Colleagues: Paul Wyand
I worked with, or worked close by, Paul Wyand from 1945 to 1956 and from 1961 to 1967. He was a gentleman and thoroughly deserved the accolade of being the finest newsreel cameraman of his day.
He specialised in the “Swing” shot whereby he would follow a fast moving vehicle, or animal, keeping a precise distance between the subject and the edge of frame. This skill was obtained by practice and dedication. However, he was a great cameraman in other ways at a time when there were no production managers, assistants or fixers to help and certainly no journalists. Paul made all his own arrangements and everything required of a film crew was achieved by him and his soundman. In that respect, it was the same for all the newsreels cameramen.
Paul came from a family that was known to be eccentric with the exception of Paul himself. When he was born in March 1907, at Wembley, he had four grandparents and six great-grandparents still living. There were also a number of uncles and aunts.
His maternal great-grandfather would walk into a pub, wreck the bar and then ask the barman “How much ?” upon receiving an estimate, he would pay up and then walk out.
His great uncle Hugh Brereton used to keep a log concerning every pub he visited as he travelled from town to town. One entry read “Wigan …Mucky Duck…Barmaid’s name Ethel, heavenly eyes …Bitter flat”.
His grandfather Benjamin Wyand ran away to sea and became a gold-miner, surveyor, sanitary inspector, schoolmaster, busker and free-lance journalist. When he was sixty-one he decided to study Chinese. Within four years he was an official lecturer in the language.
In 1919, his father, a designer and inventor, took a job with Vickers at Weybridge. Weybridge would be his home town for the rest of his life.
His house was close to the embankment of Brooklands race course. He became interested in motor racing, an interest that stayed with him for the rest of his life.
He would become a mechanic with one of the drivers who raced at the famous circuit. His name was Parry Thomas.
Later he got a job with De Havilland’s.
Paul tells a story in his book “Useless if Delayed” (click on the link for my review):
“I made my first aeroplane flight while working at Edgware. Aircraft……came in for servicing, and we would work into the night getting them ready to be used again on the following morning. We were permitted to taxi them to the hangars, but a pal of mine nicknamed “Farnborough” explained the controls, and if no one was about I would fly over the neighbouring fields at a height of twenty-five feet, then back – a distance of about two miles. It was a reckless thing to do, but when you re young you do not always appreciate that your escapades can be dangerous, and it gave me the distinction of being able to say that on my very first aeroplane trip I flew solo, without having received one proper lesson”.
Of course, Paul Wyand was not an eccentric, he said.
His uncle Leslie Wyand was certainly not an eccentric, but was regarded as the finest newsreel cameraman of his day. Leslie Wyand worked for Pathe and in 1927 he offered Paul a job. Paul had been a competent amateur photographer and his uncle decided to start Paul with a movie camera straight away in the belief that experience is the best teacher. This branch of Pathe was being controlled from The United States and all the material shot was sent off across the Atlantic.
His first assignment was on may 10th 1927 one week after he joined the firm. He was soon engaged filming the likes of Henry Seagrave and John Cobb at Brooklands. I suggest that it was here that he perfected his “swing” shots.
In 1928, sound came to the movie industry. Pathe thought that it would finish them and they told Leslie Wyand to fire his staff, that is, Paul Wyand. However Fox, offered Paul a job at £5 per week at a time when the national average wage was £2.
Paul received his assignments from New York.
Soon he was back with the British branch of Pathe. In 1929, he was taken back with a salary of £9 per week, three times the national average for a craftsman.
Soon, British Movietonews was created, half owned by 20th Century Fox and The Daily Mail. Paul was now working for them. He was invited to join them by the great Tommy Scales, one of the finest editors of the newsreels, at a salary of £10 per week rising to £14 after six months.
Paul writes in his book: ”It would be difficult to exaggerate the impact of the “talkies”. There was far more drama attached to it than to the introduction of television, for this latter invention merely brought to the fireside the existing phenomenon of pictures moving on a screen. But moving pictures that could also talk – in 1929 it was the eighth wonder of the world.”
He was to work through the thirties with Movietone covering Royal Events, the launch of the great ships and all the great sporting events of the day.
