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.
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 email@example.com, leaving a comment beneath this post, or connecting with us via FacebookTwitter.
Our very best wishes,
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.
In two new videos from Indy (our man in cyberspace), British Pathé presents some inventions that were rather surprisingly developed for the First World War – all of which we still use today! View the videos below.
The Channel Tunnel opened on 6th May 1994 (this month marks its twentieth anniversary), but it was being discussed for decades prior. British Pathé chronicled some of the early discussions. These films from the British Pathé archive, available on YouTube, allow you to follow the development of the project from 1936 to 1968.
1. THAT CHANNEL TUNNEL (1936)
Various shots of William Low’s design for a Channel Tunnel.
On 31st December, Tracey Curtis-Taylor completed a mammoth solo flight from Cape Town to Goodwood in Britain. She had been expected earlier in the month, but bad weather hindered her progress. It was a terrific achievement that did not receive as much press coverage as it deserved. Curtis-Taylor was recreating Lady Mary Heath’s historic flight in 1928. British Pathé covered that journey and you can view the original newsreel here.
Lady Heath was a pioneering aviator and she was also filmed preparing to leave for a flying tour of America (also 1928) and regaining her pilot’s licence in 1931 following a terrible accident.
A brief introduction to the (non-existent) British Pathé footage of the Wright Brothers’ First Flight.
There has been a bit of confusion over the years regarding British Pathé’s collection of Wright Brothers footage. The famous siblings flew successfully for the first time 110 years ago this month (on 17 December 1903). Sadly, only photographs exist to document this historic achievement.
However, this didn’t stop British Pathé from cheekily claiming in a film to have footage from 1903. A newsreel released in 1927 purports to take the viewer “back to 1903 to see one of Wilbur Wright’s first flights”. This may not be a deliberate deception – the text does say “oneof Wilbur Wright’s first flights” – but the footage has nevertheless been lifted from another newsreel which, according to the contemporary captions in the film itself, was shot on 18 December 1908. (The similarities in the dates of the two flights probably haven’t helped here either.) The film features some really great shots of the plane being prepared prior to take off as well as the flight itself. You can view it here.
The mistake happened again in the 1990s when the BBC/British Pathé series A Day That Shook The World chronicled the “Wright Brothers’ First Flight”, again making use of the 1908 material. The intentions were probably more honest than in 1927 and it is likely to be a genuine error based on a long history of errors! (You can judge for yourself here).
But footage or no footage, the Wright Brothers’ maiden flight was a landmark in the history of human progress which deserves celebration and any filmed document of the siblings’ achievements should be cherished.
Helicopters have matured from unsteady, erratic machines that struggled to lift the pilots off the ground, into stylish contraptions with exceptional flying capabilities. Pathé recorded some of these early trials in which inventors desperately tried to get their machines to get off the ground.
3rd July 2013 marks 75 years since the famous steam locomotive “Mallard” broke the world speed record. British Pathé has some interesting films of this great engine. This collection holds all five films, or you can view the individual clips via the links below.
You may have seen in the news today that it is the 40th anniversary of the first mobile phone call. However, there may be competition for the title. Only a few days ago a video came to light of a woman in 1938 using a device that looks suspiciously familiar to modern-day eyes. The Daily Mail carried an article about it which seemingly explains the mystery of the wireless phone.
But amazingly, the British Pathé archive has some even earlier footage of a mobile phone call being made – from 1922! It caused quite a large amount of interest three years ago, and although we have shared it before, we thought the occasion called for us taking another look. For those who haven’t seen it – the world’s first mobile phone.
Simon Atkins, an ex-Royal Signals Officer, explained to us how the device works:
“The two ladies are using a small simple HF radio, probably a ‘Cat’s Whisker’ type. For it to work it needs to be earthed, which is why it’s connected to the fire hydrant. The antenna or aerial is the wire in the umbrella. On the receiving end the telephonist is using an HF radio and puts the microphone next to the record player. For the two ladies to hear she would be pressing the pressel switch.”
One of the visitors to our site indicated that the device is probably a “Home-O-Fone”, produced by the Radio Receptor Co. in New York.
This weekend, HMS Belfast, the famous ship which has inhabited the Thames since 1971 as a museum, will celebrate the 75th anniversary of her launch. The Royal Navy cruiser was launched on 17th March 1938 at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland. British Pathé has footage of the occasion in its archive, which can be viewed here. The launch can be found mid-way through the clip, which begins as an item about Mrs Chamberlain opening a new airport (though due to the fact that some footage has gone missing, the clip doesn’t feature Mrs Chamberlain at all!)
As well as the launch, there are some additional films in which HMS Belfast makes an appearance. The most substantial is an item about Royal Navy cadets taking the ship to Gibraltar. The 1963 newsreel, “Cadets Try Sea Life“, features some nice shots of HMS Belfast and the cadets lined up on her deck for her departure from Portsmouth.
