Goodbye from British Pathé

Friends and loyal followers,

It has been terrific sharing our collection with you over the last five years. We do hope you’ve enjoyed these blog posts (if you haven’t, we can only apologise) and that you’ll follow us to our new home. Our blog is leaving WordPress and will now be hosted on the main British Pathé website. You’ll find our favourite past blog posts up there too. And, just like with WordPress, you can enter your email address to continue getting new posts sent straight to your inbox.

Click here to visit the new British Pathé blog.

Do let us know what you think of the new blog and the sort of posts you want to read. You can get in touch by emailing, leaving a comment beneath this post, or connecting with us via Facebook Twitter.

Our very best wishes,

British Pathé


British Pathé is considered to be the finest newsreel archive in the world and is a treasure trove of 85,000 films unrivalled in their historical and cultural significance. Spanning the years from 1896 to 1976, the collection includes footage from around the globe of major events, famous faces, fashion trends, travel, science and culture. The entire archive is available to view online for free via the British Pathé website and YouTube channel.

British Pathé Picks: 14th – 31st January 2013

Here’s our selection of British Pathé footage that relates to anniversaries coming up in the next two weeks. Click the links below to take a look! You can also keep up to date with aniversaries by following our dedicated Pinterest board.

Churchill and Roosevelt at Casablanca 

(14 January)

70 years ago, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met at Casablanca to discuss the war effort. A 1943 newsreel covers the event. View it here.

Churchill and Roosevelt. Click the still to view the film.
Churchill and Roosevelt. Click the still to view the film.

David Lloyd George Born  

(17 January)

It will have been 150 years since the birth of David Lloyd George on 17th January 1863. Lloyd George, Prime Minister during the First World War, features in a great many British Pathé newsreels. Explore them here.

Lloyd George in 1922.
Lloyd George in 1922.

Danny Kaye  

(18 January)

Another birthday for January is that of American comedian Danny Kaye, born 100 years ago on 18th January 1913. There is some excellent footage of Kaye in the archive, particularly of his 1948 Royal Command Performance act and rehearsals. Watch them here.

Danny Kaye rehearses for a performance.
Danny Kaye rehearses for a performance.

85 years since the death of Earl Haig

(29 January)

Footage of the First World War general and of his funeral can be found here.

Funeral procession for Douglas Haig.
Funeral procession for Douglas Haig.

British Membership of the EU  

(29 January)

50 years ago, Charles de Gaulle famously said “non” to Britain’s membership of the European Economic Community. Click here to view the 1963 newsreel.

Topical! The US declared last week that they wanted Britain at the heart of the EU.
Topical! The US declared last week that they wanted Britain at the heart of the EU.

Hitler Becomes Chancellor  

(30 January)

80th Anniversary: On 30th January 1933, von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany. The newsreel, “Hitler Assumes Bismarck’s Mantle”, can be viewed here.

Hitler celebrates his victory.
Hitler celebrates his victory.

In other news

Spitfires in Burma

Excavations in Burma may have unearthed spitfires that have been buried there. British Pathé has a wealth of footage related to spitfires, just a selection of which can be seen here.

British Pathé Spreads Its Wings

This quick message is to tell you about our brand new Social Media pages. Don’t worry, we’re not neglecting the old ones. In fact, we’ve recently updated our WordPress blog page and started a new series of posts summarising the contents of the archive – such as our Animation Archive, War Archive and Undersea Antics – and the history of British Pathé (see Part I of IV here). But we’ve started a new blog as well. Mostly this mirrors our Facebook page, but there are also exclusives too – such as this article on great goals. You’ll find this new blog, hosted by Tumblr, here:

We also recently started a Pinterest page. If you’ve never tried Pinterest, it can be quite a lot of fun. We’ve got plenty of collections dedicated to certain aspects of the archive. You can explore them here: We’ve only just begun these boards, so they’re not going to blow you away, but follow them now if you don’t want to miss out on our updates!

Our Pinterest boards.
Our Pinterest boards.

We’re delighted with how loyal and active our Social Media supporters have been – and all for what is, essentially, old news! Thank you all. You’ve written so many comments, shared many images and clips, and watched countless videos. Recently we reached 10,000 likes for our Facebook page, and are about to pass the 11,000 mark. Join us there if you haven’t already for daily links to clip collections or films: Or follow us on Twitter: And don’t forget that we also have a popular YouTube channel.

