History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. ~Winston Churchill

03 January, 2012

American Soldier Meets British Girl

A striking example of staged wartime propaganda, allegedly portraying a romance between a young British woman and American soldier stationed in the UK. The pair were not in fact romantically entwined; in fact, the woman could not stand the man, and they never saw each other after the shoot. Unfortunately, the experience only worsened for her--she actually received hate mail from British soldiers, accusing her of being a traitor for her "interest" in an American. None of this was made public, of course, nor is it associated with the images by the Imperial War Museum, who holds them; this context was provided by the woman's daughter in a comment (below). I confess this blog originally presented these photographs as cute and romantic despite the staging; of course I now regret this naive approach. 

© IWM (D 4758)

Original caption: "Robert 'Bob' Ames writes a cable home to family in the United States of America at the Post Office in Bournemouth, as Norah 'Mickey' McMullen looks on from behind the grille." Source

© IWM (D 4761)

Original caption: After dealing with his cable to the United States, Robert 'Bob' Ames and Norah 'Mickey' McMullen chat and get to know each other in the Post Office where Norah works, Bournemouth, 1941." Source

© IWM (D 4762)

Original caption: "After meeting in the Post Office where Norah 'Mickey' McMullen works, Robert 'Bob' Ames arranges to meet her for a date, later that day. Here we see Norah arriving to meet Bob on the promenade, where he is waiting for her. Behind them, other people enjoy the view or read the newspaper under a shelter." Source

© IWM (D 4767)

Original caption: "After a walk, Robert 'Bob' Ames and Norah 'Mickey' McMullen stop for a rest against a tree, Bournemouth, 1941."  Source

© IWM (D 4769)

Original caption: "As they sit under a tree after a walk, Norah 'Mickey' McMullen writes her name on the gas mask case of her new boyfriend Robert 'Bob' Ames, Bournemouth, 1941." Source

© IWM (D 4757)

Original caption: "A head and shoulders portrait of the smiling happy couple. Robert Ames and Norah McMullen have just met and are clearly very happy together."  Source


Clare Jones said...

These pictures are entirely staged. Mickey was my Mum, Norah Mickey McMullen. She couldn't stand the GI in question and never met him again after the photo shoot.
And as an interesting postscript to this piece of wartime propaganda, she actually received hate mail from British Troops accusing her of being a traitor in showing affection to an American.

Writing as her daughter, I loathe these photographs.

Anna said...

Hello Clare, thank you so much for the comment, that is fascinating to know. I'm sorry her experience was so awful and I can imagine it's disturbing to see the whole thing presented as "cute." I don't want to further mis-represent the actual context of the photographs. I will rewrite the intro now, keeping it general, but let me know what you would prefer-- a more direct explanation of the context of the photographs, or the removal of the post entirely. My apologies for my slow response--comments on older posts in this blog must be reviewed by me before posting, and I have been lax in doing so.

Richard said...

What an interesting post and even more interesting comments. As hurtful as these pictures clearly are for Clare, this post highlights the difficulty that museums and archives can face with their collections - What to do when new information makes the existing information 'wrong?' With hindsight (always perfect!) we can see why such pictures were made at a time when there was potential and actual friction between American soldiers and the British population, particularly in the south of England, where army camps and the D-Day embarkation ports were. A popular saying at the time caught the feelings of many about the 'Yanks': Over-paid, Over-sexed and over here!' Add to this the natural fears and anxieties of fighting men posted abroad about their own young relationships and you can begin to understand the feelings of all concerned. I realise this is an old post but perhaps Clare might consider donating any letters etc concerning the photo shoot to the Imperial War Museums?

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