There are two other films of note: “Tanganyika Independent“, about the celebrations for the independence of Tanganyika (later Tanzania) in 1961, shows HMS Belfast lit up at night in the harbour. “Royal Navy Ships“, filmed some time in the 1940s, shows some crew members messing around with an HMS Belfast lifebuoy.
There are also four items from the 1970s which show HMS Belfast on the Thames. You can find the films in this collection. British Pathé stopped releasing newsreels in February 1970 (see our History of British Pathé), and so much of the material in the archive from that decade is silent, unedited, and never released. This HMS Belfast footage is a good example, but the films are an enjoyable watch due to some beautiful aerial views of London and the River Thames.
HMS Belfast saw action in the Second World War, beginning with the arctic convoys. She also took part in the Battle of North Cape and the Normandy landings. Later, she was used in the Korean War. In the 1970s she became a museum ship and has been visited by scores of tourists and history-lovers ever since. It’s worth a visit if you’ve never been.
70 years ago, the submarine HMS Thunderbolt sank for the second time, with the loss of everyone aboard. It had sunk four years previously, raised, and renamed. British Pathé has footage of HMS Thunderbolt, its launch at Birkenhead, and the original sinking off North Wales. Click here to view the collection.
British Pathé conducted interviews with Sir William on his welfare report and covered his wedding in 1942. Click here to view the films. He died on 16th March 1963.
In other news…
Nick Compton recently made his England Test cricket debut (November 2012) and is currently touring with the team in New Zealand. Nick is the grandson of cricketer and footballer Denis Compton, who features heavily in the British Pathé archive. A selection can be found here.
The British Pathé archive has a great deal of footage for the Twentieth Century popes from 1922 until 1972. A selection for each can be found via these links:
Today marks two notable anniversaries for which the British Pathé archive has some relevant footage. Most importantly, Joseph Stalin died 60 years ago, on 5th March 1953. Stalin, the former leader of the USSR, has gone down in history as one of the most controlling and murderous dictators the world has ever seen. His regime of fear caused the suffering of many of his own people – some estimates put deaths at 20-30 million. We included him in our recent gallery, 10 Faces of Evil, along with Adolf Hitler and other notorious criminals.
But Stalin is not universally derided. Although Russia itself has since acknowledged the awful crimes of his decades in power (indeed, see Khrushchev denouncing Stalin in 1956), there has been news coverage today concerning the opposing views about him in Georgia, where he was born in 1878. Some there revile him, but others proclaim him a “local hero”. The BBC News report can be read here.
British Pathé holds a great many films related to Stalin, but also newsreels announcing his death and footage revealing the reactions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia to their leader’s passing. You can find the relevant collection of films via this link.
The second notable anniversary concerns a great feat of British engineering. 70 years ago, the Gloster Meteor flew for the first time in the UK. Footage of the plane in flight from the 1940s on can be found in the British Pathé archive. Click here to explore.
For British Pathé’s collection of newsreels on the death of Stalin, click here.
For British Pathé footage of Gloster Meteors, click here.
It has been reported in the papers today that high street retailer HMV has gone the way of Woolworths, Jessops, Comet, Zavvi (until rescued by HMV), and Fopp (until rescued by HMV) – into administration. As more people shop online on sites such as Amazon, stores that you can physically go to, particularly for entertainment products like DVDs or video games, are disappearing. Kindles may well prove to be the death of book stores too. Perhaps all this is no bad thing. But the long history of some of these companies, and their places within the British cultural consciousness, make these changes sad, even if necessary.
Given HMV stores’ association with DVDs, the younger among us might be forgiven for thinking that the company was established relatively recently, but in fact it was founded back in 1921. Originally it was a sound device manufacturer and music retailer and footage of the HMV factories from its early years can be found in the British Pathé archive.
As well as some general shots of an HMV factory in the 1930s (along with a look at a sign reading “His Master’s Voice”, which was abbreviated to HMV), you can also find singer Gracie Fields visiting the huge factory at Hayes pressing her four millionth record in 1933. Another clip worth highlighting is one from 1932 concerning “voice grafting – the latest miracle of sound science”, filmed at HMV studios. View it here.
Interestingly, the history of British Pathé is linked to HMV through the former ownership of both companies by EMI. The archive was at EMI and Thorn EMI from 1969 until 1986 and a visit to the archive during that period can be found here.
View all of the HMV clips within the archive via this link.
London Underground, known colloquially as “the Tube”, is the oldest subway system in the world. Since the first service was launched 150 years ago, on 10th January 1863, it has carried an unbelievable number of passengers (now over 1 billion a year!) beneath the streets of The Big Smoke. By the time British Pathé was producing newsreels in the 1910s, there were already a number of different lines, which probably explains why so little footage of the Underground features in the archive until the Second World War, when its use as air raid shelters presumably made it newsworthy again. Indeed, prior to 1939, British Pathé often seemed more interested in the subways of other countries than in its own.