So take your pick of Social Media platform or follow us on all of them if you like. Let us know what you think and what you’d like from us. If you want to, you can do this anonymously here. And know that we appreciate the interest shown in our archive. It’s fantastic to know that this historic footage is not forgotten.

Visit our Pinterest page here or our tumblr blog here.

Royal Baby Names: Take the Poll

There’s nothing like a royal pregnancy announcement to get the media’s mouths watering. So we thought we would join in the speculation and fun of guessing the future King or Queen’s name. We are in no doubt that William and Catherine will stay within the bounds of traditionalism (i.e no Apples or Harpers here) but will they be safe and choose the name of a previous monarch or will they go for something new? We have dug in to the archives to find out some names of previous Princes and Princesses. Scroll to the bottom, to take our poll

Princess Margaret

Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret

Of course Prince William’s Great Aunt was Princess Margaret or “Margot” as she was affectionately called by friends. There hasn’t been a Queen Margaret before, however, although a royal beauty, the Queen’s sister was quite a controversial member of the royal family.

Prince Albert (Bertie)

George VI or Prince Albert as he was christened
George VI or Prince Albert as he was christened

If you have seen the King’s Speech, you probably feel like you know King George VI rather well. The Queen’s beloved father was a reluctant King; thrown on to the throne after his brother’s abdication, he had the enormous job of restoring the popularity of the monarchy which was at an all time low. He succeeded. He has gone down in history as being a dutiful family man and a King with personal courage. So perhaps William will pay homage to his great-grandfather whose baptismal name was Prince Albert and was known as ‘Bertie’ by his family. There never has been a King Albert as Edward VII (born Prince Albert) decided he didn’t want to diminish the status of his father. The Queen’s (Elizabeth II) father took the regnal name George VI to carry on this tradition.

Princess Mary (May)

Queen Mary of Teck watching Wimbledon
Queen Mary of Teck watching Wimbledon

We think Mary may be a strong contender for a girl and then with a nickname of ‘May’. Prince William’s great-great grandmother was Queen Mary of Teck (pictured) and Queen Victoria’s great granddaughter was called Princess May of Teck. And of course there hasn’t been a Mary on the throne since the days of Mary II aka “William and Mary” who were joint sovereigns of England, Scotland and Ireland back in the 17th century. Mary is a pretty girl’s name which has fallen out of vogue in the last 50 years but we just have a hunch it could be time for a resurgence.

Prince Henry or Princess Henrietta

Prince Henry, the Queen's Uncle, watching the racing with his niece
Prince Henry, the Queen’s Uncle, watching the racing with his niece

We all know how close Prince William and his brother Harry (Prince Henry) are so we think there is a strong possibility that William may choose Henry or Henrietta as a tribute to his brother. ‘Henry’ has been a popular choice for members of the royal family. Prince Henry, seen in this picture with the Queen, was the Queen’s uncle and there have been many Prince Henry’s before him.

Henry VIII was the last Henry to grace the throne though. He was an accomplished and charismatic king although he is often illustrated as a lustful and egotistical character. And although there has never been a Queen Henrietta, apparently the name Henrietta is a “thoroughly upper-class name” and in fact Charles I’s daughter was called Princess Henrietta of England. It’s not very popular in England anymore but perhaps it’s time for a renaissance.

Princess Victoria

Queen Victoria in Dublin
Queen Victoria in Dublin

Could there be another Victorian era ahead? It is some 111 years since Queen Victoria’s reign ended. If William looks to his family history for inspiration, he will know that Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years and seven months, is still the longest reign of any British monarch and the longest of any female monarch in history. Although she was officially Alexandrina Victoria (nicknamed Drina), her first name was withdrawn at her own wish.

Victoria was the symbol of the British Empire. She displayed fortitude and strength when there were seven separate attempts on her life. Her popularity was temporarily affected by her depression but ultimately she was a popular Queen who remained dutiful to the end. As William is 4th great-grandson of Queen Victoria, we think Queen Victoria II is a strong contender.

Princess Charlotte

Prince Charles with the Queen
Prince Charles with the Queen

And how about Charlotte? Of course Charlotte is the female name of Charles so this would be a great tribute to William’s father. There was Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who was the Queen consort of the United Kingdom as the wife of King George III. If it is a boy though, we don’t think William and Kate will choose Charles – just because there is already one in line to the throne.

