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Photo ID appeal turns up unexpected trove of pictures

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Some of the 500 photographs from the island during the 1940s by British spymaster Victor Haag. (Photograph supplied)

An effort to identify a Bermudian boy from a Second World War era photograph has led to the discovery of hundreds more pictures from the same period.

Horst Augustinovic, a historian and author, said about 500 photographs of the island by Victor Haag were recently uncovered in the UK, unveiling a new side of the war efforts in Bermuda.

“They are all good ones, all 8x10s and unbelievable,” he said.

“I’m sorting through them now and I have been in touch with the Bermuda National Trust as there is a lot of stuff of interest.

“A lot of it will go into my book about censorship - there are photographs of the mail being unloaded on the docks and everything, which has never been seen before. It’s absolutely amazing.”

Mr Haag, a British spymaster, spent more than three years on the island during the Second World War as part of the mail censorship programme.

Mr Augustinovic, while researching a book on the programme with Martin Buckley, the manager of The Bookmart at Brown & Co in Hamilton, came across a letter sent by Mr Haag to his fiancee that contained a photograph of a young boy eating a sandwich.

The pair reached out to the public through a story in The Royal Gazette in an effort to identify the boy.

“We had no local response, which sort of surprised me because a lot of people said he looked familiar,” he said. “Nobody had anything definitive.”

Mr Augustinovic said that while the search for the boy’s identity has yet to bear fruit, the article resulted in a windfall of pictures.

“By absolute chance in England a lady was going through some stuff she had inherited in February and it was all photographs of Bermuda,” he said.

“There was the name of the photographer, so she went on Google and she found the article from The Royal Gazette.”

He said that the photographs were sent to Bermuda and - after a month-long delay because of issues with Bermuda Customs - he has begun to delve into the images.

Mr Augustinovic said: “They are a treasure trove of photographs taken not just of the censorship operation, but street scenes of Hamilton, as well as beautiful scenic photographs of Bermuda.

“During his 1,324 Days in Bermuda - the title of my upcoming book - Victor only used his bicycle for transportation, was never in a car or on the train, yet he got around to the forts in St George’s and the Cathedral Rocks in Somerset.”

Mr Haag arrived on the island in 1940 and left in May 1944, a year before the war ended, when the British Imperial Censorship operation, based at the Hamilton Princess, shut down.

“His job at Censorship was in the top secret Scientific and Testing Department, where he was photographing microdots and secret ink writing,” Mr Augustinovic added. “He was obviously one of the most important people who came to Bermuda.”

Censors in Bermuda such as Mr Haag helped to uncover several German spy networks operating in the United States.

A glimpse of Queen Street in the early 1940s. (Photograph by Victor Haag)
Front Street in the early 1940s. (Photograph by Victor Haag)
Mail being unloaded at the Hamilton Princess. (Photograph by Victor Haag)

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Published April 06, 2021 at 11:38 am (Updated April 06, 2021 at 11:38 am)

Photo ID appeal turns up unexpected trove of pictures

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