Lady Mary Heath, Pioneer

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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.

All three films can be found in this collection.

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The Wright Brothers’ First Flight

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 one of 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.

Not quite true.
Not quite true.

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.

The archive also contains a German retrospective on a 1909 Wright Brothers flight in Berlin and a 1912 acrobatic display by the siblings in St. Louis, attended by Teddy Roosevelt.

www.britishpathe.com

A History of British Invention

A great British invention? A motorised bath designed by students in Surrey.
A great British invention? A motorised bath designed by students in Surrey.

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.

Good

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.

One of our favourites, this. A film from 1922 shows what appears to be an early mobile phone!
One of our favourites, this. A film from 1922 shows what appears to be an early mobile phone!

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:

"When will the next marvel...television...become commonplace? A few years ago a Scientist named Baird experimented with this crude machine...." Newsreel covers the invention of television.
“When will the next marvel…television…become commonplace? A few years ago a Scientist named Baird experimented with this crude machine….” Newsreel covers the invention of television.
The De Havilland Comet, a record-making plane, built in Britain. It first flew in 1949.
The De Havilland Comet, a record-making plane, built in Britain. It first flew in 1949.
Okay, so this isn't a piece of technology, but we thought it was interesting. The British invented the pedestrian crossing in 1868.
Okay, so this isn’t a piece of technology, but we thought it was interesting. The British invented the pedestrian crossing in 1868. Zebra crossings were used from 1949.
Hovercraft.
A 1950s British invention – the Hovercraft.
Concorde
We can’t claim full credit for this as the French did help a bit. The Concorde had its debut flight in 1969 and was retired in 2003.
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The Harrier Jump Jet was also an invention of the 1960s and is still in use.

And where would we all be without our hover barrows? Something that didn't quite catch on, but is undoubtedly a good idea.
And where would we all be without our hover barrows? Something that didn’t quite catch on, but it’s undoubtedly a good idea.

For some more, visit this collection.

Not-So-Good

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.

Goggle Wipers for those rainy British days.
Goggle Wipers for those rainy British days.
If driving's not enough excitement for you, why not try these motorised roller skates? The video does not convince us that they're particularly safe.
If driving’s not enough excitement for you, why not try these motorised roller skates? The video does not convince us that they’re particularly safe.
Can't decide whether to spend your next holiday in a caravan or on a boat? With this amphibious caravan, you can have both!
Wondering whether to spend your next holiday in a caravan or on a boat? With this amphibious caravan, you can do both!
Control your own robot gardener with this compact control board from 1959.
Control your own robot gardener with this compact control board from 1959.
Wear these beauties at night - they'll help you see in the dark.
Wear these beauties at night – they’ll help you see in the dark.
Do you find yourself walking into lamp posts on a semi-regular basis? Don't fret! You can get one of these to warn you of approaching obstacles. From the same film as the face cones above.
Do you find yourself walking into lamp posts on a semi-regular basis? Don’t fret! You can get one of these to warn you of approaching obstacles. From the same film as the face cones above.

For some more, visit this collection.

Have we missed some important good or not-so-good ones that you’ve found in the archive? Are we taking the credit (or blame) for other countries’ inventions? Correct us in the comment box below.

For footage of good inventions, click here.

For footage of not-so-good inventions, click here.

Explore our Science & Technology board on Pinterest.

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.