David Thorpe Photography

Professional Pix

Pictures for Money

This bomb, in February 1972, was one of the worst of the IRA's attacks on the UK mainland. I turned out to be the only photographer to get aerial pictures of the scene.

I had been on a Morecambe and Wise film set in Elstree. The photocall over, I went to my car to make my way back to Fleet Street. As was standard practise, I called the office to tell them where I was and what pix I had. I was told that Alan Read wanted to speak to me urgently. He was a man capable of thinking on his feet and explaining himself succinctly. "Go straight to Denham Airfield. There will be a helicopter waiting there with the engine running. Leave straight away. I'll explain by radio when you've taken off.

I raced as fast as I could to Denham and there was the helicopter with running engine. I climbed aboard. The pilot had already removed the door so that I would be able to get clear shots of...what?

En route to Aldershot, It was explained to me what had happened. As we arrived over the scene it was plain that the bomb had been huge. I asked the pilot to come down as low and get as close as he could and to circle the scene. After one circuit, we were waved away from the ground. I had the pictures I needed so we left immediately.

On the way back, we put down at Battersea heliport where despatch rider Pat Ryan was waiting to bike my film back to the office.

The pilot and I stopped for a cup of coffee and a chat and I called the office to say my stuff was on its way and what it showed. Alan told me that all flights had been banned over the scene, so we were the only ones with a picture. We then got back in the 'copter and I was ferried back to Denham to pick up my car.

On the way back to Fleet Street I stoped for a paper. They had worked fast and there, right across the front page was my picture. As the only one available, it was on the front of newspapers right across the world, syndicated by Associated Newspapers.

I guess there may be more exciting careers but I can't think of anything more thrilling than a day like this.