Please help to identify this Leica!

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by mark_crame|1, Dec 19, 2003.

  1. Hi, I have a photograph of Flight Lieutenant Frank Howell who was a pilot with the Royal Air force during the Battle of Britain. In it he is holding his Leica - and I am wondering if any of you might be able to identify it for me. This photograph was taken in 1940 if that helps. Frank Howell was killed in the 1950's in an accident, and this request stems from a conversation that I had with his daughter (who was born after his death)a while ago. Many thanks in advance - it would be great to ID it and let her know. Regards, Mark.
  2. A close up...
  3. What ever it is it seems to be a one of a kind left handed model.
  4. I'm not sure, but the image is flipped... a little PS should take care of that.
    Hope that helps!
  5. Tough to say but the negative is flipped.
  6. I can't see the little lever under the rewind crank so I am guessing a IIIa?

    Sorry about the above post, I couldn't help it.
  7. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    First off your photo it backwards left to right. As there is NO Leica that would appear as this one does in the photo posted here. That said it would most likely be a a 1938-1946 Leica IIIb (G) as it does not have the eyepc. diopter adjustment of the two earlier models with this confuguration as well as having what appears to be a viewfinder Dipopter adjustment below the rewind knob. The lens appears to be the venerable 5cm f3.5 Elmar with a hood on it. McKeown's gives it's value as $300-450.00 in EX and 700-900.00 in Mint Oh and I can rule out the IIIc 1940-1946 as there does not appear to be a step in the top cover under the diopter adjustment lever. It was sure a lot easier trying to figure out this puzzel after I flipped the photo right to left. If some one else has a different opinion please let me know as I tried to do this based on the literature and examples I have.
  8. #1 the negative is flipped left to right. as far as the camera goes,
    i don't see a slow speed knob on the front. that, plus the top
    plate arrangement leads me to believe it is a iib (the ii/iiic was a
    1940 intro anyway. not to many made their way to britain that
    year -- you said it was a 1940 photo. plus the case looks worn
    suggesting that it is not a brand new camera)

    as for the lens, the easy guess would be the typically supplied
    elmar 50. but the profile looks wrong to me. my guess -- and it
    is only that -- is that the lens is something native, like a taylor
    hobson. i feel like i have seen the profile before, but can't quite
    place it. definitely a 50 though as no auxilliary finder is fitted.
  9. sorry for any repetition. some posts went up whilst i was
    composing my reply.
  10. is treads for tripod stick turns right or to left
  11. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    My copy of Mckeown's dosen't seam to list a Leica IIb. As to not seeing a slow speed dial can easily explained by the angle of the photo and the deep shadow across the front of the camera. The lack of the viewfinder diopter adjustment frame that would show in this angle as being behind the rewind knob. And the time frame means this almost has to be a two year old IIIb.
  12. The photo of the camera is such that id is speculation - it could be a Zorki for all we really know.
  13. you are, of course, right. i should have said iia. i don't agree
    about the shadow, as i read the light, the chrome slow speed
    dial would have been recorded. it is all dark because it is a dark
    iia case. i don't think there is a slow speed dial.
  14. Yes, definately 1940. Haha! The bloody neg has been flipped for over 60 years!!! This was taken from a print. This is great news - We can both look at it properly now. As said, the chances of a delivery to the UK of a Leica in 1940 would have been tricky to say the least...
  15. look at the wear on the strap; look at the top plate near the
    rewind; look closely at the light and the place where the slow
    speed dial should be; look at iiib production numbers and dates
    and think about europe in the 1930s. iia is IMO the best guess.
    and while everybody was knocking out iia copies in the 30s
    (especially FED), i can tell by the look of FL howell that he is
    holding a leica. i would say a reid if it were a few years later, but
    he didn't own a russian camera. also the case looks like
    EXACTLY like a 30s leica case i have.
  16. no question, a iia type. i just realize that you can plainly see the
    top edge of the case go straight across. the top edge is plainly
    picked out by the light. a iiib would have had a cutout in the case.
  17. Charles has a point - but I do know from various sources that he was a Leica man. Thanks for your help so far everyone. I also think that the case would cover anything on the front of the body.

