Hans Wild with his camera. (Photo by Hans Wild/The LIFE Images Collection)

Hans Wild with his camera. (Photo by Hans Wild/The LIFE Images Collection)

A failed bookkeeper and avid tinkerer, Hans Wild (1914-1969) started at LIFE in the London darkroom. When Nazi bombs started falling, he jumped to action, taking pictures of the fresh and shocking ruins. At times he would pass himself off as a doctor to get close to the scene, only to find that the censors killed all his shots. “I was taking pictures by the fires’ light and getting singed, soaked and scared,” he said. “The scares came when ardent and very nervous Home Guards tried to break my cameras and bayonet me, and when sheltering crowds thought I was a spy.” Wild’s friendliness got him out of many scrapes, and the night typically ended in a pub. He noted that the excitement of working those stories for the magazine was “enough to compensate for stories on an Average family.”

Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers

Children in Aldgate using the ruins of a bombed house as a stage for a vaudeville show. (Photo by Hans Wild/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Wild_A_IC

Children in Aldgate using the ruins of a bombed house as a stage for a vaudeville show. (Photo by Hans Wild/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill smoking a cigar as he stands in his studio painting a landscape. (Photo by Hans Wild/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill smoking a cigar as he stands in his studio painting a landscape. (Photo by Hans Wild/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

More Like This

Painter Henri Matisse using a bamboo pole tipped with charcoal to draw a half-scale figure of St. Dominic. (Photo by Robert Capa/The LIFE Images Collection) Photographer

Robert Capa

Children in Halloween costumes running together. (Photo by George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

George Silk

Imperial Dam in California. (Photo by Horace Bristol/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Horace Bristol

"False sunset" during the Blitz, with Tower Bridge silhouetted against burning docks, London, 1940. (Photo by William Vandivert/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

William Vandivert

Crowd of 10,000 at America First Committee rally. (Photo by William C. Shrout/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

William C. Shrout

A tiger setting out at dusk for night of hunting in Kanha National Park, Central India(Photo by Stan Wayman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Stan Wayman