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Page last updated at 12:48 GMT, Wednesday, 28 July 2010 13:48 UK
Wartime Exeter photos revealed for the first time
By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

Crowds celebrate end of WWII
Crowds fill Exeter's streets to celebrate the end of WWII

For 65 years, Ken Jackson has stored away hundreds of photos he took of war-damaged Exeter from 1944-46.

Now, for the first time, the stunning photos of bombed-out buildings, Salute the Soldier Week, VE Day celebrations and the Victory Parade are revealed.

Ken, now 94, is having his images published in a book, One Man's War in Exeter.

It has taken 18 years for Ken and Exeter author Peter Thomas to produce the book - and the men have never met.

Until now. They will finally meet on the day of the book's launch in Exeter on 16 August 2010 - one day after the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII.

Ken Jackson
Ken Jackson's collection has some 300 photos

For Ken, who now lives in Jersey, it will be a return to his former home city. And what a return - he will be arriving at the book launch at Exeter Central Library in a WWII jeep.

Ken has some 300 photos in his collection, 235 of which are in the book.

The images sit alongside articles at the time from the local newspaper, the Express & Echo.

"Quite simply, this has been going on for 18 years," explained author Peter Thomas.

"I produced a video in 1992 called Exeter Blitz and Ken wrote to me to say he had seen the video and that he was in Exeter just after the blitz.

"He sent me a video showing some of the pictures he had taken - he worked for the Post Office but was a keen photographer.

"At this period of time there were very few people taking photographs so I realised there was something very special here."

A US tank in the city centre
These US tanks were being brought into Queen Street

Peter spent many years researching the photos Ken had taken: "I found that Exeter had put in a huge amount of effort into the war effort," he told BBC Devon.

"Some of the photos were taken during the national Salute the Soldier Week in 1944. It was a fundraising campaign and Exeter was set the target of £750,000 - the city raised almost £1 million in a week."

Other photos show brand new US tanks in city centre streets - possibly on their way to the D-Day landings, blitzed buildings, and the celebrations at the end of the war. There are also photos of the survivors of HMS Exeter.

"Ken knew possibly that the pictures would have some historical impact but I don't think he really realised what it was that he had captured," said Peter.

"It is a wonderful photographic record. And there are so many people in the photos too."

Exeter Cathedral on VE Day
Exeter Cathedral pictured by Ken on VE Day

Ken, who worked mainly at the GPO sorting office at St David's Station, produced the photos despite difficulty getting film for his Leica camera, photographic paper and developing chemicals.

Ken, who now uses a wheelchair, has lost much of his sight and is hard of hearing, but Peter says he is excited about returning to Exeter for the book launch.

There will be 50-60 large photographs on display in the library foyer and a 9ft wide panorama of High Street in 1945: "It's 180 degrees and it shows the city absolutely flattened," said Peter.

"Exeter city centre was flattened inside 74 minutes in a raid on 4 May 1942, which was in retaliation for the bombing of Lübeck.

"The poster image has been created from seven photos professionally stitched together - the photos were taken from the top of the telephone exchange in Castle Street.

"It is going to be one of the iconic photos of wartime Exeter.

"And as a group of photographs, they capture the spirit of the period and show how patriotic Exeter was."

The launch takes place at Exeter Central Library in Castle Street on 16 August 2010, from 10.30am.

Photos reproduced with permission.

Send in your memories of wartime Exeter using the form at the bottom of the page

Do you have memories of Exeter during the war? Can you recall the victory celebrations? Do you recognise some of the faces in Ken Jackson's pictures? Use our messageboard below.


The night after the blitz of Exeter in May a neighbour of ours took his family and ours up to Haldon in case there was another raid. The most vivid thing I remember and I was twelve at the time was of Exeter still burning in the shape of a cross.
June Perryman (nee King), Exmouth

As a 16 year old schoolboy living on the St. Thomas outskirts our parents took us (and many neighbours) when the sirens sounded on 4th May 1942 up over the fields to a footpath just off Barley Lane. From this high point we could see the whole of the City. I remember it was a moonlight night and although the City was blacked out we could still see the traffic signals(with their small green and red crosses) at Exe Bridge. Before long we could hear the approaching bombers and they were so low we could make out the crosses on their wings. Witin a few minutes the whole City seemed to be on fire wih incendiary bombs and the next wave of bombers dropped their bombs. It was so frightening and we wondered how anyone could survive such raid.
Edwin Webber, Croydon

The Sherman tanks are British, not American. The 5-pointed star was a guide for ignorant US military who couldn't identify friend from foe. American tanks always had rubber-cleated tracks, while British tanks had all-steel tracks. Rubber works well on Tarmac but British tanks were expected to fight off-road as well! The picture shows all-steel tracks.
John Colson, Ontario, Canada

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