Stranded On Snowdon: Cars That Go Too Far

Four Reel Drive: Pathe recorded a group of men in the 1920s rescuing a vehicle.

Some of you may have seen this news story today on outdoor news website Grough (as well as other bigger news sites like the BBC) about a 4×4 vehicle that was abandoned near the top of Snowdon after 39-year-old Craig Williams attempted to drive up the 1,130m tall mountain.

The driver is to appear in court charged with driving on common land and neglecting the national park’s code of conduct.
Interestingly British Pathé happened to film a similar incident in the 1920s. You can take a look here:


The archived reel shows a group of people pushing a car up Mount Snowdon in the 1920s. The vehicle gets stuck repeatedly on the rocky path and has to be dislodged by the men. Eventually they reach the train line and they use the tracks as a makeshift road to push the car the rest of the way.

Does anyone know what kind of car this is? ~ ~

Bomber Crashes into the Empire State Building

On the 28th July 1945 a B-25 Bomber plane crashed into the Empire State Building, the first airplane to ever crash into a New York skyscraper. The incredible occurrence was lost in the press somewhat amongst much wider news of World War II ending. Still, it was a momentous day in American history, when one of New York’s proudest and most iconic skyscrapers was torn into by an aeroplane.

Watch the newsreel here via our new British Pathe YouTube channel:

The plane hit the 79th floor of the Empire State Building at 200 miles an hour. Luckily the event happened on a weekend when few were working, still, 14 people died in the accident. Remarkably one survivor was a woman who fell 75 floors in a freefalling elevator that had had its cables severed by the destruction of the crash! Franklin. D. Roosevelt had had lunch on the 86th floor only a few hours before the crash that day.

If the crash had happened during a working day, and if the Bomber had been loaded, then the event might have been one of the biggest disasters in American history.

Spookily just two weeks after the 50th anniversary of the Empire State Building plane crash, another accident occurred in the building when an elevator failed to stop at the 80th floor and slammed into the top of the shaft. Nobody was killed but several people suffered head and neck injuries.

Today is the 66th anniversary of the B-25 Bomber crashing into the Empire State Building.

The plane smashed into the 79th floor.

Extreme Bodies – Gigantism!

Two in One

Most of us are lucky enough to go about our daily lives fairly inconspicuously but there are some men and women who literally stand out from the crowd. Super sized humans have always attracted much attention and fascination and even our clips about the tallest people in the world are very popular with our viewers. So we thought it was time to dig the films out and celebrate these great ones.

Robert Wadlow (1918-1940) – 8ft11

Robert Wadlow & family - Officially he's the Tallest Man in History

Born in 1918, Robert is still to this day known as the tallest person in medical history. When the Pathe cameras went to film him in 1935, he was a mere  8′ 1 1/2″. When they returned the next year, he was 8ft4″. By the time of his  death at just aged 22, he had grown to 8ft11’’. In this clip, he is surrounded by his family and even though his father was 6ft,  none of them stand much above his waist.

Ted Evans (1924-1958) –  7ft8

"I really don't think you're 9ft3 are you Ted?"

According to the Pathe notes, Ted was “the tallest man in the world at 9 feet 3 1/2 inches”. This is actually a gross exaggeration because we now know that Robert Wadlow is officially the tallest man ever at 8ft11″. Ted’s height was greatly amplified during his lifetime most likely for publicity reasons. He was in fact 7ft8.5″ but still at this great height, he was the Tallest Man in Britain at the time.   Take a gander through some of our clips on Ted going about his usual day to day business.

A Tall Story – 1946

Tallest Man – 1950

Clifford Thompson (1904 – 1955) – 7ft5

Clifford Thompson is greeted by his wife

Also known as the Scandinavian Giant, our footage makes reference to Clifford Thompson’s height of 8ft7” but other sources have noted that he was more than a foot shorter than this; he was actually nearer 7ft5”…….tiny!

John Aasen (1890-1938) – 7ft2″

Tailor climbs stepladder to measure John Aasen

There seems to be a running theme within our footage where people’s heights are somewhat embellished. This 1920s film tells  us that Scandinavian John Aasen is  8ft10″ inches tall and is the tallest man in the world.  John was in fact 7ft2″; petite compared to Robert Wadlow’s final height. However, he was one of the tallest actors of all time and according to folklore his father was 8ft and his mother was 7ft2″ – statistics that we perhaps should take with a pinch of salt!

Swiss Miss – 8ft

8ft woman at Chiswick baths in London, 1927

I’ll gloss over the man this woman is chatting to at the Chiswick baths in London…Anyway this woman is called Colossa – the Swiss Miss. At the time of filming (watch here) she was 18 years old and apparently 8ft high! We would love to hear from anyone who has more information on this lady. And was she really 8ft? The screen grab below suggests she was but we all know how cameras can lie…

Is this proof "The Swiss Miss" was 8ft tall?

