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Sunday, 17 July 2022

Panora

This is my dad’s school Panora photograph from the nineteen-thirties. Its length makes it difficult to show. The firm, Panora Limited, specialized in school and college groups and was founded in Clerkenwell in 1916. Groups sat in a semi-circle, the camera panned round, and the picture was printed to make it look as if the whole school has been sitting in a long straight line.

Dad always imagined that when we eventually came to clear out his house, all his things would be dumped in a large skip on the drive with the Panora picture smashed on top. But it’s not. It’s on the wall in our office.

I recognise a few of the teachers: the new headmaster on the second row from the front behind the gap between the seated boys and girls, and the young English mistress five places to his right. Both remained at the school until they retired during my time there. I can name some of the other teachers too from staff and class photographs taken shortly before I went, such as the man with facial injury from the First World War, and my dad’s form teacher. How privileged to be a grammar school teacher prior to around 1960, esteemed, unhassled and reasonably well-paid.

And here is Dad. He’s the serious-looking one on the left of the middle row in this small group (from near the top-right of the main picture).
  

You may notice he is standing with one shoulder higher than the other. That’s because he had a short leg caused by poliomyelitis contracted as a toddler just after he had learned to walk. He had to learn to walk a second time. The boy who lived two doors along the street caught it first, and the infection is thought to have spread along the drains of the outdoor toilets. My dad had to wear a leg-iron for several years and had an awfully thin leg for the rest of his life. It didn’t stop him walking a lot, but it did eventually do for him because he broke it in a fall at home, ended up in hospital, and died of respiratory failure in his eighties.

On the other hand, it may
considerably have prolonged his life, and nor might I be here. It made him unfit for war service, so he spent the Second World War on his Velocette motorcycle as an air raid patrol messenger. In contrast, his friend, Arthur Mann, who is next-but-one at the other end of the middle row wearing glasses, became a pilot officer on bombers in the Royal Air Force.

My dad went for a drink with Arthur whilst he was on leave, just before he was due to return to his squadron at the end of November, 1943. “I could see in his eyes he didn’t want to go back, and how frightened he was,” Dad told me many years later. A few days later, Arthur and his aeroplane were lost over Germany.

Rawcliffe War Memorial. Arthur Mann is on the 1939-1945 panel.
I know about many of the other names too. The stupidity of war.


From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and other records, I can see that Pilot Office Arthur Mann, son of Arthur and Annie Mann of 30 High Street, Rawcliffe, Yorkshire, 207th Squadron of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, died aged 23 on the 2nd December, 1943. He had been in the R.A.F. for three years, having trained in Canada. He had been a qualified pilot for about fifteen months, and taken part in ten raids over Germany as Captain of an Avro Lancaster Bomber. The squadron had recently moved to R.A.F. Spilsby in Lincolnshire.

Earlier, from his village school, Arthur had won a County Minor Scholarship to the Grammar School and then joined the clerical staff of the Electricity Board. He had played for Rawcliffe Cricket Club, and as outside right for Rawcliffe United Football Club. He is commemorated in Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery and on Rawcliffe War Memorial.

Lancaster 1 ED601 took off 16.37 on 2nd December, 1943, from RAF Spilsby. Crashed near Saalow 6km NW of Zossen. Crew of 7: Flying Officer Harry Frederick Charles Bonner, Sergeant Frederick Lloyd Brisco (Canadian), Flying Officer Edward Vincent Harley, Pilot Officer Arthur Mann, Sergeant Sydney Martin, Sergeant Norman Farrar Petty and Sergeant Alfred Sugden Rushby.

44 comments:

  1. What a lovely tribute to your Dad Tasker and to his comrades. I come from Lincolnshire - a great county for aerodromes being so flat. Boys knew how to behave in those days. By the time I went into teaching it was Comprehensive, inner city, multi racial. I have a school photo like that from my Girls' High school (Lincoln) Days

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    1. Thanks, Pat (I presume). Also a tribute to his friend Arthur. It was only when my headstrong Beatles influenced generation got in that behaviour started to deteriorate.
      The more I think about the main memoir content for this blog, the more I find myself coming back to my dad, but also to my mum and other family members.

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  2. There is also sadness of course, lives lived, lives lost. A record of the large schools we all attended. Family history is an interesting subject as we record the changes, your life so different from your father. His life, quieter and simpler, the baby boomers wanting it all.

