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.
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.
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.