Pathe’s Final Prediction
Our wholly speculative final guess is: a girl called Charlotte

…and if it is a boy, our final guess is: Albert

But what do you think? Take the poll now:

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:

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.

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

The Girls With Cotton Tails

The 1960s saw Hugh Hefner opening up his Playboy Clubs across the world. Those hostess showgirls wedged in to satin corsets and sprinkled with  bunny ears and bow ties are still seen as one of America’s lasting sex symbols.

Our Playboy blog post, Bunny Girls: British Pathé Go Inside The Playboy Paradise (Never To Return), is the most-read article we have published since setting up the British Pathé blog in 2010 by a substantial margin. We can’t imagine why! When we reblogged the article just a few days ago (see here), more of you visited the page than we imagined. So we thought that given the interest out there, instead of simply republishing one of our golden oldies, that we’d treat you to something new.

Therefore, we proudly present our new VINTAGE BUNNY GIRLS GALLERY. In the gallery you will see shots that we didn’t include in the original blog article (which you can still find via the blog’s home page) as well as links to the films from which they’re taken.

So if you’re bored at work, or simply interested in fashion and cultural history, click THIS LINK to view the gallery.

Some highlights from our new gallery. Click on the still to be taken to page one.

Or if you aren’t a fan of the gallery format, you can go straight to the films featured within it. Just click on the titles below:

Inside the Playboy Paradise (1966)

Bunnies Assist Salvation Army (1967)

Roman Polanski Weds Sharon Tate at the Playboy Club (1968)

Most Beautiful Bunny In the World Contest (1968)

Playboy Club Fashion Show (1968)

So watch the films above or visit our gallery in which Pathé take a look back at the girls with cotton tails.


Bunny Girls reblog

Another one of our past faves, reblogged for the benefit of our new subscribers and because we’ve just updated and redesigned our blog site.

British Pathé

Playboy Magazine and the notorious Bunny Girls charmed their way into Metro yesterday with the announcement of a new Mayfair Playboy club opening in London. We were surprised to learn that it was as early as 1966 that Hugh Hefner opened his first popular London nightspot, and so we had a cheeky browse through the British Pathé archive to see if there were any Bunnies in there and WOW:

Sexy seductive videos of 1960s Bunny Girls…

Why did nobody mention that these reels existed before? It just goes to show, there’s nothing  unworthy of a search in British Pathé’s colossal online archive. These bunnilicious archive clips are a dream:

1) Inside The Playboy Paradise (1966)

“A race called Bunnies. A Bunny is an American creation, she’s a cross between a hostess showgirl and a barmaid waitress, well versed in the art of charming the cash customers in a string of international clubs.” This 1960s newsreel ‘Inside The Playboy Paradise’ is a now…

View original post 492 more words

The Cats of Downing Street

Or should we say Meow-ning Street?

Today British Pathe paid a visit to 10 Downing Street! (apparently nothing to do with David Cameron’s recent history quiz on Letterman?!) We’re proud to have a wealth of footage in our archive of the iconic Number 10 building and British Pathe filmed some of the most momentous events to have happened there over the last 100 years.

We posted a photo of our staff member John outside the famous black door onto our Twitter page earlier today. But we also managed to take this snap, a photo of the resident cat “Larry” sitting on the windowsill just behind the front door:

Larry, the current mouser at Downing Street.

Cats have long been in place at Downing Street, sitting in and purring throughout important political discussions, brushing ankles with royalty. In the 1990s John Major’s cat Humphrey became a bit of a celebrity:

A police officer strokes Humphrey

Humphrey entered the premises during Thatcher’s time in office. She allegedly made the decision to keep Humphreys, claiming that £100 spent on cat food was better than £4000 spent on a pest control contractor who’d never managed to catch anything. He regularly featured in the tabloid press and even had his own picture book published by HarperCollins in 1995.

The first Downing Street cat to appear in our archive, to our knowledge, is this one in 1940:

A superstitious symbol just seconds before Anthony Eden met with Lord Halifax.

This still image is taken from the British Pathe video “War Cabinet” in which Eden meets Lord Halifax for a critical discussion.

Then we came across this cat sitting on the lap of Harold Wilson’s son at 10 Downing Street:

Clearly Harold’s son hadn’t yet learnt the rule of not looking directly into the lens.