British Pathé was mainly concerned with new construction. As early as 1925 the company released a newsreel on the removal of the statue of Eros necessitated by the building of a new Piccadilly station and the next year the creation of the world’s largest tube line – from Edgware to Hendon – also earned newsreel coverage (view it here). Following the war, Transport Minister Alfred Barnes could be seen in a newsreel from 1946 opening a 4-mile extension of the Underground to Stratford (which would prove vital for the 2012 Summer Olympics). The work cost £3.5 million, employing 2000 – “sizeable figures for 9 minutes travel”. In the film, we get glimpses of tube journeys in the 1940s, including some nice interior shots of the carriages. The next year, Barnes opened another extension in Essex on the Central Line and in the film documenting it, the cameras travel through the new stations from Wanstead to Gants Hill.
The opening ceremony for Stage 3 of the Victoria Line involved the Queen not only operating the vehicle from the driver’s cabin but taking her second-ever journey in a tube carriage. The newsreel, “Queen Opens New Victoria Line (1969)”, can be viewed here.
Aside from construction work, British Pathé was preoccupied with the work of cleaning and maintaining the tunnels and stations. In 1944, we took an “exclusive” look at women war workers, known as “fluffies” or “fluffers”, who cleaned the Underground every night. An interesting reveal is the extraordinary amount of fluff created by people’s clothing during just one day. Other features on tube cleaners followed, such as on the “Rubber Man” Leonard Ware, who was responsible for erasing graffiti (the cinemagazine names “the moustache” as the most common form of it). We don’t know what was cut from this clip, but the graffiti certainly seems rather mild – and it’s all in pencil! If only Tube staff today were so lucky. You can see the light-hearted 1947 film here. There are also films from 1949 and 1950 documenting cleaning work after hours.
British Pathé always liked to show things it believed to be unknown or unusual, so as well as “fluffies”, the company had a look at less mundane uses for the Tube. These included the Post Office’s own underground railway, the telephone exchange within an unused Tube tunnel and, of course, as air raid shelters during the Blitz.
British Pathé also documented some of the tragedies which occurred on London Underground during its long history. In 1939, a terrorist attack forced two damaged stations, Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road, to be shut temporarily. Only two days after the maiden service on the Stratford extension discussed above, two people were killed when a train collided with a second, thankfully empty, carriage. Any footage of the aftermath is currently missing, but the newsreel announcing the incident is here. 1953 saw another tube crash near Stratford in which 8 adults and 1 child were killed, with 49 others injured. The newsreel shows the damaged interiors of the carriages, as well as rescue workers bringing out the dead. Luckily, the fire on the unfinished Victoria Line in 1966 claimed no lives. And while the British Pathé footage ends with the Victoria Line in 1969, apart from a few silent clips from the 1970s, an episode of A Day That Shook The World documents the horrific events of the July 2005 London bombings. An interesting look at safety on the Underground is provided by a film from 1955 showing new recruits in training, which involved miniature railways and mock-ups of various safety devices.
Finally, British Pathé’s extensive collection of strike footage also includes the 1962 Tube Strike, which made people realise “how London depends on the Underground”.
And indeed it does. This 150th anniversary is one worth celebrating.
For British Pathé’s collection of clips on London Underground, click here.
The British Pathé Education service has been nominated for a 2013 BETT Award for its digital resource available to British schools and academies. For any of you who are interested, here’s a bit of information about the subscription.
You can also watch a demo of the subscription in action below:
If this is of interest to you or your school, you can find out more information here and get in touch with us.
Twice a month we blog about footage in the archive relevant to upcoming events or important anniversaries. There are always plenty, so we can only present a selection and you can search the archive for more at www.britishpathe.com
It will have been 100 years since the birth of Richard Nixon on 9th January 1913. The American President, who was disgraced by the Watergate scandal, features in a great many British Pathé newsreels. Explore them here.
85 years ago, the great writer Thomas Hardy died and his heart was buried separately from his body. British Pathé has footage of the burial of the heart in Dorset in 1928. Click here to view the newsreel.
We’ll be publishing a blog post all about this shortly, but we can’t miss it off this list of important anniversaries! British Pathé celebrates 150 years of the Tube with a collection of clips featuring construction footage dating from 1922. You can also see the tunnels used as air raid shelters during the Second World War, extensions of the lines in the late 1940s, and the work of cleaners and technicians after-hours. The innovations of the 1950s also get a look-in, while there is extensive coverage of the building of the Victoria Line, as well as its opening by the Queen. Click here to explore the collection.
Check back in two weeks for our next installment. In the meantime, you can visit www.britishpathe.com for more vintage films.
There’s been some sad news that the famous liner Queen Elizabeth 2 (or “QE2”) has been sold as scrap. [UPDATE: It appears that these headlines have been exaggerated. Although the QE2 has indeed been sold to the Chinese, there is no evidence that she will be scrapped.] She follows a great many other luxury vessels, such as Titanic’s nearly-identical sister ship Olympic, in this and it would come as little surprise had the announcement not been made in July that she was to become a hotel. The news is a great shame for ship-lovers. In tribute, then, to that great ocean voyager, we thought we’d share two newsreels about the QE2 from our collection (you can search the website for more).
