Modest Royston war photographer finally honoured with WW2 medals
- Credit: David Rose
On an afternoon trip to Duxford Imperial War Museum last summer, 91-year-old Raymond Greenway shared a hidden chapter of his life with his granddaughter Charlotte Vowden that has unlocked a fascinating history.
As the pair sipped on afternoon tea and watched a passenger return from a flight on a De Havilland Rapide, he told her how he became a war photographer for the Royal Air Force during the Second World War – but had never collected his medals for his work.
Charlotte, 27, said: “Duxford turned out to be the perfect setting for him to start telling his story.
“It was like being let in on a secret when he started to share his story and every time we touch on the subject another fascinating snippet of information comes out.
“It was like opening Pandora’s box – which actually led to us opening the chest he had kept closed since he was demobbed in 1947.”
Raymond revealed how his job as flight sergeant of No 1 Film Production Unit was to accompany bombers on missions – he would bravely remove a plate from the floor of the aircraft to photograph where the bombs fell.
After joining the Marine Craft Section of the RAF at the age of 19, Raymond – who Charlotte affectionately refers to as Dodo – trained at Pinewood Studios in 1943 alongside Richard Attenborough, already a rising young actor and later to become one of the leading lights of the British film industry, and went on to serve in France, Germany and Belgium.
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He was one of the first people to use infra-red film and was issued an access all areas pass by General Eisenhower, the supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe and later president of the USA, in 1945.
Proud of her humble grandfather’s past, Charlotte – a digital editor and journalist for the Sunday Times – made it her personal mission to get hold of his medals, and set about helping him to him apply for them.
In October, the Ministry of Defence officially issued him the two medals that he had never collected.
“When I got my glimpse of them it was unceremonious – it was in the kitchen while Dodo was preparing us some dinner, he hadn’t mentioned their arrival beforehand,” she said.
“I was pleased that we’d been able to resolve a little unfinished business together and I’m so very proud of him.”
The chest – which had been locked away since 1947 – contained original photographs and war memorabilia as well as camera film, a pamphlet on what to do if captured by the enemy and menus from the mess that give a real insight into life during the period.
These days Raymond only gets his camera out for happier occasions and enjoys life in Royston.
But he’s a familiar figure as he steps out for coffee around the town centre, with Ad Hoc Bar and Kitchen in Fish Hill among his favourite haunts.