Errol Flynn, Sean Flynn, combat photographers

Errol Flynn was a legend in his own lifetime.

He was a swashbuckling, devil may care movie heartthrob of the thirties and forties, a silver screen adventurer and real life playboy with an enlarged heart, a morphine problem, chronic tuberculosis and venereal disease.

He was declared 4-F by the army and died of a heart attack at 50.

Errol Flynn, Sean Flynn, combat photographersIt was his son Sean that lived the life that his father portrayed on the screen.

Errol’s only son became an actor like his Dad but quickly grew bored with it.

He tried his hand at big game hunting but that didn’t work out.

So he went to Indochina to cover the Vietnam war as a freelance photojournalist, first for the French magazine Paris-Match, then for Time-Life and finally for United Press International.

He attached himself to Special Forces units and irregulars operating behind enemy lines.

Errol Flynn, Sean Flynn, combat photographersHe made a parachute jump with the 101st airborne, then went to Israel to cover the 1967 Arab Israeli war.

In early 1970, he and Dana Stone disappeared in Cambodia, captured by communist guerrillas at a roadblock on Highway One.

They were never heard from again and their remains have never been found. They were believed killed by the Khmer Rouge.

He was not the first or the last.

Errol Flynn, Sean Flynn, combat photographersBeing a war photographer is a deadly business. 63 died covering the Vietnam war; 66 died in Iraq; 36 in the Balkans.

I first became interested in the subject of combat photograpy when I met Tony Ashby, an award-winning Australian photographer who covered wars in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Ireland and was at the siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian conflict.

He helped me enormously in writing a book called WarBaby.

Tony is one of those guys who has a bullet with his name on it.

Errol Flynn, Sean Flynn, combat photographersA friend had it engraved after they were strafed by a Serbian MiG running from their downed and burning helicopter somewhere near Sarajevo. The bullet is now on the coffee table in his living room in Marmion, West Australia.

You’ll find his work here including some stunning and heart breaking photographs of the Sarajevo siege.

WarBaby is not about war; that’s just the background. It’s about two subjects close to my heart: mateship, and fathers and daughters. 

Which brings us neatly back to old Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn, Sean Flynn, combat photographersIf you’ve never heard this song, and you love your girl or your old man, then better brace yourself before pressing play.

Do you remember that Bette Midler song, The Rose? It was actually written by Amanda McBroome. She also wrote this song for her father, the actor David Bruce, who actually did play alongside Errol Flynn in those old movies.

It moved me. Perhaps it will move you, too. 


You can read more about WARBABY HERE – you’ll find it at the bottom of the page.



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About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
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  1. prue batten says:

    A couple of things about this post resonate. Errol Flynn lived in my hometown, went to the same school as my now 88 year old mother and is somewhat of a loved black sheep here. His grandson came to visit the town a couple of years ago and actually did a sword-fighting demonstration in the centre of town.
    In addition, my brother was a news cameraman during the Gulf War, creeping across middle eastern borders in the dead of night to get right into the thick of things. He also covered the worst of Sri Lanka’s battles with the Tamil Tigers. We too always said he had a bullet with his name on it. Cameramen have no fear and I will always be proud of what he accomplished. Nowadays, his battles are with fish and the sea!

    • Prue you must be from Tassy. The island produced one of the great combat photographers – Neal Davis. I’m glad your brother got home in one piece – so did Tony. He decided that 15 years was enough and now his biggest danger is getting hit by a football during AFL matches. Somewhere there’s a Sherrin with his name on it!

  2. Julia Robb says:

    Anyone interested in Sean Flynn or combat photography and reportage should read “Dispatches,” by Michael Herr. Herr covered Vietnam for Esquire magazine. “Dispatches” is the most passionate and intense book you’ll ever read. It shook me, which is what all readers hope for. Here are Herr’s last words in the book: “Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam, we’ve all been there.”

  3. susielindau says:

    Dang! I missed the giveaway. Next time!

    I remember a while back I found a photo blog of a soldier who had taken some amazing photos. I wish I would have followed him. If I did, I don’t think he posted again.
    Loved Errol Flynn. We have some relatives named Flynn and I always liked to believe we were related!
    In like Flynn as they say….. 🙂
    Hey! My daughter Courtney just got accepted to a Semester Abroad and she is going to Barcelona this summer! We will be traveling there to visit so we’ll have to meet up!

  4. filbio says:

    Errol Flynn, even with his problems and vices, still embodies old Hollywood grandeur. Sad to see how his son passed. War photographers are some of the bravest people out there. I certainly would not do it.

    • Tony Ashby is one of the most unassuming guys you’d ever meet – not in the Sean Flynn mold – it’s also probably why he’s still alive. He never took risks he couldn’t calculate, and he still ended up getting strafed while running form a burning helicopter!! And I agree with you about Erroll. Charisma plus.

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