Home Uncategorised Our Swiss Roll mystery photo hunt featured on BBC

Our Swiss Roll mystery photo hunt featured on BBC

The man's companion on this early 1950s journey from Munich, through Swizerland and into northern Italy. She is wearing a wedding ring on her right hand, German fashion, so she could be the man's fiancee or, even, his wife. Both are elegantly dressed and both appear to be affluent. The big mystery here is why an experienced photographer owning a camera worth (at today's value) around £2,000 would abandon it, film undeveloped.

William Fagan’s mystery roll of Leica film which featured in our Swiss roll feature on September 11, has been published today on the BBC website.


Already William and I have been inundated with helpful emails from all over Europe and, within minutes, at least one question had been answered.

One correspondent, Guy C, has identified the village of Lenno on Lake Como as featuring in three of the pictures including the one of the cafe. It’s a small world… Many more readers of the BBC site have added comments to the original article. This story will develop and William and I will produce an update soon. Within the lasts few minutes, we have had approaches from German media, including Süddeutsche Zeitung and from websites all over Europe.

Here is the link to the BBC article

and, below, our original article:


  1. Thanks Mike. Yes we are getting responses from all over the world including places as far away as South Africa and Seattle, USA. I might add at this stage, that, thanks to your call for a translation from Swedish, we have traced one of the cameras, featured in the article, from Berlin to Sweden in 1935 and identified a photo of the Crown Prince of Sweden, from that time, which may have been taken with the camera. This camera also seems to have been in Britain in the first few months of its life. The other camera was sent to a Swiss distributor, which might make it seem like an obvious candidate, but so far nothing more has turned up on that. The BBC publication today may throw up a lot more to add to what we already have.


  2. I can identify the locations of three of the photos on the Leica film. The are in Lenno, Lake Como, Italy. Please reply if you want details.

    • Not sure if William has seen this, John. Several people, including some locals, have confirmed Lenno but if you have any further information please let us know. Mike

  3. This is turning into quite a fun adventure!
    The stories our Leicas could tell, if only they could talk. Usually this is just a guessing game, but in this case, there is a real story here.
    Congratulations William and Mike, and the response you have been getting world wide.
    Ii think we have the basis for a fun Viewfinder story here!

    • Indeed, Bill, it is a story with legs. I am intrigued to know why someone who is obviously a talented photographer, should abandon an expensive camera without giving a thought to developing the film. It makes me wonder if something fairly dramatic happened. Perhaps one day we will find out. Mike

    • Thanks Bill. I will get in touch with you. The story has had over a million hits on the BBC website today and we have had media interest, including the New York Times. Think of it this way, not only have a million people been exposed to an interesting story today, they have also been exposed to the Leica heritage. The folks in Wetzlar should be mighty pleased with this.


  4. Congratulations gents, lets see if this one can be resolved, and the images returned potentially to the existing family members of those in them.

    Amazing journey and story.

  5. It’s a long shot, but the couple resemble my aunt Doris Anderson and her husband Karl Wagner. Doris was English/Scots and Karl was german. Doris was born in Locarno. They toured a lot. Karl worked for Mercedes. They ended up in Stuttgart but I know they loved the southern Swiss lakes.

    • Many thanks. We cooperated with the journalist from SDZ on this. Early on, we realised that publicity in the Munich and Zurich areas would be the best way to identify the people. Unfortunately, as William says elsewhere, the SDZ article did not include a link back to here, so we have not had any immediate feedback. We are hoping that tomorrow will bring some news.


      • Thanks, Peggy. Both William and I are under a lot of pressure at the moment and there is a limit to what we can do. We are concentrating on getting the portraits circulated as widely as possible in the hope that someone recognises the couple. If anyone else wants to research the fate of the car, then we would welcome any facts that emerge. Thanks for all the help so far. Mike

    • Hello Peggy, I found two websites, one that stated there were 13 examples of the 2-window / 2-seat Sport Cabriolet version and another site that suggests there were 20. Either way, that makes it a very rare car. I believe I have located one example and am awaiting a response from a classic car group that might know the owner. Given some information I have found out about the history of that particular car, it’s just possible it is the car in this photo… if the owner can be traced, if they have a log book going back far enough…


        • a body made by Ruetter would be a third party! Also Ruetter was specialized in making convertibles, and was making bodies for Porsche at the same time.

          Another reason this woman didn’t have a change of clothing…there is no luggage compartment of this particular model of car!

          is there any indication on the negatives that the fenders of the car might be a slightly darker color than the body of the car? image showing car in snow on Julier seems to look like fenders might be slightly darker…hard to say without seeing the negatives…. (also car color may have changed during restoration.)

          because this in link below might be the same car….?


