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.
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!
We are now entering into the period leading up to Remembrance Day. We have already blogged this week about the history of poppies and why we wear them (see Poppies: An Illustrated History), but there is plenty more to discuss and explore. Since Pathé’s war archive is extensive, we present here some potential starting points, with links here to key collections that can act as a way in.
The archive of World War Two material filmed by British Pathé is wide-ranging. Pathé cameramen went with the troops all around the world, and documented the destruction at home. Footage details warfare on land, at sea, and in the air. Some collections that may interest you include our D-Day clips, coverage of the Battle of the Atlantic, the dramatic escape from Dunkirk, and the devastation of the Blitz.
The Korean War is often referred to as “The Forgotten War”. Two and a half million people lost their lives in this conflict, including many British soldiers. Our Korean War Collection (just a selection) can be found here, or you can search our website for what you want.
Our friends in aviation have asked us to pass on this message. They have a small amount of time in which to raise enough money to save the last flying Vulcan XH588, putting the project on a “a knife edge”.
In the British Pathé film archive we have several great clips of Vulcans in action, they really are beautiful machines. These videos of the Vulcan helped us to realise this morning just how important it is to save this magnificent piece of Britain’s history in the air. Take a look:
The last flying Vulcan, which thrilled almost two million people this year, could be grounded or sold abroad due to lack of money. At a meeting on the evening of October 28th, the Vulcan To The Sky Trust which owns the aircraft will decide if it has raised enough funds to continue.
“By Thursday evening, we need to be sure that we will have £300,000 by the end of the week. If there is any doubt, she will follow Concorde into permanent retirement or be sold to a collector almost certainly abroad,” warns trust CEO Dr Robert Pleming.
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.