Canadian Film & Photo Unit going into battle / Operation Varsity

Discussion in 'Airborne' started by alberk, Jul 17, 2020.

  1. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Lattion Calder Richer.jpg These three gentlemen are Sergeant C.M.G. „Mike“ Lattion, Sergeant Alan Calder and Lieutenant Charles Richer. They belong to the Canadian Film and Photo Unit (CFPU) and were attached to the 1st Canadian Parachute Bataillon. The Canadian paratroopers were part of 3 Parachute Brigade which – as part of Operation Varsity - jumped into battle on March 24th, 1945. This photo (from the Library and Archives of Canada) shows the CFPU-members three days after they landed at Bergerfurth, a few miles north of Wesel, Germany. I suppose the Jeep was airlanded as well. It is apparently fitted with tubular receptacles to hold camera tripods.

    Abzeichen.jpg Here’s the CFPU‘s shoulder title – the design suggests a certain artistic ambition…

    Sergeants Calder and Lattion were camera operators, Lt. Richer was a still photographer. The cameras they used were American made Bell and Howell 16mm cameras. Three different lenses could be rotated into position. The cameras of that era operated with reels holding about 100 feet of film. Each reel allowed filming for two and a half to three minutes. Quite a difference to today’s permanent availability of cameras and their constant use in all situations worthy or not worthy of filming. One advantage oft he old cameras might be noted, though – they had a manual wind. No power packs, no chargers, no sockets needed! Good when you‘re working in the field!

    All of this should be considered when watching the material that Calder and Lattion shot on March 24th, 1945 in Bergerfurth during Operation Varsity. Their material was used in Canadian Army Newsreel No. 67 – it impressively show what happened on DZ/LZ A on that fateful day. The coverage of airborne activities starts at time code 07:34:

    While doing additional reserach for this thread I came across a wonderful website that deals with the Canadian Film and Photo Unit. The website is - as far as I can see- run by Dale Gervais. I quote from the site: „Dale Gervais has been actively researching and documenting the history of the Canadian Film & Photo Unit since 2006. Dale recently retired in September, 2018, after over 36 years with Library & Archives Canada. Dale now works as an independent researcher, with experience in audio visual holdings, video production and more recently doing Archival textual document searches, and photographic scanning.“

    CFPU Combat Cameramen – Welcome to the Canadian Film and Photo Unit website

    While going over his site I made a discovery which absolutely thrilled me. Dale Gervais saw to it that 107 albums with prints of contact sheets – Canadian WW2 photography - were made accessible online as PDFs. He made the announcement in April 2020. I suppose the wonderful result of his highly laudable initiative was somewhat eclipsed by the Corona crisis. Well – no more!

    Here’s what Dale Gervais has to say about the Canadian WW2 photo albums held by the Library and Archives of Canada:

    Here's is an example of one of those contact sheets.

    Contact Sheet.jpg
    This contact sheet comes from album vol. 89 and shows some of the photos taken during Operation Varsity. All of these images were made available to me when I visited the Canadian Archives in Ottawa in 1991. Here's one of those that I ordered as prints afterwards:

    This is the afternoon of March 24th – first elements of Scottish 15th Div have reached the
    airborne troops in Bergerfurth.

    I would like to point out that the contact sheets – in some cases - show more images than the ones that were released and that are usually made available by the Library and Archives. And they present the context of certain photos that may already be known. This is definitely the case for the contact Sheets showing the Rhine Crossing of 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade North of Rees. This is a page to illustrate my point:

    Contact sheet 9th Brigade.jpg

    Unfortunately, it is not all that easy to get to the actual PDFs - the best thing is to use the LAC search form:

    Archives Search—Advanced - Library and Archives Canada

    In the top "Any Keyword" box enter: Army numerical
    In the "Any keyword" box below enter: DND FA19

    This will produce one result - click on the link given and you will get this result:
    Sub-sub-series consists of - 120 lower level results

    If you click on the link "120 lower level results" you will get to a list of the 110 albums with the coveted contact sheets - they are not in chronological order bit give the the dates the albums cover. You have to go through the whole list to find the dates that my be of interest to you. Normandy landings for example are album vol. 74....

