Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ariel Varges Appointed with the Order of the British Empire

For his photographic work during World War I American cameraman Ariel Varges (1890-1972) was appointed an honorary member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. We recently found the official letter signed by King George V in Varges' personal collection which was put up for sale on the Internet.


Ariel Varges (1918). On the frontside Varges wrote "Sincerely yours, Ariel Varges, New York American staff"


Varges featured before in this weblog. He ranked among the most prominent, pioneering film cameramen of World War I. As described in our book on the American cinematographers of the Great War, Varges worked for William Randolph Hearst and he came to Europe in December 1914. By using his close contacts with Sir Thomas Lipton, Varges got on a ship for the Serbian front and filmed the war in the Balkans. From 1916, Varges became an official cinematographer for the British Army and filmed in Greece and Mesopotamia.

Signed Photograph

The letter by King George is dated November 4, 1919. Varges apparently received this honorary appointment when he was in Paris one year later, because there is an accompanying letter dated June 26, 1920 in his personal collection, which was signed by the British Ambassador in France. The collection also has a signed photograph of Varges. The backside of this picture is dated October 1, 1918. On the frontside of the picture one of the newspapers he worked for is mentioned, the New York American.

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was established by King George V in June 1917 for services to the British Empire, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations and public service outside the Civil Service. In December 1918 the Order was split into two divisions: a Civil Division for civilian recipients and a Military Division to the Order for awards to be conferred on commissioned officers and warrant officers for distinguished service in action. Because of his photographic work during World War I Varges was awarded with a Military Division Order of the British Empire.

His personal collection can be seen on this website of an online auction.

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