Movietone imported the first sound equipment from America. The complete outfit weighed a ton and needed a special van, also imported. Apart from the Wall camera, there was a large array of batteries to power the camera and sound equipment. Movietone insisted on shooting everything in sound, but this proved to be impractical and they eventually, after two years, settled down to a balance whereby some of the stories had mood music added while others had sound added from the library.
They also realised that sound did not necessarily enhance every story.
Paul Wyand wrote “During the thirties I acquired a flattering, but somewhat exaggerated, reputation for my “swing shots” – shots which involved getting a fast-moving object in the centre of the camera’s viewfinder and swinging the camera to keep it there as the object flashes past. Attempts at land, sea and air records involved the use of these swing shots, and they were essential for most sporting events”.
“I regularly photographed the Derby from start to finish in one marathon swing shot taken from the top of a swaying tower, 125 feet high, built by Movietone in the centre of the Epsom course”.
During the early part of The Second World War, Paul Wyand was based in London where he filmed all the great events that took place around London and the coastal ports.
He filmed the return of troops from Dunkirk, an investiture at the Palace, scenes at fighter stations during the day and the blitz at night.
In December 1940, the Admiralty sent a message to Movietone which said “Paul Wyand and Martin Gray (his soundman), must prepare to go away for a long time to a cold place. Tell them to pack plenty of winter woollies”.
They were instructed to report to Euston Station amid great secrecy, but, eventually, they were told that they were to accompany the Prime Minister to North America. On board the Battleship “Duke of York” with a strong destroyer escort, they sailed for Iceland first, then on to Norfolk, Virginia.
Then on to Washington and the meetings with Roosevelt. Paul filmed almost every event, sometimes with his Newman Sinclair camera. They all went to Canada where Churchill made his “Some chicken, some neck” speech.
Upon returning to Washington, Churchill held a “meet the press” gathering in a restaurant. Paul, who had always had a weight problem, was probably around eighteen stone at the time.
Paul Wyand wrote : ‘….Churchill entered wearing his famous one-piece siren suit. He came straight over to me, put his arm round my shoulders and quoted‘:
“Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’ nights;
Yond’ Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous!”
Paul Wyand and Martin Gray filmed the Churchill speech to joint houses of the American Congress and House of Representatives for the Movietone story, “Mr Churchill Speaks to America“.
In November 1943, Paul Wyand was summoned before the editorial team at Movietone. They told him that, up to that point, filming of battle scenes had all been silent. As an experiment, they wanted to send a sound unit to the Mediterranean. Wyand was told that he was to go with Martin Gray and that they would see the war in comfort. He was told that they would be interviewing Generals and the wounded ‘”…and that sort of thing”.
Wyand’s camera car was a Humber Imperial, which had been bought from a retired admiral. It had a reinforced roof to take the weight of the Wall camera and, of course, the overweight Paul Wyand. The car was to carry the crew, the cameras, the sound gear, batteries, dynamos to charge the batteries and an impressive array of spares of just about everything. Paul also took 20,000 feet of film. The whole assembly now weighed two tons.
By contrast the average newsreel cameraman would be carrying a twenty-pound camera and a thousand feet of film.
They were on their way to Italy. They experienced many adventures on arrival, but what they wanted to do was to get where the action was.
They were guided to a position near the village of Suio where they could set up their equipment to film an arranged artillery barrage.
Paul Wyand wrote; “At eleven the shells screamed overhead, and at the press of a button I took the first action pictures with sound ever recorded on a battlefront”.
Paul Wyand heard that the British section of the Fifth Army were to attempt to cross the Garigliano River.
Wyand went on “Under the cover of darkness we drove to the forward line and set up our gear near a bombed house. At exactly 9 p.m. the blackness was perforated by a thin red line of tracer bullets. At this signal the entire valley exploded in a monstrous nightmare of light and sound. The flash of artillery – the explosions of shells, bombs, and mortars – the crackle of rifle and machine-gun fire – the clanking rumble of armoured vehicles and lorries – voices cursing, commanding, questioning ….The sound we recorded then is still frequently used when film companies crate battle scenes”.