We wanted to find the mouser of Downing Street during Churchill’s time at the top. We’re sure there’ll be a glimpse of cat in one of our Churchill reels. In the meantime we found this pussy who greeted Churchill when he visited Roosevelt in the states in 1940:

Roosevelt’s cat in 1940

The American cats seem to be a more acerbic breed than the more casual and leisurely Downing Street creatures.

Please do help us to find more Downing Street cats in our archive. You can get off to a head start and dive straight into our Downing Street videos by clicking here:

Let us know if spot one! And you can share your findings with us either by leaving a comment below, talking to us on our Facebook page, or tweeting us @britishpathe

Balloon Boy Found!

Picture taken from the Herald Tribune's interview with Bill Crawford.

A friend of the archive sent in a link to a Herald Tribune interview with 82-year-old Bill Crawford, discussing his fame as a balloon stunt child star. Crawford used to hang for dear life onto a giant balloon and hop all over his home town of Bradenton, and our friend was convinced they’d seen a video of this in the British Pathe film archive. We’re thrilled to say that yes, we do have a video of little Bill Crawford flying balloons at the tender age of just 4! We’ve uploaded the video onto our YouTube sister channel Sporting History so that you can all embed it into your own blogs, share it and enjoy it. Here’s the video:

Remember all 90,000 British Pathe reels are searchable and viewable for free on

If you find anything too good to keep to yourself then you can share it on our Facebook page, or share it with us on Twitter @britishpathe

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?

Christmas Stuffing: British Turkeys Through History. (No, Really.)

Will you be having turkey this Christmas day? A lot of people have beef or even fish don’t they, or if you’re a vegetarian, a nice nut roast perhaps.

When Bernard Matthews passed away last week we had to do a bit of turkey research in the archive and were surprised to discover just how many fascinating reels there were related to a topic that we though was, well, a bit parochial.

But no! From Christmas turkey fairs to 1950s communal freezers, from stately turkey farms to the introduction of the new ‘Gobblers’ plucking machine, we were thrilled to find some of these archive nuggets.

Admittedly some of the narrator wise-cracks are a bit cheesy, but to their credit there isn’t an awful lot to say about a turkey. What makes these clips so great however are the visuals, a great insight into Britain’s age-long tradition of having a turkey dinner at Christmas!

Here are 5 favourites to watch, and then a general link to more funny old turkey videos at the bottom.

“A Short Life and a Gay One”(1921)

I don’t imagine this is a Bernard Matthews farm, but quite the opposite as we see gianormous and luxuriant turkey proudly parading around some kind of stately grounds. “But this year’s turkeys can at least console themselves that they’re cheaper than last year”. The clip moves quite suddenly from a regal panoramic shot of the turkeys showing off their glorious tail plumes, to a heartless shot of dozens, killed and plucked, hanging upside down in a shop.

“Britain’s Christmas Stocking”(1948)

Set at Woolwich Barracks in London, the clip begins with officers inspecting the chefs’ hands, who then proceed to march into the kitchen. A propaganda edge emerges as we the narrator glorifies the wonders of a military camp Christmas, whilst a homesick looking boy gets to work on making a tonne of stuffing. The video ends at Olympia’s poultry show, as people inspect turkeys in lined up in their cages.

“Christmas Is Coming” (1938)

“There’s a vast difference between being brought up at Eton and brought up to be eaten” jokes the cheesy narrator in this 1930s clip of Christmas cattle at Norwich Castle in Norfolk. Considerations towards animal rights are clearly evident, even in the 1930s, although everything is still drenched in humour, for example “It may be tough on a turkey, but as long as he isn’t a bit tough on us”.

“Turkey Farm”(1969)

With a jazzy Hark The Herald soundtrack, this High Wycombe clips is silent but offers good colour footage of a turkey farm in the 1960s.

“GOBBLERS!” (1933)

Perhaps the British Pathé archive’s most sinister turkey clip, this one kicks off all jovial with a title frame announcing “Nature’s prize walking comedians – nearest rivals to the penguin”, followed up by the macabre line “It’s a good job they can’t see their future”, only to be trumped by “And here’s a new device, the automatic plucket – doe s an hour’s work in a minute”. Sure enough the clip continues and a woman demonstrates the plucking machine. Feathers fly everywhere, to say the least!

