British Pathe: A Witness To Terrorism, 1919-1972

Terrorism is nothing new. As early as 1885 the first bomb exploded on the London Underground. Even before then, terrorist groups had made their respective marks – the People’s Retribution in Russia, the Jacobins in France, Guy Fawkes and his Gunpowder Plot, the Scarii Zealots of Judea. The list is endless, the victims countless, the motives diverse.

Though the British Pathé archive is limited to the years 1895-1979, there is an overwhelming collection of material related to terrorist attacks. This post, along with our new gallery, presents just a few examples from that period, using images taken from contemporary newsreel footage.

Click the stills to view the original film.

New York, USA (1919)

images_britishpathe_com

Probably the earliest film in the archive concerning an act of terrorism, the footage from which this image is taken features just one of a series of bombings during 1919 carried out in many American cities by anarchists aiming to bring down the “tyrannical institutions” of the State.

It is not clear from British Pathé’s records exactly what this image shows, but it is possibly the ruined home of Judge Charles C. Nott, Jr. on 151 East 66 Street, which was a target of the terrorists. Although Nott was unhurt, one night watchman, who had seen a suspicious package left on Nott’s doorstep and had gone over to investigate, was killed when it went off in his hands.

As well as in New York, bombs were detonated in seven other cities and thirty-six letter bombs were posted, though many were intercepted before they could explode.

………………………………………………………………………………..

New York, USA (1920)

images_britishpathe_com

The same anarchists were allegedly behind this 1920 attack on Wall Street, the financial heart of the United States of America, though no group actually claimed responsibility and the perpetrators were never caught. In this case, explosives were hidden in a wagon which exploded at lunchtime on 16th September, killing 38 people along with the horse that was pulling the deadly vehicle. A further 143 were injured.

Footage shows the confused aftermath of the bombing, the police presence, and some of the bodies of the victims laid out on the pavement. Evidence of the blast can still be seen on some of the buildings today.

………………………………………………………………………………..

Liverpool, UK (1920)

images_britishpathe_comCALVMLNC

Later that same year, England was also targeted, this time by Irish republicans, in the midst of the Irish War of Independence.

This image is taken from a newsreel announcing “Sinn Fein outrages” in which “agents” of the group set warehouses alight across Liverpool and the suburb of Bootle – 27 fires in all. Police officers were shot during the incident, along with a young passer-by named Daniel Ward. Five men were arrested.

………………………………………………………………………………..

New York, USA (1927)

images_britishpathe_com

On 6th August 1927, two bombs detonated in the New York City subway. This image reveals some of the damage done, along with workmen hurriedly repairing a station.

The attack was again the work of anarchists. It was carried out in retaliation for the trial of the Italian anarchists Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti who were executed later that month in Boston.

At least one person died in the bombing, with others wounded.

………………………………………………………………………………..

Germany (1931)

images_britishpathe_comCAWLZBVQ

Political agitators blew up this train travelling from Berlin to Frankfurt in early August 1931. Newsreel footage shows the derailed carriages and the damage done to the tracks by the bomb blast.

………………………………………………………………………………..

London, UK (1939)

images_britishpathe_comCA1U1PLN

This image is from just one of many terrorist attacks in London during 1939 carried out by the Irish Republican Army, or IRA. Investigators comb through the rubble looking for evidence after an explosion at the Central Electricity Board building in Southwark. A pedestrian was killed.

Leicester Square and Tottenham Court tube stations, shops in Piccadilly, an aqueduct, and Hammersmith bridge were also subsequently targeted. All were documented by Pathé News and relevant films can be found in this collection. Not covered by British Pathé were additional incidents at various banks, King’s Cross and Victoria station. Seamus O’Donovan, who had drawn up the attack plans, later noted that the bombing campaign “brought nothing but harm to Ireland and the IRA.”

………………………………………………………………………………..

