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Lot 28: Gallipoli - unrecorded panoramic photos
April 30, 2015
Adelaide, AustraliaLive Auction
[Gallipoli] A collection of fifteen superb vintage gelatin silver panoramic photographs (each approximately 90 x 303 mm) taken in May-June 1915 in the vicinity of Cape Helles, where the British forces invaded the Gallipoli Peninsula during the Dardanelles Campaign. Extensive research has not located reproductions of these extraordinary images, which suggests they are almost certainly unpublished and unrecorded. The identity of the photographer remains unknown, but we presume him to be British, and an officer (judging by the shadow he casts in two of the images, and the freedom with which he moves through the sprawling camps). Twelve of the photographs have minor edge chips that have negligible impact on the images; two of these twelve have a large tear across them expertly closed; a further two photographs have uneven loss of about a centimetre from the left-hand edge (but again, the impact on the scene depicted is minimal); and one image has greater loss to the left-hand edge, with a couple of larger than usual chips to the top edge nearby, but the key elements of this photograph are well-removed from the damage. All fifteen panoramas have had minimal expert conservation treatment; they are in very stable condition, housed individually in Mylar pockets with loose acid-free card supports. Only one photograph is captioned ('Ammunition near Seddl [sic] Bahr' is written on the verso in pencil), but the presence of the grounded SS River Clyde and the ruins of the old fort firmly establish the location.
A key image in this series, scarcely to be believed at first sight, features prominently an aeroplane on the ground at Cape Helles. It is a Maurice Farman biplane, MF465, attached to Number 3 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, then based on the nearby island of Tenedos. A recent book by Hugh Dolan, 'Gallipoli Air War. The Unknown Story for the Fight for the Skies over Gallipoli' (2013) records that a forward aerodrome was surveyed at Cape Helles. 'A flat stretch of earth was levelled ending at the Divisional Headquarters.... In the first week of May three shuttle flights brought spares, oil, fuel and ground crew to service two airframes based at this forward aerodrome. By 5 May it was a working forward base'. More detail is to be found in 'The Royal Air Force in the Great War' (1996/ 1936): 'Early in May a rough aerodrome had been made on Helles so that observers might land to report urgent information to corps headquarters. The landing ground had, however, many disadvantages [these photographs suggest this is putting it mildly!] ... At the end of the month [of June] the Helles aerodrome was given up except for emergency bombing - three aeroplanes having been wrecked there by shell fire'. The Maurice Farman, a distinctive pusher-configuration unequal-span biplane with a single tail surmounted by a pair of rudders, is also clearly visible in two other images. This strongly suggests that this series of photographs was taken over a short period of time, measured in hours, not days or weeks. The field of vision of these wide-angle panoramas is impressive, but the level of detail in each one, and the clarity with which it is captured, are what makes these photographs so remarkable. A picture may be worth a thousand words; almost any one of these panoramas is worth a thousand vest-pocket camera snapshots. [15 items].