British Pathe’s Greek Odyssey

We’ve been enjoying Joanna Lumley’s recent ITV documentary series ‘Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey’, and were motivated by it to dig out our own documentary series on Greece. That’s right, British Pathé toured Greece with Sabena airways in the 1960s and recorded about ten detailed travelogues, one focusing on each of the following key places: Rhodes, Athens, the Temple of Apollo, Mykonos, Hydra, Delphi, Thasos, Corfu and Crete.

Not only are these travelogues an important document in that they capture Greece over 50 years ago in colour, featuring some of the first high quality colour footage of that nation, but they are also a brilliant piece of social history – an insight into the 1960s, not only the fashions and decor but also the beginning of something arguably more colossal than any of the temples – the beginning of the tourist industry.

Click on the stills to watch each video. Enjoy the retro swimwear!


1960s hotel in Rhodes

‘Island of The Sun’ is an introductory video to British Pathé’s 1960s tour of Greece. It focuses on the luxury airline service (Sabena airlines!) that gives Greece-bound holidaymakers traditional Greek dishes and even dolls. Upon landing we see some scenic shots of Rhodes, the Parthenon and ruins at Lindos.

We are shown a state-of-the-art 1960s Greek hotel which looks rather like a British council flat block, and Pathé focuses its attention on a lady showering and bathing in the hotel pool! At the end of this clip a boy commands a host of black and gold butterflies by whistling, much like the community of whistlers that Joanna Lumley visited in Episode 1 of her documentary series.


The Acropolis, Athens

We start off with Gaye Ashwood (the daughter of legendary British Pathé journalist Terry Ashwood) walking up the steps of the Acropolis. There some lovely shots of a neat and tidy 1960s aeroplane landing scene. The 1960s transport on the streets is fantastic too!


Greek Ampitheatre

Here we are at Cape Kennedy, visiting the temple of Apollo. British Pathé compare Apollo the Greek God to Apollo the space rocket. We see shots of the famous amphitheatre that Joanna Lumley also visited in the first episode of her documentary series.


A couple in Mykonos, 1965

In this 1965 video on Mykonos the island is described as “a short sea trip from Athens, yet there’s a Dutch flavour about the water windmills which twirl in the Mediterranean breeze. There are tourists, but not enough to completely commercialise the old fishermen who make their souvenirs with pride and patience”

Whether Pathé were aware that Mykonos was a gay island we cannot be sure, they don’t acknowkledge the fact explicitly in the video but they do offer some strange pieces of narration that could be seen as metaphors running in tandem with gay culture such as, “Nothing seems to shake the islanders out of their leisurely stride.” The camera then follows a domesticated pelican who becomes a sort of mascot for Mykonos, described as being “no ordinary pelican”, he is “liberated” and has “no interest in settling down”. It speaks volumes that Pathé decided to focus so much of their Mykonos travelogue on an estranged pelican bird! Were the cameramen a little reluctant to capture the real Mykonos?


Ruins at Delphi in the 1960s

Although this footage of Hydra and Delphi is mute it offers beautiful and colourful shots of an unspoilt Greece in the sunshine. Lots of healthy and glamorous holidaymakers and young couples sunbathe, swim in the sea and potter about the harbour’s edge. It’s quite romantic to think that this almost 50 years ago. It is most interesting too to study the holidaymakers’ faces, one can really sense the nature of their relationships with each other, and the conversations and arguments that are having, a time capsule of one sunny afternoon by a Greek harbour. There are good shots of the ancient Greek ruins at Delphi and some art students sketching them.


The video shows unspoilt Greek islands in the 1960s

“The Greek islands hang like an enchanting necklace around the throat of Greece. One of the loveliest jewels in the necklace is Aegina.” Pathé follow couples taking donkey rides from the shore up into the hills. The travelogue also covers the island of Poros. The narrator tells us that there are 1,800 Greek island, with almost half of them unoccupied! We visit the National School of Fine Arts, and see a boy sketching holidaymakers in Hydra.


A loved-up couple holiday in Thasos.

Thasos is described here as an “undiscovered Greek island bypassed by the holidaymaking throngs”. With some lovely traditional music the reel takes us on a tour of Greek villas in Thasos. The video discusses a “breeze of change” and the sense that tourism will change Thasos (which is ironic considering British Pathé have sent themselves out there to record everything!)


The British Pathé Crete travelogue kicks off with a couple waterskiing. There are fantastic shots of the cliffs and some seashore caves that remarkably double up as holiday accommodation (is this still the case today?). The narrator talks about forgotten civilisation and sunken ports, suggesting that the ancient Cretans travelled to England in the past which is why Stone Henge shows a few similarities. We see ancient Greek laws carved out in rock, including references to adultery and adoption, before seeing the ruins of Knossos where legend states the Minotaur used to live.


