Men in landing craft

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Nijmegen, Oct 4, 2014.

  1. Nijmegen

    Nijmegen Member

    My feelings, exactly! Thanks Guy!

    :) Nice to see forum members working together!
  2. No.4CommandoBairn

    No.4CommandoBairn Well-Known Member

    'little sapper Mullen'

    Now there's another man that you'd all find very interesting. Didn't have to be in the first wave, chose to go in with his mates. I have a copy of the Dieppe drawing that depicts another craft, about to pick up an airman who just happened to bail out and land within their reach - dad was on that craft.

    Actually ... they're all very interesting. But I'm a tad biased. ;)

    Oh, I see he's mentioned on this site - Accounts of Sword Beach.
  3. Nijmegen

    Nijmegen Member

    No no, there a so many mini-stories! The more we know about pictures and footage, the more they tell us. The same applies to history, of course.
  4. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    I believe this clip was taken by Sgt.George Laws, 5 AFPU. He was assigned to 4 Commando and is said to have been the first cameraman ashore on the British side at least. He was able a take number of clips on the beach and during the push to Ouistreham before his cine camera failed. The IWM shows a still from the film but doesn't name the cameraman.

    Regards ...
  5. Guy Hudson

    Guy Hudson Looker-upper

    Cee, I have seen the same footage credited to Sgt Wilkes (IWM No.BU1181) I have looked at Wilkes work and it all appears to be stills? I have also found no reference to Sgt Wilkes landing on D-Day, unless he was the stills man of the pairing? I agree with you that it is Laws.
  6. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    I could be wrong there. I just made the assumption that if Laws was attached to 4 Commando he probably rode in with them. I believe there was a cameraman named A. E. Wilkes with No. 5 AFPU as can be seen in this list of Normandy films attributed to him. The earliest is dated July 10th, but it may not be comprehensive.[0]=makerString%3AWilkes%2C%20A%20E

    I'll see if I can contact the son of Eddy "Smiler" Smales who had Bert "Wilko" Wilkes as a partner in Germany. It could be the same guy?

    Regards ...
  7. NPMS

    NPMS Junior Member

    Regarding the Army Film & Photographic Unit on D-Day....

    Yes, Sgt George Laws was the first British cameraman to land, at 0745 on Sword Beach with 4 Commando. Sgt Chuck Ross of the Canadian Film & Photo Unit was scheduled to land on Juno at 0645 with the 7th Canadian Infantry but they were running 10 minutes late. Apparently the AFPU and the CFPU always made a point of claiming the credit for being first. George and Chuck were just happy to have survived.

    However neither was the first cameraman in Normandy. That was Sgt Jimmy Christie, a stills photographer who landed near Pegasus Bridge at 0050 with 13 Para. Sgt Dave Reynolds of CPFU was close behind with the 1st Canadian Paras.

    In all, 15 AFPU cameramen and photographers landed on D-Day. All survived the day although three were wounded, two badly enough to be evacuated, never to return to the front line, and three private soldiers on attachment to the AFPU from the King's Rifles (Liverpool) were killed when their landing craft was sunk.

    Sgt Norman Clague landed on Juno at 0845 with 6 Commando. He was still with them on 12 June when he became the first AFPU fatality. By then, reinforcements were arriving, 29 of them over the following month. One was my Dad, AFPU Sgt Eddy 'Smiler' Smales (a cine-cameraman). He had been scheduled to land with the Ox & Bucks HQ gliders at 0350 on D-Day but he had sprained his ankle jumping out of a glider during a rehearsal near Exeter a few days before. That is why there was no cine-coverage of Pegasus or Merville.

    One of the new arrivals, Sgt Donald 'Robbo' Robinson, was killed during the Battle for Caen and three others wounded badly enough to be evacuated, never to return to the front line.

    No, Sgt AE Wilkes didn't go in on D-day. But yes, he was one of the 29, yes, he was a stills photographer and yes, he partnered Dad at various times (but not the whole time) as they and their mates covered the advance from from Normandy to Berlin where Bert (as Dad called him, so I guess he was Albert) took a lovely photo of him having a celebratory pint at the Southend Club with NAAFI Sgt Alan Warner who he had last seen more than two years before running the Halfway House, halfway between Cairo and Alexandria.
    stolpi and Cee like this.
  8. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Thanks Nigel,

    That was just a terrific answer and one I'll save for all the the valuable information it contains. You must have acquired some wonderful photos, film and documents over time during your research into you Father''s WW2 experience with the AFPU. It looks like an excellent book you have put together and for anyone interested it's available on Lulu as well as Amazon.

