Facebook Patriotism: Faked for Likes

The things that pop up in your newsfeed, eh? You wouldn’t believe it if you didn’t see it for yourself. This photo is the latest to appear, and spoiler alert, it’s a fake.


You just can’t beat mindless patriotism in any country for attracting clicks, likes and similar traffic. So, when this appeared, I read the caption and applied the basic rule of skepticism: is it really likely that a claim this extraordinary is true? It took about three minutes to (a) disprove it and (b) source the original photos from which the montage was created.

This is the original of the right-hand side of the faked image. It’s from the Imperial War Museum’s collection.

 British paratroops inside a Dakota transport aircraft on their way to Holland during 1st Airborne Division's operation to Arnhem, 17 September 1944. © IWM (K 7570) Date: Second World War Cat Number: K 7570

British paratroops inside a Dakota transport aircraft on their way to Holland during 1st Airborne Division’s operation to Arnhem, 17 September 1944.
© IWM (K 7570)
Second World War
Cat Number:
K 7570

So, first falsehood, it’s of a flight into Arnheim three months after D-Day.

The left-hand side of the image comes from a newspaper report of 25 veterans from the East Anglia branch of the Parachute Regimental Association who visited Colchester’s Merville Barracks to look around a restored Dakota, which is the type most paratroopers jumped from during the D-Day and Arnhem operations in the Second World War. Here’s the photo:

Former paratroopers board the Dakota on the Colchester Garrison.

Former paratroopers board the Dakota on the Colchester Garrison.

So, although it is entirely possible that (a) some of those former soldiers took part in Operation Market Garden (google it yourself) and (b) some of them may possibly have stepped inside that particular aircraft before, it’s only internet fakers who are making a different story out of the two images for their own purposes.

Now, the Facebook page from which this comes is not the originator of the original collage, but appears to be the originator of the false header statement in the top image. The page, I Wear My Poppy With Pride, is also riddled with random bible verses and has no official relationship with the Royal British Legion nor the Poppy Appeal.

So, why do people do this? I suspect it’s out of a misplaced sense of patriotism at one level, and at another, it’s probably about getting attention for being patriotic in an age when that’s not automatically assumed to be a virtue. And as far as getting attention goes, it’s been very successful, with 23,601 likes, 68,568 shares and 782 comments as at 2218 UTC today.

Thanks to www.tineye.com for all the helps.

UPDATE 0600 UTC 30/09/2015: I’ve cross-posted this to that Facebook post, so I might get a few annoyed visitors here. For their information, this is not an anti-soldier/sailor/airman post; it’s about making sure that you check and can trust what you read, and showing one way to do it. And I’ve got family who are not only serving, but have served and lost their lives in recent deployments.

UPDATE 2350 UTC 09/11/2015: The original post disappeared from the Facebook page in question a little while ago, but re-appeared on 5th November to gather yet more like and potential revenue for whatever group really is behind the page. I’ve re-posted a link to this post to show how it’s possible to check the facts that are asserted without too much difficulty or technical knowledge. After all, it’s OK to be patriotic; it’s not OK to fake your facts.

UPDATE 1200 UTC 03/11/2016: The original post has re-appeared on the Facebook page in question (23/10/2016) without any apology. The cynic in me finds that more than a little cynical …


10 thoughts on “Facebook Patriotism: Faked for Likes

  1. Helen, thanks for your comment.
    People tend to believe the things that accord with their own view of the world. That’s called confirmation bias – we notice the things that support our perceptions and tend to ignore the ones that don’t. In this case, it’s a lovely story which fits in with the pitch of the Facebook page in question and the perceptions that people bring to that page. Very few people will stop and ask themselves whether such an extraordinary claim is even likely to be true, let alone check it out.


  2. Thank-you! I immediately couldn’t believe the claim that these were the same men. I did a reverse image search trying to find the originator of the picture and came across your article. Not sure I want to paste it to Facebook to embarrass those who fell for this but I”m glad that my cynicism was well placed…


      • I am getting reported as spam for daring to say it’s fake and pointing out its British airborne 5 Jan 2018. And guess by who a Pam stack usa publisher!!!!


  3. Pingback: More people getting suckered by neo-Nazis on Facebook | Patrick Mackie

  4. It’s really not cynicism that makes me check this type of image for the original source, it’s respect, for the people involved, and their part in history. It’s particularly important to me as an amateur genealogist to seek out the truth as this image has been shared on ‘serious’ genealogy sites, and imho it does a dis-service to the personal sacrifice of these men and to their possible ancestors to have the truth distorted for a ‘ cool photo’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rosemary, thanks for your comment. I’m clear that my interest arose from skepticism, not cynicism. I don’t discount nor belittle the experiences of people who were asked to fight. You do make the important point that there’s also an issue of respecting the real experiences of real people, whose images have been hijacked by neo-Nazis, so that’s a good job you’re doing. Hopefully together our efforts will knock this sort of nonsense on the head.


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