Great and/or Important military photographs taken by military photographers

A purely subjective collection of images that celebrate the military photographer to which, from time to time I will add other images of my own choosing.  If you have an image that you think qualifies then send it to me at


Keeping Watch












This is a stunning image from a Royal Navy photographer whose name I regret I do not know.  What makes it is the tally, or name band of his ship.   Had it been some innocuous generic name, dare I suggest HMS Boaty McBoatface, then it would simply not have the power that it almost radiates with.


2nd May 1945

The Soviet army of WWII had combat cameramen attached to all the major fighting formations and they produced some of the most brilliant images of war and a vast achieve of film and still photographs.   They were acutely aware of the propaganda value of the camera.  This image, taken on May 2nd 1945,  of the Soviet flag being raised amidst the ruins of the capital city of the NAZI’ s on the the shattered roof of Hitlert’s Riechstag is a staged photograph taken by  Yevgeny Annanevich Khaldei, a red army photographer  who arranged for the original flag raising to be repeated.   It is nonetherless a magnificent image and would have inspired great rejoying thoughout the Sovet Union who had lost some six million in casualties.  It would have made men and women weep and remains one of the truly great iconic photographs of WWII.

It of course reminds us of another great flag raising photograph of WWII, that of the American flag being raised on Iwo Jima   

This too is a staged photograph, taken February 23, 1945, by Joe Rosenthal who asked the six marines to repeat the original flag raising with a larger flag.  The resulting image became the most widely used propaganda photograph, possibly of all time, with the individual marines becoming national heros and invited to recreate their actions in countless military exhibitions, tattoos and displays.   Strictly speaking Rosenthal was not a military photographer although he had served in the US marines as a photographer for a number of years, but by the time of Iwo Jima he was working for Associated Press.   However he lived in the same foxholes of the Marines, ate the same rations, felt the same fear and suffered the same trauma.  It is not unreasonable to describe him as an honorary military photographer.


When the Americans decided to use the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki they wanted every stage of the operation to be meticulously recorded.   The aircraft which carried and dropped the actual bomb, known as “Little Boy” was , a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, named by the crew a Enola Gay.  It was accompanied on it’s mission by a number of other B-29’s, loaded with military photographers whose sole task was to capture the event.  This photograph taken by US Army Air Force photographers on board the B-29 that they had christened Necessary Evil,  captures  the sheer terror of the atomic explosion which detonated directly over the Shima Hospital  in Hiroshima and resulted in the obliteration of a city of 350,000.   No military photographer should ever have to capture such an image again.

Ambush in Arnhem

A perfect ambush should provide no escape from the kill zone and this ambush by paratroppers from the 1st Airborne Division who dropped into Arnhem, by glider and by parachute in September 1944  during Operation Market Garden, caught the German Military Commander, General Friedrich Kussin, commander of the Arnhem military garrison.  It was, as is obvious, a  ruthless, deadly, ambush, unforgiving and totally succesful.   The result was photographed by military photographers from the British Army Film and Photographic unit serving  with the combat troops in their ill fated attempt to capture the bridge over the river Rhine.   Front line combat photography, raw, dangerous and perfect.


On a lighter note, a great photograph by military combat photographer Sgt Rupert Frere of the Royal Logistical Corps.   He has captured the Garrison Sgt Major of the  Household Division, Warrant Officer William Mott, inspecting guardsmen of the Grenadier Guards.    It could be a fairly stock military photograph, indeed the Americans love to have such images of their  Marine Drill Sgts with their  scout type hats, shouting at quivering marines in basic training.   But they, the marines, glory in their brutal attitude, they love the macho of it all and the images are intimidating, as they are supposed to be.    Here, Sgt Frere has, I think, captured a certain humour, even a little affection in the displeasure of the Sgt. Major.   Although I am not sure the guardsman would share that view!

Stop laughing in the ranks!

It is the lot of military photographers to photograph endless military parades and ceremonys, passing out parades, royal inspections, medal awards and on and on and on.  Here, RAF photographer  Katie Parrott from RAF Halton  captures a delighful flash of humour in the ranks of RAF recruits graduating from training.   The Sgt Major would probably be furius, but I cannot imagine that there is a photographer anywhere in the world who would not be absolutely delighted to have caught such a moment.

A General at war

And back to war.  This image by an unknown Whermacht military photographer shows the legendary General Guderian in his command vehicle during the blitzkrieg advance into France during 1940.   He is dictating signals for his soldiers to type into the enigma machine.  they are likely to be important strategic signals rather than tactical messages. . And even at this early stage of the war, the British at Bletchy Park would be lisenting in and decrpting the signal traffic as they followed the victorious advance of the German army as it smashed the 700,000 strong French Army and overran the 390,000 strong British Expeditionary Force.   Photographs of Generals are usually of them meeting VIP’s, inspecting troops, posing over war maps, but this is unusual, this is a General in the heat of the advance, the heat of the battle.  he is Julias Ceaser, he is Alexander the Great, he is Napoleon. he is Patton, he is all the generals of all the wars.  It is truly a great image.

Who have we shot?

