5th May 2020 Fiona Campbell

With VE Day edging closer, leading Armed Forces charities Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland have commissioned a series of stunning portraits of Second World War veterans as part of the national celebration of this important milestone.


The exhibition helps to tell the stories of 15 incredible Second World War veterans, and includes images from their wartime service together with a series of stunning photographs taken over the past two years. Plans had been in place for these to form a key part of this week’s formal VE Day 75th anniversary events in Edinburgh.


Now, following their postponement due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the portraits and stories are being provided to media outlets and shared online as part of the revised programme of “virtual” VE Day activities. The Second World War veterans were photographed on a Graflex Super D large format film camera made in the USA in the 1940s – and all have their own personal story to tell about that historic day on May 8th, 1945.


Dr Claire Armstrong, the CEO at Legion Scotland, said: “These images are nothing short of breathtaking – and are only matched by the stories of bravery that go alongside them. They will serve as a poignant reminder to the generations that follow, and we are grateful to have such a wonderful resource.


“As the custodians of Remembrance in Scotland, our involvement in VE Day is so important. It allows our communities to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, or who returned from battles in foreign lands with life-changing injuries. We will remember them and, even during this unprecedented pandemic, our enduring message of comradeship comes very much to the fore.


“And what better way to pay tribute to those still with us through this stunning collection of poignant images. I believe it is important for people to know that even in lockdown we are able to create an alternative way to mark this special occasion and to pay our respects as we bring people together virtually on the 8th of May to commemorate VE Day. Our virtual service and concert on Friday will provide us with a special way to thank those who gave so much in service of our country.”


More than 15 veterans have been captured, both male and female and across the services. All have an important story to tell. Among them, is the oldest-living Desert Rat, Jimmy Sinclair, who is 107 years old. Jimmy, from Kirkcaldy, fought against Rommel in the north African desert. He served as a gunner with the elite Chestnut Troop, 1st Regiment Horse Artillery, of the 7th Armoured Division. On his wartime experiences, he says: “It’s a pity it all happened. We didn’t treat the Germans as enemies; they were combatants in battle. Most of them didn’t want to be there either.”


The photographer responsible for the images is Wattie Cheung, 52, from Glasgow. Mr Cheung, who has been photographing the Second World War generation for almost two years, said: “My job as a press photographer is to tell stories and I’ve always been impressed by the veterans I have photographed at the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies over the past 25 years.


“I have noticed in the past few years that there have been fewer veterans coming back to the ceremonies and always had in the back of mind that I should do something for a project. So when I got hold of the vintage Graflex camera with a view to do a project of portraits it seemed a perfect match to use a camera built in the 1940s to photograph the Second World War veterans.


“It has been a pleasure and honour to photograph these amazing people. I always think photography is like a time machine – it captures a moment forever that you can go back to, to relive and observe another time. The veterans are a link to the past and they won’t be around forever to tell their stories. Listening to their recollections of the war has been enlightening, humorous and educational. They are a special breed of people that I doubt we will ever see again and I hope the portraits do them justice.”


The exhibition is also available to view at the Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland Facebook pages at and respectively. A virtual Service of Remembrance and virtual Tribute concert will be broadcast at 1100 and 1200 on Friday 8th May from these Facebook pages also.


To access all of the available images, please click here 


For all images, please credit: Wattie Cheung/Poppyscotland.