If you’ve actually got this far, then well done and thank you! In this clip we see more of the same really, but if you’re enjoying the retro fashions, holidaymakers of yesteryear and fabulous details – then go ahead and have a garner at Pathé’s video of Corfu in the 1960s!

This finally video depicts some beautiful local dancing, set at the Castello Mimbelli, once a retreat of King George II of Greece and now a luxury hotel.

So, there we have it, British Pathé’s 1960s tour of Greece!

There is a Luxurious Cinema Attached to this Train! (PATHE GAZETTE EXTRAVAGANZA)

Who knew there used to be cinema carriages on trains? Or “saloons” as they were called…

Today we came across this exciting poster on the National Archives’ Flickr stream which reads – “There is a Comfortable & Luxurious Cinema Attached to this Train” –  “Special Programme Compiled Exclusively For This Train by PATHE GAZETTE”, Commencing Monday, May 16th, 1938.

The poster is for an LNER train, which is the London North Eastern Railway service, so trains going from Kings Cross to places like Edinburgh. We can just picture the classy and demure travellers as they relaxed in the “Pathé L.N.E.R. Saloon”, the countryside silently sliding past them as they tucked into a feast of the latest British Pathé reels.

The films shown on the train were actually issued only 7 days before the scheduled event, so it was pretty hot off the press. It’s interesting to see that Ireland is quite well covered, and also that boxing appears to be the most highly-sought sport.

The train’s cinema carriage wasn’t free – it cost 1 shilling – so it would have been a bit of a treat, but think about it – people didn’t have televisions in the 1930s and they had to go to a cinema house to see moving footage.  We love that the poster tells customers that the Pathé saloon is non-inflammable too! Of course earlier newsreels were made out of nitrate, and almost everybody smoked, so you can understand the concern.

ANYWAY. We were delighted to see that the poster then lists each reel that would feature in the screening. Using the date as a guide and searching the titles in the British Pathé film archive we’ve managed to find 32 out of 34 of the items on the trains bill, and we’ve put online links to each below so that you can pick and view the ones that interest you, or perhaps even re-live the experience and watch them all!


Their Majesties In Lanarkshire

New Berth For Bananas

Hitler In Italy

Training For Royal Tournament

French Liner Ablaze At Le Havre

Rugby League Cup Final At Wembley

Demonstration of Kay Autogyro at Southampton

Ninety-Four Year Old Mrs. Anne Budd Takes Her First Flight

New German Ambassador in London

John Tussaud Celebrates His 80th Birthday

Fire Brigade Chief Retires

Boxing At Theatre Royal Dublin

Mille Miglia Car Race

US Thoroughbreds Prepare For Match Race

First President Of Eire

Boston Marathon

Blessing The Lambs in Italy

Dublin Spring Show

King Tours RAF Stations (Mute)

New Defence Balloons

Markham Pit Disaster

Italians Goosestep For Hitler  

Boys Boxing Comedy  

Plane Safety

How To Make Money

Cineviews In Brief No.73

The Emotion Machine

Al And Bob Harvey Famous Radio And Variety Stars

“Order To View” – Cannot Find

Model House – Cannot Find

Troy Town

Ted Andrews Canadian Singer And The Girl Friend

London In The Provinces

Novelties – Cannot Find

Suzette Tarri – Character Comedienne

Courtesy of

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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

The King’s Speech Oscar Scoop and James Franco as Marilyn Monroe

We’re thrilled that The King’s Speech scooped four Oscars at last night’s ceremony: Best Picture, Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Director (Tom Hooper) and Best Original Screenplay (David Seidler). For those of you who are yet to see British Pathé’s online archive footage of King George VI see below:

This is the archive’s most popular video clip of King George VI speaking, at the Opening of the Empire Exhibition in Scotland (1938)

Here is the audio clip of the famous Coronation Speech (1937)

And for those of you still wanting more then check out our George VI Collection which contains 26 clips in which King George VI speaks, and has some great contextual material such as footage of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (The Queen Mother) who was played by (Oscar-nominee) Helena Bonham-Carter in the film.

The King’s Speech was nominated for twelve awards at the 83rd Academy Awards:













James Franco in Drag as Marilyn Monroe!

The other memorable moment for us from last night’s bizarre ceremony was James Franco, who came out on stage in drag as Marilyn Monroe. In some ways the stunt builds upon the Hollywood connection between James Franco and Heath Ledger, for Ledger’s widow Michelle Williams will play Marilyn Monroe in the forthcoming film ‘My Week With Marilyn’. Not only does James Franco resemble Heath Ledger but he has been tipped to take on his role as the Joker in Batman. Both actors found critical success in playing gay characters on the big screen too – Heath Ledger as the fictional Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain, and James Franco as firstly Harvey Milk’s boyfriend Scott Smith alongside Sean Penn in Milk, and secondly as a young Alan Ginsberg in Howl.

