War Babies

The cover of this album is bright red. When open, it measures 2½ft x 18in. It weighs about 2kg and is packed with photos. On the inside cover, is a blown-up newspaper photograph of the Kray twins with their mother, Violet, beaming with pride in her boys. Throughout the entire album, there is no indication of any personal connection with the Kray family, or that world. It must simply be there for reason of their celebrity, or maybe the owner of the album just liked Vi’s smile.

This is essentially a courtship album. The woman is Spanish, the man English. The album is decorated throughout with Spanish and English stamps, all of which have been franked, which means they must have been steamed off posted letters. The earliest frank mark is dated 1952, the latest 1966, the year of their marriage. Perhaps they came from the letters they sent back and forth during their courtship. The album proper begins, as you would expect, when the couple meet, then continues through their courtship, wedding and honeymoon. But on the first five pages, they have combined their childhood photos, which show them growing up in the 1940s. Perhaps some of these photographs were also exchanged in those letters.

As the 1960s get going, photos in colour and larger formats start to appear. This chapter of the album mainly shows their days out together. There is one shot of the woman with a huge parrot perched on her arm, and her fiancé with his camera dangling at his side. Later, the woman is again photographed cradling a parrot like an infant, with a white dove perched on the top of her head this time. Professional souvenir photographers who operated at popular tourist spots would at times have exotic animals to lure the punters in.

Their wedding photos are snapshots taken by a friend of the couple, not the official wedding photographer – a gesture in keeping with the 1960s youth rebellion, which eschewed traditional practices, the staidness of which had been accentuated by 1950s austerity and their war-weary parents desire for a quiet life. The war babies favoured a fresher, more ‘happening’, more ‘with it’ vibe – the future was theirs to inherit.

Nigel Martin Shephard

Published by The Family Museum

We are an archival project about amateur family photography, based in London and set up by filmmaker Nigel Shephard and editor Rachael Moloney.

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