An exhibition curated by the Yorkshire Film Archive to mark the centenary commemorations of the First World War, telling the story of a small but important collection of films made in communities across Yorkshire, which have been preserved and made accessible through this project.
Gawthorpe Maypole Festival (1914)
Gawthorpe, a small village in West Yorkshire, had been celebrating May Day for generations; in May 1914 the carnival was filmed for the Pathé Frères Animated Gazette and shown in the Palladium Cinema in Ossett. Although the onset of war was only months away, life in Gawthorpe continued as normal, with little notion of the impact to come on many of the families featured in this film. 14 year old Laura Woolin is the May Queen leading the parade followed by her page, Cam Womersley.
Laura Woolin, pictured here with her father, Hall, is crowned May Queen.
Click on her photo to find out more about her.
Many of those who featured in the film would have seen themselves on the big screen at the Ossett Palladium Cinema.
A Long, Long Trail A-Winding (1980s)
In the 1980s, Willerby Film Club made an 8mm film capturing the memories of three Wagoners: Billy Thompson, Horace Harrison and Jimmy Hodgson, who all recall signing up, mobilisation, and their experiences of the Mons retreat.
The Wagoners were among the first men to go to war. They were not trained soldiers, but were highly skilled at driving horses and wagons, working on the estates of Sir Mark Sykes in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
Sir Mark had seen the chaos of poor transport in the Boer War and saw that the farms on his estates used exactly the same system of pole wagons and postilion driving that the army used. This was very much an old fashioned system and had become rare elsewhere in the UK. After badgering the War Office, who initially saw no need for amateurs, he set up a reserve of 1000 men and they were recruited and paid £1 as a retainer, which became known as “The Silly Quid”.
The Wagoners were part of the British Expeditionary Force that mobilised in 1914. Many received their call up telegram whilst working in the harvest fields, and they were fighting in France within three weeks of the declaration of War.
The original Wagoners film has been lost, and the only surviving copy was a poor quality VHS videotape, already beginning to deteriorate. The Filmed and Not Forgotten project has enabled us to undertake vital restoration work, and although the sound quality is still quite poor, we now have master digital copies safely stored at the YFA, and made accessible through this exhibition, and also at the Museum of the Wagoners’ Special Reserve in Sledmere, East Yorkshire.
4th Battalion 'Hallamshires' York and Lancaster at Sheffield (1914)
In 1914 Yorkshire also had reserve battalions of regular army regiments; amongst these was the 4th Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment. Many of the soldiers in the 4th Battalion came from Sheffield and were known as the ‘Sheffield Pals’ or the ‘Hallamshires’.
Reserve battalions were made up of part-time soldiers training on weekends and at the annual summer camp. They were at their summer camp in Whitby when war broke out in August 1914. Their schedule of training was stepped up, and by 3rd November they paraded through Sheffield on their way to York and eventually to France in the spring of 1915.
The Hallamshires would see their first fighting at Ypres, and within a year of the film being made, 495 of the 1000 soldiers on parade would be casualties, of whom 94 would die.
Colonel Douglas Stephenson Branson was Lord Mayor of Sheffield in 1914. His son, also called Douglas, was part of the parade: just 21 years old and in command of the machine gun section. Douglas would finish the war commanding the regiment with a DSO, two bars, and an MC. The speech made by his father - and the exchange with Colonel Revell-Sutton, as reported in the Yorkshire Telegraph and Star - gives one an inkling of the emotion of the day.
Scarborough Bombardment (1914)
On the morning of the 16th of December, 1914, the day began as normal in Scarborough, but the seaside town would soon experience the terrible impact of bombardment from the sea.
Admiral Hipper of the Imperial German Navy was trying to tempt the British Grand Fleet out to sea to be attacked by the German High Seas Fleet. He hoped a bombardment of the coastal towns of Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool would goad them into action.
The German dreadnaught Von der Tann and the battle cruiser Derflinger began shelling Scarborough at 8.00am, and within half an hour 17 people had been killed, numerous others had serious injuries, and many buildings lay in ruins.
Mr Ernest Symmons, pictured in this exhibition, was a local film maker who, on hearing of the bombardment quickly made his way to Scarborough and filmed the damage. Some of Ernest Symmons’ films were sold on to newsreel companies to be compiled into topical news items for cinemas, but Ernest also made and kept some of his films for screening in his own cinema in Beverley, East Yorkshire.
The original nitrate film, preserved as part of the Filmed and Not Forgotten project, was handed in to the Yorkshire Film Archive in 2013 by the curator of the Eden Camp - a multi-award winning modern history theme museum housed within the grounds of an original World War II prisoner of war camp near Malton, in North Yorkshire.