Here is British Pathé’s video of Marilyn Monroe meeting The Queen in 1956, in Leicester Square.

Footage discovered of The Red Woman of Paris – the scandalous Madame Steinheil.

Marguerite Steinheil and Baron Abinger's wedding day, 1917
Every now and again a seemingly innocuous clip is brought to our attention when someone discovers there is more to it than meets the eye. A friend of Pathé, Commander Tony Bullock, who has been kindly researching naval footage within our archive, came across a fairly bland 30 second clip of a 1917 naval wedding. There is not much information attached to the footage apart from one name – Madame Steinheil. 

Boring? Yes perhaps but not until Commander Bullock looked into who this Madame Steinheil was, did he realise that this footage is of a notorious French woman with a scandalous reputation and sensational complex history who was dubbed the Red Woman of Paris. She was most famous for her association with the death of the French President Félix Faure and later she was implicated in the murders of her own husband and stepmother. She was quite possibly the most talked about woman in France at the turn of the 20th century.  

The French President Felix Faure

Marguerite Steinheil, (née Japy ) later known as  Lady Abinger and Mme de Serignac was born in to a wealthy family and after her marriage to a successful painter, Adolphe Steinheil, she immersed herself in Parisian high society and became extremely well connected to influential men within political and social circles, even counting the King of Cambodia as an admirer. Marguerite first met the French President in 1897 when her husband was awarded a contract.  Her husband’s frequent meetings with the President meant Marguerite became well acquainted with Faure and soon she became his mistress, often paying him visits in the private residence of the Palais de l’Élysée.

On 16 February 1899, Marguerite made one of her illicit calls to the palace. Many rumours and much speculation surrounded the events but it was widely reported that when servants were called to the boudoir, Steinheil was adjusting her clothing, her hair was tousled and the President lay dead from a seizure – allegedly brought on by a passionate session. Mme Steinheil was quickly ushered out the back door.

The French Femme Fatale

The embarrassment and shame that surely ensued after her connection with the death of the President did not, however, deter her having affairs with other men; in fact, she became the mistress of many more prominent men. Later doctors would go on to describe her as, “a highly neurotic subject with a pronounced tendency to hysteria, she seems to have exercised a curious spell upon all the men with whom she came in contact”. Her je ne sais quoi and femme fatale charms might explain why there were reports that men including the President even entrusted her with secret documents and manuscripts.

Scandal was not to stop there. On May 31 1908, Marguerite’s husband and stepmother were found dead having been gagged, bound and strangled with a cord. Marguerite was also found gagged and bound to the bed but notably unharmed.  Although she told police that there had been four intruders dressed in long black robes, she was a suspect from the start. The police initially did not have the evidence to prosecute but her stories began to unravel when she went on to deliberately frame her valet de chambre by planting a piece of evidence in his room. When her plot was unveiled she subsequently accused her housekeeper’s son of committing the murders. She was arrested later in the year and charged on complicity in the double murder.

Steinheil explains herself in court

The events surrounding the murder and the trial caused a feeding frenzy in Paris and there was a gender divided opinion.  And although the court had called her stories a “tissue of lies”, the rather theatrical trial climaxed with Mme Steinheil’s unexpected acquittal. After her narrow escape from the guillotine, Steinheil moved to England and in 1917 she married the 6th Baron Abinger, Robert Brooke Campbell Scarlett who served in the Royal Navy.

And so here you have it, British Pathé captured this newly married couple leaving the church on their wedding day. At first it seemed a fairly unexciting clip except now we know that this is footage of a woman embroiled in two of the biggest scandals of her time.

Behind every face, there is a story

Watch the short clip HERE.

Burning Down The House: Dangerous Guy Fawkes Night Videos

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.


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 12-seater pram!

Fireworks Factory – (1945)

“We feared that after all the raids people would never want to hear another explosion, but the reverse seems to be the case!” Wonderful footage of girls busy making fireworks in a factory. It’s the first peace time November 5th, great shot of kids pressing their faces against the windows of a fireworks shop. Pathe stage a bizarre drama between a boy and girl but the footage is very sweet.

Mr Fawkes Comes To Town – (1948)

“London’s east end mirrors the world’s mood on Guy Fawkes day, rearmament programs continue behind an iron curtain of secrecy, but it’s left to the backyard scientists to ensure the biggest bang of the year”. Fantastic clip of London boys making their own explosives. The boys make an Adolf Hitler guy!

Prize For Guys – (1957)

A Manchester cinema offer a large box of fireworks for the best Guy. The competition is judged by  local heartthrob, former Butlins redcoat and pop singer Russ Hamilton, who later moved to Nashville, Tennessee and was signed up with MGM Records.