“Food Bank’s Not a Frost”(1959)

Over to Newbury in Berkshire, 1959 and Malcolm Warrell has had a brain wave. As so many people can’t afford turkeys in the run-up to Christmas, and have no place at home to freeze them, why not start up a turkey bank! Any kind of poultry is accepted, and so the video depicts two gents marching into the freeze vaults following a spot of game-hunting, pheasants in tow. One lady arrives with a beautiful plate or ornately arranged lobsters!

The ‘Turkey Collection – Watch more clips from the British Pathé archive on the subject of Christmas Turkeys here.

British Pathé’s Robot George enjoys his 15 minutes of Fame

Robot After All: George, the Tin Man with a very big heart

The British Pathé archive acts as a resting place to several robots of yesteryear, some scarier than others, but today it was our beloved Robot George (born in 1950, Saffron Walden, Essex) who enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame in the British press.

Designed by Tony Sale in the 1950s, Robot George is made out of scrap metal from a crashed Wellington bomber. As Metro newspaper put it – “he was then consigned to the scrapheap of history” – also known as Tony’s garage, for over fifty years. Until now that was, when George was resurrected and dusted off before he is introduced to his new home – The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire.

This fantastic 1950s video of George in his heyday is well worth a watch as you can see him moving his head, mouth, and then walking forwards with arms motions. It really is quite cult horror, merging upon slapstick comedy. Also in the clip can be seen a dashing young Tony, aged 19 in his RAF attire, rushing about adjusting George and controlling him with the radio handset.

See more British Pathé clips on robots here

 You might like this large collection of inventions-related clips here too.

* * * * *

 To see Tony Sale and George back in the media today, check these articles from The Sun, The Telegraph and Metro:

Age Against The Machine – The Sun

Robot George: Early Humanoid Revived – The Telegraph

1950s Robot Back In Action – Metro

We send Tony Sale our kind regards from all here at the British Pathé archive, and good luck to George in his grand new home!

Kitchen Hats: Where No Gaga Has Gone Before

The pot calling the kettle yellow: We love Madeleine's steamy number.

The latest evidence of our long-term suspicion that Lady Gaga is inspired almost exclusively by the British Pathé film archive comes in the form of Kitchen Hats, a 1959 newsreel in which British housewives literally shove a kitchen appliance on their head and pose for a designer who then recreates it in fabric.

“The days when diamonds and furs didn’t mix with pots and pans appear to have gone for good” marvels the narrator. Above is a photo of Lady Gaga having forgot to put the lid on a blender of cake mix.

Our first uncanny canister moment that just screamed Gaga, also known as a “Garchive discovery”, was on the 24th of August when we stumbled across a lady in the 1950s wearing gigantic telephone earrings:

HELLO BERYL: Was Lady Gaga’s Telephone Obsession Inspired by British actress Beryl Reid?

Then when Lady Gaga marched up to grab an award in a meat dress, our telephone ears started ringing once more as we recalled this 1920s video of men wearing exclusively calves tails:

According To Custom (1928): Young apprentice butchers celebrate an initiation by wearing calves tails and dancing in a public fountain.

Below are photos from our latest Garchive discovery Kitchen Hats. Click on the stills to watch the wonderful 1950s newsreel. And if you happen to know of any other Garchive moments in British Pathé then please do get in touch via our Facebook group.

Deirdre causes a fashion pan-demic with this saucy headpiece.

Lady Gaga’s bad romance with the British Pathe archive continues on

Twist And Shout: The Launch of ‘Twister’ in 1966. Where? Butlins Of Course!


We all know Twister! The embarrassing MB game that always ends up with a pile of panting bodies with minor injuries. I used to fear the moment when a friend’s parent would drag out the dreaded Twister mat. The game fuses three of my biggest hates: Being trapped underneath another person, being physically stretched, and colour coding.

Disguised as a game that awards those with a flair for amateur acrobatics, Twister actually favours those with a talent for amateur dramatics, because it’s all about cheating. Victory depends on switching your left foot from green to yellow, or your right hand from red to blue in those snatched seconds when the loathed judicator isn’t looking. Although if you had my child minder, she was always looking. Enough said.

British Pathé have this newsreel in their online archive of the launch of Twister! The video shows several games of Twister being played at once on a lawn at Butlins. The canister notes admit that this reel would have been 1960s advertising for the game.

It's a colour coded battle of the sexes

I’ve no idea why the teenagers have to play in their underpants, and some of the older spectators look a bit too thrilled for my liking, but it wouldn’t be a 1960s family holiday camp without scenes that combine nudity and old age would it?

