D-Day re-enactment, Conneaut, Ohio, 2015 - photographed by Martin Merrette (Rolleiflex)

D-Day Conneaut, Ohio, in 2015

I am a member of a re-enacting group called la société d’histoire In Memoriam in Quebec. In 2014 we decided to participate as soldiers of the Régiment de la Chaudière at the annual D day event in Conneaut, Ohio, USA. This event has taken place every year since 1999. During the event we represent military camps in England before D-day and at the end of the weekend, we recreate the landing of allied troops on the beaches of Normandie. It was an amazing experience with more than 2000 re-enactors from all over North America.

For the 2015 event I wanted to do something different.

I looked at all the different corps and units of the Canadian army. Then, I remembered the Canadian Film and Photo Unit. A unit that I have heard of a few years before. It was perfect!  We can recreate a small unit, only few of us could go that year. We have CWAC that can work close to us. I remembered all the pictures and film that I have watched so many times since I was a little boy. I thought, if I can find the cameras, we could take pictures and try to recreate something as close as possible to the originals. I also wanted people to learn more about this fantastic group of men and women that were in the Film & Photo Unit and what they did.

I started to read everything I could find about the Film and Photo Unit and looked at all the pictures. At that time I already had all I needed for the uniform and camp. I found someone in Ontario who could recreate the Unit shoulder flash, which is so nice, by the way. Then, I started to look for the equipment and cameras. A few months later we had a Bell and Howell 35 mm movie camera and a tripod, a Speed Graphic, and a Rolleiflex plus some smaller pieces.
I posed as a Lieutenant still photographer, my brother a Sergeant with the Bell & Howell Eyemo movie camera and my sister-in-law posed as a CWAC that worked at the Film & Photo Unit Headquarters. Unfortunately, the Bell & Howell Eyemo movie camera was not working as it was modified to work only using an external motor.  We took pictures with the Rolleiflex. It was our first experience with that camera.

In the near future I expect to be able to take picture with the Speed Graphic and to use the movie camera. We now have a Contax 35 mm camera and I have found a small typewriter to write up the dope sheet. I want to recreate everything we need to do our work at the camp. In my craziest dreams, I would have a Jeep and the driver for the unit. It is only a beginning.

Voilà! It is a pleasure to share that passion for the Canadian Film and Photo Unit with you.
It is so sad that all the vet of the unit passed away.
I would have been proud to share this with them.
© Martin Merette 2015

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for that inspiring article Martin! Thank all of you for taking the time to represent the men and women of the CFPU that did so much to keep Canadians informed with pictures and Newsreels during WWII. The pictures are so realistic – it is difficult to tell that they were not shot during the 1940’s! P.S. There are still two members of the Unit still alive. I will be sure to share this with them!!!

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About me

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.


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