Photos provide rare glimpse into life as pilot during First World War
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A Bungay man who served as a fighter pilot during the First World War has left behind a “rare and unique” glimpse of life on the front line in a comprehensive photo album.
Alan Verso Clarke’s ‘With the RAF in France 1916-19’ captures crashed planes, bombed out cities and stunning aerial shots of Europe during the war.
The title of the album is somewhat misleading with the majority of the pictures included taken in Belgium.
Christopher Reeve, curator of Bungay Museum where the album is housed, spoke of the importance of the homemade artefact.
He said: “It is quite unique as it shows one man’s journey through his time abroad during the war.
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“It is important for us specifically as it is a Bungay man serving during the First World War and creating such a detailed record of that period.”
Alan was a professional photographer having grown-up apprenticing his father Benjamin Clarke – who owned and operated a photography studio at 17 Earsham Street.
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In 1914 as he was preparing to take over the family business war broke out and Alan, with camera in tow, joined the Royal Flying Corps.
During his time with the flying corps he captured the day-to-day reality of the war with photographs of the ruinous farmhouses and intimate shots of soldiers enjoying downtime between battles.
Mr Reeve said: “The whole thing seems quite unusual. A normal solider would not have been allowed to take photographs.
“There were not a lot of people with cameras and there were limitations on what he could photograph.
“Perhaps as Alan was a professional he was given special permission by his superiors – they may even have been glad someone was recording it.”
He added: “You can’t put a value on it – the whole thing is so unique.
“National museums may be interested in it as it is such a unique record of what it was really like in Belgium during the First World War.”
Alan had no children and when he died the album was given to his niece Pam Ward – who in turn donated it to Bungay Museum two years ago.
Due to the fragility of the album it is yet to go on public display.
However, sections of the album will feature in Bungay Museum’s upcoming exhibition marking the First World War centenary.