Salute the Soldier Procession, Royal Ordnance Factory, Fazakerley, July 1944. Stewart Bale collection, negative number 44320-11, Maritime Archives and Library.
This is a digital image taken from a glass negative in the Maritime Archives and Library’s Stewart Bale photographic collection.
The Salute the Solider Procession features a large group of people, some in occupational uniforms, gathered in front of a single storey building. In the foreground a tableau has been created on a small cart with a look-alike Field Marshal Montgomery and directly behind him, presumably another employee, is cast as a ‘deceased’ Adolf Hitler lying on a stretcher, eyes closed, proceeded by a priest. Furthermore a group of American soldiers, with mock facial injuries covered in plasters, flank the figure of ‘Hitler’ representing the important Allied role.
No information has yet been sourced regarding this procession but as the Royal Ordnance Factory produced munitions it is reasonable to assume that it is an appreciative acknowledgement of the soldiers at the sharp end of battle, who put into action the munitions that they produced and risked their lives for the war effort. The factory at Fazakerley, which opened in 1941, produced machine guns and rifles with managers and key workers being drawn from parent factories at Woolwich and Enfield, although the main workforce was made up of 68% of local women.
Almost central to the lower half of the image is a dog, a cocker spaniel, which links this image to our 2017 advent calendar theme. The firm of Stewart Bale Ltd were commercial, industrial and shipping photographers and generally speaking did not undertake dog portraiture; images of dogs are usually incidental which often reveals unexpected and interesting contexts as with this photograph.
The dog here is part of a fairly elaborate representation relating to Field Marshal Montgomery, who around the time that this photograph was taken was commander of the Allied ground forces in Normandy and part of the Allied push towards Germany. Montgomery is likely to be represented here in a moment of relaxation at his mobile headquarters in France, along with the animals that he liked to have with him. Around July 1944 Montgomery had a cocker spaniel which he named Rommel after his arch enemy Field Marshal Rommel of the Wehrmacht (armed forces of Nazi Germany). The caged bird to the left of the dog references the two canaries that Montgomery also kept with him at this time; it looks like there is only one bird in this rather small cage but it is unclear if it is a canary or not.
The image is possibly taken just before the procession gets underway. The principal adversaries of the World War II conflict are here polarised into the personification of two of the principal opposed protagonists; the well known Field Marshal Montgomery and the German Chancellor and Nazi leader, Hitler.
There is an obscured sign central to the image, possibly related to the output of the factory and their contribution to the war effort. Near to the back left of the photograph is a display of munition shells. Some of the original Stewart Bale documentation creates some ambiguity that this image might be the Royal Ordnance Factory at Kirkby rather than Fazakerley, although in the client registers it clearly states Fazakerley; it is interesting to note the display of munition shells, top left of the photograph which were a particular output of Kirkby. Further information about the Royal Ordnance factories at both Fazakerley and Kirkby is on the website.
All in all this is quite a jolly photograph with most people smiling at the camera, enjoying some time away from their work and the troubles, hardships and losses of those times and where for a brief period, the ‘enemy’ has departed and is no longer a present threat. Clearly there is a more serious context to this image but the dog like Montgomery’s dog Rommel, who it is intended to represent, is blissfully unaware of this as it wholeheartedly enjoys the attentions of the look-alike Field Marshal.