British Pathé Picks: Nov 2012

Every now and again there are some important anniversaries that are worth blogging about. As it happens, there are four all coming up in the next few days. So here’s some relevant links that may be of interest to you.

Battle of the Somme (18th)

In a few days it will be the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme coming to an end. Our First World War Somme collection contains some very good material.

Key Turning Point in WW2: Operation Uranus  (19th)

On the 19th of this month it will be 70 years since the Soviet Union began Operation Uranus, part of the Battle of Stalingrad. British Pathé’s material on Stalingrad can be found here.

65th Wedding Anniversary of the Queen and Prince Philip (20th)

On the 20th November, the royal couple will celebrate their wedding anniversary. British Pathé was there to announce their engagement and to document their wedding.

Interestingly, it is also the anniversary of the fire at Windsor Castle in 1992 – it’s been a whole 20 years since the Queen’s “annus horribilis”. We have some episodes of A Day That Shook The World that cover this dreadful year for the royal family. As well as the Windsor Castle Damaged By Fire, there’s the Prince and Princess Separate, and the Royal Family in Crisis.

Tomb of Tutankhamun opened (26th)

On 26th November 1922, the archaeologist Howard Carter entered the tomb of the famous Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. British Pathé has some shots of Carter at the tomb, as well as of the treasures found within. Our Tutankhamun collection can be found here.

Visit www.britishpathe.com for more films.

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The Pathé Animation Archive

As well as producing regular news stories, British Pathé often included additional forms of entertainment mixed in to add a bit of variety. These pieces could be more comedic or quirky in tone, such as the Pathé Pictorial series, or entirely fictional pieces such as Dave and Dusty. In the early days, they also produced some animated shorts. In the late 1910s, there was a series of John Bull cartoons, which sadly we cannot find in the archive. There was also, most notably Jerry The Troublesome Tyke and the somewhat similar Adventures of Pongo the Pup, both from the mid-1920s.

Jerry was a cartoon dog from the silent era who actually “worked” for Pathe News.
“The Adventures of Pongo the Pup!” Classic animation from the 1920s.

The archive also contains a great deal of other animated productions and series. But of immense interest are the war propaganda shorts, particularly the marvellous “Britain’s Effort“, made by Lancelot Speed, but also the Sinking of the Lusitania and the brief Star-gazer, a still of which is below.

A still from “Run Adolf Run” from 1940.

The Pathé Animation archive also contains plenty of educational and information cartoons, such as this Ministry of Information film “Peak Load Electricity from 1943. Plus, there’s a lot of fun John Noble shorts and film of cartoonists at work. Pathé had fun with its shorts by showing the animators interacting with their creations, sometimes (in the case of Jerry), arguing with them.

Still from Ministry of Information trailer “Export or Die”, 1944.

So there’s a wealth of different styles and genres within the archive to explore. We’ve presented just a taster of them here, in our efforts to promote aspects of the archive which have been somewhat neglected by the understandable focus on Twentieth Century politics, royalty, and the two world wars. For an introduction to “Alternative Pathé”, read our previous blog post, “That’s all very well, but what has the Pathé archive got for ME?”

To search our Animation Archive, click here.

Pathé’s Hidden Treasures

“That’s all very well, but what has the Pathé archive got for ME?”

It can be tempting to think of the British Pathé archive as being only of interest to those with a passion for the history of the Twentieth Century. After all, the bulk of the footage comes from around 1914 to 1969 – the earliest clip in the archive is from 1895 (New Blacksmith Shop) with the most recent material contained within a BBC/British Pathé co-production covering the collapse of Enron in 2006 – but there is in fact plenty for those with a preference for other historical periods, or those who have specialist interests, to explore. The Pathé archive isn’t all about the Queen and British politics.

An obvious starting place for those with an interest in history prior to the Twentieth Century, is the archive relating to Ancient Egypt. We have footage of Howard Carter in front of the tomb of Tutankhamun, as well as shots of the treasures found within. (Visit our Tutankhamun collection here.)

Howard Carter at the tomb of Tutankhamun.

But as well as that famous pharoah and his discoverer, our extensive archaeology archive (click here) contains coverage from all parts of the world. You’ll be able to see Tudor and Roman Britain excavations, tour Pompeii, the Middle East, and dive the oceans to explore shipwrecks.

