Imphal and Kohima

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

Imphal and Kohima

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

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D-Day

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

OVER_THERE!_1360_07_31

www.britishpathe.com

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.

www.britishpathe.com

The Pathé War Archive

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 First World War

British Pathé holds one of the finest and most comprehensive First World War archives in the world. You will find chilling shots of young troops huddled in their trenches, wearing gas masks, and going “over the top”, as well as battleships at sea, and aerial warfare. Some collections we have created may be of interest, such as The Somme, the use of War Horses, and the Treaty of Versailles. We even have material of married men protesting against conscription.

A more general First World War Collection can be found here, or you can search our website for what you want.

The Second World War

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.

A more general Second World War Collection can be found here, or you can search our website for what you want.

Korean War

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.

Remembrance Day is on 11th November.

Poppies: An Illustrated History

As we approach Remembrance Day, that important British anniversary on which we reflect on the great sacrifices of previous generations, it is interesting to look at the history behind its key symbol – the poppy. Why do we wear it, and how did this tradition come about?

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The First World War was an earth-shattering global catastrophe that marked the end of the optimism of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. It was this “Great War” which first introduced the use of the red poppy (the Papaver rhoeas) for the purpose of remembrance.

No Man's Land
No Man’s Land

No Man’s Land, a zone dividing the trenches of opposing forces, was heavily bombarded during the conflict. The beautiful scenery and grasslands of France and Belgium were churned into wet mud and desolate wasteland. It was here that many brave men fell after going “Over the top” to meet the flying bullets of enemy guns. And it was also here that, when the fighting had died down, poppies grew and spread in abundance, their blood-red colour providing a strong contrast to the brown muck. One of the most well-known references to this phenomenon comes in the war poem, “In Flanders Fields” by Lt Col John McCrae. One key line is:

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Earl Haig, supporter of the poppy and a founder of the Royal British Legion, visits wounded veterans at a hospital in 1921. Click the still to view the film.

These lines inspired their first use in the United States, where they were adopted by the National American Legion, in 1920. It was not long before the wearing of poppies as a sign of remembrance had spread to the United Kingdom, and it is here and in Commonwealth countries that the practice remains most common. Promoted by Douglas Haig, the poppies were soon widely worn on Remembrance Days. Made and sold by the Royal British Legion, the funds go to helping ex-servicemen and servicewomen and their families.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, visits the Richmond factory in 1939 to watch the workers manufacture the poppies that were an important feature of remembrance even before the Second World War. Click the still to view the film.
War veterans make poppies at the Royal British Legion factory in Richmond, 1941. Click the still to view the film.
War veterans make poppies at the Royal British Legion factory in Richmond, 1941. Click the still to view the film.

A film in the British Pathé archive details the making of poppies for distribution by the Royal British Legion. Made at the Richmond poppy factory, established as early as 1922, it has employed disabled ex-servicemen to construct the huge number of poppies needed every year. At the time the newsreel was produced in 1968, the factory had 300 staff and manufactured 13 million poppies per annum. To achieve such a mammoth task, they work all year round. Today, the factory produces as many as 36 million poppies per year, though the number of employees is only a fraction of what it once was.

The still to above shows a workman punching out the poppy shapes from a sheet of linen.
The cut-out shapes of linen are placed together and pressed into a mold.
The stalk is then applied, a thin strip of green fabric wrapped around a metal wire, before…
…the individual poppies are arranged into a wreath.

The full film also details the other stirling work done by the Royal British Legion. It can be viewed by clicking here. This year the charity hopes to raise £42 million.

There’s been some controversy in recent years about the wearing of poppies and their meaning. There are also rival poppies – the white poppy for pacifists, and the purple poppy to remember animal victims of war. But the traditional red poppy is no doubt here to stay, and serves as a reminder of great courage and sacrifice, and also of how lucky we are. But, of course, we cannot forget the men and women who still fight for our safety in ongoing conflicts around the world today.

We will remember them.

Going “over the top”.

British Pathé has a substantial collection of war footage. Search our website www.britishpathe.com.

This was re-published with minor revisions on November 4th 2013 as “Why We Wear Poppies”.

When the Falklands Were Forgotten

By James Hoyle, Archive Coordinator at British Pathé

Most people had probably never heard of the tensions between Britain and Argentina over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands before they were invaded on April 2nd 1982. Many people had probably never heard of the Falkland Islands at all. But history did not pass the Falklands by. Footage in the British Pathé archive details its involvement in the First World War and life on the islands in the 1960s, including the attitudes of the islanders towards Argentina.

