Photographer’s expert timing for the perfect wartime parade picture

In the days before digital cameras, roll film and rapid auto shooting, press photographers had to use single negatives made of glass plate.
1943 parade in High Street North, Dunstable1943 parade in High Street North, Dunstable
1943 parade in High Street North, Dunstable

They became amazingly efficient at rapidly replacing each used neg, but nevertheless there would be a delay of a second or two between shots.

So the Dunstable Gazette photographer would have been immensely proud of this May 1943 picture, for which he had to be in precisely the right place at the right time, with a good knowledge of what was about to happen.

The scene was a parade down High Street North for Wings For Victory Week, during which Dunstable aimed to raise funds to build more Spitfires for the desperate battles against Germany.

The picture shows veteran pilot Group Capt J. Bradbury DFC taking the salute outside the old town hall, with the crossroads in the background.

The photographer included a giant Spitfire poster on Keep’s Corner (still the most prominent place in the town for an advertisement hoarding). Then, just to make the picture even more perfect, he pressed the shutter just as three RAF bombers flew towards the town centre.

He even managed to align the shot so the aircraft were not hidden by the telegraph pole! Imagine his disappointment when the Gazette decided not to print the picture. Wartime censorship was probably to blame.

> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society. The society meets at 7.45pm on the second Tuesday of each month (except during the summer break) at the Methodist Church Hall, The Square, Dunstable. Visitors are welcome.