Where It All Began
On Friday 30th October 1936, the Royal Aircraft Establishment Photographic Society held its first Annual General Meeting in the staff mess room at the R.A.E., and the following were elected: President: A.H.Hall, Vice-president: Dr.G.E.Bairsto, Hon Sec: G.V.H.Cook, and Treasurer: H.A.Benger. The annual subscription was three shillings (15p). It was not recorded how many members were present, but judging by the income from subscriptions, it would appear to be about 42 members.
At the second AGM, on Wednesday 10th November 1937, the same officers presided. The annual subscription rose to five shillings (25p), and the membership had increased to 65.
On Friday 25th February 1938, the Aldershot News allocated 64 column inches to the Society’s Exhibition of Photography.
The third AGM was held on 3rd March 1939, and very little was resolved, other than to maintain annual subscriptions at five shillings. Thereafter, the RAE Photographic Society seems to have disappeared into oblivion – obviously an early casualty of the war.
However, in November 1941 its offspring was born under the name of the Farnborough and RAE Camera Club. Farnborough was well girded for war at the latter part of 1941. All strategic buildings were well camouflaged, and all signposts were removed, which served to confuse friend and foe alike. Frensham Ponds had been drained and covered in scrub to confuse the enemy bomber pilots, but it had a similar effect on our own fighter pilots! The people of Farnborough had donated their aluminium kitchenware to build Spitfires, and their garden railings to make tanks.
Those were dark days in more ways than one. The blackout was the order of the night, so that enemy bombers were unable to pinpoint the towns and villages across Britain. Most able-bodied men were away fighting in the services, and others were in essential war work in civvy street. It seems an unusual period of time to start a club, but it was at 6:30 pm on Thursday 13th November 1941 that nine men slipped quietly from the darkness into the dimly-lit church room in Peabody Road, Farnborough.
They gathered on folding wooden chairs around a plain scrubbed table, below a single light bulb. No sooner had they assembled than an air raid siren wailed and the light went out. A candle was provided by the caretaker, and one of the gathering produced an old note book, in which they all signed their names in the following order: A.J.Milne, T.A.Every, R.Lonergan, C.J.Duncan, C.K.Giles, J.L.Maitland, D.A. Feldman, G.Perks, A.H.Whiter.
In spite of the appalling shortage of photographic materials, they agreed to the formation of the camera club, and declared that meetings would take place weekly on Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 10:00. The joining fee would be sixpence (2½p) with the same amount payable as a weekly admission fee. The nine members, therefore, put nine shillings (45p) on the table. Three shillings and sixpence (17½p) went to the room hire, leaving the club treasury with a balance of five shillings and sixpence (27½p). They adjourned the meeting until the following week when they elected as Chairman A.J.Milne F.R.P.S., who wrote a column in Amateur Photographer magazine.
The club survived into the years of peace, and grew considerably during the following decades. In 1983, the RAE, who had been providing official support for the club, decided to withdraw, as by that time very few members worked for the RAE. As a result, the name was changed to just Farnborough Camera Club.
The club remains very successful, with a strong membership, and significant successes in the inter-club competitions organised by the Surrey and Southern Federations.
In 2018 the closure of the Farnborough Community Centre forced the club to find a new home. After several decades at the centre, the 20th December saw final meeting – a hosting of the annual Interclub Digital Image Competition between six local clubs. 2019 saw a new chapter in our history with a switch to the Cody Sports and Social Club.