    Oh, and just to make you laugh, it's printed in a book the wrong way around too!
  18. Although the camera clearly proves it, two other clues show it was reversed in printing: his fly, and the way his four-in -hand is tied. I'm betting it is a IIIb, but it could be an upgraded II. The Spit evokes nostalgia; us bomber types always loved to see "little brother" up REAL close.
  19. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    Ok I have three photo's/prints to back up my assurtion it is a 1938ish IIIb The first shows the viewfinder diopter adjustment as it is on the a models from the rear showing it clearly sticking out in the view of the origional photo. The second photo is of the same thing from the front again showing the frame sticking out from behind the top of the camera. The third is a blow up (corrected for right left) In which the top front edge of the case CAN NOT BE SEEN AT ALL but if you look close a curved shape right where the slow speed dial is located can be. The strong shadow on the top of the lens clearly tells that NO detail in the slow speed shutter dial area could be seen. So we have to fall back on the model a's viewfinder diopter frame to tell us which of the two choices we have it is. And this clearly says IIIb.
  20. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

  21. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    next one
  22. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    And one last blow up to show the IIIb style viewfinder diopter adjust ment lever under the rewind knob. There is just enough of an image to see that there has to be something (like a small chrome knob) in front of the rewind knob. This camera HAS to be a model IIIb as there is no model IIb and unless it is a very highly modified IIa that is the only choice that has these features or lack of features. I'm done agree or disagree but please post pictures to back up you points. Thanks
  23. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    Roger there is no model IIa listed that I can find.
  24. I don't think there was a IIa. The earliest a was the IIIa, where the a signifies the addition of a 1/1000 top speed. This example can't be a III anything, without a slow speed dial. It's gotta be a II (D) in chrome.
  25. no question the a was available in a slow speed-less version.
    do you see what i mean about the case?? the top edge of the
    case is visible across the entire front of the camera. there is
    absolutely no cutout for the slow speed dial. i see what you
    mean, however, about the window. the only other possibility is
    that this is the fed iia copy, which as you will see in a link i will
    post below lacks the slow speeds but also has the pictured
    window arrangement. the fed would also explain the IMO
    strange lens profile. see what you think.

    i should also add (as you probably know) that there was not
    much standardization among the zorkis. finally, i dragged out my
    iiib case from my case cabinet. the flap doesn't look anything
    like the pictured flap . . . .
  27. It could still be a 1940s model. Perhaps when he was flying over Germany, he looked down and spotted a camera store. He then landed out front, went in and purchased the camera.

    I think I remember my great uncle in Cologne telling about a crazy flyer who bought a camera from him during the war.:)
  28. Aren't these takes from the Zapruder film?
  29. Mark: If there is a readable serial number on the camera, please post it, and answer these 3 questions: (1) Is the slow speed to one second or not? (2) is The higest speed 1/500 or 1/1000; (3) Look at the viewfinder/range finder: is it two little windows close together or are they separated by about 1/4 inch. with that information, I, and several hundred other leicaphiles will give you an answer.
  30. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    Melvin, Mark is trying to ID the camera from the above posted photo. He doesn't have the camera.
  31. tgh


    From my limited knowledge of pre-war Leicas, I'd guess the lens is a Summar. It's collapsible and the aperture ring appears to be around the lens, not on the front. Also the chrome on the front appears to stop at the top of the vulcanite. It doesn't extend down around the lens mount so that rules out a IIIc. Finally there appears to be no strap lugs on the side. At least there's no cut out on the camera case and it appears to fit closely to the camera. If there were any strap lugs I'd think the case without cutouts would be bulged out a bit at the top, just under the rewind knob. I think everything after the II had lugs, so my guess would be a chrome II with a Summar.