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    1. I like to think I didn't want it all or expect it, but essentially we were simply given it. The lives of the post-WW2 generation were much more cushioned than theirs.

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  3. This is such a sweet post, about boys who became old men and those who didn't.

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    1. A post born out of contemplating the Panora picture. My dad could name quite a lot of them, but I doubt there's anyone who can now.

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  4. I have my Grammar school picture like this one. I suspect I've outlived a lot of the students in it. It dates to the early fifties.

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    1. They didn't do Panora pictures in my time, mainly just class groups. It occurs to me that anyone in the picture still living will be 100 or more, or fast approaching it. Was it in 'The History Boys' someone said of school group photographs "They are just like you except that they're all dead"?

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  5. I remember how frightened my parents were of my brother and I getting polio. Mum wasn't too happy about us going to the local swimming baths as she thought it a likely place to pick up the disease. There was a polio scare sometime in the late '50's and she made me get in line with all the toddlers for a sugar cube dose. Very infra dig for a teenager! I can remember the whole school in position on the playing field for our panorama photo. The photo is long gone. The school comprised 300 girls and I knew every name. (Coming to Yorkshire next month for a school friend's wedding.)

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    1. Have I got it right about being seated in a semi-circle?
      I remember the films of children in "iron lungs", with only their heads outside the machine. Fortunately, my dad wasn't that badly affected, and I was one of the first to be able to have a polio jab.

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  6. Two young lives, both with their tragedies, but one fatal and one not. A lot of RAF personnel trained on the Canadian prairies, including here in Edmonton.

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    1. As responded above, Dad wasn't too badly affected except for his leg, and he never complained about it.
      The training in Canada must have seemed exciting until they got back to England and went into action and the reality hit home.

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  7. So many Arthurs, lost but hopefully not forgotten.
    P has a friend whose father was killed in the assault on Walcheren only a few months before he was born. I find it very sad that he never got to know his dad.

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    1. And still monsters like Putin cause havoc and there will be so many more children in Ukraine and Russia, and in so many other places in the world too, who will never know their dads.

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  8. The world is so close to eradicating polio and how? Vaccines and so those against vaccines in current times are just fools.

    I hadn't heard of Panora photos. Rather interesting and it sounds as if it requires some good skills.

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    1. I was one of the first cohorts to get the polio vaccine - in those days a jab rather than the sugar cubes.
      Potty's comment below about Panora photographs amuses me.

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    2. There are arguments for the polio vaccine that one might not attribute to vaccines for say, Covid. Not all are fools who refuse the latter ;)

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  9. I bow my head in gratitude for Arthur Mann's service and shake it in sorrow for the life he might have led if that terrible war had never happened.

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    1. Just one of so many - on both sides - in those days you we even more likely to believe what your country told you.

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  10. Polio was the bogey man when I was a child in the 40ties. My next youngest brother volunteered (with my parents' consent) to participate in a vaccination program. Two brothers in my neighborhood had the disease, one much worse than the other. I saw a documentary film that featured an iron lung. I ran from the room.
    Thank you for the post. It's good to remember what of our past we have conquered.

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    1. You could even get it in later life, like President Roosevelt. I too found the iron lung documentaries rather frightening - I seem to remember they showed the children in them to be happy and smiling.

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  11. I have settings on my cameras labelled Panorams, that take photos such as that one, but I'd have a hard time finding it now. I don't try the settings much anymore, relying mostly on auto.

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    1. The number of settings on nearly all devices now are bewildering.. There was a time I would investigate them all, but like you I can't be bothered now. I bet annoyed when the car decides of its own accord to show me something other than the digital speedo I normally have.

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  12. On a lighter note, the trick was getting round the back quickly and being on the photo twice!

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    1. The thought of that amuses me. You had me looking at my dad's picture to see whether anyone had done it. You would have to be pretty quick though - better chance if you ran the shorter distance behind the camera. I suspect you of perpetuating something apocryphal.

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    2. It has definitely been done and there are photos to prove it, I have seen them. My brothers' school has these photos too, all through its school life with my father there in the '20s and '30s and then my brothers in the '40s and '50s and '60s. We have all the photos. I also have my mum's from another school in the 1930s. My brother claimed to have run from one end to the other although I am not sure whether he did or not but as he was quite a prankster it would not surprise me if he did but I have seen a photo in the newspaper of a photo where a boy did do it.