The first is coverage from the launch of the QE2 in 1967. In the clip, the Queen examines the new liner, officially names it (seemingly after herself, though accounts differ as to whether the ship is intended as Queen Elizabeth the Second or the second Queen Elizabeth) and watches as the QE2 rolls down into the water. “May God bless her and all who sail in her.” It’s an impressive sight, as this image reveals:
The newsreel commentator ends with, “Like her great predecessors, the new liner will write a further chapter in the history of ocean travel.” Watch the film here.
The second we’d like to share is coverage of the QE2’s maiden voyage in 1969. The cameras take a brief tour and see the crew on the bridge of what is described as “the greatest ship of her type afloat”. She leaves Southampton and starts ploughing the sea as the passengers drink champagne and enjoy the journey below. Watch the film here.
After this maiden voyage, the QE2 went on to have a long and illustrious career. She left service in 2008 having carried 2.5 million passengers across nearly 6 million miles of water and had even taken part in the Falklands War. Plans to turn her into a floating hotel following her retirement failed, it is believed, due to the economic downturn.
From 1922 to 1969, British Pathé produced lengthy round-ups of the year’s news stories that collected together the most dramatic images and covered the most important events. Not confined to British politics, these reviews act as a whirlwind tour of the world at the time in which they were made, chronicling everything from war to royal christenings, technological innovations to key sports matches as they go. You can view the entire “Review of the Year” collection here or choose from the list at the bottom of this page.
Now, in that tradition, we take a look at the last 12 months in a review of 2012. Here are some highlights (one for each month) of this tremendous year for which the British Pathé archive holds some relevant footage:
Our review of 2012 begins with something that happened many years before, for January marked an important anniversary. 90 years ago, on 3rd January 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Egyptian pharoah Tutankhamun. British Pathé has footage of Carter outside his discovery, as well as coverage of the treasures found within. Click here to explore the collection.
It feels just like yesterday but it was in fact back in February that we all came out in celebration for the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. There was a royal river pageant (a gallery of previous royal barges can be found here), a concert, a Royal Tour of the country, and street parties across the nation.
British Pathé’s celebration of the life of Elizabeth II can be found here. Beginning with the Queen as a young girl with her grandmother, it features her marriage, her coronation, the royal tours, select royal visits within Britain, and the home life of the Royal Family. The collection concludes with footage of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
In March, the economic situation in the UK looked no better. Unemployment reached its highest figure (2.67 million) since 1995, though it was still not as high as in 1984. The ups and downs of unemployment can be traced via newsreels in the British Pathé archive. Click here to explore.
The Cutty Sark re-opened to visitors after a dreadful fire. But in April we also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the loss of Titanic. The British Pathé archive contains not only footage of the legendary liner herself, but also of her great sister ships Olympic and Britannic, both of which had accidents of their own. You can explore our centenary collection or read about the footage in the blog post, Titanic and the Other Two.
Yet another important anniversary, this time of Amelia Earhart’s crossing of the Atlantic 80 years prior. Interestingly, an expedition was launched in 2012 in an attempt to discover her remains. We wrote a blog post about it that included links to various clips featuring that amazing personality.
On 14th June 1982, the Falkland’s War came to an end, with Britain having reclaimed sovereignty over the islands following an Argentine invasion. June 2012, therefore, marked 30 years since the conclusion of the conflict. We wrote about it in our blog post When the Falklands Were Forgotten, and you can view relevant footage in this collection.
One cannot think of 2012 without thinking of the Olympics. British Pathé has footage of many Olympic Games, including the two other London years, 1908 and 1948. We also digitised 300 Olympics clips, making them available on the website for the very first time. You can read about them here.
One of the highlights of 2012 was the Paralympic Games, which began at the end of August and were also held in London. The Paralympics started life in the British village of Stoke Mandeville and the Ninth Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games (1960) are now known as the first Summer Paralympics. British Pathé’s collection of material on the Stoke Mandeville Games can be viewed here.
Barack Obama accepted the nomination of the Democrats to run for re-election. He went on to win the 2012 Presidential Election and became the only Democrat to have won the popular vote twice since Franklin Roosevelt. You can see some clips from Roosevelt’s three presidential election wins here.
A YouTube sensation! Felix Baumgartner broke the sound barrier, leaping from a balloon 24 miles above the ground.
It was the Queen and Prince Philip’s 65th (blue sapphire) Wedding Anniversary in November, as well as the 20th anniversary of the Windsor Castle fire in what was the Queen’s “annus horribilis“. You can watch footage of the fire and A Day That Shook The World episodes on the British Royal Family in Crisis and the separation of Charles and Diana, or view the the announcement of the Queen’s engagement and the coverage of her wedding.
In the final month of 2012, the world received the news that Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince William were expecting their first child. We took a guess at possible baby names in this gallery. You can also vote in our poll here.