Prince Philip’s 90th Birthday

To celebrate the 90th birthday of Prince Philip we’ve ploughed through our hundreds of reels that feature the Duke to pick out some favourites, click on the links to watch them:

Prince Philip a biography  

This beautifully made 1950s Pathé biography of Prince Philip includes shots of the Duke as a baby, as captain of the Gordonstoun cricket team and starring in Macbeth. The piece follows Prince Philip through his formative years, and contains a speech in which The Queen first mentions her “future husband”

Duke Lauds Atom Power

Prince Philip has long been a firm supporter of technological advances and scientific discovery. This 1963 newsreel shows Prince Philip inspecting the control room of Berkeley nuclear power station in Gloucestershire and is a good example of British Pathé’s many reels that followed the Duke on what seems to be a lifetime of official tours and inspections. There’s even a video of Prince Philip touring a cigarette factory in the archive.

The Duke Visits The Pacific Isles

Prince Philip is carried along the beach on a ceremonial chair! Whether it be onboard the royal yacht HMS Britannia or inside a fortified dinghy, Prince Philip feels an affinity with the high seas. British Pathé cameramen accompanied the Duke on his comprehensive world tour.

Duke of Edinburgh Award

The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme is still a vibrant and popular pursuit for young people today. Here we see the prince presenting awards and also visiting various activities clubs around Britain.

Royal Family on Holiday

In a different media age the Royal Family were more comfortable with inviting cameramen to film their private lives and family affairs. Here Pathé spent the afternoon filming The Queen and Prince Philip enjoying a traditional English picnic with their children. The reel includes footage of Prince Philip holding Prince Edward as a baby.

All of these clips feature in a larger Prince Philip collection with over 50 newsreels that focus on his life and achievements. You can watch all of those reels in the British Pathe archive for free here: Prince Philip – The Duke of Edinburgh

Chelsea Flower Show Enjoyed by George VI (The real one, not Colin Firth)

Our archive footage of the Chelsea Flower Show is very popular, last year we looked at some wild and wacky 1960s newsreels, but this year we’ve focused on earlier reels, such as this one below with King George VI of “The King’s Speech” fame:

Royal Visitors at The Chelsea Flower Show (1936)

“Lucky Chelsea pensioners to have all this beauty brought to their doorstep, lucky London to have in its midst this loveliest of all flowers shows”

Here we see Prince Albert (later King Georve VI) touring the Chelsea Flower Show with Princess Elizabeth. Of course the pair have been historical celebrities this year thanks to the popularity of the King’s Speech in which the couple are portrayed by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-CarInterestingly this reel shows a clip of a Japanese garden, and a Japanese gentlemen who is the “architect” of it. This international streak may have been a novel edge to the show at the time for the British Pathé narrator sparks a rivalry when he says “But which Englishman would dare to say that it is more beautiful than our formal gardens?”

Chelsea Says It In Flowers (1961)

“The Royal family doesn’t often appear all together, their programs are often too full, but none of them miss the Chelsea Flower Show”

Fast-forward into the 1960s and here we have Princess Margaret taking a look around the Chelsea Flower Show, with The Queen and The Queen Mother.

According to the Pathé canister notes the Queen Mother was an expert when it came to flowers. Although we’re not sure how true this actually was?

See more archive videos of the Chelsea Flower show, including The Queen and other notable guests here:


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1960s Teen Idols: Life Before Lady Gaga

In 1967 the Daily Mail conducted a survey to establish who teenagers idolised

Although Hollywood was already a strong force and pop music had major clout over kids’ imaginations, it was still a very different world to the celebrity-driven egomaniacal world that we live in today. Supermarkets were new, televisions were only just becoming commonplace and teenagers weren’t as image-conscious as you can see from the video. It’s amazing who British teenagers voted as their top 10 idols:

1. Their Mothers

That’s right. Teenagers voted Mum as their number one role model, a warm and family-focused gesture from a generation who perhaps depended more on their parents to receive information and education than young people do today.

2. The Queen

The recent royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton proved just how popular the monarchy is, yet a teenage poll in 2011 would never rank The Queen so highly. Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham and Jordan would be much more likely candidates.

3. Sir Francis Chichester

Sailing around the world was seen as such an astonishing feat in the 1960s it was basically science-fiction. It’s incredible how venerated these solo explorers were. (Good clip: 500,000 people greet Francis Chichester upon his return to Plymouth)

4. Mr Wilson

Prime Minister Harold Wilson was voted 4th biggest icon to teenagers in 1967, remarkable! We wonder where teenagers today would place David Cameron? Probably three hundred and forty-eight places beneath rapper Dizzee Rascal.

5. Their Fathers

Good old Dad, in at fifth place, not quite as cool as the Prime Minister evidently. Still, defying Freud nevertheless.

