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Son spots father on Historic Dunkirk footage

Historic footage from HMS Whitehall

Peter Brown's father teeing off aboard HMS Whitehall

A Cheshire man spotted his father on historic footage of the Dunkirk evacuation which was originally discovered at The University of Manchester Library.

Peter Brown, who lives and works in the Lake District as a pianist, was astonished to see his father feature so prominently in the films which were shot 75 years ago, during the evacuation of Allied forces from Dunkirk in 1940.

Last year the footage, which captures key moments of the rescue from Dunkirk of over 300,000 British and allied troops trapped by advancing German forces, generated substantial media interest because they provide an incredibly rare and unique insight.

The films were shot by Lieutenant Philip Roderick Hall who was serving aboard the destroyer HMS Whitehall, one of hundreds of naval vessels, merchant ships and small boats that took part in the rescue.

The reels of film were discovered at the University’s John Rylands Library by a member of the Heald-Hall family whose remarkable archive of correspondence, letter-books and diaries, spanning from 1866 to 1987, is one of hundreds of outstanding collections of rare books, manuscripts, archives, maps and visual materials housed in the Library.

Last month, Peter Brown came across the digitised versions of the reels of black and white footage on Manchester University’s website whilst researching pictures of the first destroyer on which his father served during World War II.

He said: “Imagine my astonishment when noticing in reel one my own father, coming into shot from the left and knocking over the officer who was sitting on the lilo!

“A few seconds later, he’s the guy on the left of the trio, sticking a finger up at the cameraman! He goes on to cartwheel down the deck, taking a golf stroke, sunbathe on a lilo and walk the tightrope!

“Subsequent to these antics, he appears prominently in the swimming pool scenes in reels one and two, helping the dog onto a lilo and diving and jumping into the pool in various ways with the lilo.”

Last year, the films, which had never previously been broadcast and had been seen by only a handful of people, were digitised by the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University. The films can be viewed on YouTube, while the original reels have been donated to the Imperial War Museum in London for specialist preservation.

John Hodgson, Manuscripts and Archives Manager, said: “It is astounding that we were able to reunite a son with such precious memories of his father. We took the decision to release the footage to the media because we felt they were an important record of such an historic moment when our servicemen and civilians risked their lives to rescue the stricken army. But we never imagined we’d end up giving a family a window into the life of one of their relatives.”

Notes for editors

The footage is available to view on Youtube and images of Peter Brown and his father are available via the Media Relations Team at The University of Manchester.

Media enquiries to:

Kath Paddison
Media Relations Officer
The University of Manchester
Tel: 0161 275 0790
Mob: 07990 550050

Updated: Thu, Mar 24, 2016