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Colleagues: Martin Gray – Movietone

Martin Gray started work with Movietonews as a Sound recordist.   He joined the company in 1937. He accompanied first Norman Fisher to France where together in May 1940 they covered the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force through Belgium.  They made their way to Boulogne where they were forced to abandon their camera car.  This was one of two cars Movietone left behind in France.  They took their camera and sound equipment, as well as their exposed negative aboard a ship bound for Dover.  They were ordered on to the ship.

Norman Fisher said of the event:  ‘Martin Gray and myself, with our Movietone camera car, filmed the retreat of the BEF through Belgium and France as best we could’: ‘We ended up about May 31st in Boulogne with a blown cylinder head on our Talbot 95 which we left in a garage. We removed our exposed film and such bits as we could carry and, under orders, boarded the first ship for Dover.’

English: Sir Winston Churchill.

Sir Winston Churchill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following year with Paul Wyand as his cameraman, Martin Gray covered the visit of Winston Churchill to North America in the Movietone story “Mr Churchill speaks to America”.  He carried on working with Paul Wyand covering stories in Britain.  In 1943, Paul Wyand and Martin Gray were sent to Italy to cover the battle scenes.   Their equipment was carried in a 1935 Humber Imperial which had been owned by a retired admiral who had kept it in perfect condition.  Paul Wyand, Martin Gray and the car were to be together until 1945.  In 1947, the car was used for the Royal Tour of South Africa, when Wyand was accompanied by Reg Sutton as soundman. In 1955, the car was sold for scrap.

Wyand and Gray were sent to Italy because, up to that point, no one had recorded the sound of battle.  It was to be the Movietone crew that would provide the first recordings.

Their first sound story was ‘Garigliano Front’ in November 1943.

Paul Wyand recalled in his book Useless If Delayed, publish in 1959: “I then heard that on the night of January 17th, troops of the British section of the Fifth Army were to attempt to cross the Garigliano.  Under cover of darkness, we drove to the forward line and set up our gear near a bombed house.  At exactly 9 pm the blackness of the night 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 create battle scenes.”

When their tour of duty in Italy came to an end, they were shipped to the south of France from where they drove the entire length of the country to Calais where they boarded a ferry for home.

Soon they were back in France where they went with the British forces through Belgium and Northern Germany.

They were among the first to film Belsen concentration camp making a number of sound interviews which were subsequently used at the trial of the German officers and troops who had been running the camp.

The Official Programme of the Victory Celebrat...

The Official Programme of the Victory Celebrations 8th June 1946 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Martin Gray became a cameraman in June 1946 and his first assignment was “The Victory Parade’.  Martin was stationed on the roof of the Odeon, Marble Arch. (I know, I was with him, click here for my article).  He left Movietone for ITN in August 1955 where he worked for some years.

While at ITN, Martin Gray married Barbara Mandell, the first British female television news reader.

We met in Melbourne in 1957, but I cannot recall what he was doing there.  We had lunch and talked about Movietone.

I believe that, eventually, he became a freelance cameraman.

Addititonal link: Cameraman tales: Martin Gray POW Camp

© Terence Gallacher and, 2012.  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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For more articles in the Colleagues series click here.

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