It is 100 years since the WW1 hospital ship HMHS Rohilla sank off the coast of Whitby. The passenger steamer was part of the British Indian Steam Navigation Company fleet and was called up for service at the outbreak of the war. It ran aground in stormy seas a short time later with the loss of 83 lives. The British Pathé archive has footage of the sinking and the rescue effort.
Amazingly, Titanic survivor Mary Kezia Roberts was also aboard and survived the disaster. British Pathé also has coverage of Titanic survivors arriving in New York aboard the Carpathia. Titanic’s sister ship Britannic was also a hospital ship during the First World War and sank in 1916.
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!
By the time Charles Pathé opened the UK newsreel arm of his company CGPC (established 1896), the Pathé brand was already influential in the world of film production and distribution, as well as a notable record label. A Westminster distribution office had opened as early as 1902, and Pathé-branded movie theatres were spreading across Western Europe. CGPC had invented the newsreel in 1908 for French audiences, and in 1910 spread this innovation to other markets as well. One result was the UK newsreel office located on Wardour Street which produced its first newsreels under the Pathé Animated Gazette label. (That same year, Pathé News was set up in the United States).
Many of these early newsreels are sadly missing. One of the earliest still within the archive is believed to be the departure of the Terra Nova, Captain Scott’s famous ship that took him to the Antarctic. It was a section of the 87th newsreel package, released in cinemas in December of 1910, and was one of eight stories that included flooding in Worcester and a railway crash in Willesden. Other early footage of note includes the coronation of George V, the RMS Titanic, and the death of suffragette Emily Davison.
The archive also contains an extensive collection of World War One material, much of which remains unidentified. Dates and locations are often unclear. Cataloguing is not helped by a lack of clarity over which events have been captured as they occurred and which are staged (photographers and cameramen were not above posing corpses for a better shot). Regardless, the material remains incredible to view. Though silent, grainy, and black-and-white, the footage is often awesome and sometimes harrowing. The faces of the daring recruits, huddled in their trenches, many about to die, are preserved for posterity. It is a shame that we cannot put a name to them.
From 1918, CGPC began to be run as two separate divisions, with Pathé-Cinema (films and newsreels) under the control of Charles Pathé, and Pathé Records (music) overseen by brother Émile Pathé. This was the first step towards the eventual splintering of the company that can cause endless headaches for anyone attempting to trace the history of the Pathé brand:
The USA Pathé-Cinema arm (including Pathé News) was sold in 1921. It was run by Pathé Exchange and then RKO Radio Pictures, which shut down the film production arm. Warner Brothers purchased the newsreel arm in 1947 before selling it to Studio Films. Pathé News disappeared from cinemas in the 1950s.
In 1927, CGPC also sold the UK arm of Pathé-Cinema, which included both the film production office and the newsreel office, to First National, forming First National-Pathé.
In 1928 CGPC sold the French and UK arms of Pathé Records to the British Columbia Graphophone Company. The USA arm of Pathé Records was sold the following year to the American Record Corporation. Its assets now lie with Sony.
The remaining assets of CGPC (such as the French film production arm, the international cinema chain, and the French Pathé Journal newsreels) were taken over by Bernard Natan to form Pathé-Natan. It changed hands a few times after that before becoming the present-day film company “Pathé”. Pathé Journal continued until 1981. Its newsreel archive now lies with Gaumont-Pathé.
This was the complicated process by which the UK newsreel company became divorced from its overseas parent and sister companies, never to be reunited. Pathé-branded newsreel and film production in the UK was now on its own.
As First National-Pathé, newsreels were released under the name of Pathé Gazette and an internationally-distributed newsreel was produced from Wardour Street – Pathetone Weekly. But the great innovation of this period was, of course, the introduction of sound in 1930. This brought a new immediacy and reality to the footage, despite the limitations of early technology.
Sound also allowed newsreels to start including interviews, and one early interviewee was the Editor of the Pathé Gazette himself, upon the occasion of the UK newsreel’s twenty-first anniversary. In the clip, the Editor takes the opportunity to look back on what his company has achieved so far and on the recent history that has been captured by the Pathé cameramen. We may not be able to witness the Norman Conquest or the Great Fire of London, the Editor says, but we can relive history which has been preserved through the magic of newsreels: “One of cinema’s greatest privileges is to be able to bring back the past.” The company had proven its worth.
But in 1931, Warner Brothers purchased First National and formed Warner Brothers-First National and the future of the Pathé brand looked uncertain. That is, until 1933, when the golden age of British Pathé really began.
British Pathé is always keen for corrections and additional information about its footage and corporate history. Please email us or leave a comment beneath the relevant clip on the website, www.britishpathe.com.
