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Friday, March 20, 2009

Tribute to life in 1940s includes Flying Flea

A Flickr picture of a Royal Enfield Flying Flea on display in the Frome Museum in Somerset, Britain, drew me to a remarkable series of photos of World War II re-enactor Andy Chant.

This young man assembled the museum display, featuring the Royal Enfield. Even more amazing, he has turned himself and even his apartment into convincing portraits of the 1940s.

"I'm 21 and live in rural Somerset, England, currently working for a solicitor's firm," says Chant in his profile. "I've always had an interest in the 1940s, and I have been a British WW2 re-enactor for several years now," he told me.

His Flickr photos are almost startling for their realism, although the digital color photography instantly clues you in that they are a tribute to the times, not the real thing.

Part of the realism is his youth, of course. Chant (who signs himself on Flickr as Andy Baille-Smith) looks the part of the trim young soldier, alternately devil-may-care or deadly serious.

But, even without a human element, the photos of his apartment make you feel you really are "there" in wartime Britain.

His museum display at Frome continues to the end of April, and is part of the museum program "Remembering the 40s." It includes the Royal Enfield Flying Flea, designed as a civilian motorcycle but pressed into service during the war for duties including airborne drops.

"The bike belongs to my dad who displays it at military vehicle shows in England along with a couple of wartime Matchless G3L's," Chant said.

"This one was brought back from Arnhem where it it was probably parachuted in during Operation Market Garden. It has been civilianised a bit after the War, but Chris (my dad) is gradually getting the parts. This one was manufactured in 1943."

Chant also contributes to a Flickr group that shoots interesting photos of World War II bunkers. You'll find a link to it on his page. Also on his page is a picture of him at 17, posing as a Dispatch rider next to a Matchless.

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