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    Fred G. Spear and and Lillian Roach - Photo courtesy Sheila Mitchell
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    Fred G. Spear : Public Relations Darkroom Technician- Photo courtesy Sheila Mitchell
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    Fred G. Spear : Public Relations Darkroom Technician- Photo courtesy Sheila Mitchell

Fred G. Spear: Photographer – PR Darkroom Technician

in History by

So much time has passed since the end of the war, that it has made locating information about some of the veterans extremely challenging. Oftentimes, I rely on visitors to the website for additional information about former members of the CFPU.

In this recent post, I want to share an email that I received from Sheila Mitchell, who is searching for additional information about her father, Fred G. Spear.

As Sheila would explain, “As far as my father goes, his full name was Fred or Frederick George Spear.  My mother at the time was Lillian Phylis Roach, I believe.”

As it turns out, Sgt. Fred G. Spear, B112922, was a Darkroom Technician with the CFPU. In the course of digging through notes, and files to locate the name Fred Spear, I was also fortunate to come across others who might have worked as Darkroom Technicians during the war. I would like to share Sheila’s story in the hopes some visitors to the website might be able to shed some light about her father, Sgt. Fred G. Spear;

Hello I came across this organization while trying to find information on my father who was part of the Canadian film and photo unit. I have done some research through Canadian websites and found nothing. His name was Fred Spear and I have some photos of him in uniform. My mother passed away without giving me much information. Unfortunately! Any help is much appreciated. Sincerely, Sheila Mitchell”

In a later email, Sheila also offered the following information;

“I can tell you that my mother met him in London in June of 1944. I believe he was stationed in UK for quite a long period of time. I am originally from London but now live in Texas USA!!

I am assuming that Mr. Spear did not die in the war, and perhaps he returned to his family in Canada at the end of the war. I was born in August, 1946….so I have no idea as to whether he knew anything about me or not. 

I am wondering if you know anything about the following address, it was written on a piece of paper kept with the photos.  The address is:  Imperial Photo Service, 556 Kingston Road, Toronto 13, Ontario, Canada.  I researched online and there is no mention of this business at this address now, but maybe it had something to do with the Film & Photo Unit? There is also what appears to be a phone number in England (on the back of one of the photos), Abbey 9090 Extn.308.  Again, I have not had much luck in figuring that one out!!”

Over a period of time I was able to locate the following information on Fred G. Spear;

– On 2nd May, 1944, a request was put forward for a Cpl. F.G. Spear, B112922,  from the 1st Canadian Surplus Kit Storage Unit (CSKSD,), be brought to London for interview, and to report to the Public Relations Office, C.M.H.Q., signed by Col. W.G. Abel Canadian Military Headquarters.

– On 6th May, 1944, A/Cpl F.G. Spear of 1st CSKSD, was interviewed and “appears to be suitable for employment as a Photographer Pte “A” in PR (Public Relations) Darkroom.” It also states that, “It is understood, Cpl. Spear will revert to the rank of Private.”

– On 11th May, 1944, Pte F.G. Spear B112922, was attached to 1st Public Relations Group (A) WEF on 8 May 44 as Clerk Gp. “C”. And, “As he is employed as a photographer in PR Darkroom and he is a qualified Photographer “C” may he therefore be shown as authorized to draw Photographer Gp “C” Trades Pay WEF 8 May 44.”

– As of 13th November, 1944, Number B112922 Pte. Fred G. Spear, Age 27 is listed in the nominal roll of “all other ranks” category B-1.

As I learned, Pte. Spear was part of a group in charge of photographic “news work” that consisted of four Darkroom staff members who would oversee “news orders” from the media who submit requests for stills. “On completion of news orders, negatives would be passed to this Darkroom which would then handle all subsequent Official and Private orders. Apparatus available would include developing tanks, drying cupboard, enlargers and glazing machine.” This information was signed off by the Darkroom Manager, F.J. Maillard, Public Relations Office, CMHQ. The four staff members listed to be responsible for the news work were; Trooper Park, Gunner Rook, Sapper Pinkard, and Private Spear.

“Hi Dale, thank you so much for all of the information and the time you put into researching for me!  It is much appreciated!!

It is very strange to read so much information on Fred Spear after having little or no information for so many years. I had really hoped that my mother would share more with me prior to her passing, but I heard so many different versions (she had dementia) towards the last year or so, that I never knew what was real and what wasn’t. My sister, Sue (half sister), told me that our Mother shared several different stories with her also!  So, it is all a bit of a puzzle!

I really don’t think that my mother realized the impact it all had on me, I don’t blame her or love her any less. It was such a shock to me at 16 years old, and then it was just a mess moving forward with what my last name should be as I was never adopted!  I ended up with my Mothers first husband’s last name, even though I was not his child on my passport!  Never understood really why I couldn’t use Stephenson (my step dad’s last name) as I had been using it for all of those 16 years. I was just issued a passport! And that was that!  

Anyway, really really appreciate your help in all of this!  I am not sure where it will all lead, and it may take some time to find out any further information.  But, maybe I will be lucky and learn something about my heritage! Sheila”

UPDATE: I was able to locate a Mr. & Mrs. Fred Spear, living at 21 Amroth Avenue in Toronto on an election list, dated 15th of June, 1949. His occupation was listed as Photographer. As Sheila pointed out to me, 21 Amroth Avenue is about an hour from the address she gave me for Imperial Photo Services on Kingston Road.

If anyone has any information regarding Fred (Frederick) George Spear please contact this website or Sheila directly at sheilamitchell46@gmail.com

Dale Gervais has been actively researching and documenting the history of the Canadian Army Film & Photo Unit since 2006. Dale is currently employed as a Film Conservator at Library & Archives Canada.