Often when we see footage or photographs claiming to be of the Titanic, we are actually looking at its very similar sister ships Olympic and Britannic, one of which shared a similarly terrible fate. British Pathé’s James Hoyle looks at the facts and explores the role that these two ships played in the infamous Titanic story…
It is hard to escape the knowledge that this year marks the centenary of the Titanic disaster. A plethora of documentaries are clogging up the channels, revealing little that we do not already know; Julian Fellowes’ miniseries is receiving mixed reviews; James Cameron’s epic hits the big screen again this week – re-released in three dimensions; new books are hitting the shelves; and earlier dramatic versions of the disaster will no doubt be replayed in our living rooms on well-worn DVDs. None of this is a bad thing. But those inflicted with Titanic Fever may yearn for a little variety, and perhaps something a little closer to the truth. For those of you who do, there are two related stories that are often overlooked:
It is easy to forget that R.M.S. Titanic, for all its fame and reputation as an unsinkable marvel unlike any ship the world had ever seen, was actually the second of three Olympic class vessels. Titanic was the first of them, but not the last, to sink with the loss of life.
R.M.S. Olympic was the original. Documentaries on Titanic often make use of material that was actually taken on Olympic. One ubiquitous shot is of Captain E. J. Smith, who was the commander of Olympic before he took Titanic on her maiden voyage and lost his life. An item in the British Pathé archive listed as containing Titanic footage actually contains shots of Olympic (and other vessels). The exteriors of the ships are indeed extremely similar, but there are telling differences in the design of the A-Deck windows.
Olympic’s maiden voyage was in 1911. That same year, with Captain Smith commanding (and held accountable by an inquiry), the ship crashed into a Royal Navy cruiser called H.M.S. Hawke. Olympic required extensive repairs.
Titanic sank on its maiden voyage in 1912. That story need not be retold here, but it had a substantial impact on Olympic and Britannic. The media storm resulting from Titanic’s insufficient number of lifeboats led to a mutiny by those serving on Olympic who, quite understandably, refused to sail on her before she was fitted with enough lifeboats for the number of people aboard. Britannic was still under construction at this time, but both she and Olympic were fitted with an inner skin for added defence in the event of a collision and with watertight bulkheads that went higher up the ship than those of Titanic.
Britannic was launched in February 1914. There is no denying her beauty, but Britannic would never carry her intended passengers on luxurious ocean voyages, for the First World War intervened. Olympic was commissioned to carry troops and earned for herself the nickname “Old Reliable”. Britannic meanwhile was converted into a hospital ship. For this purpose, she was painted white, with the traditional red crosses along her hull.
In 1916, H.M.H.S. Britannic met a similar fate as her infamous sibling. She struck a mine near Greece and sank. Amazingly, on board was Violet Jessop, a Titanic survivor now working as a nurse (she was also, bizarrely, aboard Olympic during that ship’s collision with H.M.S. Hawke). Captain Bartlett had ordered the ship to continue, hoping to run her aground, but confusion among the crew led to lifeboats being lowered while the ship was still moving. This caused two of the lifeboats that reached the water to find themselves in the path of the propellers. Thirty were killed as the tiny wooden boats were churned to pieces. The remaining passengers and crew survived, along with the Captain, who swam to a lifeboat when the bridge sank from under him. The wreck of Britannic was discovered in 1975 by Jacques Cousteau. Lying on her side under only 400ft of water, she can be visited by divers using only scuba gear. In May of 2009, Britannic claimed another life when Carl Spencer was killed diving at the wreck site.
Olympic continued to sail as a passenger ship long after the end of the First World War. The British Pathé archive contains an interesting little feature on the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII who famously abdicated and married Wallis Simpson) travelling on the ship in 1924, where he talks with Captain Howarth.
In her twilight years Olympic was still not free from the Titanic curse. In 1934, under the command of Captain John Binks, the ship ploughed into the tiny U.S. lightship Nantucket, causing considerable damage to the smaller ship, far more than it did to the colossal luxury liner. The unlucky Nantucket sank in just thirty seconds. A contemporary newsreel makes for interesting viewing. Captain Binks, looking as though he has been through the worst experience of his life, puts on a brave face while the wounded survivor of Nantucket standing beside him commendably absolves the Captain for his actions in the aftermath of the crisis.
The end of Olympic was a rather quiet one. No longer profitable, she was scrapped in 1935. Many of her interior features found their way into hotels, but it is undeniably a shame that she is not still with us intact today. Even in 1935, Titanic was a famous ship with books, plays, and films already produced documenting her story. Olympic would have made quite a museum and monument.
Titanic’s centenary will not go unnoticed by anyone. The anniversary of Britannic’s demise is unlikely to engender the same degree of public interest or media attention when it arrives in 2016. Nor is the anniversary of Olympic’s sad fate (2035). But these ships had interesting stories too, made all the more so by their close relationship with what has been called the most famous ship since Noah’s Ark. You can visit British Pathé’s clips related to Titanic and her neglected sisters here in a collection that is, rather tellingly, titled only “Titanic”.