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In October 1941, the Canadian Military Headquarters in London established the Canadian Film and Photo Unit (CFPU) as part of its Public Relations Office. The initial role of the unit was to document training exercises; as a result, there is no Canadian footage of actual combat prior to 1943.
The CFPU photographers and cinematographers were trained in the same manner as combat troops. Although professionals were specifically recruited into the army or transferred into the unit for the purpose of documenting the force, some soldiers were also trained in the art of photography and film.
There were two separate divisions of the CFPU: No. 1 CFPU operating in the Mediterranean and No. 2 CFPU operating in Western Europe. These cinematographers accompanied the fighting units into combat and behind the front lines, documenting the Canadian soldier and the experience of battle. However, CFPU headquarters remained in London. It was from here that all administration and production work took place. Once film had been shot, it was sent to this office for editing and processing to prepare it for screening and distribution. In order to ensure that no secret information was communicated to the enemy, the censors reviewed the films and photographs before sending them to Canada for public viewing.
In addition to training films, the CFPU was responsible for some theatrical feature film production, but its primary responsibility was the production of the Canadian Army newsreels. The newsreels were initially produced on a monthly basis, but, due to their popularity, this was later increased to a twice monthly and then a weekly basis. Distributed within the Canadian Army and dubbed with the phrase, "of the troops, by the troops and for the troops," these newsreels showcased the best of CFPU footage.
The CFPU also sent its footage to the National Film Board, as well as to Canadian, British and American newsreel companies. The footage was usually incorporated into short documentary films and shown in movie houses and town halls to the anxiously awaiting public back in Canada.