    The first on the list is album vol. 91. - click on the link provided - and you get a new result. the you have to click on the "Online MIKAN no ...."

    The result will show you a page with an icon on the left - that's the final link to the PDF.

    Phew! As I said: Not all that easy... But try it - the effort is worth the while!

    If you made it this far: Thanks for your interest in my post!
    canuck, Chris C, 4jonboy and 5 others like this.
  2. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Lattion and Jeep.jpg
    This is another shot of the Jeep that the CFPU-cameramen attached to 1 CPB used - Sgt. Lattion was also well armed!
    canuck and 4jonboy like this.
  3. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Tremendous. Will have a look at those on my laptop as soon as.

  4. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    I need to correct a statement made above: the cameras used were Howell and Bell Eyemo - the most compact 35mm camera available at the time. Still, hand-cranked...
    Howell and Bell.jpg
  5. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Quote from Dale Gervais website:
    "The cameramen used hand-cranked Bell & Howell Eyemo cameras, which shot 100-foot rolls of 35mm nitrate motion picture film. A roll of film only lasted for approximately two and a half minutes before the camera needed to be reloaded.
    Sergeant Norm Quick, one of the unit’s most experienced cameramen got so good at changing rolls that it only took him 20 seconds to reload and be ready to shoot again."
  6. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    Alberk excellent stuff, hoping to find some photographs that have not been digitised! Thanks for sharing this vital source. Below are the links to the 110 albums listing United Kingdom, Sicily, Italy, North West Europe & North Africa.