It’s That Guy Again – (1953)

Brilliant montage of vintage fireworks displays and Guy Fawkes bonfires.

Devon Playing With Fire – Devon – (1965)

“In Devon they encourage youngsters to play with fire” – The video shows Devon locals running down the street with barrels stuffed with burning straw, a local tradition apparently. One boy get injured and the canister notes explain: he is covered in black soot and has nasty burns on his face, looks to be in pain. Narrator makes inappropriately light-hearted comment about man’s injury; “he’ll be back in the running next year”.

Watch this amusing 1943 Re-Enactment of the Guy Fawkes Story

And then for more Guy Fawkes videos check this general collection. There are videos from celebrations in London around Big Ben, and at UCL, as well as mad little places up and down the country like Shere in Surrey:


Despite the dangerous endeavours of the daring boys in this footage we would like to ask all of our readers to enjoy Guy Fawkes celebrations in a responsible manner, to keep at a safe distance from fire and DO NOT attempt to make your own fireworks or explosives. Thank You. 

Save The Vulcan!

Our friends in aviation have asked us to pass on this message. They have a small amount of time in which to raise enough money to save the last flying Vulcan XH588, putting the project on a “a knife edge”.

In the British Pathé film archive we have several great clips of Vulcans in action, they really are beautiful machines. These videos of the Vulcan helped us to realise this morning just how important it is to save this magnificent piece of Britain’s history in the air. Take a look:

“Air News – The Vulcan! Britain’s Delta Jet Bomber” (1953)

“Vulcan at Abingdon Air Show” (1968)

“The Vulcan at Farnborough” (1962) [Great footage]

There are several more great Vulcan clips, go to the archive here and search ‘Vulcan’ or ‘Vulcan Bomber’

The last flying Vulcan, which thrilled almost two million people this year, could be grounded or sold abroad due to lack of money. At a meeting on the evening of October 28th, the Vulcan To The Sky Trust which owns the aircraft will decide if it has raised enough funds to continue.

“By Thursday evening, we need to be sure that we will have £300,000 by the end of the week. If there is any doubt, she will follow Concorde into permanent retirement or be sold to a collector almost certainly abroad,” warns trust CEO Dr Robert Pleming.


And read more on this pressing issue here

The Opium It-Girl: Who Was Madame D’Herlys?

"La Belle D'Herlys with Tod Sloan" Anyone smell a false name?

This very intriguing 1915 clip depicts a glamourous lady La Belle D’Herlys and a smartly dressed gentleman Tod Sloan sharing a cigarette and a gossip. Labelled as ‘undesirable aliens’, whoever wrote the original canister notes beside this clip was evidently excited and listed words such as “mysterious”, “underworld”, “opium den habitué” and “ schemer Playboy outlaw”!

We did a little research via the University of Google to decipher who exactly this distinguished and fashionably dressed pair were. We found these two articles:

Article One

Article Two

Very interesting. So they were deported to France and America for unspecified reasons, although gambling is given as a casual speculation. It’s amazing how embittered and enraged the writer of the first article seems to be. Whatever this pair’s crimes, they’ve been immortalised by the British Pathé film archive, and so for all her sins the wonderful Madame D’Herlys (probably a dockyard worker’s daughter from Blackpool) will forever sit gracefully bitching and puffing away in her designer attire. Fabulous. Nothing beats a British Pathé It-Girl.

‘Undesirable Aliens Deported’ – WATCH NOW!

Edifying Archive Footage: Thomas Edison – Rare Film Recordings

Film of Thomas Edison in 1928

Today it’s the anniversary of Thomas Edison’s death in 1931. Much to our astonishment there are clips of Thomas Edison in the British Pathé film archive, and various fragments of his film work.

A film by Thomas Edison ‘The Forge’ appears, and is one of the oldest items in British Pathé’s entire archive, dating back to 1894, although the exact date is subject to an academic debate in film history circles.

Then there’s this wonderful clip of Thomas Edison himself on his 84th birthday. He sits on a chair outside in the sunshine and talks about talking pictures:

“I have a little trouble now and then, but that’s because I’m getting old. What do I think of the talking pictures? Well I don’t know, I’ve never heard one!” he chuckles.

“What do you think of the Einstein theory?” asks the man next to Edison.

“I don’t think anything of the Einstein theory because I don’t understand it!”

See more Thomas Edison clips and footage related to the great man here:


Pier Pressure: British Pathé Remember an important Maritime Landmark

Locals and visitors have fun together at an angling festival on Hastings Pier, 1948

It is devastating to learn of the recent arson attack on Hastings Pier, destroying 95% of what was a splendid and historically important structure. Reading comments on the Sky News story it is both interesting and sad to learn various points of view and speculations regarding ulterior motives behind the fire.

