New Dunkirk Documentary - photos sought

Discussion in '1940' started by Garry Popper, Dec 19, 2017.

  1. Garry Popper

    Garry Popper Member

    Hello all (and Drew)
    Its been several years since I was last here. The long break was caused when I went off to produce two feature length film documentaries, "Looking for Lennon" and "Get Back".

    As you'd expect, my father was with the BEF in 1940 (1st Btn Cameron Highlanders), so I have always held a very close affinity with events. Now, at long last I have returned to produce a feature documentary on the subject. The working title "Dunkirk- Last Man Standing" and we (Get Back Films) are in full pre-prep research mode before main photography takes place.

    We are liaising with British Pathe and Movietone to acquire archive film footage, but this is rarer than rocking horse fodder. So, to do it real justice and provide rich detail, the production company would be very interested in hearing from anyone (friends, relatives and ex servicemen) who may still have old photographs (stills), or visual memorabilia they would like to share. We do not seek to own your treasures and all material is returned. Suitable arrangements can be made to scan any picture you might have, or we will gladly accept hi resolution jpegs by email. Contributors would receive full legal credit in the film.
    We are also very keen to talk to anyone with full, first hand accounts - in short, everything is considered.

    In order not to clog up the works, unfortunately we cannot accept material about any other operational theatre, unrelated stories, or present day stills although incidental photographs of the campaign would be accepted with the name of the copyright holder (if known).

    Please reply in strict confidence at this stage with a short summary of content, and we will make contact with you asap. All replies are answered in strict rotation.

    Meanwhile thank you all so much and I look forward to hearing from you. Best, Garry.
    Drew5233 likes this.
  2. gacock

    gacock Junior Member

    Hello Garry, I only have two oral accounts from my father - Sergeant John Alcock of the 2 company 2 Battalion Coldstream Guards. Have you seen the last group photograph of all the Battalion's Sergeants before they boarded their ship, The Maid of Orleans, for Cherbourg?
    My father's two stories include what happened when he was laying some communication cables - and - when he had to shoot a civilian woman. In 1956 he was the RSM to 3 Para at Suez - and "SAS in WW2.
    His brother was in the same guards battalion - I could ask my cousin for his tales.
  3. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Hello Garry,
    I know that you say that you cannot accept material about 'any other operational theatre', but I have information about the rescue from France of the nearly 140,000 British soldiers left behind at Dunkirk, plus Polish and Czech troops, civilians and materiel. They were evacuated from other French ports on the Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean in the three weeks after Dunkirk. These were the little known Operation Cycle and Aerial. The Maid of Orleans (above) was one of the 180 merchant ships that were involved. I hope that you would tell this part of the story?

  4. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    Will contributors be reimbursed?

    Also what terms will copyright be used etc?
  5. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    British Pathé and Movietone surely have only what the Ministry of Information supplied them with, plus perhaps snippets from overseas news agencies.

    Their website is hopeless for searching these days but the IWM must hold the largest collection of decent quality films...They seem to want to sell to commercial users and are quite offhand with individual researchers. You would be performing a great service if you could get some of that into the public domain.
  6. skimmod

    skimmod Senior Member

    Hello Gary,
    I'm currently writing the story of the Royal Scots Fusiliers' action along the Ypres-Comines canal and I have much first hand material, diaries, photos etc that I'm more than happy to share with you.
    My aim has always been to make sure no one forgets their sacrifice (all their records were destroyed in a fire and it's taken 15 years to get this far!)
    get in touch if you'd like to.
    best regards
    Rogerio8 and Tricky Dicky like this.
  7. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Hello Garry,

    I would like to echo Roy Martin's friendly advice.

    Whilst I understand the need for Churchill and his government to recast "Dunkirk" as a huge military success as a matter of necessity to maintain morale, I cannot see the continuing obsesssion with "Dunkirk" 70 years later. The recent film was, from a historical point of view, rather a joke - and no doubt has continued the trend of misleading the populace.

    Your (working) title "Dunkirk - Last Man Standing" has all the hallmarks of doing even more damage to the understanding of historical reality - unless your production is a very narrow expose about the very last soul to step aboard ship and leave the shore. Is it?

    What exactly is "Last Man Standing" supposed to mean? France was still fighting after "Dunkirk" so it cannot mean only Britain was left - unless you're deliberately rewriting history. Also, it cannot mean that the last Tommy had left French soil since about a third of the BEF was still in France after "Dunkirk" and more were still being sent out! Indeed, the evacuation of that part of the BEF was infinitely more successful (apart from the St.Valery episode) as they managed to get out of France a fair chunk of the equipment as well as the personnel.

    A story about "The Last Man Standing" would need to be about those who failed to make it to any port in time and were either captured or managed to make their own way home.