Rehovot, Palestine (1947)

images_britishpathe_comCA6ANK62

Another railway bomb, this time in Palestine – one of numerous attacks by Jewish militants during 1947. The aims of the “Irgun”, the group responsible for the attacks, were to force the British to withdraw from Palestine (where they had been stationed since defeating the Ottoman Empire during the First World War) and to bring about the creation of an independent Jewish state. On 14th May 1948, David Ben-Gurion would declare the establishment of the state of Israel. Britain officially recognised the new nation on 28th April 1950.

………………………………………………………………………………..

Simpang Tiga, Malaysia (1947)

images_britishpathe_comCA1ARGAY

A devastated rubber factory caused by terrorist occupation in the small town of Simpang Tiga. Footage shows locals walking through the debris.Throughout the 1940s, Malaysia was troubled by violence as communist groups sought to expel the British from the Malayan peninsular.

………………………………………………………………………………..

Jaffa, Palestine (1948)

images_britishpathe_comCAHPQRBD

Another attack by the “Irgun”, this time in the town of Jaffa, on 4th January 1948. The headquarters of the Arab National Committee and several surrounding buildings were destroyed.

………………………………………………………………………………..

New York Nabs the “Mad Bomber”, USA (1957)

images_britishpathe_comCAYG8G78

In this image, George Metesky stands smiling behind bars after his arrest by New York police. Metesky had been responsible for twenty-two explosions in the early 1940s and throughout the 1950s at public places in New York City, such as libraries and cinemas. He planted a further eleven which never went off. His motive was anger. After an industrial accident left him injured and without a job, he sought revenge on both the company he had worked for (Consolidated Edison) and the public at large.

Known as the “Mad Bomber”, Metesky was never tried for his crimes and was committed to a mental hospital. Eventually released in 1973, he died in 1994 at the age of 90.

………………………………………………………………………………..

Algiers, Algeria (1962)

images_britishpathe_comCAMVVG8B

On 20th April 1962, three plastic explosives were detonated in the capital of Algeria. Luckily, no one was killed. The attack was the work of Organisation de l’armée secrète (or OAS). This French terrorist organisation hoped to stop Algeria from becoming an independent nation, free from French colonial rule, which the Algerian National Movement had been fighting for since 1954. The OAS failed, and that same year the Algerian War came to an end with a new People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria entering the international arena.This silent, unedited and unused footage features devastated buildings and burnt out cars, probably in front of the Algiers Rectorate of the University.

………………………………………………………………………………..

Zarka, Kingdom of Jordan (1971)

images_britishpathe_comCACOZCJT

This image is from the Dawson’s Field hijackings by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in September 1971. In the incident, five planes were hijacked and forced to Dawson’s Field, an airstrip in Zarka, Jordan. Amazingly, not one of the 310 hostages were killed. They were released in exchange for four PFLP members – three serving sentences in Switzerland and one in British custody.

The plane featured in this still is British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) Flight 775. It is taken from raw, unedited and silent footage in the British Pathé archive. In the film, Swissair and BOAC planes land in Beirut before being forced to take off again for Dawson’s Field by the hijackers while police and security officials watch helplessly nearby.

………………………………………………………………………………..

Belfast, UK (1972)

images_britishpathe_comCAAVDE9X

This telling still of a burning bus derives from a film in the British Pathé archive entitled “IRA Outrages In Northern Ireland”. Although there is no paperwork accompanying the film that can accurately date and identify the three seemingly separate events depicted in it, one of our Facebook followers provided some helpful information. This image specifically is probably from the Bloody Friday attack on the Ulsterbus depot on Oxford Street during the afternoon of 21st July 1972. A total of twenty-two explosions across Belfast caused carnage that day. Nine people were killed.

………………………………………………………………………………..