Have we missed something important for which the British Pathé archive has relevant material? Leave us a comment. You can also search our Ten Most Popular Clips of 2012 and visit our tumblr and Pinterest pages which were launched this year.
We hope you enjoyed 2012 as much as we did. Here’s to 2013!
King Arthur and his legendary Knights of the Round Table; the heroic King of Wessex, Alfred the Great; hordes of Viking invaders – there’s nothing like a good early-medieval tale. Nostalgia for the Dark Ages is nothing new and we’ve put together a collection of material on people revelling in the trappings of that period and culture.
Strictly speaking, there weren’t really any “Dark Ages”. They are more a creation of popular culture than any historical reality and academics today discourage use of the term as judgemental and inaccurate. Indeed, many inventions of the so-called Dark Ages are still in use today, so there’s much to celebrate in the era after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
It wouldn’t be easy for us to pick up a 5th-century Old English manuscript and read it like we would a modern-day novel. Indeed, here is a short passage from Beowulf, written some time between the 8th and the 11th centuries:
Hwæt. We Gardena in gear-dagum,
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
Translated, this would be:
What. We of the Spear-Danes in old days of the people-kings, power heard, how the princes brave deeds did.*
It is hard to believe that this Old English passage bears much relation to our own language, but this is the root of the way we write and speak; a language which would evolve over the centuries; a language of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Dan Brown.
2. English Christianity
In 597 AD, the Benedictine monk Augustine arrived on the pagan shores of early-medieval Britain on a mission to spread Christianity on behalf of the Pope. Augustine is known as the first Archbishop of Canterbury, a position that has survived to the present day.
3. The Blast Furnace
The first to invent the Blast Furnace were the Chinese in the 5th century. Western Europe, on the other hand, would not catch up until the 12th century. But the “Dark Ages” did introduce something similar and very close to it. That was the Catalan forge, created in Catalonia, Spain during the 8th century.
4. The Horseshoe
Nailed horseshoes were an innovation of the “Dark Ages”, possibly from the 9th century, allowing horses to more easily traverse difficult territory without causing harm to their hooves.
5. The English Navy
The earliest references to ships used by English kings in battle come from the “Dark Ages”. It was the threat of Viking invaders that propelled the formation of a navy on a large scale during the course of the 9th century, particularly under King Alfred the Great. Over the centuries, Britain grew into the world’s greatest maritime power, before declining significantly in influence during the 20th century.
The office of sheriff has had a varying meaning depending on the period and the particular country. In England it is now a ceremonial position, but in the 10th century it was a “keeper of the peace” appointed by the king and was known as a “shire reeve”, somewhat akin to the modern-day American police officer.
7. The English Monarchy
Alfred the Great was the first to style himself as “King of the English”, but it was King Aethelstan in the 10th century who really ruled what we would consider to be an English kingdom. Polls show that the British have no desire to rid themselves of this historic institution.
Can you think of any more? Object to any of our choices? Leave us a comment.
2012 has been an ego-boosting year for the British. With the success of the Diamond Jubilee, the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics, it wouldn’t be a bad year to go out on (and we will have to if the predictions of our impending doom become a reality on 21st December). With the aim of blowing our own trumpets a little more, we searched the archive for footage of good British inventions. Unfortunately, there were also many dodgy ones in there too. So, in the interest of balance, we thought we’d share both the good and the not-so-good contraptions created by Brits during the Twentieth Century that footage exists of in the British Pathé archive.
Our collection of good British inventions includes not only the famous ones, but also inventions by members of the public that seem to serve some practical purpose. Here are some highlights. We’re mainly limiting ourselves to technological creations, rather than things like particular sports or habits. In each case, you can click on the still to be taken to some vintage footage of that invention, or you can search the catch-all collection we’ve created here.
In a similar category as the early mobile phone above is this film of what seems to be a 1920s Walkman that we recently posted on our YouTube channel. We’ve embedded it below.
But now onto the bona fide British inventions in the archive that came after the quirky (but impressive) attempts above, the first dating from the mid-1920s:
And now to the disheartening other ones. Contrast the inventions above (even the 1920s Walkman and mobile phone) with these eccentric and/or useless creations. Click the stills to watch the film that they’re taken from or search our collection of dodgy inventions here.
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: http://britishpathe.tumblr.com/
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: http://pinterest.com/britishpathe/. 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!
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: http://www.facebook.com/britishpathe. Or follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BritishPathe. 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.
There’s plenty in the British Pathé archive for those not so interested in history and British politics. For those more intrigued by science and technology, British inventions both good and bad got a great deal of coverage from the Pathé cinemagazines. More specifically, there are some fascinating clips concerning underwater exploration to be found within the Pathé collection as well as some more general underwater footage. Here are some highlights from our Underwater Adventures.
This is just a small selection of the types of clips on offer within the archive. More footage of undersea technology, wreck dives, marine biology and archaeology, and a great deal of fun can be found on our website.