    Or does anyone know what a Reid looked like?
  32. Don't know whether this helps, but this is after tweaking the levels a little in PS, which has brightened things up a little. Over to the experts...
  33. "Bill Wilton , dec 19, 2003; 11:17 p.m. Aren't these takes from the Zapruder film?" Having googled for 'the Zapruder film' I can state that it can't be - Frank Howell was killed in 1948. Thanks for being so obsessive (as stated earlier!!) The camera is no longer with the family to my knowledge, and Franks daughter never knew anything other than it was a Leica (backed up elsewhere). I don't know if they have another photo with him holding it either. I must see if I can borrow the original print again, and rescan it. Full marks for effort everyone! Thanks a bunch! Here's some info on him if anyone is interested. He was what came to be known as an 'Ace', having got 5 'kills'. Frank Howell The future 39612 F/Lt Frank Howell, DFC*, was born at Golders Green in London on 25th January 1912, Frank Howell took a short service commission in the Royal Air Force. He trained at AST Antsy 1st March - 30th April 1937, moving on to No 3 FTS at Grantham from 1st May - 7th August. On 3rd May he was made Acting Pilot Officer. Training was completed at South Cerney from 24th August - 26th November, whereupon he was posted to No 25 (F) Squadron at Hawkinge, flying Hawker Demon aircraft on 3rd December. He became a Pilot Officer on 1st March 1938. His next posting was to No 80 Sqdn flying Gloster Gladiators at Ismailia from 27th March 1938, during which time he was attached to No 4 FTS at Abu Sueir from 13th June - 25th September. No 80 Sqdn moved to Amiriya on 24th September 1938, returning to Ismailia on 9th October. On 16th January 1939, they again moved to Helwan, where they remained until Frank was posted back to the UK on 28th August 1939. He was stationed at the Uxbridge depot from the 29th until being posted to 609 (West Riding) Squadron at Drem on 14th November 1939. On 1st September his promotion to Flying Officer had taken place, and it was with this rank that he joined the squadron. From Drem, Frank followed the movements of the squadron, going to Kinloss from 5th December 1939 - 12th January 1940, whereupon they returned to Drem until 19th May. From Drem, the Squadron moved south to Northolt, where they stayed until moving to Middle Wallop in Hampshire on the 4th July, finally heading to Warmwell in Dorset on 29th November. Frank Howell force landed Spitfire N3203 on 30th May at Martlesham (with no damage) due to foul weather. His first combat came the next day, 31st May, while flying an offensive patrol at 15,000ft over Dunkirk in Spitfire N3024. He attacked a Junkers Ju88 with Joe Dawson, which is believed to have crashed, and, in conjunction with John Dundas, attacked a Heinkel He111, setting fire to the starboard engine. Both were claimed as 'Damaged Probable'. The following day, again over Dunkirk, he attacked another He111, seeing no result, before attacking 3 more and setting the starboard engine alight on one of them - claiming one 'Damaged' and one 'Damaged Probable'. This was also the day he became 'A' Flight Commander. He was amongst the party that escorted Winston Churchill to France and back on 11th and 13th June. On 12th July, Red Section, consisting of Flt-Lt Frank Howell in R6691, Fg-Off Paul Edge in R6636 and Plt-Off Johnny Curchin R6634 shot down a Heinkel 111 (later only credited with a ‘Probable’). On 18th July, whilst flying Spitfire R6634, he shared in the destruction of a Junkers Ju88 of 1/KG54, engaging it 5 miles off Swanage. His aircraft was hit in the glycol tank by return fire and baled out uninjured, landing 4 miles south of Poole at 15.15 hours and being picked up by the Royal Navy. Paul Edge was also shot down, and the aircraft was finally shot down by Alan Feary. He was scrambled on 13th August in R6691 and flying at 18,000ft saw "50 plus Ju87's with Escort". He promptly shot down 2 of them. On August 15th, in his own words: "Middle Wallop attacked again by 12 Ju88's. Took off as a salvo hit hangar and chased a Ju88 to Warmwell, and shot it down in flames". On the 25th, flying X4104 he damaged two Messerschmitt 110's in head on attacks. He was credited on this day with 1 Bf110 'Destroyed' in X4234. On the 3rd September he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant. On 7th September, whilst patrolling Northolt - Brooklands at 20,000ft in R6691, he encountered a large formation of Messerschmitt 110's. Having shot one down, he then spotted a large formation of Ju88's and attacked one, setting its engine on fire, before attacking another, on which he observed no result - although the cine-gun film shows a fire starting. He was also shot at by another Spitfire during this engagement. He was credited with one Bf110 Destroyed, and 2 Ju88's Probably Destroyed. Patrolling Brooklands at 20,000ft in R6691 on 15th September, he took 2 snap shots at a formation of Dornier Do17's with escort, with no visible result. During his second patrol that day, over Hastings, he shot down 1 Dornier Do17 out of a formation of 18. On 7th October, he force landed Spitfire X4472 at Shaftesbury after combat with Messerschmitt Bf 109's over Yeovil. He had been hit in the oil tank, but had shot down a Bf110. On 21st October, in conjunction with Sydney Hill, he shared in the destruction of a Ju88 which had been machine–gunning Old Sarum. This was 609 Squadrons 100th Kill. 4 Days later, on the 25th October, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. From 609, Frank was posted to Filton on 23rd February 1941 to form and command 118 Squadron on Spitfires. Whilst with 118, Howell claimed the squadron's first victory, a Heinkel He111 on the night of July 7th. He also claimed a 'Probable' Bf109 and shared another on October 13th. 118 subsequently moved to Colerne, Warmwell and Ibsley, from where Frank was posted on 23rd October 1941, joining HMS Prince of Wales and heading out to the Far East theatre of war. His promotion to Squadron Leader came through on 1st December. Joining 243 Sqdn on 6th December, which was reforming at Kallang with Brewster Buffalos, he was almost immediately posted a few days later to Headquarters Fighter Command in Singapore. He was on the Prince of Wales when it was sunk on 10th December, and was taken prisoner by Japanese forces on 16th February 1942 whilst trying to reach Sumatra - being held at Muntok, Palembane, Singapore, Changi, until 15th August 1945. Frank returned to the UK, arriving back at Cosford on 24th October. From 18th March - 9th April 1946, Frank Howell was posted to No. 110 Refresher Unit at Wittering, before moving on to No 17 SFTS at Coleby Grange until 24th May. On 17th August he was sent to HQ Fighter Command until 30th June 1947, becoming Squadron Leader again on 15th November, before a posting to No 1 Squadron at Tangmere on IF Course 5th -23rd January 1948. He was subsequently posted to take over as Commanding Officer of No 54 Squadron at Odiham on 12th January, which was equipped with DeHavilland Vampire's. On 9th May 1948, Frank Howell was making a cine film of his squadron's aircraft, when the wingtip of one of them struck him, severing his jugular vein. Squadron Leader Frank Howell, DFC, bled to death before he could be treated. Married on 22nd November 1946, Frank Howell had a son born on 1st September 1947, and a daughter who followed on 2nd October 1948. The first husband of his wife (she began with nursing, before becoming a FANY in SOE, decoding in Italy and marrying Miles in Cairo Cathedral). 80044 Wing Commander Miles Andrew Johnson DFC, a pilot of 25 (S.A.A.F.) Sqdn, died on 28th September 1944 when, as a passenger in a ditched aircraft, he tried to save a padre. After joining 237 (Rhodesia) Sqdn, he took command of 208 Sqdn in North Africa 1942-43. In August 1944 he became W/C Operations of 254 Wing in Italy
  34. the reid existed only in prototype form in 1940. again, i really
    think it must be a II and, as for the lens, very difficult to say. a
    summar is not a bad guess, but it still doesn't quite look like a
    leica profile to me, and the taylor hobson's were quite popular as
    leica mates in britain at that time.
  35. I don't know what kind of imaginations you guys have but I sure as hell can't see enough detail in the rewind area to see a diopter adjustment lever of any kind. Furthermore it appears to me that the rewind knob is flat-sided, not round. SO I wouldn't venture a guess as to if it's even a Leica let alone which model.
  36. P.S. It may not have been his camera, one of my reference books show an ad that the British ran at the begining of WWII wanting to purchase used leicas for RAF use.
  37. Roger: "a" is not a model designation. The basic thread-mount Leicas are I, II, and III. A I is the most basic model, lacking a built in range/viewfinder. A II has the built-in range-viewfinder, but lacks the slow-spped dial. A III has all of the above, but does not yet have the 1/1000 top speed.. A IIIa has all of the above, including the 1/1000 top speed. There was a IIc (with all the improvements of the IIIc, except without a slow-speed dial. There was a IIf, with all the benefits of a IIIf, except, again, no slow-speed dial (and no self-timer). There was a IIg (same idea).

