Walter Calverley Beevor

British military doctor

If Surgeon-Major Beevor were to claim pioneer status in any field, it would probably be in the domain of Röntgen rays (X-rays) rather than in film. Educated at Edinburgh University and in the Scots Guards from 1885, he served during the Tirah campaign on the Indian North-West frontier from 1897 to 1898. Beevor brought an X-ray apparatus from Britain, being the first person to use this technology on active service. It proved a great success, and when the Scots' Guards were sent to the Boer war in November 1899, Beevor was again accompanied by an X-ray machine. But he also took another piece of new technology: a film camera lent to him by the British film producer, Robert Paul. How Paul contacted Beevor is not clear, but before the Tirah campaign the Surgeon-Major had been in touch with John Le Couteur of the Photographic Association, whose studios were equipped with both X-rays and animated photography, and who might in turn have put him in touch with Paul. As far as Paul was concerned there was a certain advantage in entrusting a camera to a combatant, who was bound to be sent to where the action was, and was also less likely to face official meddling than a journalist, and Paul lent a second camera to another military man, apparently F.A. (or Sidney) Melsom of the City Imperial Volunteers. Beevor was quite successful with Paul's film camera, managing to take a dozen films, including the embarkation of the Scots' Guards on 21 October 1899 and their entry into Bloemfontein in the spring of 1900. He filmed assorted scenes of troops, artillery and ambulances on the march and crossing the Vaal and Modder rivers, and finished his coverage in June with a film of an observation balloon. Beevor's biggest scoop, however, was to take a view of the captured Boer commander Cronje as he was driven off in a cart in February 1900, Paul's catalogue noting that 'as the cart passes the camera, Cronje is seen to look out in astonishment at it.' Beevor stayed in South Africa until 1902, seconded to the police forces. He served in India from 1902 to 1903, and during the First World War he came out of retirement to work with the Territorials in a medical capacity.

Stephen Bottomore