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Tributes to photographer after years of royal portraits

By Lowri Chant

A well-known photographer who covered the visits of the Queen and Lady Diana to Canterbury has died aged 92.

Ben May was personally chosen by The Queen Mother to take her formal birthday portraits in Deal each year.

He was also a prolific Kent wedding photographer from the 1950s to the 1990s, often capturing three events in one day.

Ben May was personally chosen by The Queen Mother for her regular formal birthday portraits
Ben May was personally chosen by The Queen Mother for her regular formal birthday portraits

During the Second World War, Mr May flew as a flight engineer in 420 Squadron, known as the Snowy Owls.

He was the only Englishman in an otherwise Canadian crew, and flew in both the Halifax and the more famous Lancaster bombers.

After the war, he spent his “demob” money on a Matchless 350cc motorcycle and rode to Switzerland, before returning to work as a photographer for Sunbeam on the promenade at Margate, and then as a technical and film cameraman for Saunders Roe aircraft on the Isle of Wight.

He then married nurse Pam, and moved to Canterbury.

Mr May became a wedding and commercial photographer and covered many events for the Kentish Gazette and Southern Television, including royal visits.

Ben May as Flight Engineer in 420 Squadron (The Snowy Owls)
Ben May as Flight Engineer in 420 Squadron (The Snowy Owls)

As the official photographer for Canterbury Cathedral, he notably climbed the precarious steeples to record conservation work, and covered the Lambeth Conference in 1978. He also did much of the regimental photography for The Queen’s Regiment at Howe Barracks.

Living at the family home in Rough Common since 1965, he died after a short illness at the QEQM Hospital on May 23.

He joins his wife, who died two years ago, but leaves his youngest brother Peter, sons Ben, Nicholas, and Peter, daughters-in-law Senga, Fleur, and Louise, grandchildren Rosie, George, Jenny and Catherine, and great-grandchildren Max and Elaina.

His family thank staff at QEQM and those who sent condolences.

The funeral will be at Barham Crematorium on Wednesday, June 13.

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