Visit British Pathé’s collection of Underwater Adventures by clicking here.
British Pathé has an extensive Space Exploration collection which often goes unmined. In this post, as part of our promotion of “Alternative Pathé“, we briefly summarise the contents of the collection and provide some links that might help you to begin your journey into the depths of the space-related archive.
Man long dreamed of setting foot on the moon. It formed the basis of a great deal of science fiction, such as in the work of H. G. Wells. But in the 1940s and 1950s, the possibility that space could be conquered increased, and with the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, the “Space Race” began.
Some early thinkers appear in the British Pathé archive. One film, “First Moon Men” sees Pathé meet with two scientists who have designed their own rocket and space suits in the hope that they might get to land on the moon themselves one day. The film dates from 1947. But more serious testing and design throughout the 1950s is also documented.
Project Mercury was designed to achieve manned American orbits of the Earth. Alan Shepard, John Glenn, and L Gordon Cooper were the lucky pioneers of this programme. But they were beaten by Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human in space in April 1961 aboard the Soviet space craft Vostok 1. In response, the Americans upped their game and President Kennedy announced that NASA “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth”.
Project Gemini was the next step – testing the technology and gaining the skills required to get man to the moon. This included the first American spacewalk by astronaut Ed White. The excellent footage can be seen here.
The Apollo missions which led on from these were the final stage in the Space Race – landing a man on the moon. It was not an auspicious start. The crew of Apollo 1, during a routine test on the launch pad, perished when a fire started and the trapped crew could not escape. A newsreelannounces the loss of the crew. But their deaths were not in vain and NASA continued its efforts to send mankind into space. There were some unmanned tests before Apollo 7became the first manned flight of the Apollo rocket and Pathé covered the launch, the mission itself, and the recovery of the crew from the ocean. Apollo 10 also features.
There’s a wealth of Apollo 11 footage within the archive, both in colour and black and white. It covers the preparations, the lift off, the journey to the moon, the landing, moon exploration, and the return to Earth. The celebrations around the world also get a great deal of coverage. For instance, in one film, the three astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, arrive in the United Kingdom for a tour and to meet the Queen: Astronauts Visit London (1969)
There were a further six Apollo missions. Apollos 15 and 16 do not seems to feature in any of the footage within the archive, but Apollo 12 does, and there is some silent Apollo 13 material.
There also appears to be a film from 1972 of an Apollo rocket on the launch pad. If this date is correct, then the footage is presumably of Apollo 16 or Apollo 17, the final manned mission to the moon.
This is where Pathé’s coverage of space exploration ceases. There is, sadly, nothing of Skylab, Hubble, or the International Space Station. There is, however, an episode of A Day That Shook The World, a BBC/British Pathé co-production, which documents the Challenger disaster, meaning that the British Pathé website does at least contain some brief material on the Space Shuttle programme.
But there is other material in the archive of interest not related to manned space flight. Some coverage of the interplanatary probes launched by both sides during the Space Race offers some early, pioneering views of our nearest neighbours. Unmanned missions are also documented, including, for example, the launch of Britain’s first satellite. The trips of other species into space also feature, including NASA’s “space monkeys” and the Soviet “space dogs”.
These space exploration clips are a real forgotten gem of the British Pathé archive. They provide a window into one of mankind’s greatest (and most expensive) achievements – a reminder of what we can accomplish when we really put our minds to it and set our hearts on it. What will be the next such effort?
A selection of British Pathé’s material on space exploration can be found by clicking here.
A few years ago, what was then called “British Pathé News” began a production with the BBC called A Day That Shook The World. Two series were eventually made, the first narrated by John Humphrys, and they are available on our website to view (for free) in our programmes section. The last Pathé newsreel was released in February 1970, so this series and the associated series 20th Century Hall ofFamebring the archive beyond the twentieth century.
Topics covered by the series include September 11th, the Iraq War and the Capture of Saddam Hussein, the collapse of Enron, the Asian Tsunami, and the London Bombings. From this period, the series also covers the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla – not quite an event that “shook the world” but certainly an interesting one.
From the latter part of the twentieth century, the series documents the impeachment of President Clinton, the death of Diana, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first Gulf War, Chernobyl, and the Falklands Crisis. Prior to that we are in classic Pathe territory, with episodes succinctly summarising key events using Pathe footage that was captured at the time – the Somme, Hiroshima, Queen Victoria’s funeral, to name but a few. The series therefore acts as a useful entry point into an archive of 90,000 clips to wade through.
“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.)
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.
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.
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 www.britishpathe.com. There’s 90,000 clips with something for everyone! Thought of some topics we’ve missed? Leave us a comment below. Happy searching!
An expedition has got under way [July 2012] to test the theory that the distinguished American aviatrix, Amelia Earhart actually survived her plane crash in 1937 and spent her last months as a castaway on Nikumaroro, a tiny coral atoll in the South Pacific. Earhart was on an impressive round the world flight with navigator Frank Noonan when her twin-engine Lockheed Electra plane disappeared. They had left New Guinea and were due to refuel on Howland Island before setting off on their final leg to California. However, Earhart’s final radio message stated that she could not find Howland Island. A massive air and sea search was subsequently undertaken but failed to find anything. The plane and her passengers simply vanished.