However, decades before this pantomime of councillors, firemen, enraged locals and arrested individuals were able to even walk down a pier; Pathé had camera crews pacing up and down Hastings pier to film the notable events of the early 20th century that occurred there…

There are no fewer than 8 archive videos of Hastings pier in the British Pathé news archive. It’s both tragic and beautiful to watch these reels of people enjoying the pier in a leisurely and courteous way.


British Pathé staff member Victoria made the following comment on this footage of Hastings pier:

“They provide rather nice memories of the pier and provide a record of some of the events around the pier over the past century. We thought our earliest footage of the pier was from 1910 which was part of a travelogue on Hastings, but Pathé actually used St.Leonard’s pier for that particular piece. We have quite a few films from the annual sea angling festival including one held during WWI where wounded soldiers were taking part. In 1917, recuperating Canadian soldiers can be seen doing a Swedish drill on the Hastings Pier and in the 1930s the pier survives 100mph winds. I have attached some stills if you thought an article on its history would be interesting.”

We sincerely hope that Hastings’ council manage to restore the pier in some fashion without turning it into an eye-sore cinema complex or other contemporary building that has complete disregard for the surrounding maritime environment.

Welcome to Baghdad Madame!

Welcome to Baghdad Madame

Anyone up for a holiday in Iraq? It does seem a fairly fanciful idea when Iraq has been synonymous with war, violence and oppression for such a long time and for anyone born after the 1960s the idea of Iraq ever having been a holiday destination seems fantastically peculiar.  However, wind back 40 years and Iraq was in fact a popular destination for tourists and now there are signs, indeed very small, that international tour operators could be taking visitors back there one day.

The Pathé documentary unit shot a two reel documentary called Ageless Iraq back in the 1950s. If you disregard that the films were probably made for propaganda reasons (the notes say the film was made for the Iraq Petroleum Co.) and instead just view them as travelogue films; they paint a fascinating and extremely appealing picture of this ancient land.

Afternoon sailing trip

It is easy to forget that Iraq is in fact a country steeped in rich history and culture and as the first film tells us, the very beginnings of civilisation started here. This is a country where writing was conceived and where man began cultivating the land. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow through Iraq, fertilising the plains and during the 1950s agriculture production was thriving and self-sufficient. Iraq is also home to the ancient walls of Bablyon and is the birthplace of the prophet Abraham.

Baghdad – this could be a resort in any other holiday hot spot

Both films show images of a landscape, culture and society that we just don’t associate with Iraq: art, horseracing, music, cuisine and boats leisurely sailing down a canal in Basra otherwise known as “The Venice of the Middle East”.  

The narrator states at the end: “Ageless Iraq, a new country but one that hasn’t forgotten the glories of its history. A country that is now emerging from the shadows of it past to a future bright with promise.” Let’s hope that this time it is true and perhaps one day we will be able to book a flight to explore this fascinating land.

Ageless Iraq Reel 1

Ageless Iraq Reel 2

Basra - The Venice of the Middle East

Traffic in the 1890s

Sunderland Bridge, County Durham, 1896

People often ask us what our oldest footage in the archive is and a quick search reveals there are only 38 films pre-1900. Some of this footage includes William Gladstone’s funeral (1898), Scenes from the Boer War (1899), Brighton beach bathing scenes (1898) and the New York Fire Brigade in action (1896). All of these films deserve blogs of their own but one of our most interesting newsreels (honestly) is a montage of clips filmed around the UK in the 1890s entitled Early Traffic Scenes.

Tower Bridge, London, 1890s

Admittedly, not many people would be interested in watching two minutes of footage taken in Piccadilly Circus in 2010 but it is quite different when the film is 110 years old. Whether it is of Sunderland Bridge or Bradford Square in Yorkshire, there is something quite absorbing and fascinating about a silent, grainy Victorian recording – especially when you are familiar with the location. 

Piccadilly Circus, London, 1896

Piccadilly Circus in 1896 – any similarities to today?  The horse-drawn buses look overcrowded and as the original mobile billboard, the buses flaunt rather bold and confident advertisements such as: “Cadbury’s Cocoa. ABSOLUTELY PURE – therefore BEST”.

Outside the Bank of England, London, 1897

If there was ever a time for the congestion charge – the traffic looks worse outside the Bank of England in 1897 than it does today. You can watch more of some of the oldest online moving footage here.

Amy Johnson – 1930s Queen of the Air

Bravo Amy! Amy Johnson on her return from South Africa

Amy Johnson was a much- fêted and courageous English aviatrix. Back in the 1930s she set many ground breaking records, including being the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia. A heroine of her day, the Pathé cameras would often be waiting for Amy to commend and report on her achievements.

In 1933, during a flight from South Wales to the USA, Amy and her aviator husband, Jim Mollison, crash landed in Connecticut and according to our Pathé notes it was “after Husband ignored Wife’s advice to stop and refuel”. One would have thought this would have been significant advice and urgently acted upon in a 1930s aeroplane!