After 1972

The British Pathé archive ends in 1979. However, the series A Day That Shook The World, co-produced with the BBC, covers important world events up to the year 2006. It therefore includes additional acts of terror not originally filmed by the Pathé cameramen. The relevant episodes can be viewed by clicking on the links below:

British SAS storm Iranian Embassy in London (1980)

IRA attack on British Government (1984)

Lockerbie Pan-Am jet explosion (1988)

Oklahoma terrorist attack (1995)

World Trade Center (2001)

Beslan School Siege (2004)

London bombings (2005)

………………………………………………………………………………..

View the Twenty Acts of Terror Gallery on the British Pathé website. Additional films can be found by searching the archive database.

www.britishpathe.com

Advertisements

The Queen’s Speech

On May 8th, Queen Elizabeth II officially opened Parliament and read the speech prepared for her by the Government listing the bills that would be put to the Houses during the course of the next year. Much is being made of Prince Charles’ unusual attendance, a sign perhaps of his increased role as the Queen grows older. The full text of the Queen’s speech can be read on the Number 10 website here.

British Pathé has a great many films of previous state openings of Parliament. But particularly noteworthy are the clips outlined below. Click the links to take a look.

King Edward VII opens Parliament in 1901

Description: State coach bearing King Edward VII and escort pass camera on arrival at Houses of Parliament for State Opening of Parliament.

State coach and escort leave by the Victoria Tower and turn past camera.

Watch the film here.

(KING_EDWARD_VII_OPENS_HIS_FIRST_PARLIAMENT)_1674_20_3

King George V Opens His First Parliament (1910)

Description: Intertitle reads: “King George V Opens His First Parliament. Scenes from Buckingham Palace along with route to the Houses of Parliament”.

London.

Scenes of the state coach carrying King George V with escort making its way along Mall through Horse Guards and arriving at Houses of Parliament for the State Opening of Parliament.

Watch the film here.

(_KING_GEORGE_V_OPENS_HIS_FIRST_PARLIAMENT_)_1674_22_77

King Edward VIII opens Parliament, 1936

Description: Various shots of crowds in the rain, men from the Yeoman of the Guard file in to search vaults in House of Lords. The royal car carrying King Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor) drives through, he has chosen a closed car because of the bad weather. He is wearing Admiral’s uniform and waves at the crowds. M/S as his car enters the Palace of Westminster. 

M/S as he drives out again afterwards, crowds are still gathered to see him. M/S as his car enters the gates of Buckingham Palace.

Watch the film here.

HIS_MAJESTY_THE_KING_895_22_26

State Opening Of Parliament (1937)

Description: Royal coach leaving Buckingham Palace. Large crowds running towards the coach. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Mother) are see in coach. Various shots of the coach moving very slowly through packed London streets towards Parliament. Crowds cheering. Several shots of the Yeomen of the Guard preparing for the Royal Reception. Various shots of the coach returning to Buckingham Palace after opening of the Parliament. A car with Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret follows the coach on the way to the Palace.

Watch the film here.

STATE_OPENING_OF_PARLIAMENT_937_11_15

Queen Opens Parliament (1952)

Description: GV. Royal carriage leaving Buckingham Palace. SV. Pan, royal carriage leaving Buckingham Palace. SV. Royal Household escort leaving. GTV. of massed crowds at Horse Guards. GV.STV. Royal carriage driving through Horse Guards. LV. Royal carriage driving through Horse Guards. SV. Crowd as horses pass. SV. Pan Queen’s coach passing crowds. LV. Household Cavalry arriving on foot outside Parliament. LV.SV. Beefeaters arriving from coach. LV. Gentlemen at Arms arriving and assembling. SV. Lords arriving. SV. Yeomen of the Guard (Beefeaters) going into Palace of Westminster. SV.Back view, Yeoman of the Guard going into Parliament. LV. Crowd: and Guards present arms. SV. Pan Princess Margaret’s car arriving, also with her is the Princess Royal. LV. Escort Cavalry trotting past towards Parliament. SV. Pan, escort Cavalry trotting past towards Palace of Westminster. LV. Towards and pan, State Coach approaching Guard of Honour. LV. Escort passing Guard of Honour, Guards present. SV. People watching from balcony. LV. Towards and pan State coach passing Guard of Honour. SCU. Coach turning and driving into courtyard. Angle shot, Parliament. LV.SV. Household Cavalry lined up outside. SCU. Queen’s coach leaving Parliament. CU Royal Standard flying from Flag Pole. MS. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on balcony. GV. Crowds outside Palace.  LS. Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall and Princess Anne on balcony.