Military photography now includes front line combat units being issued with camera’s to record evidence, including identification evidence of the firefights and situations they get into. Here an American army unit, the 5th Stryker Brigade, photograph one of their kills in Afghanistan. In this instance it was a murder by the unit and the photographic evidence, including images on the individual soldiers own cameras and smartphones, was used to prosecute the soldiers for setting up innocent civilian Afghans and murdering them. The unit became known as the “Kill Team” and carried out several such murders. A Staff Sgt in the unit got life imprisonment for premeditated murder and ten other soldiers from the unit received lengthy prison sentences. No officers were held accountable. The victim was an entirely innocent farm labourer named Gul Mudin, aged 15 years old.
Hello Sailor

You may try, and dozens of military photographers do try, to repeat this composition of men (or women) on parade but few will ever equal the sheer exuberance as caught by Royal Naval photographer Stephen Johncock, winner of the Royal Navy photographer of the year 2014.. It catches the Crew aboard HMS Argyll as it arrives in Baltimore in September 2014 to join a week-long event to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the US National Anthem,

Killing for the hell of it. On March 16, 1968, U.S. Army soldiers from the Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the 23rd (American) Infantry Division carried out a massacre of innocent men women and children, including infants in arms. Some of the women were gang raped. A military photographer, Ron Haeberle serving with the unit captured a whole series of graphic images which were later used as evidence in the court martial of some of the soldiers. This is by no means the most graphic of his photographs. The young woman in the black blouse is rebuttoning her blouse following a sexual assault and just prior to her murder.

 Is there glory in war?
 This photograph, by a United States Marine Corps combat photographer shows marines after a victorious action during the Battle of Cape Gloucester in January 1945. It captures the strain and fatigue of 23 days of continuous combat and as they display their captured Japanese flags you see PTSD etched into their gaunt faces.
Berlin to Paris
 This is a powerful image from the advance of the German Army into France during 1940. They are soldiers of the NAZI SS “VT” Division and it is full of grim foreboding. These are the men who will commit atrocities on behalf of their Farer across the whole of Europe. If you thought the Hells Angels were intimidating then the sight of these advancing soldiers en route to Paris would and should fill you with terror.
Controlled Aggression
  This image is by an amateur military photographer, Capt. Gallagher of the Parachute regiment and shows soldiers of the regiment on patrol in Pristina, Kosovo in June 1999. Great quality, pin sharp shot catching the tension of the patrol and the concentration of the soldiers – don’t mess with these guys.
6 Day war

A really great image from an Israel Defence Forces photographer taken during the six day war in 1967


Ready for release

yL5mYqg.A quite outstanding award winning image of a Harrier Jet about to take off from the deck of HMS Ark Royal taken by Navy photographer Jonathan Hamlet

A perfect shot.

 All military photographers must produce their share of “local boy” publicity photographs. In this case a local girl story. Lyudmila Pavlichenko was an ace Soviet sniper, made a Hero of The Soviet Union “Gentlemen, I’m 25 years old and I have killed 309 fascist occupants by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?!” Photograph by a Red Army combat photographer
 Haw Haw
A military photograph of William Joyce who made his final Lord Haw-Haw broadcast on April 30, 1945, during the Battle of Berlin, drunkenly and defiantly going of the air with “Heil Hitler and farewell”. The next day, the Radio Hamburg facility was behind Allied lines. On May 28, Joyce was captured near the Danish border. When Intelligence soldiers thought he was reaching for a gun (he was reaching for a false passport), they shot him in the buttocks.

Joyce was tried for treason at Old Bailey for High Treason. His defence team argued that since he was born American, had lived in Ireland and was a citizen of Germany, he could not have committed treason against England. However, since he carried a British passport while he was broadcasting, he was entitled to diplomatic protection as a British subject, and therefore the courts found that he did indeed owe allegiance to the Crown. He was hanged at Wandsworth Prison on January 3, 1946.

As was customary, his remains were buried in an unmarked grave within the prison walls, although in 1976 his body was exhumed and reinterred in Galway, Ireland.

He is on a stretcher because of having been shot in the buttocks. The soldiers are from the pioneer corps and were part of “T force” or Target force who hunted down NAZI industrial and scientific secrets.


Hunting U boats

 T he Royal Navy hunting submarines in World War II. In the background the convoy they are escorting and protecting from the menace of NAZI U boats and by so doing preserving a life line for Great Britain to continue the war. Great photograph and a great piece of printing
So you think you are tough?
 French Foreign Legionnaires photographed by a French military photographer, under training.
dunkirk 2
This is one of my all time favorites.  It shows exhausted and exhilarated French soldiers after the fall of France, who were rescued, along with the remnants of the British Expeditionary Force, from the beaches at Dunkirk.     They are photographed at Dover and they live to fight another day.   It reminds us all, even committed Brexities like me, that we were always Europeans.  And we always will be.  it moves me every time I see it.

There are lots of photographs of females in the military and it is beyond argument that women now undergo the same aggressive basic training and learn the same killing skills as their male counterparts. In some nations, including the UK,  they can now serve on the front line.  North Korea has whole regiments of female combat soldiers and sailors. But to see females with naked bayonets still, for old codgers like me, and for many not so old codgers, strikes a slightly discordant note. But its a great image. And they are killers.


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