Western Front Association

PHOTO HOAX: Chris Page travelled from Yorkshire to deliver a fascinating talk at the last meeting of the Western Front Association. His subject was the Cockburn-Lange collection of photographs.

In 1933, the anonymous Death in the Air, The War Diary and Photographs of a Flying Corps Pilot, purported to be the record of a Royal Flying Corp pilot during the First World War, and included photos allegedly taken by the pilot during aerial combat.

Chris’s talk was illustrated with many of the dozens of photos in the collection, some of which are truly amazing.

They caused a sensation when published. Initially accepted as genuine, questions soon began to be asked about their authenticity although there were always some people who thought them the genuine article.

The photos were supposedly owned by Gladys Maud Cockburn-Lange, but had actually been faked by Wesley Archer.

On the handful of occasions when it was necessary to parade Mrs Cockburn-Lange, Archer’s wife Betty played the role.

The Cockburn-Lange hoax persisted until it was exposed, purely by chance, in the early 1980s.

Chris built the suspense during the evening and hid the truth of this until the very end of his talk.

The WFA’s next talk, on June 27, will be delivered by another speaker from Yorkshire, David Tattersfield.

The Court Martial of Willie Stones and the Durham Six will take the form of recreating the trials of seven men of the 19th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, a bantam unit, who were accused of quitting their posts during what became known as the King’s Crater incident, in November 1917. Three were later executed.

The talk after that, on July 25, will be by Peter Hart, oral historian at the Imperial War Museum, who will be making what is rapidly turning out to be his annual visit to the branch, on this occasion to deliver his talk The French at Gallipoli.

As always, WFA meetings will be held at Alnmouth Ex-Servicemen’s Club starting at 7.30pm for 8pm. Visitors and new members welcome. The suggested minimum donation is £1 to include a light buffet supper.