    Army Numerical 201-299 - United Kingdom - Album 1 of 110 [graphic material]
    Army Numerical 300-399 - United Kingdom - Album 2 of 110.
    Army Numerical 400-499 - United Kingdom - Album 3 of 110.
    Army Numerical 500-599 - United Kingdom - Album 4 of 110.
    Army Numerical 600-699 - United Kingdom - Album 5 of 110.
    Army Numerical 700-806 - United Kingdom - Album 6 of 110.
    Army Numerical 807-884 - United Kingdom - Album 7 of 110.
    Army Numerical 885-972 - United Kingdom - Album 8 of 110.
    Army Numerical 973-3482 - United Kingdom - Album 9 of 110.
    Army Numerical 5001-5348 - United Kingdom - Album 10 of 110.
    Army Numerical 5350-5684 - United Kingdom - Album 11 of 110.
    Army Numerical 5685-6240 - United Kingdom - Album 12 of 110.
    Army Numerical 6242-6969 - United Kingdom - Album 13 of 110.
    Army Numerical 6993-7371 - United Kingdom - Album 14 of 110.
    Army Numerical 7377-8062 - United Kingdom - Album 15 of 110.
    Army Numerical 8065-8698 - United Kingdom - Album 16 of 110.
    Army Numerical 8700-9155 - United Kingdom - Album 17 of 110.
    Army Numerical 9156-9855 - United Kingdom - Album 18 of 110.
    Army Numerical 9856-10337 - United Kingdom - Album 19 of 110.
    Army Numerical 10338-11095 - United Kingdom - Album 20 of 110.
    Army Numerical 11096-11540 - United Kingdom - Album 21 of 110.
    Army Numerical 11541-11828 - United Kingdom - Album 22 of 110.
    Army Numerical 11831-12500 - United Kingdom - Album 23 of 110.
    Army Numerical 12501-12954 - United Kingdom - Album 24 of 110.
    Army Numerical 12955-13300 - United Kingdom - Album 25 of 110.
    Army Numerical 13302-13806 - United Kingdom - Album 26 of 110
    Army Numerical 13807-14346 - United Kingdom - Album 27 of 110.
    Army Numerical 14347-14770 - United Kingdom - Album 28 of 110.
    Army Numerical 14771-15294 - United Kingdom - Album 29 of 110.
    Army Numerical 15295-15937 - United Kingdom - Album 30 of 110.
    Army Numerical 15938-16419 - United Kingdom - Album 31 of 110.
    Army Numerical 16428-16816 - United Kingdom - Album 32 of 110.
    Army Numerical 16817-17212 - United Kingdom - Album 33 of 110
    Army Numerical 17213-17772 - United Kingdom - Album 34 of 110.
    Army Numerical 17784-19705 - United Kingdom - Album 35 of 110.
    Army Numerical 19724-20868 - United Kingdom - Album 36 of 110.
    Army Numerical 20943-22126 - United Kingdom - Album 37 of 110
    Army Numerical 22127-23893 - United Kingdom - Album 38 of 110.
    Army Numerical 23894-25036 - United Kingdom - Album 39 of 110.
    Army Numerical 25037-26178 - United Kingdom - Album 40 of 110
    Army Numerical 26179-27559 - United Kingdom - Album 41 of 110.
    Army Numerical 27560-28783 - United Kingdom - Album 42 of 110.
    Army Numerical 28784-29500 - United Kingdom - Album 43 of 110.
    Army Numerical 29508-31100 - United Kingdom - Album 44 of 110.
    Army Numerical 31150-32160 - United Kingdom - Album 45 of 110.
    Army Numerical 32243-33882 - United Kingdom - Album 46 of 110.
    Army Numerical 33883-40355 - United Kingdom - Album 47 of 110.
    Army Numerical 40356-43500 - United Kingdom - Album 48 of 110.
    Army Numerical 43501-44725 - United Kingdom - Album 49 of 110.
    Army Numerical 44844-48236 - United Kingdom - Album 50 of 110.
    Army Numerical 48237-53081 - United Kingdom - Album 51 of 110.
    Army Numerical 53082-54680 - United Kingdom - Album 52 of 110.
    Army Numerical 54681-56742 - United Kingdom - Album 53 of 110.
    Army Numerical 56766-57891 - United Kingdom - Album 54 of 110.
    Army Numerical 57892-58862 - United Kingdom - Album 55 of 110.
    Army Numerical 58901-59503 - United Kingdom - Album 56 of 110.
    Army Numerical 59504-59822 - United Kingdom - Album 57 of 110.
    Army Numerical 59828-60100 - United Kingdom - Album 58 of 110.
    Army Numerical 21729-27681 - North Africa - Album 59 of 110.
