Damien Peter Parer, Cameraman

It is always lovely to claim a famous / infamous person as one’s blood relative. Damien Parer is Mr R’s second cousin, twice removed.

 

Tobruk, Libya. 1941-08. Damien Parer, a Department of Information photographer, filming with a Newman-Sinclair 35mm camera, probably the Auto Kine Camera model, during the Siege of Tobruk. Parer could be filming material for the Department of Information production, Siege of Tobruk. (See AWM Film F01097)
Tobruk, Libya. 1941-08. Damien Parer, a Department of Information photographer, filming with a Newman-Sinclair 35mm camera, probably the Auto Kine Camera model, during the Siege of Tobruk. Parer could be filming material for the Department of Information production, Siege of Tobruk. (See AWM Film F01097)

 

Their ancestors in common are Mr R.’s Great-Great-Great Grandparents, John and Elizabeth Corcoran (nee Spillane) — Damien’s Great Grandparents.  John Corcoran died in Ireland and Elizabeth lived in Kyneton area, Victoria.

 

Middle East. c.1941-02. Portrait of Damien Parer standing holding cans of film. Parer was an official Australian war correspondent, photographer and film cameraman with the Department of Information. He served in the Middle East, Greece and the South-West Pacific from 1940 until his resignation in May 1943. He was killed on 17 September 1944 while filming front line operations with the US Marine Corps on Peleliu Island. (Original nitrate negative held in AWM Archive Store)
Middle East. c.1941-02. Portrait of Damien Parer standing holding cans of film. Parer was an official Australian war correspondent, photographer and film cameraman with the Department of Information. He served in the Middle East, Greece and the South-West Pacific from 1940 until his resignation in May 1943. He was killed on 17 September 1944 while filming front line operations with the US Marine Corps on Peleliu Island. (Original nitrate negative held in AWM Archive Store)

 

The biography and photos are from the Australian War Memorial.

Damien Peter Parer
Date of birth: 01 August 1912
Place of birth: Malvern, VIC
Date of death: 17 September 1944
Place of death: Pacific Islands: Caroline Islands, Palau, Peleliu

Even sixty years after his death Damien Parer remains one of Australia’s most well-known combat cameramen. He was born on 1 August 1912 at Malvern in Melbourne but was educated largely in Bathurst, at Saint Stanislaus School. Parer joined the school’s camera club and decided early on that he wanted to be a photographer. Having left school and failing to find photographic work in Melbourne, he resumed his education before finding an apprenticeship. Also interested in motion pictures, Parer, having completed his apprenticeship, moved to Sydney to work with the director, Charles Chauvel.

When the Second World War began, Parer had become experienced in stills photography and motion picture work, and was appointed as official movie photographer to the AIF. He sailed for the Middle East in January 1940 where he filmed on board HMAS Sydney after it had sunk the Italian cruiser, Bartolomeo Colleoni. Parer was on board another ship, HMAS Ladybird when she bombarded Bardia and he advanced with the infantry at Derna, his first experience of close action. At Derna he decided that he needed to film from as close to the action as possible, sometimes even in advance of the troops. Acquaintances later recalled that from the moment Parer made this decision he was doomed to die on the battlefield.

Parer filmed in Greece and in Syria, covering the action from aircraft, the deck of a ship and on the ground with the infantry. After Syria he travelled to Tobruk in August 1941 before covering the fighting in the Western desert. By mid-1942 Parer was in New Guinea ready to cover the fighting against the Japanese. During this phase of the war, he filmed some of his most famous sequences, some at Salamaua and, most notably, those used in Kokoda front line. This documentary won its producer, Ken Hall, an Oscar for documentary film-making. Behind the footage lay Parer’s deeply held desire to draw to public attention, the conditions under which the Australians were fighting in New Guinea.

In late 1942 Parer travelled to Timor to film Australians of the 2/2nd Independent Company who were fighting a guerrilla campaign on the island, the result of which was his documentary, Men of Timor. He then returned to New Guinea where he flew on a series of hair-raising Beaufighter operations against Japanese shipping in the Bismarck Sea. After that he moved to the Salamaua area where he filmed, among other actions, the well-known assault on Timbered Knoll.

In August 1943, after more than 12 months of rancour and disagreement, Parer left the Department of Information’s employ to work for the United States company, Paramount News. His early assignments involved filming further air raids over New Guinea. On 23 March 1944 during a period of leave, Parer, a deeply religious man, married Marie Cotter in Sydney. Their union was a brief one. Parer returned to action, leaving the war in New Guinea behind to accompany the United States Marines. He filmed them first on Guam and then covered the Peleliu operation.

On 17 September 1944, keen to get shots of the faces of advancing soldiers, Parer was walking backwards behind a tank, filming a group of marines advancing under fire. He was killed by a burst of Japanese machine gun fire.

Text: Unless otherwise noted, the text content on this website is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Australia (CC BY-NC 3.0 AU) license.  Australian War Memorial.

 

You do not have to seek permission to use the Memorial's images for your personal, non-commercial use or use within your organisation. You must seek permission to use the Memorial's images for commercial publication.
Official photographer Damien Parer putting a new film into his Speed Graphic camera.

 

4 thoughts on “Damien Peter Parer, Cameraman

    1. Thank you for your kind words M-R. My brother-in-law was thrilled when he found out they were cousins. We recorded that new film about Damien on the ABC recently, but haven’t watched it yet. I keep putting it off, as I’d rather watch a documentary than a re-enactment. I’ve borrowed lots of books from the library about him and his work and yes, exceptional bloke sums him up. There are lots of photos of him, but I chose the ones showing the old cameras.

      Like

      1. Wise decision – makes the best sense ! And I agree about doco rather than drama coverage, too: one can rely on the former but rarely on the latter …

        Liked by 1 person

Tell me what you're thinking.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s