    But there's no IIa in the serial number & year listings; no IIa in Lager; no IIa in Rogliatti, and no mention of one in Morgan & Morgan. In other words, no II with a 1/1000 speed when it left the factory. If any II's were retro-fitted for 1/1000, that's another story . . . I don't know if that enhancement was done.

    That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
  38. This looks like a straightforward chrome Leica II - no lugs, the strap of the case being used. This was possibly the commonest Leica in the UK at that time.There doesn't appear to be a slow speed dial which confirms that it is proably a Leica II.
  39. I agree with a chrome Leica 11, particularly because no lugs or slow speeds,
    but to help confuse the issue, my father was in Lancaster bombers in that period. He told me that Air Force types apparently made an effort to get new Leicas and Contaxes from USA prior to USA entering the war against Germany, so could it indeed be a IIIC???? Not a IIC cos they weren't around till 1948
    Just being helpful
  40. I'd go for a IIIc. The RF windows look much too big for a IIIa or IIIb.
  41. Britain went to war with Germany in late 1939. The Leica IIIc was not manufactured until 1940, the year this photo was made so it is highly unlikely that any ordinary Brit would possess one unless it had been liberated from a shot-down German aircraft. Earlier I suggested that the Leica might be a IIIb on the basis of what appeared to several of us as the diopter adjustment lever, but upon further examination of the enlarged portion showing th camera I am inclined to agree that it is most likely a II. There was NO IIa! The apparent lack of strap lugs and slow speed dial are the most convincing clues. While the IIIb was known in the US at that time, and generally recognized as the "state of the art", very few, if any IIIcs even reached the US prior to our entry into the war.

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