The Anatomy of a Photograph

I’ve always treasured this photograph of Bertie with his fellow officers. I have a sketchy memory that my Grandpa told me the names of the two well known local men sitting beside him. I can picture his face and pride in pointing out a couple of proper Welsh blokes. Unfortunately after too many years the names had gone.

It wasn’t until I made the picture available for my experts to see that I was told that footballing hero Arnold Dargie and businessman George Brymer were the senior officers present. Since then it has been my quest to identify 2nd Lieut Herbert Parker who was killed with Bertie on 27th October 1917. 

But when was it taken?

Armed with a list of the battery officers who came and went I’ve endeavoured to put a date on the photo in order to match it with the men listed at the time. A stroke of good luck in making contact with Herbert’s nephew reveals from his files that he was a shortish chap. Although unable to categorically prove it is him, he looks to be standing second on the left.

However trying to pin names on the other men is proving tricky.. The only option left is to trace their living families and of course a vast amount of luck! In comparison to the remarkable achievement of Andrew Tatham in his book “A Group Photograph” this feels like a minor task.

Gathering dates of promotions, awards, injuries etc have all helped narrow it down as well as picking up rewarding details along the way. An unseen wound stripe – spotting that Dargie opted not to display his rank on his cuff – although not officially acceptable by ruling ACI 1814 until 13th Dec. 1917, relating to the “Position of Badges of Rank-Officers“. Notably Bertie is the only one wearing a PH gas mask bag – determined not to be caught again perhaps?

He was gassed and wounded on 31st January and returned from hospital on 21st April 1917 with a wound stripe on his sleeve. He is not yet wearing his MC ribbon which he was awarded on 7th June 1917 – incidentally the same day that Arnold Dargie left to take command of another battery.

A Heavy Artillery Group diary reveals the Second Lieutenants serving at that time to be HJ Parker, EV Carder, HH Smith, FAH Coon and J Roberts. I’ve found a tiny photo of Frederick Augustus Coon in a school sports team who appears not to match any of the man below.