Mr Ernest Symmons was a film maker from Beverley. As well as making films for his own cinema, he provided a film news service used by companies including the Pathé Brothers for their nationally distributed newsreels. Ernest filmed the aftermath of the Scarborough bombardment – click on his photograph to find out more.
Sharps and Flats (1915)
Bamforth & Co Filmmakers
Although Bamforth’s may be best known as the company producing 'saucy' seaside postcards, the company was also at the forefront of film making, and in the late 1890s they began to create short films, about 50 ft in length, and lasting only a couple of minutes, but succeeding in delighting audiences at home and abroad.
The popularity of these films, in particular those featuring a character named Winky, led to a film industry in West Yorkshire which for a time surpassed that of Hollywood in terms of productivity and originality.
This film is one of a series made by Bamforth’s starring Reggie Switz, a music hall mime artist, and Lily Ward. Reggie uses the annual Territorial Force summer camp as an excuse to have a good time …
The Yorkshire Film Archive holds around 17 Bamforth titles in its collections (there are also a large number of titles in the BFI National Archive), and remains in contact with the Bamforth family, who generously share information and anecdotes, and recently deposited a camera used for taking family photos.
5th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (1915)
The film above features another of the battalions of the York and Lancaster regiment. This time it is the 5th Battalion, sister to the 4th Hallamshires shown earlier in the exhibition.
The 5th Battalion found itself on parade in York, to be inspected by General Lawson, on Easter Monday, 13th April 1915; once again, Ernest Symmons filmed the occasion for his production company, Debenham and Co.
The opening scenes show York just before the outbreak of war, with views of the Minster, Shambles, and Lendal Bridge.
The Battalion started out in Rotherham in August 1914 before going on to York in February 1915. They sailed from Folkestone to Boulogne on 14th April 1915, and on 15th May 1915 they became part of the 148th Brigade in the 49th (West Riding) Division, bearing the White Rose of York as its insignia.
The music playing over the film is the Regimental March of the York and Lancaster’s, followed by the Jockey of York - the quick march of the York and Lancaster’s.
By the end of the war, The York and Lancaster Regiment recruited 50,000 soldiers, of whom 47,000 would be casualties, and 8,500 would die.
Our research has identified many of the soldiers, and helped us to connect with later generations of the families, most of whom have now seen their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents on film for the first time.
Our thanks go especially to military historian Jon Cooksey, whose book ‘Images of War: Flanders – 1915’, featuring an extensive collection of rare images taken by a junior officer named Harry Colver, proved invaluable to our research of this film.
Scenes at the Ripon Highland Sports (1916)
The original film can containing ‘Scenes at the Ripon Highland Sports’ was rescued from the back of a cupboard in the basement of Ripon Town Hall, along with another film, ‘Beauty Spots of Ripon, 1922’. Both films were made on nitrate stock, and although the preservation work on the films has now been completed, the nitrate deterioration is clearly visible on many of the film sequences.
Nevertheless, ‘Scenes at the Ripon Highland Sports’ is an important visual record of the impact the Great War had on the small city of Ripon:
In 1914, Ripon had a population of some 10,000 people, nestled in the heart of North Yorkshire. Prior to the outbreak of war Ripon had an army base of tents to the south and west of the city, used for summer training, but this was to change beyond recognition when, in 1914, the City Council agreed to set up a permanent camp, approved by Lord Kitchener, to house up to 30,000 soldiers.
The Camp had a huge effect on the City, and in reality it was another town built next door; it had its own electricity supply whilst Ripon itself was still lit by gas, its own water and sewerage system, its own 16 miles of branch railway, a major hospital, 19 miles of main road and 16 miles of secondary roads. At the time, the construction of the camp caused great consternation in Ripon, mainly because of the drunkenness of workmen – helped, no doubt, by the fact that the workman brought in were paid more than the locals – who were eventually excluded from pubs after 6pm!
The first troops to arrive in Ripon were from the Durham Light Infantry, in May 1915, and the 16th and 18th Battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment (from Bradford). They were soon joined by many others: the Cameron Highlanders, the Highland Light Infantry, 3-4th Black Watch, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, West Riding Division, Northumbrian Division, Seaforth Highlanders and North Midland Division, many of whom can be seen on the film, which was taken to record a sports day, open to the troops and the people of Ripon, and held on Ripon Racecourse on 24th April 1916.