It’s true that none of these clips are necessarily going to help you study these periods (unless you want to look at how they were portrayed in the Twentieth Century), but they are surely of interest. What Egyptologist wouldn’t marvel at seeing Carter at the tomb, or the glistening treasures on display?

There’s also stuff for people who don’t even like history (if such people exist). Here we present just a few ideas for exploring the archive for those with specialist interests.

A still from the series Secrets of Nature.

Fascinated by science, animals, or insects? Try the classic Secrets of Nature – it covers the amazing life-cycles of plants, via some stunning microscope photography, as well as detailing the lives of many species of animals, birds, and insects.

Haven’t travelled enough? Take the cheap option and travel the world through British Pathé’s collection of travelogues. Escape the humdrum of everyday life with these clips (for the most part in colour) of numerous sites – from the ancient cities of Jerusalem, Rome, and Thebes, to the culturally rich capitals of Paris and Moscow, to the childish delights of Disneyland in sunny California.

Like animation? See Jerry the Troublesome Tyke, a classic animated series from the silent era, addictive due to its immense charm and wealth of humour.

What about music? We’ve got the Rolling Stones! Or visit our Beatlemania archive.

The Power of Nature.

Interested in the power of nature? Watch volcanoes explode, the earth shake, and rocks tumble in this collection.

Want to see an eclipse? Look at these: http://www.britishpathe.com/workspaces/show/jhoyle/hgG61kma/thumb

Always wanted to be an astronaut? Rewatch the moon landings or other significant events from the Space Race in our collection.

Or just want to pass the time with some wacky stuff? We’ve got a collection of crazy inventions, or just try searching for something. The still below is from our “Robot Boy” video, which has been popular recently. We found it by accident when looking for something else.

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/robot-boy

So search the archive for hidden gems at www.britishpathe.com. There’s 90,000 clips with something for everyone! Thought of some topics we’ve missed? Leave us a comment below. Happy searching!

A World War One Wedding

In the run up to Remembrance Day, the archivists here at British Pathé have been revisiting our old First World War footage. There’s a great deal of it, much of it dramatic and chilling. What has struck us most are the faces of these young soldiers as they sit in the trenches awaiting the order to go “Over the Top”. Sadly, the names of these brave men are unknown to us, as are their ultimate fates.

Which is why we need your help. Much of our valuable World War One footage remains unidentified. We don’t know exactly where and when some of the material was taken. For the sake of posterity, we feel it is essential to catalogue the films and contextualise them.

This year, we’re focusing on one individual.

The above still is taken from a film (view it here) in the archive and is believed to be from the First World War. It shows the marriage of a British officer to his bride.

Who is this person? Did he survive? Where might he be now?

Contact us.

British Pathé has a substantial collection of war footage. Visit our First World War collection.

Bonfire Night reblog

It’s that time of year again. We hope you’ll all be out having a good time (we will!). To get you all in the mood, here’s one of our previous blog posts that present some of the previous Guy Fawkes Nights that we’ve captured on film…

British Pathé

Today is Guy Fawkes day and so we had a dig in the archive for some footage of yesteryear’s heretic-honed celebrations. British Pathé have so much brilliant archive footage of Guy Fawkes celebrations, bonfire parties and fireworks displays. Some of the best are from the 1940s, when explosives and large fires had a much deeper cultural significance to war-torn Britain and the escapism of a festivity and pyromania was a much needed indulgement.

(SHORTCUT TO THE CLIPS)

Here are the best Guy Fawkes clips, click on the titles or images to view them, and make sure to check out the link to the bigger collection afterwards:

To Go Up In Smoke– (1934)

“One night in the year the nurses don’t care how late bath time is”. A fantastic clip of nurses building a huge bonfire and passing the guy up to the top of it. Babies watch from a…

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The Pathé War Archive

We are now entering into the period leading up to Remembrance Day. We have already blogged this week about the history of poppies and why we wear them (see Poppies: An Illustrated History), but there is plenty more to discuss and explore. Since Pathé’s war archive is extensive, we present here some potential starting points, with links here to key collections that can act as a way in.

