Henry Armytage Sanders was born in London, England on May 24, 1886. The eldest of Harold Armytage Thomas and Louisa Watkins Sanders' three sons, it is believed his early interest in photography was inspired by his father, who was an optician assistant with the camera and equipment manufacturer W. Watson & Son before opening his own firm, Sanders & Crowhurst with fellow Watson employee, Harry Crowhurst. Although there is no information on his childhood or formal education, it is believed Mr. Sanders began working for Pathé Frѐres in 1909. During his tenure with the French film company, Mr. Sanders impressively mastered the latest photographic and cinematic techniques.
After marrying Lilian Spurge in 1910 and settling in West Ham, London, Mr. Sanders continued working for Pathé until World War I intervened. In December of 1916, he was selected by New Zealand High Commissioner Sir Thomas Mackenzie to become the official photographer with the England-based New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). He entered the military in March of 1917 with the rank of lieutenant and was entrusted with the responsibility of creating a photographic record of the New Zealand military's activities on the Western Front. His appointment was met with more contempt than praise by wartime officials, as evidenced by New Zealand's Minister of Defense and Acting Prime Minister James Allen's inquiry to Commissioner Mackenzie, "Who is Sanders?" Another New Zealand officer lamented, "He is a regular cockney 'tout,' not even a New Zealander and never been to New Zealand."
Nevertheless, despite numerous challenges, including his 'outsider' status, heavy government censorship and receiving no professional credit for his work, Mr. Sanders fully embraced his new position and was dispatched to France where he took the first of his 'H-Series' photographs while traveling with the New Zealand Tunneling Company. As many early photographers discovered, it was extremely difficult to make combat stills while encumbered with a bulky box camera and fragile developing equipment. Taking clear motion pictures was equally demanding, and steadying an unwieldy tripod-mounted movie camera on rocky terrain often proved to be an impossible task. The aesthetic results were frequently unsatisfactory, and the excessive government censorship meant that little of the footage would ever been seen by anyone but a select few top-ranking officials. Positioning himself behind the lines, Lieutenant Sanders' photographs captured little in the way of combat action during the 1917 Battle of Passchendaele (also known as the Third Battle of Ypres), but he achieved greater success with chronicling the behind-the-scenes activities on the Western Front. Because he seemed to be constantly taking either still photographs or making live-action films, he earned the nickname "Movie" from his soldier comrades.
Lieutenant Sanders was discharged from military service on March 8, 1919. Afterwards, he resumed his employment with Pathé Frѐres, working primarily as an editor. Although based in England, Mr. Sanders and his wife sailed to New York City three times between 1929 and 1933, and it is believed those extended trips were prompted by his work for the international cinematic conglomerate. Forty-nine-year-old Henry Armytage Sanders died at Victoria Cottage Hospital in Thame, Oxfordshire on May 5, 1936. Sadly, only 12 of his official First World War films have survived and those are currently housed in London's Imperial War Museum. However, many of his famous 'H-Series' photographs thankfully still exist, and more than 1,000 of them can be viewed online on the WW100 website (courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, New Zealand). Though often criticized for being posed rather than spontaneous, these photographs are historical treasures that remain the only visual documentation of New Zealand's involvement in World War I.
2017 Communications and British Operations on the Western Front, 1914–1918 by Brian N. Hall (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press), pp. 41, 168.
2020 Dental Extraction During First World War (URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/dental-extraction-during-first-world-war).
2018 Henry Armytage Sanders (URL: https://alchetron.com/Henry-Armytage-Sanders).
2020 New Zealand Cooks Prepare a Meal for Troops (URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/new-zealand-cooks-prepare-meal-troops).
2018 New Zealand's Final Attack of WWI was Filmed, What Happened to the Footage? by Tony Wright (URL: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2018/01/new-zealand-s-final-attack-of-wwi-was-filmed-a-century-ago.html).
2018 Orders, Decorations and Medals (URL: https://d3ums4016ncdkp.cloudfront.net/auction/catalogue/18003/18003.pdf).
2020 Portraits of Remembrance: Painting, Memory, and the First World War edited by Margaret Hutchison and Steven Trout (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press), p. 160.
2020 Sanders, Henry Armytage, 1886-1936 (URL: https://natlib.govt.nz/items/22504308).
1995 Stout Centre Review, Vol. V (Wellington, NZ: Stout Research Centre), pp. 19-22.
2020 We Remember Henry Armytage Sanders (URL: https://livesofthefirstworldwar.iwm.org.uk/lifestory/7269580).
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