A short time later, Wyand and Gray went to a road block where they were stopped. This was three miles from Cassino. The American MP manning the road block advised them not to pass, but let them through when they insisted.
After a few days taking shelter from German bombs, he filmed the mass bombing of the Cassino Monastery which had been a strongpoint occupied by the German Army.
Paul and Martin were constantly needing to find ways and means to get their rushes back to London.
After filming near Naples he wrote:
“I sent my film home on any available aircraft, the more important material going aboard the daily courier Mosquito from Headquarters, which flew over France at “nought” feet in a direct line to England”.
Running repairs to the camera equipment and the Humber Pullman were often carried out by Paul himself calling upon his earlier experience in the field of motor racing. However, when the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, REME, were nearby, they were always willing to lend a hand.
In the first three weeks of July, 1944, there was little for him to do. He had a few minor assignments and he had his portrait painted by Henry Carr, who was, at that time, an official war artist.
Paul writes: “The War Office wanted a painting of a “typical” war correspondent and, for some reason, I was selected. The portrait was exhibited throughout Britain and is now in the possession of the Imperial War Museum”.
Paul followed the advancing Allied Armies into Rome where he recorded an event in the Vatican whereby Pope Pius XII blessed members of the British and American forces, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Later he filmed the visit of Winston Churchill to the Fifth Army in the region of Leghorn.
On August 20th 1944, Paul Wyand received a message which read “Cover South of France soonest”.
He found it difficult to get the camera car to southern France, so he climbed aboard any transport aircraft and did air to ground shots of some of the battles in the Rhone Valley.
While waiting for passage to the south of France, he did more filming of the events unfolding in Rome. These included the trials of Italian “traitors”.
It was not until September 27th that the camera car was loaded on to an American landing craft for the voyage to France. However, upon arrival in France, Paul Wyand received another signal from London which read “Return London immediately to prepare join Second Army in Holland”.
By that time Paris had been liberated so Martin and Paul drove up to Paris and then on to Cherbourg where they managed to drive on to an L.S.T. (Landing Ship, Tanks) for the voyage back to the South Coast of England.
Upon arriving home, Paul weighed himself, he was down to fifteen stone 10 pounds.
On January 6th, he and Martin, in the 1935 Humber Pullman, were off to Brussels to meet up with the Second Army with which group they would see out the war.
They filmed the crossing of the Rhine. As the Allies moved forward Paul and Martin found that, often, they were the first correspondents there. They were in the front line and frequently under fire.
Here, I will attempt to clarify the situation concerning the filming of Belsen Concentration Camp.
The camp was first reached by the British forces on April 15th, 1945. The first cameraman on the scene was Sergeant Ian Grant, of the Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU) later to become a colleague of Paul Wyand and myself.
AFPU members, of 5 Section, were operating in pairs, a cine cameraman and a photographer. Grant’s partner was Sergeant Peter Norris. The unit was under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Hugh Stewart and the other cameramen at Belsen were Lieutenant Wilson and Sergeants Hayward, Seaholme, Leatherbarrow, Hewitt and Parkinson.
Ian Grant filmed the first scenes, but after a few hours, because of the horrific nature of the scene, his commanding officer ordered him out of the camp. There were other AFPU cameramen and photographers with the forward British forces and the commanding officer decided to rotate them over the following days working two days at a time before being relieved.
Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart ordered his camera teams to remain at Belsen for two weeks to ensure that the complete scene was covered for posterity.
On April 23rd, the advanced units, with which Paul Wyand and Martin Gray were attached, arrived at Belsen. They, too, filmed everything they could and, like Ian Grant, experienced great personal distress. Wyand and Gray were obliged to break off their work, from time to time, to vomit.
Paul Wyand moved on to Oyle where he met Cecil Bernstein (brother of Granada TV’s Sidney Bernstein) who was working with the Ministry of Information and Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). He said to Paul “The Government want evidence. The Ministry must have authentic pictures of the German guards against the Belsen background. Get each guard you film to give the day and the date, then let him make any statement he likes. Do the same with the prisoners”.
It was considered essential to record what the prison guards, and the inmates, said and Paul Wyand was the only one with the means to do so.
