This exhibition ran from 1st September to 1st October 2016
Born in 1897 William Chambers was an electrical engineer by profession. He joined the Lincolnshire Regiment early in the war. He applied to join the Royal Flying Corp, and as a young officer learnt to fly at the Royal Aero Club, obtaining his pilot’s license exactly a hundred years ago in October 1916. He then served as a photographic reconnaissance officer with 49 Squadron in Kent.
This exhibition reveals him to have been a remarkably gifted and brave photographer. His work is a remarkable testament to the precarious nature of early flight, and the brave men on both sides who took warfare into the air.
His collection of some 80 large format negatives taken on service, and an album of photographs, passed through the family to his nephew, New Longton resident Richard Chambers. A keen photographer himself, Mr Chambers realised there immense historical significance and passed them to fellow Leyland Photographic Society member David Lewis. A recognised master of developing images from early negatives, David has spent over 200 hours producing the sepia toned images.
The exhibition graphically shows the risk intrinsic to early flight: landing strips were usually rough fields, the aircraft were string bound wooden struts and canvas, and crashes were very frequent. Around 8000 men were killed in training – more than in actual combat.
On the 15th May 1918, now a captain in the RAF, William Chambers took off on a routine reconnaissance over France with his American observer Lt. R.J.Burky. They were shot down by a German fighter, killing both men. Captain Chambers has no known grave, and is listed on the Arras Memorial. His pictures were carefully treasured, and can now be seen in this remarkable exhibition.