British Universities Film & Video Council

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Edward George Tong ("Teddy")

Profile

Born
10 July 1886
Death
2 November 1962
Dates
1903-1934
Role
Cameraman
Newsreels / Cinemagazines
War Office Official Topical Budget; PatheGazette
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Notes
There is a photograph of Tong in Kinematograph Weekly, 20/12/1917, p.53. The credit for ‘The Victory Leaders’ in June 1919 gives ‘Lieut. Tonge,' but the identification seems certain.

Career

Teddy Tong was born in Portsmouth, the son of a shipwright in H M Dockyard. He seems to have trained as a still photographer, and in about 1901 joined ‘the photographic department of Messrs. John Dyers of Portsmouth.' Tong began working in the film industry in 1903, when he joined Alfred West, presumably to film material for his production and exhibition company Our Navy Ltd, which was based at Southsea. Tong subsequently worked as a cameraman for Charles Urban, and afterwards joined Jury’s Imperial Pictures, where he became William Jury’s ‘factory manager and chief camera man.' Tong was considered to be a conscientious worker, and it was said that ‘his skilful, painstaking work showed him to be a master of the camera.' It was this reputation which led in August 1915 to his being chosen by the Topical Committee of the Kinematograph Manufacturers’ Association as one of two official cameramen to work at GHQ, the other being Geoffrey Malins [qv] of Gaumont. Unfortunately the scheme took months to get underway, and in October 1915 Charles Urban recruited Tong, Charlie Weddup [qv] and Fred Wilson [qv], as cameramen for another official project, taking film of the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. During twelve days of filming Tong obtained 3,600 feet of film, including shots of HMS King Edward VII firing its 12-inch guns, and much of this material was incorporated in ‘Britain Prepared’ (1915). However, at the start of November 1915 Malins and Tong were finally allowed to go to GHQ, wearing army uniform and being ‘rated as Lieutenants,' but nevertheless working for the Topical Committee.

Over the next two months Tong and Malins obtained enough material for two series of short films, but Tong came under considerable stress. According to Captain Faunthorpe, the officer in charge of filming, he ‘took a good many of the early pictures,' but then ‘broke down twice owing to hard work and exposure in the trenches in the winter and had to be replaced.' At the end of December 1915 Tong was invalided home, reportedly with ‘a bad attack of influenza.' However the illness seems to have been more serious than this, for in March 1916 Tong still had not received his medical certificate of fitness, and in June 1916 it was apparently decided that he should not return to GHQ, and the Topical Committee appointed Mac McDowell [qv] to replace him as official cameraman for the Somme battles. Yet Tong was not removed from his post, and as late as August 1916 was still describing himself as ‘War Office Official Kinematographer,' and was being bracketed with Malins and McDowell as one of the ‘official British camera men.'

He never returned to GHQ, but seems nevertheless to have continued in his post, perhaps on sick leave, until December 1917, when it was finally announced that Tong ‘has now been discharged from the Army suffering from neurasthenia.' However, Tong seems to have continued in official work, for in the same month it was reported that he was ‘engaged in producing propaganda pictures, and is specialising in those showing how we are capturing German trade’: ‘One of his films to be put out shortly shows the filling of shells with T.N.T.' By April 1918 Tong was working for the Ministry of National Service, and organised a private showing of ‘some of the special propaganda films which have recently been made under the direction of the Ministry.' The following week he attended a patriotic meeting in Wolverhampton, apparently showing films including the Ministry’s own production ‘A Call to the Young.' In August 1918 some of Tong’s official footage was also used in the item ‘BRITAIN’S FOUR YEARS OF WAR,' in Pictorial News No.362-2. He may have been given military rank for this work, for in January 1919 it was reported that ‘Lieut. E.G. Tong and Alec Stewart had the honour of giving a kinematograph entertainment before the King and Queen and members of the Royal family at Sandringham.' Tong later noted his ‘royal gift of a diamond tie-pin,' and this may have come from the Sandringham event.

Tong seems then to have joined the Stoll Film Company and worked with the cameraman Paul Burger on the company’s ‘cinema interviews’ of soldiers and politicians. This necessitated ‘over 4,000 miles of travelling and ...three months work,' and resulted in the film ‘The Victory Leaders’ which was directed by Maurice Elvey and released in June 1919. Tong afterwards did some freelance work, and was in the camera team which filmed ‘THE GRAND NATIONAL, 1927’ for Pathe Gazette No.1384 in March 1927. He was also in the teams that filmed the same race for Pathe’s Super Sound Gazette No.33/25 in March 1933, and for No.34/25 in March 1934. However, Tong later abandoned the film industry, and by the time that he died was working as a master baker.

Sources

PRO, ADM 116/1447, ‘Britain Prepared’ file: Bioscope, 4/11/1915, pp.520 F-G, ‘Camera Men at the Front’; 6/12/1917, p.7, ‘Gossip and Opinions’: Cinema, 4/11/1915, p.19, ‘A Topical Function’: Kinematograph Weekly, 4/11/1915, p.14; 13/1/1916, p.7; 9/3/1916, p.3; 10/8/1916, p.14, E. G. Tong ‘The Picture Theatre at GHQ’; 20/12/1917, p.53, ‘A Smart Piece of Work at the S.P.T.'; 25/4/1918, p.58; 2/5/1918, p.50, ‘Weekly Notes’: War Illustrated, 7/7/1917, p.450, ‘Camera Correspondents’: Kine Year Book 1920, p.21: BFI, Related Material 1504, typescript notes by M. Seton, c.1937, ‘World War 1:4,' pp.20-21: PRO, INF 4/2, Brooke Wilkinson typescript, p.298: Cine Technician, April-May 1940, p.25; November-December 1942, p.124: ‘National Film Archive Catalogue Part II - Silent Non-Fiction Films 1895-1934’ (London, 1960), p.55: NFTVA, E.G. Tong to J. Huntley, 19/6/1962: Information also from Tong’s birth and death certificates at St. Catherine’s House, and his will at Somerset House.

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