    I understand your personal interest in the "Dunkirk" story. But please have the decency to put that story into its correct context and its correct place in history. A single byline or disclaimer inserted at the end will hardly suffice. From my own experience, having met and spoken to some of them when they were still around, the false narrative surrounding "Dunkirk" was/is so pervasive that even the Tommies themselves pulled out of France AFTER "Dunkirk" were convinced that they came out from Dunkirk. History is history. Please leave "spinning" a story or "getting ahead of the narrative" to the politicians.

    Despite my words, I wish you all the best with the project and look forward to seeing it myself.
  8. Garry Popper

    Garry Popper Member

    Thank you everyone. A great response so far and yes, I'm interested in all your replies. Nothing is discarded so keep 'em coming.
    Just to clarify one or two important points.
    1. Copyright control.
    Swiper et al: Copyright remains with the originator of all material. A value cannot be made unless we see material, under strict confidentiality rules. A NDA can be supplies and you must sign, date and return. If the material is placed (accepted) then we have a legal duty to secure your consent to use. This is known as RELEASE. No licensee worth his or her salt will touch a film without it and we are duty bound to declare.. It is also checked out by an English lawyer in London who must sign his approval before the film can receive an E&O policy. This is the final but essential part of due diligence, which passes through several checks, including the CONSENT process which would normally carry licence terms and conditions, including duration of the licence, the territories of use and whether the films is for TV, theatrical, etc, etc. We call it an ALL MEDIA licence.
    Now here's the bad news. Forget about an American Blockbuster budget. This is Britain. We do not have enough but even owning copyright material is not for get-rich-quick dreamers, so if that's where you are at, or want, then thank you, but goodbye.
    Yes, photos do have a value, but this is in hundreds, max. Not more. And if you cannot prove ownership you get nowt..! If a piccie is unique it attracts more, unless it has been published (even on ww2talk) or is riddled with bullet holes!!! So, beware daydreamers. We have clear guidelines and stick to them. Yes we want your material, but not at any price. And we do not normally pay an inducement for written accounts or film interviews although travel expenses are paid upfront. Now you have your eyes wide open to the real world, we trust you will still feel it is right to honour all those who served at Dunkirk and afterward, so that they are no longer forgotten.
    2. Film Footage
    Rich Payne: Yes, Pathe and Movietone have miles of footage, but this was usually submitted first to MOI for approval, not the other way around. Filming was usually staged and censored, and the film makers eventually got some back - in a complete mess. Fortunately I have a very good relationship with them, as well as Getty and AP and others.
    The Northwest Archive in Manchester is something we are looking at and we seriously intend to bring some of it to the screen. Sorry about their unprofessional manner - money talks. We hope we are not like that (rude that is).
    3.Simmod, Rod and gacock
    Ooh, wonderful. And very welcome indeed. Please write up your accounts, with dates, locations and details. It's all in the detail. Remember, history shifts, and so do memories, so double check it all to be on the safe side. Good luck and carry on. It's all for a great cause.
    Best. Garry.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
  9. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Garry, surely the movie photographers with the BEF were army personnel, as per the stills photographers whose material is catalogued and viewable in the IWM ? There are images of the uniformed cameramen in the photographs. They were army officers. This pre-dates the acceptance of BBC or news agency reporters and camermen. The army was very wary at this stage.

    The image below was cropped from the published photograph but is on the IWM copy. It is part of a well-known phoney-war scene. I'm sure that the IWM have unissued film but it is not truly accessible to the public.

    Le Crocq (2).jpg
  10. Garry Popper

    Garry Popper Member

    MarkH: I'm sorry you feel it necessary to remark this way. Do I detect cynicism here? As for me, I can only apologise for wanting to record what happened behind the scenes although I make no apology for calling it "Last man standing" for good reason. See the fil and you will understand.
    Meanwhile I must do my best for someone who wasn't there, but I remember my father and I respect him and those like him and nothing would allow me to introduce 'spin' at any cost.
    For twenty years my father would not talk about the war. Few of the men in my street would do so for many years. It was a silent street.Then I found out that he'd witnessed 50,000 casualties (I know this very well since he served as a medical orderly from 1943 onward on a hospital ship and the numbers are calculable). He gradually opened up. Then it hit me. It was so touching because he was so humble about it all. Gone was the fiery warrior of legend and I realised I knew absolutely nothing about the man, his history or the horrors he went through. For that reason I began researching. That was many years ago. Today my job is to tell it truthfully and without spin, come what may. Best to leave it there.
  11. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Me too. The obsession with the unhelpful "Dunkirk story" has only served to marginalise - if not almost competely erase - the wider history of the BEF in France 1939-40.

    That's why I am hoping your film is going to buck the trend and delve into the wider history of the BEF. Tell your viewers what the BEF were doing - and where - between September 1939 and the end of June 1940 rather than just rehashing 8 days at the end of May/beginning of June.


    Does the phrase "Last Man Standing" take into account - or simply ignore - the 140,000 plus British troops still standing in France AFTER the last man had been pulled off the Dunkirk beach?
    Roy Martin likes this.
  12. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    I'm with MarkN on this. As he said in a previous message, even some of the troops who were saved from other ports seem to believe that they came through Dunkirk. Similarly all British troops think they were saved by 'the Navy', when more than half were saved by the Merchant Navy.

