The Best British Pathé Videos on the YouTubes

You may have seen my earlier post in which I picked Ten Fairly Interesting or Somewhat Amusing Pictures from History chosen from the Getty archive. I enjoyed researching that, so I was very pleased to discover that British Pathé have also made their entire archive of 85000 newsreels available on YouTube. Here’s my favourites so far.

Girl Wife At Woolwich (1937)

My adopted hometown of Woolwich is still a strange place: but even by our standards, even by 1930s standards, even by internet standards, Mr. and Mrs. Cohen are fucking weird. I say that even though I know there’s a chance my mother will read this list. THEY ARE THAT WEIRD. The least strange thing about this reel is that they are having kippers and custard for dinner.


Ageless Iraq – 1950s

“Today, the streets of the city are alive with the bustle of a young people, who are taking back from the West the means to a brighter future.”
“Ageless Iraq, a new country but one that hasn’t forgotten the glories of its history. A country that is now emerging from the shadows of its past to a future bright with promise.”


Bomber Crashes into Empire State Building (July 1945)

Interesting for the accident and the archive footage of New York as well as the 9/11 arguments unfolding in the comments.


Titanic Footage & Survivors Interviews (1960s?)

Some of the footage isn’t actually OF the Titanic, but the interviews with survivors are fascinating. Especially interesting for the interviewees’ adamant statements that the band were not playing as the ship sank. This contemporary newsreel is also worth a look.


Death of Marilyn Monroe (1962)

A gorgeous collection of Marilyn clips with a voice-over tribute. Her image is now so ubiquitous and adorned with spurious quotes, it’s nice to be reminded how beautiful she really was.


Tragic Disaster (1934)

The sinking of the Morro Castle is one of the most tragic and interesting maritime disasters. The captain died of a heart attack at sea, leaving the first officer in charge, who did not handle the disaster well. Although officially the cause is undetermined, the chief radio officer George Rogers later tried to kill a colleague with an incendiary device and later was convicted of the murder of an elderly couple who had befriended him. The colleague spent many years trying to prove that Rogers started the fire.


Princess Opens Flats (1961)

Back to Woolwich for this one! The flats are still standing, and still rather nice, but the ill fated Auto Stacker at the end of the reel is the truly interesting thing, because it sucked. It never worked – the car you see Princess Margaret “park” was actually manhandled in, and the whole thing was demolished less than a year later, having never been opened. It cost the council £100,000 to build and £60,000 to demolish. That’s around £2million and £1.1million in today’s money, which actually seems quite cheap for what it was – perhaps that’s why it sucked.

Miss Great Britain (1957)

1957 is one of many reels featuring the Miss Great Britain contest to be found in the archive. By 1969, the tone hasn’t changed much, although I appreciated the sentiments of the commentator at the end – the winner had said she wasn’t expecting to win as she was “too chubby”. “Please, Wendy,” he beseeches her, “don’t diet.”


Ten Stone Baby (Teased With Chocolate) – (1935)

So apparently he’s in perfect health. Wonder how his life turned out? Poor little shit.

And finally…

Traffic and Buses of London (1970)

No sound on this one, so choose your own soundtrack to a nostalgic trip around London’s streets. Enjoy the scenery and the fond memories of what London looked like when a lot of it was still grimy and pigeons were allowed in Trafalgar Square. Can anyone tell me what the interesting bus at 16:30 is? I know you’d have to be a bus geek to watch that far into the reel.