At the Belsen Trial, Colonel T.M. Backhouse M.B.E. T.D., who opened the case for the prosecution said:
“It is proposed to show a film which was taken when the British authorities went into the camp, and that will give you some idea of the conditions and the degradation to which the human mind can descend”.
The material shot by Paul Wyand was incorporated in a film called “M.O.I. SPECIAL ON BELSEN’. The film was used at the Nuremburg Trials.
It is entirely possible that Ian Grant and Paul Wyand, who worked together in the early sixties at Movietone, ever knew that they were both at Belsen at the same time. To my knowledge, neither of them ever mentioned their experience.
Wyand and Gray moved on to Luneburg Heath which was the headquarters of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. Paul had met him in Italy where Monty had refused to allow Paul to use his sound camera, but here it seemed that Monty wanted to say a few words and have them recorded.
Paul Wyand wrote:
I had my back to Monty’s caravan, and was bending over my camera when I heard the Field Marshal say ‘Who’s that ?’. His A.D.C. replied : ‘It’s the cameraman, sir’.
‘Looks more like a Sherman tank to me’ said Monty.
Monty wanted to make a statement about the German surrender. Paul and Martin had no idea that the end of hostilities was so near. They filmed the statement and shipped it off to London.
The indomitable pair moved on to film the link up between the British and Russian armies. Then they had to get back to Luneburg.
As the only sound crew in the area, Monty gave Paul and Martin the job of filming the surrender.
It was to take place in a tent which was about twenty feet square. It would be crowded and Paul had to film the proceedings through a flap in the tent wall.
“Lighting was my big problem, and,……. I scrounged around for photoflood bulbs. Ken Gordon (Pathe) had a few; Ian Struthers (Paramount) had some more; the rest came from a photographic supply shop in Luneburg. I borrowed an army generator and by 4.30 the tent was lighted like a Hollywood film set”.
Montgomery inspected the set-up and approved. He asked Paul where he should stand and Paul pointed out the ideal position. His flustered ADC said ”The Field Marshal cannot do that, he must meet them”. But, Montgomery said “Of course, they’ll come to me”.
Paul suggested a pause after the initial talks to allow him to change lenses to which Monty replied:
“There will be no initial talks, if they don’t sign, we fight on”.
The film was shipped back to London by courier aircraft.
The following day was the cease-fire May 5th 1945. Paul and Martin filmed the scene in the nearby town of Luneburg.
Paul was ordered to go to Berlin, but he could not obtain passes and, eventually, the coverage in Berlin was handled directly by London.
On June 3rd 1945 he received a message from Movietone in London;
“Essential you return soonest to cover Derby on June 9th”
Everything was soon back to normal at Movietone.
In June 1946, Paul Wyand was one of the cameramen filming The Victory Parade, another was Martin Gray who, was working on his first assignment as a cameraman.
Later that year, Paul Wyand accompanied Tommy Scales on a voyage to New York on board the liner Queen Elizabeth on what was her official maiden voyage. Tommy Scales became ill with quinsy and Paul remained with him in the United States until he recovered. They sailed home on November 14th 1946.
Paul Wyand was selected to go to South Africa to cover the Royal Tour. He was accompanied by Derek Stiles, his soundman. Together, they were the heaviest crew in the newsreel business, by a long way. The “silent” cameraman was Graham Thompson, also of Movietone. They were filming on the basis of what was know as “Royal Rota” which meant that their coverage would be shared with all the newsreels.
It was virtually impossible to buy a new car in 1947 and Movietone had ordered several new camera cars, but their delivery was a long way off. As a result, extensive work was carried our on the Humber Imperial, affectionately know as “CCG”, part of her number plate. She was re-sprayed over her wartime camouflage, but still retained her army wheels and tyres. “CCG” would finally be retired in 1955.
She was shipped by cargo ship to Cape Town. Wyand, Stiles and Thompson covered the Royal Tour and travelled the length and breadth of South Africa in the next three months.
The next main Royal event was the wedding of Princess Elizabeth. This was the first full ceremonial event since the war and the Escort of the Household Cavalry and the route-liners were all in their dress uniforms for the first time since 1939.