    There's also a good listing on your Father at the IWM. I just wish they would put more of the photos online.

    As for the clip in question until we get definite confirmation the best we can say is it was probably taken by George Laws.

    Regards ...
  9. Nijmegen

    Nijmegen Member

    The field grave of Sergeant Clague.
    brithm and stolpi like this.
  10. Cee,

    You're right, the film from which IWM still BU1181 was extracted is IWM A70 31-3, filmed by Gearge Laws:

    Of course the caption of BU1181 is slightly incorrect in that the cameracraft is an LCA, not an LCI(S) as stated. As per your post above (#8), only the two French troops landed in LCI(S) (527 and 523). See

    The main body of No.4 Commando was carried in fourteen LCA (8 ex HMS PRINSES ASTRID and 6 ex SS MAID OF ORLEANS), and a few vehicles and their crews were scattered over seven LCT(4).

    I uploaded an early version (the only one available I'm afraid) of the Landing Tables for SWORD here:

    Cee likes this.
  11. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    Thanks for sorting that out Michel and wouldn't you know that many answers are to be found on this excellent forum. Your tables will no doubt save me from fumbling about so badly next time. Doc Patterson off loaded from the Princess Astrid while 7 miles from the coast and mentions being in the same craft as Major Gordon Webb R.A. So he was probably not on the LCA as shown in the film and came in afterwards.

    So I assume we are looking at radio aerials that can be seen sticking up from amongst the men? The man at the very front appears to have one piece of insignia on his shoulder, but I"m not sure what it is as it doesn't look like a crown. George Laws has a fairly steady hand here considering he is on a rolling craft in unsettled seas.

    Regards ...
  12. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Great material here and very interesting - there's not enough stuff around on AFPU and I for one will be getting a copy of Nigel's book now my attention has been brought to it. I too wish the IWM had more material online. Thanks to all posters involved.
  13. ddaycolin

    ddaycolin Member

    Sorry I must have clicked the send button too soon in connection with the men on a 4 Commando LCA filmed by George Laws and with whom I was in contact for about 5 years. George gave me a lot of information on his 3 rolls of D Day film. I was also very fortunate to meet Joe Burnett on 6 June 2008 and he gave me the names of a lot of the commandos on his LCA. His troop was 'A' Troop 4 Commando, heavy weapons. I have analysed the entire 3 rolls and worked out exactly where each frame was shot. A few other commandos in this film have also been identified. I started all this research in about 1995 and one day it should come out as a book. I have written most of it already and some of it was used in the Channel 4 documentary DDay as it Happens which I worked on for about 6 months. Let me know if there is information you would like to have. I could send the identities given to me by Joe Burnett. Regards, Colin.
    Cee likes this.
  14. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Hi Colin,

    Welcome to the forum Colin, it's great to see you here. I'm looking forward to your book whenever it should come out. There was a sample of your work on the BBC D-Day program you mention which I thought was just terrific. Colin comments on his research part way down this 2013 article from The Telegraph:

    D-Day: How technology can bring history to life

    Regards ...
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2016
  15. Simon Wilkes

    Simon Wilkes New Member

    Hi. I'm Sgt Wilkes's (Bert) grandson. I was just searching the web, as I am sorting through some of my grandfathers document from the war currently. He was Sgt A.E.Wilkes (Albert Edward Wilkes sports photographer) and a member of No.5 AFPU. Just to let you know, according to my research he did not go in to Normandy until D + 4. He was trained in film at Pinewood Studios with the AFPU and took film footage during the European Campaign as well as stills. The known footage he took is listed on the imperial war museums site. There are a lot of his photo's available through the Imperial War museum and we also have a lot of his photo's. In the documents I'm sorting at the moment there are a few private photo's of their trip to Berlin and there place they where billeted. There are a few of the unit relaxing. I'm trying to get my dad to id who he can in the pictures as granddad passed away aged 90 some years ago. There is a book being written about West Bromwich in the War and as Grandad was from there he will feature in it. If you have any information on him or would like copies of the photo's I have, please let me know.
    brithm likes this.
  16. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Hello Simon,

    Welcome to the forum Simon. It's great to hear your grandfather, Sgt. Albert Edward Wilkes, and his experience as an AFPU photographer during the war will be featured in the West Bromwich book. I can't imagine there are many of these men left now. The AFPU Association web site seems to be off line as well?

    Regards ...
  17. John Moran

    John Moran New Member

    Glass, Lieutenant D.C. (Donald)
    Cee likes this.

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