    I attach a summary of Operation Aerial, which I hope will be of interest, I have noted one mistake HMCS Fraser was rammed and cut in half after leaving the Gironde.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 21, 2017
  13. Garry Popper

    Garry Popper Member

    Roy, Mark N.
    Thanks for your replies. To set the record straight, the documentary has a lot to cover in 90 minutes. Unlike Montefiore's book we do not have endless resources to cover the entire period of the BEF in France and afterwards, so the prog will focus mainly on the aftermath, ie, what did happen in the retreat, the sacrifices made by several regiments, the personal sacrifices by many men, including those evaded capture after being left behind, or were captured and force marched back to Germany, or those who ducked and dived for weeks on the run before escaping to sea on DIY rafts, (like my father). The wider scope takes in the political story as well as the French/ English tensions at command level, while on the ground we cover the military disconnect and the lack of equipment - or the poor quality, compared to German forces. It's a very broad sweep based on historical accounts, reports, war diaries, and the stories of men of every rank, from those who fought in the race to the sea. The film will cover Escaut Canal, Le Bassee, St Valery, too, and the final demise of France after it capitulated. But, there will be some chapters we can not cover in depth, such as the French sacrifices. Remember, the film does have to end somewhere (unless we can get a bigger budget and sufficient visual material). After all, it is a visual medium, not a radio broadcast. So, every little help and as many photos and accounts as possible are very welcome indeed. And if you are an expert on the subject, why not drop me a line. We need volunteers. You don't need film experience, just enough tact and patience to get through because all researchers are a valuable resource for detail - and they make sure we get the story right as MarkN points out.
  14. Garry Popper

    Garry Popper Member

    Hi there,
    The British press were always felt to be an unwelcome nuisance and a press corp of sorts was set up, more to control and monitor what they were doing.
    Although the BEF campaign was relatively shortlived and chaotic, there were pressmen there, but afterwards their reports were heavily censored all the way to the press. Pathe was one of the few cine camera teams to by approved, since by then is was sufficiently well respected, and their film was often used for propaganda, although as you might expect, all material was subject to the same tough censor.
    Your picture shows an American officer (titles were accorded but were decorative) from the relatively newly formed US press corp. The Americans were relatively unfazed about secrecy and were well used to freedom of reporting, unlike the paranoid British Government at the time.
    I will be visiting the IWM shortly to dig in their archive. Should be some choice gems there.
  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Hi Gary - I have a Dunkirk related FB page now with over 5,000 followers. I helped find the veterans for the recent Channel 4 documentary on Dunkirk. Drop me a PM if you want some help outside of this fine forum. I'd be happy to advertise on my page for you.
    Garry Popper, Charley Fortnum and CL1 like this.
  16. Garry Popper

    Garry Popper Member

    Hi Drew,
    Hope you are well. Good to catch up with you again. Could you forward me your Dunkirk page on FB. There are three or four there and its confusing. Alternatively give me a shout on my email, and I'll try you again. Garry.
  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

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  18. JCB

    JCB Senior Member

    Garry, did some research into my uncle Harry White who was killed 29th May 1940 near the Menin gate with 4th battalion Green Howards who were defending an area between Zillibeke Lake and Ypres on the retreat .
    I can e mail his photos and story if of interest.
  19. morrisc8

    morrisc8 Under the Bed

    Hi Garry,
    I do have a lot of original wartime photos and negatives of Dunkirk and the area that were taken by the german forces, you can see some that i put on youtube, if you need any let me know. I do have a lot of photos that are not on the links still.
    Here is a link to them.

    Dunkirk 1940 photos some never before seen.

    Dunkirk 1940. Inland. France & Belgium. Photos, some never seen before

    And here is a link of some pathe films and some German and French with the BEF in them.

    Pathe film 1939/40 BEF
    dunkirk beach 1940 bef.jpg bedford mw Z4117168 dunkirk 1940.jpg 1940 dunkirk.jpg
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  20. STAN50

    STAN50 Senior Member

    I have quite a lot of original old newspapers.

    Having just had a look through my index it seems I have The Daily Herald for the whole of 1940, plus a few other newspapers.

    Editions possibly of interest:

    May 1940:
    Evening Standard 10.5.40 'Nazis invade Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg: many airports bombed.'
    The Evening News 28.5.40 'Belgium surrenders. jeopardy.'
    The Evening Standard 28.5.40 'Belgium capitulates without warning.'
    The Daily Herald 30.5.40 'BEF fighting its way to coast.'
    The Daily Express 31.5.40 'Tens of thousands safely home already.'

    June 1940:
    The Times 5.6.40 'Leaving Dunkirk special pictures.'
    The Daily Herald 13.6.40 'Britain rushes tanks, guns men to France.'
    The Evening News 17.6.40 'French army gives up.'
    The Daily Sketch 18.6.40 'We shall fight on unconquerable.'
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
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