Thursday, May 14, 2015

Graflex Speed Graphic pt II: My very own piece of military history

I'm fairly certain I unknowingly bought THE camera used by the photographer responsible for some very iconic photographs of the Canadian Forces' involvement in the Korean war (1950 - 1953). And not just the same model of camera, but THE ACTUAL camera he shot with, as shown in this photo.

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This appears to be THE Speed Graphic camera I just bought off eBay, being held by Sergeant Paul Tomelin, photographer with No. 25 Canadian Public Relations Unit. Fort Lewis, Washington, April 1951. Credit: D.L. Burleson/Canada. Dept. of National Defense/Library and Archives Canada/PA-193475 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Library and Archives Canada

Let's break down some of the supporting evidence for WHY I think I own this particular camera.

1) The camera case: there is a faint stamp of "Lieut P J Tomelin" on the top plate. "Lieut" being short for the military rank 'Lieutenant' would lead me to believe this was owned by a military serviceman.

2) Quarter plate format press cameras like this Anniversary Speed Graphic were made from the 1940's onward, and were used by Canadian Military Photographers of the Army Film and Photo Units. See here for more info.

3) The Chief Military Personnel gov't of Canada website has a published .pdf showing multiple Korean War photos taken by a Sergeant P.J. Tomelin, who is also cited as having won the British Empire Medal. See here for the .pdf.

4) This Korean War website lists Sergeant P.J.Tomlin (note the spelling error) of the No.25 Canadian Public Relations Unit as one of 27 recipients of the British Empire Medal (military) for the Korean War.

5) The Memory Project website, recording stories of Canadian War Vets, has an extensive feature on Sergeant Paul Tomelin, photographer with No. 25 Canadian Public Relations Unit.

6) Library and Archives Canada has hundreds of Korean War era photographs in it's collection by Sergeant Paul E. Tomelin.

Now for you sharp eyed folks, you may note that my case was stamped P.J. Tomelin, not P.E Tomelin. However, you will also note that the Forces.gc.ca published document credits P.J. Tomelin as the photographer for the very same photos that are found in Library and Archives Canada. Based on all the above evidence showing links between P.J Tomelin and Paul E. Tomelin, it seems likely that P.J. Tomelin/ Paul E. Tomelin are the same person.

All that to say, I believe the camera in my current possession has a lot of military historical significance. Check out a couple shots he took during the Korean War, below.

Speed Graphic-1
Sherman tanks of B Squadron, Lord Strathcona's Horse, crossing the Imjin River after completing their tour, 16 July 1952.
Credit: Paul Tomelin / DND / Library and Archives Canada / PA-115496 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Library and Archives Canada

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"Face of War." Private Heath Matthews of C Company, 1 Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, awaiting medical aid after night patrol near Hill 166, 22 June 1952.
Credit: Paul Tomelin / DND / Library and Archives Canada / PA-128850 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Library and Archives Canada


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Sergeant Paul Tomelin is the one 2nd from the right, with the big Speed Graphic camera.
Credit: D.L. Burleson/Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-193477 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Library and Archives Canada

1 comment:

  1. Hi George,

    I think this is fantastic. You have the spelling for Paul correct; Paul J. Tomelin. I interviewed Paul two years ago in Kelowna, B.C. It was an honour to meet and speak with him. At the time his health was poor, but we talked about his career and some of his favourite pictures.
    I wonder if you could contact me and possibly share some pictures of Pauls camera? I run a website devoted to military photographers, and would love to hear more about your story of the camera. Sincerely...Dale

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