Going on holiday and being forced to play Twister with strangers is my vision of hell, but these guys seem to be having the time of their lives.

In this Butlins version the red coats announce the positions, and when opponents fall they are immediately replaced with a new eager contestant, like the dashing chap in yellow and black boxers who turns out to be no match for the brunette girl in a yellow knitted jumper. It’s like a predecessor to speed dating.

Click on the images to watch the Twister video. Or WATCH MORE VINTAGE BUTLINS NEWSREELS HERE.

The battlefield is spread out across the acid green lawn at Butlins

Before Barbie – The Days when Dolls had Eye Lashes

The Finance Director of Rosebud Dolls is confronted by 8 dolls that could walk!

In the 1960s before the complete world domination of Barbie, and before the invention of those insipid ‘Bratz’, Britain had a glorious dolls industry of its own. The video above is a preview from 1968 of Rosebud Mattels new dolls for that year’s British Toy Fair. New dolls included robotic walking dolls, dolls that could cry and dolls with pullstring phrases. Take a look at the video and marvel at just how much detail and care went into the manufacturing of each and every doll. It’s remarkable!

Below is another clip, of a dolls factory in Battersea, South London. Again, it’s just magical how much attention and love is poured into each dolls. We also love how much make-up the designers have put on for work. Perhaps they knew British Pathé were coming?

These 1963 dolls from a London factory could say "Am I a good girl Mummy?"

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!

It wouldn’t be National Kissing Day without the Snogometer

With the professionalism of a scientist, Malcolm watches his first pair of guinea pigs intently.

Today is National Kissing Day, and so the internet is full of stories from womens magazines and cosmetics brands on the subject of kissing. Do women in Britain enjoy less kissing than women on the continent? Which waxwork dummy is kissed the most by tourists in Madame Tussauds? (Answers at the bottom).

British Pathé were on the radio this morning because way back in the 1960s they filmed some startling developments in kissing technology. Indeed, British Pathé cameramen travelled to Trowbridge in Wiltshire to meet teenager Malcolm Pickard and his…. Snogometer.

Malcolm spent two pounds on the electrical equipment, and admittedly it’s quite hard to work out what the gadget does. The narrator tells us – “There were quite a few shocks when Malcolm introduced his invention to members of a local youth club”

The video shows the mother sitting and watching, knitting even, whilst Malcolm gets down to work on his experimenting with snogging teenagers! A 15 year old couple kiss and the Snogometer starts flashing wildly, but when an older couple kiss the light bulb blows!

The clip has a fantastic 1960s musical score which to teenagers today might remind them of Austin Powers or other comedic parodies of the era. But this is the real thing! “Holy smoke!”

Where can we get our hands on a Snogometer? And what happened to Malcolm Pickard? Did he start up a specialist electrical store in Trowbridge? We imagine he’d be in his 60s!

Watch the Snogometer video here!

The young lovers are eager to see how their snogging rates!

Oh, and those answers: British women are lagging behind other countries in the kissing stakes, with 24% admitting to having not been kissed in a year! However, Britons were voted the best country AT kissing. Boris Johnson is the most kissed waxwork in Madame Tussauds, beating George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

Ray Alan dead: 79-year-old ventriloquist Ray Alan dies in his Surrey home.

By Jove!

The popular British ventriloquist Ray Alan, most famous for his exceedingly posh and slightly peverse puppet Lord Charles, has died aged 79.

Ray Alan and his puppet Lord Charles used to star in the British Pathé travelogue series Britain By Jove, which is where this brilliant 1960s clip of Ray Alan on the beach comes from. We like the slightly abstract and unexplained lines like “Sorry dear, my monocle’s steamed over” during the night scenes onboard a boat in this clip.

Watch this video of Ray Alan and Lord Charles visiting Newcastle, the hub of the North East. Excuse the overly dramatic music. When the chauffeur sings appraisals of the city, Lord Charles blares out accusingly – “trying to sell it to us Lord Cavendish?”

Here in this Scotland travelogue Lord Charles makes inappropriate propositions towards a make-up girl, declaring “I wish you were coming to Scotland, I’ve booked a luxury retreat for us you know, it’s a distillery.” When the girl outrages “Lord Charles!” he replies “Oh don’t be so formal, you can call me Sir!”