6. President Johnson

It seems even back then in 1967 teenagers were aware how chained British politics was to activities across the Atlantic. Interestingly, Barack Obama could well feature on a list of teen idols today, the first African American President and more liberal than his predecessor.

7. “Young husband”

We don’t understand this one? Presumably teenagers didn’t have husbands. Is it a person called Younghusband? We can’t keep up. Do leave a comment below if you think you can help us out here, thanks!

8. Elvis

The first pop star on the list, it’s Elvis alright, shown here with his bride Priscilla. Elvis is still an icon today, although perhaps not a role model that teenagers relate to. Still, he’s the first entertainment sector entrant on his list, a sign of times to come. (Good clip: Elvis weds Priscilla in 1967)

9. U Thant

Who on earth is U Thant? He was the United Nations Secretary. We’re starting to think teenagers’ Dads filled the questionnaire out now. Admittedly they were Daily Mail readers, still, could any teenager in Britain name the current UN Secretary? What about the current presenters of T4? As we thought.

10th equal. Prince Philip

Prince Philip, a teen icon. Now 89 years old we think it’s fair to assume teenagers wouldn’t place him up there in 2011, although he’s definitely cooler than Will.I.Am.

10th equal. Bobby Charlton

Bobby is still seen as a legend and a hero thanks to the 1966 World Cup victory. We’re sure David Beckham would rank today, and of course footballer Ronaldo, although both are businessmen and fashionistas as much as they are footballers, and neither men have achieved anything on the pitch to compare to Sir Charlton. (Good clip: World Cup Final 1966, colour footage)

If you were a teenager in the 1960s who would you vote to be your 10 role models and/or icons? We’d definitely have Mick Jagger, Brigitte Bardot and David Hockney in there. And what if you were a teenager today, in 2011? Would you vote into the top 10? A few suggestions from the staff at British Pathé: Lady Gaga, Prince William, Rihanna and Karen Brady. Goodness.

WATCH THE REEL HERE: Britain’s Top With The Teens (1967)

Watch over 90,000 archived newsreels for free on

Black Friday: A 1940s Re-Interpretation of Rebecca Black’s famous YouTube video ‘Friday’

British Pathé guest blogger Meghan Purvis has pieced together her own music video for Rebecca Black’s hit ‘Friday’, using 8 fabulous clips from the British Pathé film archive. Here’s what she did:

If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the last few weeks, odds are you’ve been exposed to Rebecca Black’s video for “Friday.” It’s racked up nearly seventy million views (and counting!) on YouTube, despite being widely described as the worst music video ever made.

If you’ve somehow missed out and can’t be bothered to watch for yourself (it’s a music video about a girl going to school, debating which seat to take in a car, and then showing up at a party with a disturbing number of vehicles, given that the singer in question is all of 13).

It’s also very literal: if there is a lyric about sitting in the backseat, rest assured, it will be accompanied by a shot of three girls sitting in the backseat of a car. The isn’t great: the weird line-drawing animations, the cheesy imagining of what a preteen party might look like, the strangely unenthused extras.

Because I love a challenge I’ve scoured the British Pathé film archive subbing in clips that are historically and artistically meaningful, therefore surely elevating the song somewhat?

Perhaps a more high-minded video is just what Ms. Black’s music career needs! My project was clear: to make a different, better video, using footage from the British Pathé archive.

I present to you: “1940s Friday”  …


7am, waking up in the morning
Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal

Already I feel more glamorous. A closer attention to toilette, a healthier breakfast—Anne Edwards is so on top of things she’s even up a half hour before Rebecca.


Seein’ everything, the time is goin’
Tickin’ on and on, everybody’s rushin’
Gotta get down to the bus stop
Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends (My friends)

This clock is not kidding around: check out that officious ticking. Rebecca had better hurry to the bus stop, before her friends die of diphtheria.


Kickin’ in the front seat
Sittin’ in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?

Here’s a hint: not the one the Queen is sitting in. An attempt to call the window seat when Queen Elizabeth is involved will only end in tears.


It’s Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday

Okay, okay, I had some difficulty finding a good calendar shot, so I’m attempting to distract you with some card tricks. Pick a Friday! Any Friday! You’ll have to get down!


Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend
Friday, Friday
Gettin’ down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend

This weekend definitely looks more wholesome than what Ms. Black has planned. Fishing for some serious localvore credibility, a nice stroll in the park, some al fresco dining…all while wrapped up in a nice overcoat. This is a British summer, after all.


Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)

Partying with Alan Ladd!


Partyin’, partyin’ (Yeah)

Partying that ends in a film contract!


Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin’ forward to the weekend


Look, I believe the music video speaks for itself: “1940s Friday” gets up earlier, has a better ride, and throws way better parties than its 2011 iteration. It’s no contest. Now, if only we could get some 1940s lyrics to go with it…

Words and research by Meghan Purvis