The South Atlantic islands known by their inhabitants as the ‘Falklands’ lie 8,000 miles from the British mainland. It was Captain John Strong who first set foot there in 1690 and it was he who named them for Lord Falkland. After this, it gets a little complicated. When the British signed the Treaty of Utrecht, Spanish ownership of the islands was established. Regardless, both the French and the British soon placed settlements there, though the French subsequently handed their territory to Spain in 1767 and the British were evicted. From that point on, Spain held the islands until, in 1820, former Spanish colony Argentina claimed them as their own. But after a disagreement with the United States over sealing rights, the USS Lexington removed the Argentine settlers by force in 1831.  Soon after, the British took their place and have enjoyed sovereignty over the islands ever since, though Argentina has repeatedly requested the islands, which they call the ‘Malvinas’, back.

From that time until 1982, life on the Falklands was a mostly peaceful affair, with the exception of 8 December 1914 when the British and German navies clashed off the coast. The Germans, under Spee, planned to land on the islands to destroy the wireless station and pick up coal supplies, but when they arrived, the British were already there. In the ensuing battle, the Germans lost six of their ships and 1900 men, but the British fleet survived intact, with only 10 dead. This astonishing victory was celebrated in Britain and raised morale. Admiral Sturdee was proclaimed a hero and given a baronetcy in gratitude. Newsreels in the British Pathé archive mark the occasion of the victory, and pay tribute to Admiral Sturdee after his death in 1925. No further vessels or men would be lost over these islands for nearly 60 years.

Despite the short but fierce war fought between Britain and Argentina, outlined in British Pathé’s A Day That Shook The World series, in which Margaret Thatcher’s government successfully reclaimed the islands from Argentine invaders, public knowledge about the Falklands remains limited. A picture of what life was like there prior to the conflict can be seen in the footage taken by Pathé cameramen in the late 1960s.

By 1980, the population of the Falkland Islands was a mere 2000 people and declining. Even today there are only 3000 living there. An aerial view of Stanley, the only town, can be seen in the still above. The most numerous inhabitants by far live in the wild. Along with the sheep and horses that exist in the farms, there is also an abundance of birds and marine life. The most famous of these are undoubtedly the islands’ penguins, which earned their own dedicated British Pathé newsreel, in what might be the only footage that was used from the camera crew’s visit. Other newsreels from the early 1950 show Vancouver’s Stanley Park Zoo and its only collection of King Penguins existing in Canada, a gift from the Governor of the Falkland Islands.

Yet a great portion of the footage filmed by that 1969 camera crew is of the people living on the islands. There are many unknown faces in these silent clips, and it would be fascinating to hear about them and their experiences during the later Argentine invasion. In the clips though, life on the Falklands appears relatively tranquil. Men and women go about their daily routines, working in the sea, loading cargo onto ships, herding sheep, and so on.

We also get a glimpse of the leisure activities engaged in, with families turning out to witness a local game of football.

But an ever-present British warship, the Leander-class H.M.S. Arethusa, is a reminder of the tensions over the islands and its disputed sovereignty. Although to many on the British mainland, the Falklands conflict came as a surprise, the tensions over the issue of sovereignty were felt long before on the islands themselves. The same 1960s footage of the islands contains many glimpses of just how strongly the inhabitants felt more than a decade before the war.

Negotiations over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands began in 1966 after a UN resolution the year before forced Britain to the table. For many years a succession of foreign secretaries attempted to promote the virtues of Argentine sovereignty, encouraging the Falklanders to submit. The reactions of the islanders to the opening of negotiations are plainly to be seen in the following stills from the 1969 footage.

Images such as these were captured by the Pathé camera crew in Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands. In the footage, which seems to have never made it into a finished newsreel or cinemagazine, signs and graffiti revealing the Falkland Islanders’ desire to remain British are ever present.  These displays appear in shop windows and outside houses, placed as stickers in car windows, or painted on the side of buildings or scrawled on the side of a plane.

It would be interesting to know exactly who these signs were meant for. Presumably they are aimed at the Pathé camera crew, or some other visitors rather than at the other islanders.

Sadly, the Argentines soon felt the negotiations were going nowhere and that their unpopular government might be saved by waging war against British colonialism, reclaiming islands they believed to be legally theirs. War ensued and 907 people lost their lives.

During this 30th anniversary year (the war lasted from 2 April to 14 June 1982), it is interesting to look back not just on that terrible conflict, but also on the years leading up to it, and reflect upon what the future may also bring.

For British Pathé’s collection of pre-war Falklands footage and A Day That Shook The World episodes for the British taskforce setting sail and the sinking of the HMS Sheffield, click here.

Amy Johnson – 1930s Queen of the Air

Bravo Amy! Amy Johnson on her return from South Africa

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

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

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

"Jim, I told you we needed fuel"

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

Heroic welcome in New York

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

1939, Last Pathe footage of Amy Johnson