The sincerity of Cavendish, considering he’s playing chauffeur to a puppet, is just brilliant. We’re not too sure about the little intermittent car horn peeps and the recurring union flags that punctuate the program, but televised serial sketch shows was still a relatively young genre in the 1960s.

Watch clips of Ray Alan with Lord Charles here in the British Pathe film archive

Archive Androids: The History of Robots

Can you tell which is the robot?

We’ve taken a science fiction theme today and have been watching old videos in the British Pathe archive of robots and early computer technology. From roboticised shop mannequins to lipstick applying secretarial assistant androids – the development of robots in the 20th century was considered a fun and trivial affair. In the latter end of the archive there is a shift to much more serious robotic application however – post sorting robots, battery hen analysis and robots intended to fight wars.

Just taking the 1950s as an example here are three brilliant old newsreels related to robot science:

 “Atomic Robot a Handy Man” (1957 footage)

Video footage of a 1957 robot handing a cigarette to a secretary, applying her lipstick and then attempting to pinch her breasts!

Electronic Brain (1954)

Video footage of the Navy introducing its Naval Ordnance Research Calculator (NORC) – Lots of mad lights and spinning tape reels!

Letter Sorting Machine (1956)

“Three times faster than a man” Includes excellent footage of an early “synthetic speech making machine”, known by many today as Microsoft Sam. The machine tries to mimic the human voice.

Keen to know more we Googled “History of Robots” and found a site called Mega Giant which has a fascinating history of robots. Did you know the history of robots dates as far back as 350 BC when Archytas built a mechanical bird that propelled itself using steam. In 322 BC the idea of robots occurred to Aristotle when he wrote “If every tool, when ordered, or even of its own accord, could do the work that befits it… then there would be no need of slaves for the lords.” The word robot comes from the Czech word ‘robota’ meaning ‘compulsory labour’.

See more computer technology films in the British Pathé archive here

Boundless Energy: British Pathé Go Beating The Bounds

Barking Mad

It’s Ascension day today, and do you know what that means? That’s right – it’s time to beat the bounds. ‘Beating The Bounds’ is a 2000-year-old tradition in which villagers parade around their parish beating everything with sticks, or ‘wands’ made from willow. The tradition was altered by the church at one point so that it was boys’ heads that were whipped with these wands, or whipped on their rears as this strange clip from Addlestone in 1938 depicts!  ‘Boy bishops’ is another feature of ‘Beating The Bounds’ where a local boy is selected and dressed up as a bishop in full religious regalia, as a symbolic parody and upturn of power, an idea that was superimposed over the pagan notion of ‘king for a day’. The website tells us that “Curiously, other marker points around the boundary would also be beaten by literally bumping a boy (often a choirboy) against the mark. The boy would be suspended upside down and his head gently tapped against the stone or he would be taken by the feet and hands and swung against a tree! Nobody knows why or how the tradition originated. One explanation advanced is that it was intended to teach the young their parish’s limits and that the bumping of choir boys – at one time all the local children would have been involved – was ‘to help them remember’.”

The British Pathe archive naturally has some footage of various villages beating the bounds – here you can watch 8 archive videos of ‘Beating The Bounds’

The photograph above is taken from our clip of a 1937 ‘Beating The Bounds’ in Barking.

Large Girls Club!

Today we’re intrigued by this late 1950s colour video called ‘Large Girls Club’. Set against the aristocratic backdrop of the Duke of Bedford’s home Woburn Abbey, a rather grand woman arrives by helicopter at the start of the clip, Madame Mag Cournou, described as being “prominent in the world of fashion and in practically every other way”. Three photographers who look more like amateur actors cower before her, camera poised.

According to the narrator Madame Mag is a bit of a big deal in France, as the owner of the Large Girls Club over there, and has arrived to launch the British branch, already 7000 strong. (?!) Any information on these characters or this bizarre club would be much appreciated. One guest seems to be a Nigerian prince with a flair for womens fashion, Simon Oyeniyi, who stands outside Woburn Abbey looking thoroughly thrilled. Just watch it.

1950s Large Girls Club launch party newsreel

The Church On Tour: First Stop – Butlins!

One of the less explained pieces in the British Pathé film archive, these muted out takes of a 1961 clergy conference by the seaside are a bit of an art-house thriller. Vicars join in with a strange chopsticks dance in front of bemused deckchair stricken tourists, whilst other members of the clergy enjoy a few sherries in a bar with some ladies. Two priests get strangely entangled in a children’s climbing frame and the Bishop of Southwark parades around the seafront looking a bit out of place amongst the crowds of people in beachwear. Great shots of the bishops and priests taking running jumps into swimming pools.