You can watch an interview with the couple after their crash landing. The pair are wheeled out in bath chairs to talk to the press. Jim, with a cigarette in his hand, resembles someone who has been in a considerable brawl. He calmly states, “we didn’t arrive in quite the way we anticipated”. One can only imagine what a wife would be saying to her husband after such an event….perhaps along the lines of ‘I did tell you we needed fuel”.

"Jim, I told you we needed fuel"

The extent of both Amy and Jim’s celebrated status at the time can be seen in this film where 200,000 New Yorkers turned out for an extraordinary ticker tape parade in their honour. If it wasn’t for the enormous bandage taped to Jim’s head, the parade could be mistaken for a Presidential inauguration party.

Heroic welcome in New York

 The last film we have of Amy is from 1939 when she swapped her aeroplane for a fast car and took part in the Monte Carlo car rally. Amy died on a short flight in 1941 when her plane came down miles off course in the Thames Estuary. She was just 38 years old. Many conspiracy theories and rumours surrounded her death at the time and even to this day there is still not a clear explanation as to what happened. For such an accomplished woman whose decorated career and movements were filmed by Pathé, it does seem strange we have no film in the archive mentioning the tragedy that befell her. However, at least we only have positive reminders of this British star.

1939, Last Pathe footage of Amy Johnson

Ejector Seats for Dummies: British Pathe were there when everything sprang into action

Look - just smile for the cameras okay kiddo

Tinker, tailor, soldier, ejector seat guinea pig. It’s the sort of job a Briton just wouldn’t do these days, let alone in beautiful Buckinghamshire. But here they are, in broad 1950s daylight, rocketing men up towers of scaffolding to test ejector seats in Denham. As the narrator says – “You either like that sort of thing or you don’t”. Certainly, families part with a lot of money for similar experiences at funfairs and theme parks. Watch the lads playing with their ejector seat here, or see further below for unused reels from the same base. Ernest Greenwood and Toni Luchetti are noted in the canister notes as being two of the mechanics in the video.

Here in Philadelphia, they used giant safety nets to catch their ejected. Startling footage:

Is it a dummy? Is it a man? Don't tell us.

It’s 1964 now and we’re spending the afternoon with the Ministry of Defence in South Wales. Luckily they’re not ejecting unemployed actors this time, but crash dummies. When you see the speeds you’ll see why:

It was either this or a sheep.

The video below shows an ejector seat in action in California. The pilot springs out of the aircraft, hurtles through the air in his chair and lands in the ocean. Thrilling archive footage:

Now which button was the ice dispenser?

For more ejection take a look in the British Pathe archive online at or perhaps retro shop dummies are more your thing? It’s all in there!

Videos of Bastille Day: Archive Footage of the French Revolution Commemorated

Every year Paris puts on a grand military parade to signify July 14th, the day that the Bastille prison was stormed, a symbol and defining moment of the French Revolution. For military and French history enthusiasts, you’ll be thrilled to know that British Pathe have dozens of videos of Bastille Day across the 20th century. Take a look at these reels:

Bastille Day 1916

Bastille Day 1932

Bastille Day 1937

Bastille Day 1938

Bastille Day 1942

Bastille Day 1943

Bastille Day 1947

Bastille Day 1948

Bastille Day 1952

Bastille Day 1955

Bastille Day 1956

Bastille Day 1958

Bastille Day 1959

Bastille Day 1961

Bastille Day 1962

Bastille Day 1963

Bastille Day 1966

Bastille Day 1968

Luxury Cruise Liner ‘S.S. United States’ Saved From Scrapper By Generous Millionaire – 1st July 2010

A sailor watches the maiden voyage in 1952

The famous luxury passenger ship S. S. United States has been saved from the scrapper thanks to a million dollar pledge being made by Philadelphian philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest.

The much-loved ship, which has its own conservation group, has received financial support from notable figures including Bill Clinton in the past, he once enjoyed a cruise aboard the ship during the 1960s.

Several American news groups, including USA today and the Wall Street journal reported yesterday that a deal had been struck between Norwegian Cruise Lines and the Conservancy to save the ship.

British Pathé filmed the maiden voyage of the S. S. United States in 1952. The video clip in the British Pathé film archive is called ‘Blue Riband First Try’. Grace Kelly, a close friend of the British Pathé team, was another regular guest aboard the luxury ship.