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    3. Well, there's always a place for healthy scepticism but if you've seen it then there we have it. I'm still surprised the camera circled slowly enough for it to be possible.

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    4. Not a school photo, but in this one you can see me poised on the left to reposition myself as the camerawoman panned (I had to run round behind her)! https://i.imgur.com/vKxMR0D.jpg

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  13. Arthur Mann had good reason to be scared. Lancaster crews had one of the worst survival rates of all the UK Bomber Command. From the Imperial War Museum - "During the whole war, 51% of aircrew were killed on operations, 12% were killed or wounded in non-operational accidents and 13% became prisoners of war or evaders. Only 24% survived the war unscathed."

    My father was with B-17s in the UK during the war and in later years he did a great deal of writing research at the archives in Washington. I used to go with him to take notes and would read through original pilot logs from some of the most harrowing missions as they described losing their own crew members to flak or enemy fire, or seeing other bombers in their formation get hit and either crash (sometimes into other B17s when hit) or blow up in the skies. It was beyond heartbreaking.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. I didn't know the statistics were that bleak. They would have hushed it up at the time. It must have been terrifying for anyone on these missions, whatever aeroplane they were in. Similarly for the German crews over Britain.
      I wonder whether Arthur's logs still exist. I guess they would be at Kew if anywhere.

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  14. I'm reminded reading your thoughtful post how history is not some abstract idea, but rather very real and not often too terribly distant.

    The panora of your Dad's class looks impressively long. What a neat printing technique!

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    1. I should have said that the photograph itself is 3 feet six inches long (about 105cm), and the width of the whole frame is 3 feet 10 another 10cm).
      Good point about history. We don't think of it at the time, but we also knew that my dad's dad had an awful cough caused by gas in WW1.

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  15. rhymeswithplague19 July 2022 at 17:30

    Enjoyed this interesting post. Packed away somewhere in a cardboard tube in this house is a panoramic picture of the 3769th Training Squadron (I think those are the numbers) at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, from 1961. I am in it but I cannot tell you whether the camera moved in a straight line or a semi-circle. I actually do forget some things.

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    1. These pictures are awkward to keep, and would have to be rolled up if not framed. Do you remember many of the others in it?

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  16. rhymeswithplague20 July 2022 at 01:03

    The last time I looked at it (several years ago now) I recognized several faces but could remember only one name — Paul DiNapoli of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have no idea why I remember him.

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    1. It's a bit worrying isn't it. I'm usually ok with group photographs, but when I look back through old diaries or other things I wrote years ago I have no recollection of some names or things at all.

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  17. I was touched by this post. I live in MB, Canada. I emigrated to Canada in 1967, and I knew little of the history in Manitoba. One day when walking round a cemetery in Winnipeg I saw a grave and it was for David Refrew Petrie. Two planes had collided mid air on a night time training exercise on the 5th October 1943. Nine young men died. A heart breaking disaster part of the Commonwealth air training program.I did some research and discovered he had been part of a Canadian WWII Pilot Training centre at Rivers, Manitoba. David Renfrew Petrie had died with other young men, when two planes had collided in mid air in a night time training exercise.on 5 October 1943. So many young men killed before going overseas. Jean/Winnipeg

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    1. As someone else commented, you don't have to look far before you realise that history has real implications felt for decades, sometimes by those who had no connection with those affected. In wars it is always the ordinary people who suffer. I'm thinking about wars currently going on in the world.
      I was struck that one of the others lost with Arthur Mann was Canadian.

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  18. What a great post and a fabulous photo. I have an old school photo - not so long and last year met again with my old classmates and took a group photo almost 50 years on. It was a highlight of my year

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    1. It must have been fascinating meeting them again, but I'm not sure I could cope. Maybe I'm too sensitive. I've been invited to reunions and, yes, there are those I'd love to see again and catch up with, but there are others I wouldn't. Either go or not go to one, it would leave me traumatised for days.

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  19. I've just found another example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Telescope_peak_summit_360_deg._pano.jpg If you look close at the left you will see a walker some way away. Evidently, as the photographer panned for this 360+ degree shot the walker proceeded closer and thus appears as such on the far right of the image.

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    1. Had difficult in finding him on left as I don't see red very well.
      The wonders of Panora and panorama.

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