The First World War

British Pathé holds one of the finest and most comprehensive First World War archives in the world. You will find chilling shots of young troops huddled in their trenches, wearing gas masks, and going “over the top”, as well as battleships at sea, and aerial warfare. Some collections we have created may be of interest, such as The Somme, the use of War Horses, and the Treaty of Versailles. We even have material of married men protesting against conscription.

A more general First World War Collection can be found here, or you can search our website for what you want.

The Second World War

The archive of World War Two material filmed by British Pathé is wide-ranging. Pathé cameramen went with the troops all around the world, and documented the destruction at home. Footage details warfare on land, at sea, and in the air. Some collections that may interest you include our D-Day clips, coverage of the Battle of the Atlantic, the dramatic escape from Dunkirk, and the devastation of the Blitz.

A more general Second World War Collection can be found here, or you can search our website for what you want.

Korean War

The Korean War is often referred to as “The Forgotten War”. Two and a half million people lost their lives in this conflict, including many British soldiers. Our Korean War Collection (just a selection) can be found here, or you can search our website for what you want.

Remembrance Day is on 11th November.

Poppies: An Illustrated History

As we approach Remembrance Day, that important British anniversary on which we reflect on the great sacrifices of previous generations, it is interesting to look at the history behind its key symbol – the poppy. Why do we wear it, and how did this tradition come about?

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The First World War was an earth-shattering global catastrophe that marked the end of the optimism of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. It was this “Great War” which first introduced the use of the red poppy (the Papaver rhoeas) for the purpose of remembrance.

No Man's Land
No Man’s Land

No Man’s Land, a zone dividing the trenches of opposing forces, was heavily bombarded during the conflict. The beautiful scenery and grasslands of France and Belgium were churned into wet mud and desolate wasteland. It was here that many brave men fell after going “Over the top” to meet the flying bullets of enemy guns. And it was also here that, when the fighting had died down, poppies grew and spread in abundance, their blood-red colour providing a strong contrast to the brown muck. One of the most well-known references to this phenomenon comes in the war poem, “In Flanders Fields” by Lt Col John McCrae. One key line is:

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Earl Haig, supporter of the poppy and a founder of the Royal British Legion, visits wounded veterans at a hospital in 1921. Click the still to view the film.

These lines inspired their first use in the United States, where they were adopted by the National American Legion, in 1920. It was not long before the wearing of poppies as a sign of remembrance had spread to the United Kingdom, and it is here and in Commonwealth countries that the practice remains most common. Promoted by Douglas Haig, the poppies were soon widely worn on Remembrance Days. Made and sold by the Royal British Legion, the funds go to helping ex-servicemen and servicewomen and their families.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, visits the Richmond factory in 1939 to watch the workers manufacture the poppies that were an important feature of remembrance even before the Second World War. Click the still to view the film.
War veterans make poppies at the Royal British Legion factory in Richmond, 1941. Click the still to view the film.
War veterans make poppies at the Royal British Legion factory in Richmond, 1941. Click the still to view the film.

A film in the British Pathé archive details the making of poppies for distribution by the Royal British Legion. Made at the Richmond poppy factory, established as early as 1922, it has employed disabled ex-servicemen to construct the huge number of poppies needed every year. At the time the newsreel was produced in 1968, the factory had 300 staff and manufactured 13 million poppies per annum. To achieve such a mammoth task, they work all year round. Today, the factory produces as many as 36 million poppies per year, though the number of employees is only a fraction of what it once was.

The still to above shows a workman punching out the poppy shapes from a sheet of linen.
The cut-out shapes of linen are placed together and pressed into a mold.
The stalk is then applied, a thin strip of green fabric wrapped around a metal wire, before…
…the individual poppies are arranged into a wreath.

The full film also details the other stirling work done by the Royal British Legion. It can be viewed by clicking here. This year the charity hopes to raise £42 million.

There’s been some controversy in recent years about the wearing of poppies and their meaning. There are also rival poppies – the white poppy for pacifists, and the purple poppy to remember animal victims of war. But the traditional red poppy is no doubt here to stay, and serves as a reminder of great courage and sacrifice, and also of how lucky we are. But, of course, we cannot forget the men and women who still fight for our safety in ongoing conflicts around the world today.

We will remember them.

Going “over the top”.

British Pathé has a substantial collection of war footage. Search our website www.britishpathe.com.

This was re-published with minor revisions on November 4th 2013 as “Why We Wear Poppies”.