Veteran Stories:
Charles Ross

Army

  • Charles N. Ross of the 4PR Film and Photo Unit in Holland, late September, 1944.

  • Group photo of the Film and Photo Section in Normandy. Photo courtesy of Charles N. Ross, copyright National Archives of Canada #PA 152091.

  • Major General Chris Vokes asks Charles Ross about his 35mm motion camera with spider mount on junior pro-tripod.

  • General Sir Bernard Montgomery visiting St. Etienne Cathedral. Caen, France. July 11, 1944. Copyright National Archives of Canada #PA 162563.

  • Reunion of Film and Photo Unit members (left to right) C.N. Ross, George Cooper and Len Thompson in Victoria, BC, September, 1986.

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"A tank from the Calgary Tanks was moving up and it happened to be the commanding officer, and Jack was shooting off a tripod getting this and the colonel threw open the hatch and said..."

Transcript

My Christian name is Charles N. Ross. Everybody generally knows me as Chuck or Charlie.

So I went into the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. I was sent down with a group of just over thirty of us to Ottawa to join a group called the MTVRD. That is the Mechanical Transport Vehicle Reception Depot.

January of 1944, I was asked to join the Canadian Film and Photo Unit. First, I was there as a driver because all the cameramen had drivers. But, after that, I became a cameraman and went in just shortly after D-Day. The Canadian Film and Photo Unit was formed in 1942 but it didn't really see any combat action until the boys went in to Sicily. And Hal Grayson from Montreal got some great footage on the landing going in.

Then, of course, after Sicily was taken, they moved on to Italy and the boys who were there had some very rough going, particularly in Ortona. In one of the Canadian Army newsreels, there is a shot of a sniper going across a roof of a building and a cameraman by the name of Jack Storey from the Maritimes was filming that. A tank from the Calgary Tanks was moving up and it happened to be the commanding officer, and Jack was shooting off a tripod getting this and the colonel threw open the hatch and said... I won't use the words he used but, "What are you doing here?" He said, "Sir, I'm trying to get that sniper that's going across the roof there." Well, unbeknowing to Jack, he was recommended for an MM for that. And we suffered our first casualty on Anzio.

My first combat footage was really on the clearing of the Scheldt. Although I'd shot some footage prior to that, like in Caen, where they needed more than one cameraman, I was what you might call the assistant cameraman. We were not a large group. There was just over sixty cameramen. That included both stills and motion pictures. It is interesting to note the first footage that was shot on D-Day was shot by a fellow by the name of Bill Grant from Vancouver. His footage was the first to get back to North America and it was at Juno Beach. The film and photo were all soldiers and we lost five that lay in fields in Italy and in northwest Europe. And the men that I had the greatest respect for was the infantry. Everybody did a great job, but the infantry were there every day.

I said to my son, "This was the greatest adventure of my life, but I hope you never have to go through it."

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