Watch the film here.

QUEEN_OPENS_PARLIAMENT_42_14_100

State Opening Of Parliament (1969)

Description: Colour item.

M/S as the Irish State Coach leaves Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II waves from it. M/S as it drives along. M/S travelling past Guard of Honour. M/S state crown in carriage. M/S parade. M/S Queen and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, in carriage.  M/S escort riding along. M/S’s coach coming up Whitehall.   M/S as the coach arrives at Parliament and drives through gates.

Watch the film here.

There is also some very good silent footage of the interior from 1969.

LONDON_(aka_STATE_OPENING_OF_PARLIAMENT)_2231_25_58

British Pathé’s complete collection of State Openings can be found here.

www.britishpathe.com

Imphal and Kohima

The British people have voted for their “greatest battle” in a poll conducted by the National Army Museum. The combined victories at Imphal and Kohima against the Japanese in the Second World War are now taken to be the “Greatest British Battle” in history, winning more than half of the votes cast. The runner up was D-Day, with 25 per cent of the vote. A full list of the contenders can be found here, in an article for The Daily Telegraph. For each of these engagements, the British Pathé archive has some relevant films that should be of interest.

Imphal and Kohima

“Invasion Scenes Far East” is a newsreel item showing British troops advancing towards Imphal in India. “Japs Trapped At Imphal” follows Indian infantry of 5th and 7th Indian divisions as they advance through the Hills of Manipur, past the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers, to trap the enemy.  Finally, “Driving Out The Japs” follows Lord Louis Mountbatten inspecting Indian soldiers and British men of the 14th Army at Imphal and Kohima. You can find all three films in this collection.

JAPS_TRAPPED_AT_IMPHAL__1358_05_2

D-Day

There’s an extensive collection of films from the Normandy landings during WW2 in the British Pathé archive. Click here for a selection. A more general Second World War Collection can be found here.

OVER_THERE!_1360_07_31

www.britishpathe.com

In the News: Boston, Texas, and the Queen’s birthday

There’s been many traumatic incidents over the last few days – earthquakes, shootings, terrorist atrocities, industrial accidents… Sadly, these are nothing new, and the British Pathé archive contains a great deal of past tragedies. The Day That Shook The World series, for instance, features many acts of terror, including the IRA bombing in Brighton, 9/11, the London Bombings of 2005, the Belsan School Siege, and the Oklahoma attack. You can find every episode here.

The following may also be of some interest:

Boston Marathon

The world’s oldest annual marathon was twice covered by Pathé News – in 1938 and 1967. Watch both films here.

ANNUAL_BOSTON_MARATHON_3178_11_10

Texas Fire

Texas has seen many industrial accidents in the past, including the worst in the history of the United States – a terrible fire at an oil refinery in April 1947. Nearly 600 people lost their lives.

In March of 1937, an explosion at a Texan school, caused by a natural gas leak, killed nearly 300 people.

TEXAS_TRAGEDY_-_EXPLOSION_WRECKS_SCHOOL_915_15_24

The Queen’s Birthday

Although her Official birthday is not until June, Elizabeth II was actually born on 21st April 1926. She will be 87 this year. As the daughter of the Duke of York, her birth did not earn newsreel coverage at the time. But there is some early footage of her as a young princess and a collection of key films from her reign.

Perhaps of particular interest is this newsreel celebrating her 21st birthday, which includes great footage of a care-free princess.

