Military Photographs and How to Date Them
By Neil Storey
Published by Countryside Books (www.countrysidebooks.co.uk)
This publication is an extremely useful reference book. It aids the identification of the period in which the numerous and various uniforms of the (British) army, the Royal Navy (RN), the Royal Air Force (RAF) and its predecessors (the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS)) were worn. Photography was invented in the 1800’s so this book covers the period 1865 to the end of World War 2.
Most families in the UK have some connection to the military. The “mass volunteer / conscript” wars, namely the South African war (c. 1900), the First and Second World Wars, have affected virtually every British family so most families have some military photos of their ancestors. This publication will help with genealogical research and give the era in which that uniform was worn. It may even narrow the period down to a very short span say of two years or less.
The chapters are based on the rough chronology of the forces. The first chapter considers Victorian soldiers and sailors (1865 – 1900). Then it progresses via the Edwardian Era, the First World War, the Inter War period and finally to the Second World War. It introduces the RFC, RNAS, RAF and the Women’s forces based on when they were established. There are many excellent photos clearly showing the distinctive RFC tunic as well as the more familiar ones of the army, RN & RAF. It has numerous outstanding images of the uniforms worn by all branches of the Forces, the Home Guard and Women’s Services etc. The selected photos clearly illustrate the variety of uniforms and they are of a high quality. Often there are magnifications of insignia.
The book is essentially a photographic record of how the uniforms have changed over time and it notes what various illustrated insignia represent. It gives tips on how to conduct research into military photographs and comments how information on the “plain” reverse of many ‘photo postcards’ can yield data that could identify battalions and their location at specific dates. The book concludes with two appendices giving the 99 British Line Infantry Regiments of 1865 and the County Designations of the (Second World War) Home Guard – both of these are handy in their own right.
If you often encounter old military photographs and want to know more about them then this is an ideal book and well worth the cost. It has helped me significantly and I have been able to date some of those photos in my collection using the book. In summary, this book does what the cover states – it dates military photographs – but this in my opinion is a massive understatement. It is an excellent addition to the researchers’ library and vital if you are dating the uniforms worn in military photos.