Paul also recalls that on that day, for the first time, such an event was covered by television.
Paul was at London Airport when King George VI saw Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh depart for a Commonwealth tour. He was ailing and within a few days he died.
Paul Wyand was at St. George’s Chapel when the cortège entered. He wrote:
“…and I am not ashamed to admit that tears were streaming down by cheeks. King George VI had been a good and popular man and I cherish my memories of the occasions when I saw and spoke to him”.
Paul was involved in the shooting of the 1951 General Election. In spite of rumours to the contrary, Movietonews gave a balanced view of the various parties.
Paul tells the story of setting up the shoot of an election address by a Communist candidate. Paul took the man and his followers to a pub to discuss how best the film might be shot. The man told him that his best audience were at the dock gates in London.
Paul and Derek Stiles went there. Derek set up his microphone in the platform while Paul took up position on the roof of the Humber Imperial.
After a slow start, the candidate pointed towards Paul and screamed :
“Look at that fat bastard on that car! Look at ‘im, look at ‘is bleedin’ car” Where are your cars ? Talk abaht one law for the rich, Eh?” (Shouts of” Bloated Capitalists” and ‘What about the Workers’). “Living off the sweat of the proletariat. What did he do in the War, eh??”
What indeed !
In the late forties Paul Wyand and Derek Stiles became the principal crew to film speed record attempts. These were With Sir Malcolm Campbell, then Donald Campbell on the water, an R.A.F. team in the air.
In 1952, Paul Wyand was to pioneer the use of the anamorphic lens on a documentary film. He travelled to Los Angeles to receive instruction from the engineers of 20th Century Fox concerning “CinemaScope”. He was given the lens to carry home. There was no reserve lenses, indeed, the following year “The Robe” was shot on one lens.
Paul, together with soundman Reg Sutton, Went off to the Pacific Islands and then to New Zealand and Australia on the Movietone production “The Flight of The White Heron” (click to see full article), the documentary coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Tour of the Commonwealth. It was a first and was produced with stereophonic sound.
The coverage in Fiji and Suva was so good that Sir Gordon Craig cabled Paul to say “Film Fiji and Tonga so successful decided make ninety-minute full-length film”. This was instead of the original requirement of a twenty-minute film.
In Sydney, Paul and Reg were involved in an accident when the stand they were working on collapsed. Paul Broke his wrist and the camera magazine was smashed, the viewfinder was broken and the lens support had been broken off.
The Queen sent a message enquiring about him.
Australian Movietonews sent along Mark McDonald, a twenty-one year old cameraman to operate for Paul. The engineers made a complete repair of the camera and off they went to complete the tour.
During his various excursions and tours overseas, Paul Wyand gathered a large number of friends from among the press, the cameramen and journalists he had met. The home of Win and Paul Wyand in Oatlands Avenue, Weybridge, became a centre for house guests. In the garden, Paul had a large flag pole to the top of which he would run the national flag of his guest.
Mark MacDonald came to England, joined Movietone, became Royal Rota Cameraman and married Paul Wyand’s niece.
In June 1953 Paul was assigned to Westminster Abbey for the Coronation. He was on the Triforium, which was a platform high above the main door from which he was able to film the whole proceedings as well as the departing procession. The lighting inside the Abbey was not very good and additional lights were forbidden. However, Paul did a number of tests, in the weeks before, and was able to produce adequate quality in his pictures.
In 1955, Paul Wyand and crew, hired by Associated Rediffusion, made a series with Orson Welles on the subject of British Pubs. On April 5th 1956, Paul Wyand shot his last film for Movietonews. The subject was the award of The Seagrove Trophy to Donald Campbell, then the new holder of the world’s water-speed record.
The increase in assignments at Movietone, due to commitments to television programmes, the increase in activity with United Press Movietone Television and the Central Office of Information made it necessary to enlarge the News Room.
Jack Ramsden became Production Manager, while Paul Wyand became Assignments Manager.