Charles Dickens and British Pathé

Dickensian ghosts haunt J.K.Rowling's London home

From National Mourning to 60s Tourism: Great Charles Dickens Footage in the British Pathé Archive

The Pathé brothers started filming forty years after Dickens’ death, yet the great author’s legacy is dotted throughout the British Pathé film archive. From Dickensian themed parties to arguments over the sale of Bleak House, here’s what archivists have found so far:

Next Wednesday (June 9th) will be the anniversary of Charles Dickens’ death in 1870, indeed his magnus opus Great Expectations is 150 years old this year. To some this might seem relatively recent considering just how archaic and dust-smothered some of his immortal characters like Miss Havisham and Ebenezer Scrooge look when they pop up on our screens at Christmas. But long before Dickens’ characters were televised, they were acted out as part of regular celebrations hosted by fans worldwide. Perhaps only J.K.Rowling has exceeded the level of sensation and stardom that Dickens secured in the hearts of working Britain, and in turn, America and the world.

Charles Dickens is one of the most celebrated British authors of all time and yet the fame his name bears today is miniscule compared to the popularity he enjoyed as an author during his lifetime.

Take a look at some of these brilliant clips in the British Pathe film archive related to the life and legacy of Charles Dickens:

(1918) The 106th Anniversary of Charles Dickens birth birth

(1920) Mr Edwin. Drew, the last survivor of the Dickens Society, places a large wreath on Charles Dickens’ tomb.

(1930) A dramatic open-air re-enactment of the Pickwick Papers by fans! Dickens Fellowship conference members re-enact a scene from the Pickwick Papers.

(1938 – sound footage) Actors dressed in Victorian costume pose in the historic places of Dickens novels. They represent the author and some of his characters including Pickwick, Mrs Bardell, Mrs Raddle, Mrs Cluppins, Sam Weller, Nancy, Oliver Twist, Bill Sykes, Fagin and Ruth Pinch.

(1949) Charles Dickens’ house comes under the hammer but is withdrawn at £14,000 by the then owner Mr Albert Batchelor and his niece, Miss Anne Carmody whom he promises to leave the property to if it fails to find a fitting owner.

More scenes from the 1949 auction of Bleak House

(1960s) A crazy Dickens themed restaurant in Paddington! A must-watch clip for any Dickens fan. We wonder if it’s still there today, we assume not.

Further shots of Dickens pilgrims between 1914-1918

And finally, this splendid little video of a Charles Dickens festival with couples dancing the afternoon away under the theme of their favourite author.

This blog post by British Pathé has been promoted on the Malton and Norton website, take a look here.

Junior Mafia or Teddy Boys Picnic? It’s 1950s Nottinghamshire

The Nottingham Evening Post's article on British Pathe, 26th May 2010

As part of British Pathé’s ongoing project to build up its canister note information on certain areas of Britain, the Nottingham Evening Post wrote this brilliant piece today, highlighting some of our best clips relating to the area of Nottinghamshire. Honing in on a clip of Teddy Boys in the village of Sneinton, 1959, journalist Andy Smart asked readers if they could shine any light on the clip.

The video is one of our favourite 1950s pieces from the archive, it depicts a group of Teddy Boys who agree to clean their local church and attend evensong on the condition that the vicar lets the boys throw a dance party for their girlfriends in the vicarage! It’s incredible how good the boys are at dancing too. Of course these Teddy Boys look quite sweet and endearing to 12st century viewers, but in the 1950s they were actually quite a feared British subculture, lurking on street corners with a reputation of acting like mini gangsters. These Teddy Boys are clearly good natured though.

A certain Mrs Papworth has already been in touch with Nottingham Evening Post, as she recognised her two brothers-in-law posing amongst the group of Teddy Boys! In time British Pathé will update their canister notes so that this information is protected for the benefit of future generations, immortalisting those who were lucky enough to get caught on camera by British Pathé.

Sneinton's Teddy Boys come to an agreement with their local vicar Rev Tyson

Video of First Mobile Phone – 1922

Wait a moment Eve, I've almost broken my high score on Snake.

The Telegraph were the first national newspaper to write about British Pathé’s archive discovery of a newsreel called ‘Eve’s Wireless’ in which a prototype mobile phone is designed and seems to function in 1922. The Telegraph wrote about the clip in their online Techology section this morning.

Read The Telegraph’s article on British Pathe here

We’re sure more newspapers and online magazines willl be covering the story shortly, as this video predates previous claims to the first mobile phones by abotu 80 years. It’s interesting to that it is women who feature in the video, both manning the operator room and standing out on the street trialling the phone. Judging by their beauty though we’re assuming for now that they were paid actresses or American models of the 1920s. If you have any information on this clip then please email British Pathé through their site.

Ronald Reagan Films: How The B-Movie Cowboy Became President

Smile and the world votes for you

Long before Ronald Reagan became an emblem of 1980s world politics he was a Senator of California, and an actor before that. Reagan’s early years are naturally shadowed by his later prominence, but thankfully British Pathe were there to capture Reagan’s formative years on film.