Over the last 75 years several theories emerged. Many researchers and historians believe that Earhart and Noonan ditched at sea and perished with their plane. However, the $2 million July 2012 expedition is working on the hypothesis that Amelia actually safely landed on the Nikumaroro atoll before the plane was washed in to the surf and rising tides. Clues which point to this theory include radio transmissions and calls for help from that area at the time of her disappearance. Previous excursions to the reef have also uncovered exciting artefacts including a bottle of anti-freckle cosmetic cream, a clothing zipper, unidentified bones and a pocket knife [similar to the one that Amelia use to carry]. Researchers believe this evidence points to a 1930s woman having once inhabited the island.
The search team will use sonar technology to try and detect any wreckage on the ocean bed. If they find anything, historians will finally be able to chronicle Amelia Earhart’s fate 75 years after she vanished.
Heroine of the Skies
Earhart was a celebrity of her time – an extraordinary adventurer who set many records. She is ultimately known for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932 and her attempt at becoming the first pilot to circle the globe around the equator was to be her last flight before retirement. As such, Pathé News would always be ready to film her latest achievements. See below for some our best clips.
1932 – Good coverage following Amelia’s translantic flight. WATCH HERE
Today is the 100th anniversary of Franz Reichelt’s attempt to fly in Paris on the 4th February 1912. His choice of venue to demonstrate his solo flying contraption? The Eiffel Tower. The results? Not good.
British Pathé houses the shocking video of Franz Reichelt’s “Death Jump”. You can watch the only existing High Definition version that is viewable to the public for free on the British Pathé YouTube channel here:
The original canister notes are also a fascinating read and can be seen on our archive website here:
The video was never actually issued by British Pathé, perhaps due to its shocking nature as the video shows the exact second that Franz Reichelt dies as he plummets terrifyingly to his death, and the aftermath scene is rather shocking too as Parisien press members rush forward to measure the depth of the hole left by Franz Reichelt’s body.
However today this video is one of the most viewed British Pathé videos. A plethora of low-quality stolen versions appear on YouTube, but British Pathé are proud to have the best quality version of the reel on display.
Due to the increasing popularity of British Pathé we thought it was time to build a better website for you, and so we are thrilled to announce today the launch of our new online archive. Take a look at these exciting new features:
Surf British Pathé on the move: The entire archive can now be watched on iPhones, iPads and other smart devices using our improved video player.
A newly enhanced search facility: All 90,000 reels are now dated and correctly tagged, and so an extra 20,000 reels are findable using the new timeline search tool.
Exclusive programmes: Online series that are free to view. First up it’s ‘Hall of Fame’ and ‘A Day That Shook The World’. Look out for rare British Pathé series from the past such as Secrets of Nature and Feminine Pictorialities.
Comments: That’s right – we are going to let you leave comments on our videos now! You can add details and facts, point out people you know, share your thoughts in general and perhaps be reunited with old chums!
Workspaces: You can now publish and share your own mini collection of reels within the archive, selecting clips of a certain theme or topic that interests you.
We’re really excited to have this new site which is now live, and proud to say that it is entirely free to use. No login is required but if Your British Pathé login details will still work just the same.
We recently posted a compilation video of early helicopter footage onto our YouTube channel. The video uses eight different reels from the British Pathé film archive, and there are some others that didn’t make it into the final cut. The history of the helicopter and the quest for vertical flight in the early 20the century is a vast and interesting subject that was very well documented by British Pathé. We have to admit that in selecting footage for the YouTube video we went for a certain aesthetic, choosing images that “looked helicoptery!” when the truth is that there were several plane / helicopter hybrids such as the autogyro that pioneered for some years, as well as related projects such as zeppelin technology and bizarre prototypes for what would eventually become known as the hovercraft.
Here is an embedded version of the video and beneath it is links to the full length versions of each video used with the original Pathé title, dates and the length of the original reel (which you can watch for free by following the link).
A great clip that didn’t make it into the YouTube edit, this video shows men jumping out of helicopters from a height of several metres, and good close-up shows of a man manoeuvring a helicopter a little bit like an arcade game!
A Sikorsky S-51 helicopter is seen hovering over the Welsh hills in Croesor Valley, Festiniog. The YouTube edit uses a clip of the helicopter crashing and pilot Dennis Bryan leaving the vehicle seemingly unharmed before explaining what went wrong.
A great clip showing the first ever public helicopter service, like a bus service. We see a sign with information about the service and then footage of people waving the helicopter off into the distance.
For more helicopter clips please do conduct your own search in the British Pathe film archive. We recommend going to the homepage www.britishpathe.com and typing in “helicopter” into the search bar and then selecting the Sort By: Year option.
