This 6x13cm glass stereoview was published by La Stéréoscopie Universelle and has a caption “Audignicourt – Tank Renault – 9282”. It’s a rich image with good composition. Most interesting however is the person in the foreground. The soldier is photographing or filming. He photographs or films from a tripod, which indicates that he’s using heavy equipment. It’s therefore unlikely that this is an ordinary soldier recording the events with an amateur camera. Could it be an opérateur of the photo and film unit of the French army, La Section Photographique et Cinématographique de l’Armée (SPCA)? The online archives of the French army show that there is a very good chance that the photographer is one of them.
According to the archives, the SPCA recorded the advance of the French army in the towns of Moulin-sous-Touvent, Nampcel and Audignicourt on 20 August 1918. Their photographer Pierre Alphonse Pansier produced a series of 6x13cm stereoviews and 325 meters of film was produced by Robert Baudouin. The images are available online on ECPAD’s ImagesDéfense website. The tanks play a prominent role in the images, so the link between the stereoview of La Stéréoscopie Universelle and the SPCA images can easily be established. In the movie, the tanks can be seen from 7:24.
With this information, it’s quite likely that the soldier in the stereoview is Pierre Alphonse Pansier or Robert Baudouin. While they were recording the events of the day, another soldier who probably took part in the offensive snapped a photograph. Like many other French soldiers, he sold his negatives or rights after the war to publishers like La Stéréoscopie Universelle, who sold them in large quantities during the “stereo war craze” in the early 1920s.
- The SPCA was created in 1917 from a merger of the Section Photographique de l’armée and the Section Cinématographique de l’Armée.
- ECPAD: Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense
- ImagesDéfense, Pierre Alphonse Pansier