For example in this clip Ronald Reagan takes Patricia Neal to the Royal Command Film Performance in 1948 and meets the Queen. All of the women wear luscious fur coats, the men have their hair greased back. It’s useful to note the power that celebrity holds over American politics and the importance of building alliances with notable Hollywood figures.

Titled “Election Shocks” this British Pathe reel celebrates Ronald Reagan’s success in the 1966 election – “by a colossal million majority, the candidate is already spoken of as a Presidential candidate for next time”. This clip is also special as a historicak source in that it shows Edward Brooke laughing and waving as he is voted in to represent Massachusetts – “The first negro to win a seat there since the civil war”

Like Arnold Schwarzenegger today, Ronald Reagan became the Senator for California largely on the back of his celebrity and familiarity with the public. Whether this position will act as a middle ground too for Arnie between being an actor and a world leader remains to be seen.  Reagan was clearly a presence amongst the American political ranks for a good couple of decades before his appointment as President. He is name-checked here in a video documenting the 1964 election. President Johnson makes a dramatic and enraged speech, and then the Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater makes a speech in a sold out Dodger’s Stadium. It’s interesting to learn that supporters bought tickets to hear Dodger talk.

You may be wondering which other famous figures were captured on camera by British Pathe before they reached the rocky heights of their career peak? To name a varied few – videos of George Orwell, David Dimbleby, Melanie Griffiths, and Arnold Schwarzenegger himself appear in the British Pathe archive.

The JFK Collection: Archive Videos of America’s Heroic President John F. Kennedy


America's finest leader?

If you Google “JFK Videos” it’s surprising how little shows up in search – a few grainy clips slapped onto YouTube, some pricey DVDs and conspiracy sites.

British Pathé is the proud owner of numerous John F. Kennedy videos, rare archived newsreels and clips that collectively document the whole JFK story. From his birth, education, early years and young career through to his presidential visits, private life and the assassination aftermath. Great clips of Jackie O can be found in the British Pathé archive too, notably her bereavement broadcast in which she thanks America for their kind letters of condolence.

Watch over 40 great JFK video clips here

The JFK film archive includes footage of the former president with Sir Winston Churchill; Jackie Kennedy with her children Caroline and John at the launch of a new ship; momentous footage of JFK speaking out against the Cuban missile crisis and priceless scenes of the furore following the assassination.

LOOK AT WALES! (Retro 1956 colour video on reasons to visit Wales)

I can't! I can't!

This has to be one of the best Pathé newsreel titles to be discovered in the archive so far! “LOOK AT WALES” it screams in Caps Lock before a damp and rain stricken terrain of nonplussed sheep. Forget the cheesy tourism videos that we see on our screens today, this 1956 colour video takes tourism to new sarcastic heights. Unless the narrator is completely genuine when he declares “The sons and daughters of these farms have made their mark on history, yet remain loyally, even obstinately Welsh”. The dramatic music takes the viewers on an almost spiritual tour of Wales, whilst treating us visually to every aspect of Welsh culture, no matter how miniscule or obscure. Perhaps Wales should take on this very English, very alternative, patronising and borderline xenophobic marketing stategy once more. The clip has certainly left me thirsty for a holiday along the 500 miles of freezing coastline.

Watch the vintage promotional video LOOK AT WALES yourself now and see what all the excitement is about.

France discover British Pathe

“Actualités de L’Histoire”

It’s official. France have discovered the British Pathé film archive! Over the last few days an increasing amount of French websites and blogs have started popping up with articles about clips from

We’re not entirely sure what they’re writing about us, but we assume it’s all good. One French blogger wrote this:

“De 1910 à 1970, 3500 heures d’histoire filmée sur quelques 90 000 sujets sont visibles en intégralité sur ce site et accessibles à travers un moteur de recherche en mode simple ou expert.  Par exemple, visionner le couronnement de Georges V le 22 juin 1911 et le Grand Durbar de Delhi qui s’ensuivit en décembre 1911 avec la présentation de Georges V comme empereur des Indes…”

If you search ‘FRANCE’ as a keyword in the British Pathé archive 5688 films show up. See for yourself here – old film footage of France.

Channel 4 Blitz British Pathé

Looting the wreckages of shattered London homes

The archive footage in Tony Robinson’s latest high-profile history series Blitz Street was taken from the British Pathé archive. The series didn’t receive glowing reviews, with many TV critics doubtful as to whether the program’s makers even achieved their goal. Tony Robinson himself was criticised for being too gleeful about a sensitive subject that still haunts many Britons today. Still, the archive clips of the Blitz are a brilliant slice of history and offer priceless insight into this terrifying war at home. Watch all of the Blitz videos here in the British Pathé archive.


Read Stewart Turner’s review on the Orange TV blog here

Read Brian Viner’s review in the Independent here

Read Nancy Banks-Smith’s review on here

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