Today is the 45th anniversary of daredevil speed engineer Donald Campbell’s tragic death on Coniston Water in the Lake District, Great Britain. Campbell was only 45 years olds, he was attempting to break the landspeed record by breaking the 300 mph barrier. For decades Donald Campbell was a childhood pin-up to boys in Britain and around the world, and he had been a popular subject for British Pathé who filmed many of his world record attempts.
So popular was Campbell that when he crashed his vehicle Bluebird at Coniston Water British Pathé rushed to push a newsreel out to cinemas as soon as possible, and so they issued a Pathé News Special simply announcing the news of his death. They then followed this up with a more dramatic piece showing the crash itself.
In the Pathé News Special from 1967 the narrator announces “Donald Campbell the man who lived for speed is dead… his love for speed has cost him his life. During the past few weeks he was dogged by misfortune. Early engine trouble forced him to hold off a record attempt, then the weather was against him.. Pictures of the last tragic moments at Coniston are being rushed to this theatre!”
And here is that footage, a second newsreel issued by British Pathé called Fate Stepped In:
The macabre newsreel has an unusually shaky start as we hear the final words and sounds of Donald Campbell over the top of a blank screen, a rather sensationalist move on Pathé ‘s part. The Pathé narrator then explains how the conditions were actually quite smooth, but the night before Campbell “drew the Ace and Queen of Spades, the deadly shadow of remorseless fate – he was a superstitious man”.
It’s bizarre now to see a newsreel that is so speculative and melodramatic in its tone, but this style of news delivery has maintained itself partially across the decades. Although newsreaders are more regimented and factual today it is still quite common to see an on-location news anchor rounding up a reports with a relatively creative ending, perhaps incorporating a literary quote or an epigram. British Pathé was a forbearer of that emotive style.
Leading up to the crash scene we see incredible close-up shots of Donald Campbell’s vehicle bluebird setting off across Coniston. From 01:45 the lead up to the crash is shown, Bluebird speeding across the surface of the lake when suddenly it lifts into the air, flips and smashes down.
The narrator talks of Donald Campbell’s legacy as the newsreel ends with shots of the Bluebird K7’s wreckage and Campbell’s family and friends collecting pieces of debris.
To see British Pathe’s collection of all 16 Donald Campbell newsreels, including footage of his many fantastic world records, see below:
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.
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”.
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.
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.
Thousands and thousands of new visitors have been rumagging through British Pathé’s 90,000 digitised newsreels after Tuesday’s brilliant discovery of a mobile phone from 1922. Eve’s Wireless became an online sensation, racking up hits for technology bloggers across the globe. Part of the excitement for us with such a colossal sized film archive, expecially one that has only just been fully launched to the general public, is that nobody knows exactly what’s in there. Not even the archivists!
Dozens of newsites and technology blogs rushed to tell their online communities about Eve’s Wireless resulting in a windfall of comments, Facebook wall posts and Tweets across the world.
You might like to read this information on the clip sent in from Simon Atkins an Ex-Royal Signals officer:
“The two ladies are using a small simple HF radio, probably a ‘Cat’s Whisker’ type. For it to work it needs to be earthed, which is why it’s connected to the fire hydrant. The antenna or aerial is the wire in the umbrella. On the receiving end the telephonist is using an HF radio and puts the microphone next to the record player. For the two ladies to hear she would be pressing the pressel switch.”
British Pathé are dependent on bloggers and journalists, particularly with knowledge in specialist areas, to find clips that are rare and special. Here in the archive we are eternally busy on our own projects. (For example this week, Wimbledon footage and great old Cricket matches on video – so look out for that)
We’re in a bit of a space age mood now, what with all this technology footage whizzing around the internet. Who else thinks it’s time to play a bit of System Addict by Five Star and have a groove? Just us? Ok.
Do you have a favourite clip in the archive? Perhaps related to you or your hobby? Make sure to tell us on Twitter or on our Facebook group ‘The British Pathe Film Archive’ and we’ll share the clip with our friends and followers.
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.
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.
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:
“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’.
The first American was sent into space on this day May 5th, back in 1961. Guess what? Yep – British Pathé have the video of it. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world. This unissued clip shows liquid oxygen being pumped at night into the rocket from a fittingly space-age looking white tanker. The astronaut Alan B Shepard is filmed arriving out of a van in his dashing silver jumpsuit and white crash helmet before being lifted in an elevator to the top of the rocket. A frenzical crowd of technicians dressed in white boiler suits and navy-like hats rush about preparing the mercury capsule whilst Alan B Shepard inspects their work before climbing into the tiny capsule, called Freedom 7.
Being entirely mute this video is shrouded in suspense and mystery to the uninformed viewer, with its variety of exciting clips: Men with clipboards in sunglasses, the TV control room, US military trucks packed with soldiers egging the astronaut on and of course the episodical glimpses of the magnificent rocket. Finally we see Alan B Shepard being hauled from his mercury capsule into a helicopter and then driven off in a sports car. Priceless.
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