          • That one is very close Peggy, right model, but the wings (fenders) are different, they are the later ones that are more faired in. I agree they may be a different colour to the rest of the vehicle. Many of the examples I have found online are so.

          • Toby, you are better at this than I am. I am not a car expert!! What seems pretty clear is that the car in Fagan photos is VERY unusual. It has left hand steering and the distinctive six air vents. Reutter clearly made the 2 window cabrio version of the 315, but my research says many/most? of them went to England where they got right hand steering, and were called Nash Frazer BMWs. This is a continental version, and, as I have learned, a fairly early example because of the air vents–as well as fender style. (yes?)

            Interestingly, there was also a jeep version of this model used by the German army.

          • Kubelwagen. In fact someone else suggested this last week. Fraser Nash was an English car company with headquarters in Brentford, about two miles from my home. They were the BMW importers pre- and post-war

          • As Mike says, I believe Fraser Nash (who previously made their own cars and today are engineering consultancy firm) imported (and possibly customised or made the bodywork for?) BMWs for the UK market. “Our” vehicle is unlikely to have been such a car as it is left hand drive (UK is RHD). This webpage lists the various major variants of the BMW 315:
            Ironically, the photo they have chosen for the 2-window / 2-seat convertible differs from “our” car in the wheels, the side vents to the bonnet (hood), the wings (fenders) and the hood (soft-top) itself. I think theirs is a very late model 1937, whereas from what I have read, “our” car should be a 1934 or 35 model, based on the vents and the wings.

          • Toby, this from Wiki… I remember AFN Ltd (Archibald Fraser Nash) which was acquired by Porsche. As this Wiki paragraph says, they were the agents for BMW…

            Frazer Nash was a brand of British sports car manufactured from 1922 first by Frazer Nash Limited founded by engineer Archibald Frazer-Nash. On its financial collapse in 1927 a new company, AFN Limited, was incorporated. Control of AFN passed to Harold John Aldington in 1929.

            Until the Second World War AFN continued to produce a small number of sports cars badged Frazer Nash incorporating a unique multi-chain transmission. It continued after the war making another 85 sports cars before ending manufacture in 1957. The post-war cars had conventional transmissions.

            UK agents for BMW they arranged coachwork and made modifications including badging the cars Frazer Nash BMW.

            Control of AFN Limited, UK agents for Porsche, passed from the Aldington family to Porsche in 1987.

          • I’ve been looking at lots of old BMWs. The only one that even comes close to having the features of OUR car is the oldtimer German one I posted above.

            The 6 air/side vent thing in the hood/bonnet is the biggest deviation that immediately sets this version of the car apart.

            There is apparently another BMW base with a body variation made by a company called Drauz, who also made a “Kabriolett” 2 seater. I haven’t seen photos of one of those, either, with the 6 air vent pattern.

  6. totally understand your situation. I am not a car person…however, here is a good lead for someone who is…


    this is a photo of a very similar car, different color, (and a dachshund!) and it identifies who fitted out the car body on BMW 315 2 window cabrios: Reutter of Stuttgart.

    more about Ruetter here: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuttgarter_Karosseriewerk_Reutter

    which turned into a Swiss owned company called Recaro. Recaro is still around and is, once again, located in Stuttgart. the company may have archives that would have recorded the original owner of the car, in the mid 1930s.

    in English:


    click on the red link that says Vergleichsabbildung for a super good original image of the car model.

    reply not needed. just wanted to share the info and the photos.

  7. I read the story of the couple and their trip in a BMW in the NYT this morning. It took me back 40 years or so when I was living in Geneva as a diplomat. I frequently toured and skied in these parts of Switzerland, France and Italy. I kept all the pictures of me and my friends enjoying the countryside in all seasons. Some of my images are very similar to the ones taken by this mystery couple 30 years earlier than mine. Given the timelessness of Europe, I imagine not much has changed today, 40 years later, except for the cars!

  8. 1. The couple is quite likely deceased by now.
    2. Wild guess: Sunny and Claus Von Bulow??
    3. Is the dachshund’s dog tag readable or authority identifiable by its shape?
    4. Within the privacy laws, can the keeper of the license plate info or Leica ID #’s be an intermediary retaining privacy, but giving Fagan’s address to the couple?

    • Thanks, Joel,

      1.She could be alive but would be nearly 100. But the odds are she is also dead.

      2. No
      3. No, see previous comments.
      4. No registration details for car. We don’t know which of three Leicas is involved but we do have details of all of them through Leica.


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