Paul Wyand wrote: “The demands of television and other commitments had necessitated an increase in staff and, since I was chief cameraman, I was considered the best choice for the newly created post of Assignments Manager, a position which involved (among numerous other tasks) the assigning of cameramen to job, according to their qualification and availability.
Paul calculated that he had been on 4711 assignments for Movietone over the previous twenty years.
His place as Chief Cameraman was taken over by another of the great newsreel cameramen – Norman Fisher (click on the link for my Colleagues article on Norman).
Three years later, Paul was promoted to Production Manager and I rejoined Movietone to take his place as Assignments Manager.
During the next four years, it was a pleasure for me to be working with him. We were a team working both on the day-to-day assignments as well as future planning on jobs that were months away. We were busy people. On one day, in 1965, we assigned fifteen different jobs.
He was always jovial, never losing his temper with those inside the company, and always ready to offer advice to those young cameramen who were arriving at Movietone during the early sixties.
I have fond memories of those times, especially our lunches at “The Swan” in Denham village.
When I took up the post, I received a letter from Jack Ramsden:
12th March 1961
My dear Terry,
I am sorry I am not able to give you a personal welcome on your return to Movietone on Monday.
Having always held you in high esteem, I can only say how delighted I am, and hope you will remain with us for many years to come.
You will be working with my greatest friend Paul, and undoubtedly one of the greatest men in the business.
Keep your feet on the ground, whilst always remembering you can move ‘em fast when need demands – as in the old days at Wembley !
In 1968, Paul Wyand died in hospital after an operation. He was sixty-one years old. He was mourned and sadly missed especially by his close family, but also by a large number of friends and colleagues. Even now, over forty years later, I think of him often.
© Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
For more articles in the Colleagues series click here.
- Cameraman tales: Martin Gray – POW camp (terencegallacher.wordpress.com)
- Book review: Cameramen at War – Ian Grant (terencegallacher.wordpress.com)
- Book review: Useless if Delayed – by Paul Wyand (1907-1968) (terencegallacher.wordpress.com)
- Cameraman tales: Paul Wyand (terencegallacher.wordpress.com)
Wyand’ book is still a great read. What a life!
my name is sally, paul was my brothers god father, i was only 14 when he died i new nothing of the life he had led until this moment in time, . i loved him and his wife wyn, i also worked at vickers as did my father. after reading this article i feel very humble, many thanks paul. and god bles x
I am glad I have been able to provide you with some information about Paul’s life. Of course, my contribution is a drop in the ocean compared with what he packed in to his lifetime. I can recommend that you try to get a copy of his book “Useless if Delayed” which I have reviewed.
He and I worked together during the early sixties at Denham. He was a remarkable man.
Here’s a link:
hello i have just re read the whole artical and again i feel totally and uterley
moved, i telephoned my daughter, and she also read it and felt emotional . i thought my life was filled with important people ie. felix aylmer who was married to my grandmothers sister, also h l simms who was a well know cricketer, but this surpasses all, thank you. regards sally.
Many thanks for your comments. Paul Wyand was described as “The Greatest Newsreel Cameraman of his Day”. I have never heard anyone try to dispute that claim.
I am presuming that you have not read his book “Useless if Delayed” published by Harrap in 1959. It may still be possible to find a copy on sale on the internet.
Here are a couple of links that might be of interest to you. Paul’s Wall camera is on display at the Museum at the Tyneside cinema. See:
The next link is to a photo of Paul with his soundman Derek Stiles (later Scott-Leslie) in 1950.
Hi Paul was a family friend and used to visit us in Pembrokeshire in the 1950’s where he stayed with us and did some painting (water colours). Knew his father also. Good to see this info on Paul from people that worked with him
hello, i am 61 and only remember paul as a larger than life man, his wife wyn was allways special to me and was so kind and a great friend of my grandmother, my grandfather was harry lester simms, the great cricketer, so i was blessed with a wonderful life. he took me once to meet stirling moss, wow wasn’t i lucky. well it is nice to see feedback. thank you, sally cook nee mccormick
Thank you for your comments. I am glad to know that I have been able to shed some light on Paul’s career. I, ,of course, only know him from working with him and have little knowledge of his home life. He was agreat man, still sadly missed.