PRINCESS_ELIZABETH_IS_21__THE_GIRL_WHO_WILL_BE_QUEEN_1181_26_10

www.britishpathe.com

Funerals of Former Prime Ministers

As thousands of mourners including world leaders and dignitaries get ready to pay their respects to Margaret Thatcher, we take a look at the funerals of previous British Prime Ministers that were filmed and can be found in the British Pathé archive. In all, the funerals of eleven PMs feature in the collection. You can view the individual films via the links below, or cycle through this image gallery.

Image: Horse-drawn hearse of William Gladstone.
Image: Horse-drawn hearse of William Gladstone.

 

Funeral films for the following prime ministers:

Lord Asquith

Clement Attlee

Stanley Baldwin

Arthur Balfour

Neville Chamberlain

David Lloyd George

William Gladstone

Andrew Bonar Law

Ramsay MacDonald

and Archibald Primrose

Probably the most notable funeral is that of Winston Churchill, who was given a state funeral in 1965. You can view Pathé’s coverage of the occasion here.

The state funeral of Winston Churchill. Click the still to view the film.
The state funeral of Winston Churchill. Click the still to view the film.

View British Pathé’s Prime Ministers’ Funerals Gallery.

The Royal Yacht Britannia – Launched 60 Years Ago

Queen Elizabeth II’s beloved yacht Britannia was launched on 16th April 1953. British Pathé has a wealth of material featuring Britannia and her various expeditions around the world. Crucially, the archive has coverage of the launching, which can be viewed here.

Queen steps forward and names the ship "Britannia", wishing success to all who sail in her.
Queen steps forward and names the ship “Britannia”, wishing success to all who sail in her.
Britannia slides into the water at the launch.
Britannia slides into the water at the launch.
Britannia carries the Queen on one of her many tours. In this film, the yacht steams up the St Lawrence River in 1964. Click the still to view the film.
Britannia carries the Queen on one of her many tours. In this film, the yacht steams up the St Lawrence River in 1964. Click the still to view the film.

For British Pathé’s complete collection of Britannia footage, click here.

In other old news…

Today also marks the anniversary of the Great Train Robbers being sentenced in 1964. British Pathé covered aspects of the events and filmed the prison in which they served their time a couple of years later. View this collection.

The hideout of the Great Train Robbers at Leatherslade Farm, who were sentenced on 16th April 1964.
The hideout of the Great Train Robbers at Leatherslade Farm, who were sentenced on 16th April 1964.

www.britishpathe.com

Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013

It has been announced that Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister, has died at the age of 87.

Although British Pathé ended newsreel production in 1970, before Thatcher came to power, there are a few films in the archive that may be of interest. In the 1990s, British Pathé and the BBC co-produced two series, A Day That Shook the World and Twentieth Century Hall of Fame, both of which had episodes on the Thatcher years. The brief summaries can be viewed for free on our website:

1. Hall of Fame: Margaret Thatcher  – Profile of Margaret Thatcher and her political career

2. British Pathé’s Falkland Islands collection – includes A Day That Shook the World episodes on the task force setting sail and the sinking of HMS Sheffield in the 1982 war.

3. A Day That Shook the World: IRA Bombs British Cabinet in Brighton

4. A Day That Shook the World: Thatcher Falls From Power

There are three additional films from the 1970s. One, a news report on Woolwich’s efforts to battle against the school milk ban (the source of Thatcher’s nickname “Maggie Thatcher the Milk Snatcher”) is worth a look. It can be viewed here.

The other two are not so interesting. There’s some brief shots of Thatcher getting out of her car and entering Number 10 part-way through this random assortment of Whitehall scenes and there’s some mute material featuring impersonator / comedian Janet Brown pretending to be Margaret Thatcher in Brighton in 1975.

(WHITEHALL_AND_CHANGING_THE_GUARD)_3363_06_196

Margaret Thatcher was a divisive figure whose impact upon the course of British politics and modern history is incalculable. Her premiership and her legacy will be debated for a long time to come. Feel free to express your own thoughts and feelings below.

British Pathé’s profile of Margaret Thatcher can be viewed here.