One hundred years later, Ripon’s relationship with the Army will change again as the City’s Claro Barracks has been earmarked for closure in 2017.
The film was made by Mr R Wood, manager of the Palladium Cinema in Ripon, where it could be seen a few days later.
Ripon Highland Sports Souvenir Programme
Munitions and Football (1917 - 1921)
Even before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, women made up a substantial part of the industrial workforce, especially in the north of England where work was mainly concentrated in the textile industry. After 1915, when the need for shells intensified, women were brought into munitions’ manufacturing in large numbers; by 1918 almost a million women were employed in some aspect of munitions work, becoming known as 'Munitionettes', as seen in this recruitment film.
Many munitions factories had a ladies’ football team, as it was believed that such competitive activities were good for morale and helped increase production. The teams would compete for prize money to raise funds for the war effort.
The second part of the film shows the Yorkshire Ladies’ team being thrashed by the world-class Dick, Kerr Ladies’ team from Lancashire. In the history of women's football, the Dick, Kerr Ladies, who worked at the Dick, Kerr and Co factory in Preston, are the most successful team in the world. They never lost a match and only drew once.
The year is 1921 (the match was played at Hull on 19th March), but the scene was one common from the start of ladies’ football in 1917.
Alexandra Rose Day in Sheffield (1915)
The short film above, made by Ernest Symmons, records Queen Alexandra’s Rose Day in Sheffield in June 1915, only three years after the first Alexandra Rose Day which took place in London in June 1912, when an army of titled ladies, friends of Queen Alexandra, went out into the streets of the city to sell little pink paper roses. By the end of the evening rush hour, they had raised £30,000, about £3 million in today’s money.
The charity claims that this was the birth of the modern charity industry. “All the poppy days, lifeboat days and daffodil days are descended from this one royal initiative because no one had thought of doing this before”.
World War I nurses were members of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) and there were about 10,000 regular and reserve QAs serving in countries such as France, India, East Africa, Italy, Palestine, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Salonika and Russia.
Royal Visit to John Barran & Sons Ltd (1918)
The film above features a visit of King George V and Queen Mary to John Barran & Sons in Leeds on 31st May, 1918.
John Barran was a pioneer in the manufacture of ready-to-wear clothing, and by 1904 the company employed 3000 people, many of whom would be engaged in making uniforms for the troops during the war years.
Throughout the years of the Great War, King George made several hundred visits to troops, and closer to home he and Queen Mary toured the country, boosting morale by visiting hospitals, factories and organisations supporting the war efforts.
For the people of Leeds, it would be a day to remember – the streets are lined with crowds of people who eagerly await the arrival of the Royal couple, and some of the workers are honoured with time to demonstrate their work.
Among those presented to the King was Chief Mechanic Arthur Giles. His whole family worked in the factory; daughters, Ethel and Ann, his son Herbert, who 20 years before as a 6 year old boy had modelled the range of smart coats for young gentlemen. He joined the Royal Army Medical Corp and was invalided out in 1917.
In the Air (1915 - 1923)
Flying was still very much in its infancy at the outbreak of the Great War – it was just over ten years since the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers in 1903, and many of the planes used by the Royal Flying Corps pilots were flimsy, unreliable and unstable, as can be seen in the first frames of the film above, likely to have been taken at one of several RFC stations which were established from 1915.
Often local racecourses were used as Aerodromes, and one example of this was Beverley Racecourse in East Yorkshire, which was home to the 33rd and 47th Squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps, was an operational base flying sorties against Zeppelin attacks, and was used a training base. Learning to fly was extremely hazardous, and 17 pilots died at Beverley during training in the short time between 1916 and 1918.
The second film was made by a Bradford filmmaker, CH Wood, and was taken in 1923 in the skies above Yeadon in West Yorkshire. The aeroplane is a BE2 fighter made by the Royal Aircraft factory. It was a single-engine two-seat biplane and was in service with the RFC from 1912 until the end of the War. It was used as a front-line reconnaissance aircraft, light bomber and night fighter.
A Scrap of Paper (1914-1918)
Cinemas across the country played a huge role in keeping people informed about the War, although many of the messages were tightly controlled, projecting the official news to the masses. In some places, cinemas were forced to close as staff were called up for war service, whilst for other towns new cinemas were built to entertain troops stationed nearby. Many cinema managers seized the opportunity to galvanise audiences into raising funds for the War Effort, as this next film, shot in Hull in 1916, shows.
The Hull Trust Fund had a target of half a million pounds and produced this film to be shown in local cinemas to encourage donations. The film combines an element of fiction and actuality footage, and uses the device of a letter, a ‘Scrap of Paper’ to connect people with a story familiar to families across the land.
The role that letters and postcards played in WW1 cannot be overestimated; over 12 million letters and one million parcels were delivered to the western front each week and around 6 million letters were sent from the front back to the UK.
Over 7,000 men from Hull died in the war, with families notified by the thousands of telegrams, or postings, informing them of the death or injury of their son, brother, father.
Although the letter in ‘Scrap of Paper’ is fictitious, it reflects the words and feelings communicated over and over again from those at the front to those waiting at home.
One letter, from Private William Wood, who was on parade in the earlier film of the 5th Battalion in York, has been included in this Filmed and Not Forgotten exhibition. Click on the images to read the text of Private Wood’s letter to his son, dated June 1915, and the next photograph of a subsequent letter from Nurse Roscoe, July 1915.
Elland Peace Celebrations (1919)
Peace Celebrations, such as the ones filmed here in Elland, West Yorkshire, would have been held in villages, towns and cities right across the country. The celebrations were probably held on 19th July, 1919, which was the day set aside by the Government Peace Committee. Although the Armistice of Compiègne was the agreement that marked the end of the fighting in Western Europe, at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, it took another six months to conclude the negotiations, with the final Treaty of Versailles.
As well as the celebrations, it was a time for commemoration, with war memorials unveiled, and acts of remembrance taking place in every community across the land.
For everyone, it was a time to begin to attempt to reconcile the terrible impacts the War had inflicted, and although there was joy at the relief that the fighting was finally over, life had changed forever.
There are just two soldiers in uniform for this parade – many men would never return - the film is filled with women and children just as Gawthorpe was in 1914.
York Military Tattoo (1929)
These final films were made after the War, but are a timely reminder that there are important film collections still waiting to be re-discovered. This first film was rescued just two years ago by Mr Philip Readman, who was renovating a house in York. The film was made by G Trafford Drayton, owner of the Tower Cinema in York, and it captures an extraordinary event.
In the 1920s, York held two great military tattoos, one in June 1926, just a month after the General Strike, and another in 1929. They celebrate the history and pageantry of the military services.
Complete stage sets were erected right across the Knavesmire and hundreds of soldiers took part. The film, a mixture of tinted and toned film stock, begins with Arthur Caiger conducting the community singing.
The 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards perform their musical ride - the earliest known film of a musical ride. It was not until 1937 that the regiment stopped training with horses and became a mechanised unit.
Tanks in York (1929)
This second film, also made by G Trafford Drayton, captures an extraordinary moment of change in military history. Our exhibition began with the Wagoners, men who were recruited for their skills at horsemanship, but now, a decade later, we begin to witness the shift to the mechanised power of the tank.
The film features tanks unloading at York railway station and driving through the streets of York to the Tattoo on the Knavesmire, shown in the previous film. The soldiers wear overalls and the recognisably modern tanks, Vickers Medium Mk 2, are from the 4th Battalion Royal Tank Corps at Catterick.
A Long, Long Trail A-Winding (1980s)
Our final film in this exhibition returns to Horace Harrison, Billy Thompson and Jimmy Hodgson, the three surviving Wagoner friends who were filmed in 1982.
They are no longer with us to share their experiences, but seeing them on film, and hearing their voices, is both powerful and moving – their spirit has been captured in the last scenes from the film, and will remain with us as a fitting and final farewell for our Filmed and Not Forgotten exhibition.
We are indebted to the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting our work to preserve these films and make them accessible for future generations. Our research has been extensive, and this exhibition contains only some of the films from our Filmed and Not Forgotten project. To find out more, visit our website: www.yorkshirefilmarchive.com
It is not possible to list all of those who have helped us with this project - we are hugely grateful for the generosity of responses that we've received, from family histories and connections to expert advice, and for the time taken by all our volunteers to help us continue with the research.
In particular we would like to thank:
Bryan Jones, Jonathan Purday, Hannah Jones … and all our student volunteers from York St John University and University of York.
Tom & Sue Bartsch, Tony Bedford, Ken Hooper, Martin Lawrance, George Lumb, Mairi Sanda, Arthur Sherwood’s Grandaughter (Gilly), Geoff Stevens, Gillian Symmons, Kevin Little
Jon Cooksey, Dr Peter Liddle, Jonny Pye; York Army Museum, Rotherham MBC, the Museum of the Wagoners' Special Reserve, Imperial War Museum, and Sheffield Archives
Curator—Martin Watts, Filmed and Not Forgotten