    Army Numerical 29144-32573, 44338-45803, 50025-50036, 50449-50455, 50034-50874 - Canada and Australia - Album 60 of 110
    Army Numerical 18371-22533 - Sicily - Album 61 of 110 [graphic material]
    Army Numerical 22542-23813 - Sicily - Album 62 of 110 [graphic material]
    Army Numerical 23814-28185; 36736-36773 - Sicily - Album 63 of 110
    Army Numerical 23774-25372 - Italy - Album 64 of 110.
    Army Numerical 25433-27482 - Italy - Album 65 of 110.
    Army Numerical 27483-28340 - Italy - Album 66 of 110 [graphic material]
    Army Numerical 28341-29539 - Italy - Album 67 of 110 [graphic material]
    Army Numerical 29540-30717 - Italy - Album 68 of 110.
    Army Numerical 30718-31595 - Italy - Album 69 of 110.
    Army Numerical 31764-33436 - Italy - Album 70 of 110.
    Army Numerical 33468-38933 - Italy - Album 71 of 110.
    Army Numerical 38940-41146 - Italy - Album 72 of 110.
    Army Numerical 41294-43898, 44998-47587, 48620, 50514-50577, 55447-55449 - Italy - Album 73 of 110
    Army Numerical 33756-35898 - Northwest Europe - Album 74 of 110 [graphic material]
    Army Numerical 35899-36430 - Northwest Europe - Album 75 of 110 [graphic material]
    Army Numerical 36431-37896 - Northwest Europe - Album 76 of 110 [graphic material]
    Army Numerical 37897-38623 - Northwest Europe - Album 77 of 110 [graphic material]
    Army Numerical 38624-39325 - North West Europe - Album 78 of 110.
    Army Numerical 39326-40054 - North West Europe - Album 79 of 110.
    Army Numerical 40055-41158 - North West Europe - Album 80 of 110.
    Army Numerical 41159-41801 - North West Europe - Album 81 of 110.
    Army Numerical 41802-42433 - North West Europe - Album 82 of 110.
    Army Numerical 42434-43263 - North West Europe - Album 83 of 110.
    Army Numerical 43264-43764 - North West Europe - Album 84 of 110 [graphic material]
    Army Numerical 43782-45422 - North West Europe - Album 85 of 110.
    Army Numerical 45435-46277 - North West Europe - Album 86 of 110 [graphic material]
    Army Numerical 46289-47274 - North West Europe - Album 87 of 110.
    Army Numerical 47281-47992 - North West Europe - Album 88 of 110.
    Army Numerical 48003-48580 - North West Europe - Album 89 of 110.
    Army Numerical 48581-49079 - North West Europe - Album 90 of 110.
    Army Numerical 49080-49639 - North West Europe - Album 91 of 110.
    Army Numerical 49640-49961 - North West Europe - Album 92 of 110.
    Army Numerical 49962-50579 - North West Europe - Album 93 of 110 [graphic material]
    Army Numerical 50580-51320 - North West Europe - Album 94 of 110.
    Army Numerical 51321-51800 - North West Europe - Album 95 of 110.
    Army Numerical 51810-52220 - North West Europe - Album 96 of 110.
    Army Numerical 52221-52732 - North West Europe - Album 97 of 110.
    Army Numerical 52733-53355 - North West Europe - Album 98 of 110.
    Army Numerical 53356-53840 - North West Europe - Album 99 of 110.
    Army Numerical 53841-54246 - North West Europe - Album 100 of 110.
    Army Numerical 54247-54873 - North West Europe - Album 101 of 110.
    Army Numerical 54874-55783 - North West Europe - Album 102 of 110.
    Army Numerical 55787-56601 - North West Europe - Album 103 of 110.
    Army Numerical 56602-57204 - North West Europe - Album 104 of 110.
    Army Numerical 57205-58410 - North West Europe - Album 105 of 110.
    Army Numerical 58411-59091 - North West Europe - Album 106 of 110.
    Army Numerical 59118-60111 and Summary - North West Europe - Album 107 of 110.
    Army Numerical 1043-1078; S108-S873 Secret 1/3 (35mm) - North West Europe - Album 108 of 110.
    Army Numerical S874-S1439 Secret 2/3 (35mm) - North West Europe - Album 109 of 110.
    Army Numerical 11850-31114 Secret 3/3 (35mm) - North West Europe - Album 110 of 110.
  7. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    "First Invasion Pix" Sgt. Reynolds, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion


