The Canadian Army Newsreel: On the Home Screens

in Newsreels by

The power of the Canadian Army Newsreel is best exemplified in this account of a families search for the whereabouts of their father during World War II…

In the December 2010 edition of the Legion Magazine, I came across a request by Harry Chartres searching for newsreel footage of his father, Henry P. Chartres. Specifically, Harry was seeking newsreel footage that his mother had seen in a theatre back in Verdun, Quebec in 1943, over 71 years ago.

“The story goes that my mother was taken to a theatre to help ease the news my Dad was missing in action and lo and behold when the newsreel came on, there was my father on screen with Monty, (General Bernard Montgomery). With that my mother jumped up and yelled, “Hap, Hap” which was his nick name and scared the hell out of the audience.”

At the same time that the ad was appearing in the Legion, the War Amps was releasing for the first time on DVD, the complete series of all 106 Canadian Army Newsreels. The newsreels were produced by the Canadian Army Film Unit to document Canadian troops in training and on the front lines. They scooped the world on major events, including the invasion of Sicily and D-Day.

In the War Amps DVD set, is an accompanying booklet and guide that outlines each and every story in the newsreels. On page 20 of the guide, under Canadian Army Newsreel No. 18, Mediterranean Snapshots, is the description;

“…General Bernard Montgomery gives awards to Canadian soldiers…”
And in a long list of names is “…Sergeant Major H. P. Charters…” Although the spelling was off I had a feeling it was the same Henry P. Chartres, that Harry was seeking.

To confirm, I sent a frame grab from the Canadian Army Newsreel DVD. As it turned out, it was indeed his father receiving the Military Medal from General Montgomery, and the same footage that his mother would have seen in the Verdun, Quebec theatre back in 1943. (Note: further discussion revealed that the Theatre was on Church St.)

The Newsreels have been one of the most requested series of films at the Library & Archives Canada, and continue to be a great visual source for Canadian military history. Having sent a copy of the DVD set to Harry, courtesy of the War Amps, he replied,

“Hi Dale,

First let me thank you from My heart for all you have done for us, I had just about given up on ever finding those elusive films My Mother talked about for so many years…I  can never thank you enough and hope someday I can tell you in person how much you are appreciated by my whole family, I am sending a couple of snaps I have of Dad very much like the one you sent. We will stay in touch.

Very Thankfully Yours,
Harry Chartres Jr.”

“Received the Army news reels that you sent with many thanks, they will be cherished by my Family forever. I think it is a great idea for the story to be told, I bet there is a million stories to be told of soldiers during and after the war, I myself wondered for years if they had sent back the wrong man, This man that came to our house after the war with a face made of granite and a voice that made your blood freeze up was not my Father, The warmth and the love in his eyes were gone and replaced by ice , I don’t think he ever did completely thaw out, Always the Sergeant Major.”

Newspaper clipping courtesy Henry P. Chartres.

Click the link below to visit the War Amps You Tube channel for the Canadian Army Newsreel;

Click the link below to visit the main War Amps You Tube channel;

Dale Gervais has been actively researching and documenting the history of the Canadian Army Film & Photo Unit since 2006. Dale retired in September, 2018, after almost 36 years as a Film Conservator at Library & Archives Canada.