops, 29 of which were flown on Special Operations with 617 Squadron including Operation Taxable and he finished the war as an Instructor

As for the portraits taken on the day, the set up was exactly that which I use when photographing Veterans in their own homes because of its incredibly small footprint:

Vintage Grey Canvas by Glyn Dewis

Westcott X-Drop Backdrop Stand

Rapid Box Switch Octa-Large

Squadron Leader Benny GOODMAN Ld’H
After gaining his pilot wings, his crew were selected to join 617 Squadron where he flew Lancasters until the end of the war. He completed a full tour of 30 Ops including missions over Germany, Holland and France as well as taking part in all of the raids against the German Battleship Tirpitz, the Arnsberg viaduct and Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

Flight Sergeant Len Manning Ld’H
After completing training he joined 57 Squadron based at East Kirkby and flew as a Rear Gunner on Lancasters. On only his 3rd mission on the night of 18/19th July 1944, Len’s aircraft was shot down and after bailing out he was hidden by French civilians before returning to Britain.

Camera and Settings

The large Octa was positioned camera right, to the side and to the front of each subject so as to give the kind of classic, timeless lighting pattern that runs throughout the series of portraits in my 39-45 Project.

As for camera and settings, each of the standing portraits were photographed using my Sony A7RII and my Sony 55mm f/1.8 lens.

Settings were:

Aperture: f/8.0
Shutter Speed: 1/125sec
ISO: 400

As always the camera was on a tripod; reason being so that I don’t have to hide behind the camera when taking the pictures but instead can see that the focus point is over the face and then still engage with whom I’m photographing face to face and press the shutter.

Warrant Officer Roy Briggs
As a Wireless Operator on Lancasters with 576 Squadron based at RAF Fiskerton, he completed 10 wartime missions including raids to Plauen and Bremen before taking part in Operation Manna. As the war in Europe ended he transferred to 156 Pathfinder Squadron.

Each of the portraits will be printed on Permajet Portrait Rag 285 Paper which I absolutely love for the look and feel it gives plus it seems to enhance the timeless feel that I’m after with them all in the series.

Each of the prints will be sized at 11″ square and then placed into a 16″ square mount; I’ll be adding a video very soon showing how this is done because it really does make it feel like something extra special when the print is received.

Whilst at the gallery I also had the pleasure of photographing Squadron Leader Dick Haven who although not a World War 2 Veteran, flew the Vulcan B2 having joined the RAF in 1951…

Squadron Leader Dick Haven
Joined the RAF in 1951 he was a Pilot on Canberras, Valiants and Vulcan B.2s serving with a total of eight Squadrons including time as Chief Flying Instructor with 9 & 35 Squadrons. He received the 207 Squadron Standard from HRH Queen Elizabeth when she reviewed Bomber Command in 1956 and also flew on the Suez Operation from Malta.

As always if you hve any questions or comments please feel free to make use of the comments section below, but in the meantime (if you haven’t already done so) please do head on over to my 39-45 Portraits Project website to see the portraits taken so far and all the other content.


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