    Attached Files:

  8. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Thanks birthm - you brought some order into it. This must have kept you busy for a while. Good work!
    brithm likes this.
  9. klambie

    klambie Senior Member

    Does anyone know if all of those contacts have negatives or prints associated that would allow repros? I've investigated a bit and remain stumped.

    So using brithm's post #7 to make a fake example:
    • I recognize the contact in the middle as either a published photo I can chase down via LAC search terms OR I come across it via a search that gets a hit on some part of the caption (say '1 Can Para')
    • That LAC record often includes that contact # 33830 somewhere in the description, often as the 'item number (creator)'
    • I look through the albums and conclude that the photo on either side is probably related, even though there is nothing in the caption that would confirm the link
    • If a search for 33829 gets a LAC search hit, I assume I could get a repro of that photo
    • If a search for 33831 does not get a LAC search hit (as often happens), does that mean that negative/print was not preserved? Or does it mean it's at LAC somewhere, I have to find a different way to find the record?
    Appreciate any expertise.
  10. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    A big thank you to alberk and brithm for clarifying the locations of the Canadian Albums ... :)


    If you know the photographer and item number place those in first two lines of the advance search - for example Reynolds (or Reynolds, D.A.) and 33831. Hit submit and it should take you to the initial link. In this case there is no free online digital version available. Nor are there online digital copies for 33829 or 33830.

    From there you would have to investigate their copy service choices which I have never used so I'm not totally familiar with that aspect,

    Copy services at Library and Archives Canada

    I should add that I do have 33831 in fairly good quality somewhere so it has been reproduced and digitized at some point.

    Regards ...
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020
    Chris C and canuck like this.
  11. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    The digitization service is reasonably good. It does cost (I think less than licensing a photo from IWM) but... They do not attempt to impose usage fees.

    I think that negatives should exist for all of these but I have not been able to go to the archives to verify since these digitized "Red Books" were put online.
    Cee likes this.
  12. klambie

    klambie Senior Member


    I said it was a fake example :) But the photographer name is a useful tip.

    Real example:
    Also Vol 74 (p. 21 of the PDF)
    Record - Library and Archives Canada

    Photographer is Lt Bell, subject is R. de Chaudiere (at least until we get to that big gun)


    Bell AND 34079 nil
    34079 hit
    Bell AND 34078 nil
    34078 hit
    etc. (mostly a note to self that I might have to try with and without photog. name)
    Bell AND 34075 hit
    Bell AND 34074 nil
    34074 nil

    Is 34074 preserved and just needs a smarter/different search technique, or is it lost? Why would it be different from others in the series? I don't believe it can be the marginal usefulness of that photo, I've encountered same with interesting photos in series related to Reginas.
  13. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    Yes I see the name/item combo doesn't always work which is a shame as it would have been good way to look up album photos. Are the photos you are interested in by Ken Bell? Just trying to figure out the initials next to item numbers.

    Is it LJB or KJB or is he going by rank, Lt. B - not sure? When you search "Lt. Ken Bell" it pulls up 145 items which can't be his full output during the war as he was pretty prolific. Perhaps his work hasn't been completely catalogued ... which is hard to believe?

    34074 is basically the same photo as 34075 except that someone walked in front of camera and obscured the background. Maybe they thought it wasn't worth acknowledging.

    Regards ...
  14. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    Here are wounded paratroopers and Glider Pilots returning from Normandy assume they are taken at Southampton.

    I think Cee has made a good point that the photographers intitials are on the 'negatives' JHS as with the attached photographs are Lt. Jack H Smith and MMD Michael M. Dean.

    On Davis Gervais' site he has helpfully put up CAFPU still and cine photographers so could easily find the appropiate initials for the photographer.

    alberk likes this.
  15. klambie

    klambie Senior Member

    Haven't looked closely, but initials seem to be a bit freestyle. Pretty sure I saw Duberville as DAJ in poking around today.

    Is it possible they continue to update their search terms? I'm sure it used to be easier to find gaps in those contact #s than I encountered in this experiment.
  16. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    To answer some of these questions it would be a good idea to contact Dale Gervais via his website - he is the one who curated the collection until recently and he made the material available online. He seems keen and accessible.
  17. brithm

    brithm Senior Member


    I would contact CAFPU site, Dale Gervais digitised the albums so will have a more definite answer.

  18. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Hello brithm,
    wouldn't it make sense to put our information on the albums on the "
    Hello brithm,

    I would like to post the information on the Canadian albums in the "New Resources" section. Would you want to your valuable list of albums to appear there as well?
    stolpi likes this.

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