In Focus with C H Wood

A Trials Guru ‘special section’ depicting the photographic records of Charles Harold Wood M.B.E. of Bradford from the 1930s.

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Images provided by his son, film-maker David Wood of Shipley.

Charles Harold Wood, known in business as C.H. Wood, started out in photography in 1922. By 1932 he had set up the firm of C.H. Wood (Bradford) Ltd. and went on to become one of the best known photographers in Yorkshire. Over the years he built up a solid business and could boast a diverse range of clients, many of the firms made household brand names. C.H. Wood specialised in filming and photography for industry, commerce and advertising purposes. A keen flyer, he also specialised in aerial photography.

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Harold Wood in his studio producing sound effects to accompany one of his films – Photo: David Wood Archive

After the Second World War, the business expanded further and C.H. Wood was joined by his two sons, David and Malcolm who took over the company when he retired in the 1970s.

Following a meeting between Trials Guru’s John Moffat and David C. Wood at the 2014 Scott Trial Re-union at the Spa Hotel, Ripon, David some time later offered Trials Guru the opportunity to showcase some of his father’s early stills camera work. Moffat jumped at the chance and was very grateful of the offer. We now showcase the images here, these have not been seen in public previously.

A still photograph taken during the filming of ‘Quartet For Two Wheels’ in 1967 at Ryeflat Farm, Carstairs, Lanarkshire. C.H. Wood is in the centre, looking towards camera – Copyright: David Wood Archive, Shipley

But the connection actually went even further back than 2014, as David had regularly bumped into Moffat’s father, T. Arnott Moffat at the Scottish Six Days Trial over many years. C.H. Wood got to know the Moffat family back in 1967 when filming ‘Quartet for Two Wheels’ for Castrol Oils, which included footage taken at the Edinburgh Southern MC scrambles course at Ryeflat Farm, Carstairs, Lanarkshire. Moffat senior had been instrumental in securing the necessary permissions for filming to take place. The ground today forms a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is lost to the sport.

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David C. Wood in action, filming Mick Andrews at the 1973 SSDT for the Yamaha Motor Company film entitled ‘Mick Andrews Trial Champion’ – Photo: David Wood Archive

Much of the C.H. Wood film library archive is now retailed by Duke Video based in the Isle of Man, having obtained the permission to market some of the Castrol Oils and Yamaha films from the 1960 and 1970s.

More on C.H. Wood M.B.E. & the Second World War effort:

Born in 1904, C.H. Wood became a motorcycle enthusiast at an early age. He grew up close to where Alfred Angas Scott, founder of Scott Motor Cycles, Shipley lived and as a toddler, dashed through the streets of Shipley with a wooden scooter fitted with Scott badges and colours. From 1925 to 1930, Wood served the firm of Scott as a competition rider, assistant designer and of course, photographer. Wood captained the Yorkshire team on several occasions.

Interestingly, he pioneered haze-penetrating infra-red photography for aerial use and at the outbreak of war, his brother, William ‘Willie’ Wood being an RAF flying instructor, knew that the RAF was keen to perfect night flying. The RAF was persuaded to engage Harold to assist them with night flying training. Wood discovered that day could be turned into night by covering the windshields with a green filter and equipping the pilots with amber goggles.

Wood had hit on a revelation for the RAF when Wing Commander, Guy Gibson of the famous 617 ‘Dam Buster’ squadron approached Harold (now known as Squadron Leader) to produce instant ‘moonlight’ for his bomber crews.

Gibson was of course immortalised in the 1955 motion picture ‘The Dam Busters’ with Gibson’s character played by the actor, Richard Todd. The false ‘moonlight’ was created by using blue filters; Gibson later wrote that Harold had even simulated night-time drowsiness. It was only later revealed that these experiments were performed in preparation training for the now famous Dam-buster raids on the heavily fortified Ruhr Dams in the industrial heart of Germany.

The Air Ministry recognised Harold’s work and contribution as “a war winning invention of the utmost importance” – a very fitting accolade of significant magnitude for a sporting motorcyclist.

Whilst Harold is remembered for his outstanding photography, film making and motorcycling, his contribution to the Second World War cannot be forgotten or underestimated. – Charles Harold Wood was awarded the M.B.E.

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Yorkshire Centre Team Trial 1939 – Photo: C.H. Wood

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Yorkshire Centre Team Trial 1939 – Photo: C.H. Wood

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Yorkshire Centee Team Trial 1939 – Photo: C.H. Wood

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Yorkshire Centre Team Trial 1939 – Photo: C.H. Wood

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Yorkshire Centre Team Trial 1939 – Photo: C.H. Wood

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Yorkshire Centre Team Trial 1939 – Photo: C.H. Wood

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Yorkshire Centre Team Trial 1939 – Photo: C H Wood

With special thanks to David Wood for supplying all the photographs from the ‘David Wood Archive’ and all information on C.H. Wood M.B.E & C H Wood (Bradford) Ltd.

All photos in this section are copyright and are the intellectual propery of: C.H. Wood Collection at the David Wood Archive, Shipley Yorkshire, England – Please be respectful of the copyright provisions.

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