Brilliantly rare footage of Butlins chalets, 1960s holidaymakers and a baffling insight into the Church of England letting their hair down.

The Orange Prize

He only asked for freshly squeezed juice

It’s 1967, and British Pathé are at the world orange peeling championships. Peeling the orange to emulate the crown jewels is optional, but the peel must be cut off in one piece. Jose Turpin ‘Don Pepe’ can peel an orange in 12.5 seconds! Bizarrely the boxer Henry Cooper judges the tournament, but the narrator kindly explains – “When Henry isn’t laying men flat in the ring he’s a green grocer” – so as you can see, his presence on the panel if justified. Don Pepe pins his orange peel to the lapel on Henry Cooper’s jacket. Rent-a-grin Henry shakes Don’s hand and then (blink and you’ll miss it) averts his eyes as if to say “WHY am I doing this? WHY?”

Sky Sports need to get their act together. Orange peeling championships need a comeback. Surely this is an advertiser’s dream that Orange phone network are missing out on? P.s. One fashion blogger fan of British Pathé drew attention to the video’s accessories too – particularly Don’s jet-embedded ring and Henry Cooper’s tie clip. Even the most trivial videos bare all sorts of historical importance.

No two hands are alike!

"Or else fits of depression and nothing very great is achieved"

Today we were quite amused by this astrologer and palmist Gabriel Dee back in 1931. Gabriel explains the nation’s tragic fate according to their palms with absolutely no hint of humour or light heartedness. She comes out with some quite remarkable phrases like “If it reaches out across the palm then you will travel and die abroad”, or our personal favourite – “you’re absolutely incapable of sincere love”.

The diagram soon fills up with Gabriel’s linear annotations, telling us everything from our creative capacity to the extent of a jealous streak. She finishes on the rather dubious warning – “And remember! Your left hand is what you are born with, your right hand is what you make of it”

Full marks go to the creepy Wicker Man esque music at the beginning too. Watch Gabriel Dee’s lesson in palm reading here.

Halloween Come Early: Jaunting Easter Hat Parade

Don't move Margaret

A fan of British Pathé, Sam in Leamington Spa, emailed asking if we have any footage of tarantulas. We may well do, although tarantulas wouldn’t have been jotted down in the canister notes unless they were the main content, which is unlikely for a newsreel. However, this rather terrifying tarantula hat stars in an Easter bonnet parade from 1955. Easter has several odd traditions, and sadly hat parades are in decline, but they were one all the Easter rage. Hundreds of women would line up to flaunt their homemade creations in front of a panel of fashion experts and town councillors. This clip shows helicopter hats, race horse hats, a ballerina hat, hats that have been fashioned from straw, paper and plants. Watch this Easter Hat parade and others here

1950s Customs Training: Fancy a custard cream?

Drug trafficking was once a much merrier affair
The boys inspect a suspicious looking plank of wood

This 1958 clip of a customs school gives a glorious insight into the very gentle affair of detecting drugs trafficking in the 1950s. The dozen or so students are taught by their training officer how to look out for secret nooks and crannies in various vehicles, such as the waterproofing on a wooden boat. As the narrator helpfully points out “Not even a death watch beetle can call his home his own”. Drugs are referred to as “habit-forming narcotics”, whilst alcohol is quaintly quipped as “spirits much tastier than petrol”. It’s refreshing to see how customer service is top on the list in this customs training class. The boys are told they should “not bully or badger, but be courteous, efficient and firm.” How times have changed.

Watch the 1950s customs training reel on British Pathé here

Trapeze Wedding: Couple head for the clouds

The sun’s out in London today and so we felt like finding something sunny and funny. We’re loving this footage of a trapeze wedding in the sky from the summer of 1959. The wedding video begins with a topless man assembling scaffolding while a merry narrator speculates over what the cause of such “highly unconventional behaviour” could be.   There are several enjoyable details: a trapeze wedding cake with a terrifying swinging doll, two very toothy 1950s bridesmaids looking bemused and a Union Jack flying high above the groom. The 1950s narration is predictably cheesy and a tour de force of tenuous puns – “this cake is really going up in the world” / “One should be on top of the world on one’s wedding day” etc. etc.

Watch the full clip here

%d bloggers like this: