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Early Days’ at Movietonenews 1946

Odeon Marble Arch

By the summer of 1946, I was well established at Movietonews. From time to time I would be invited to go with the cameramen and act as a runner.  I was still an athlete running mile races whenever a suitable event came about. I ran in a mile race at Paddington Recreation Ground, London in a meeting called “Friends of Mine” and I won.   I received a certificate which was signed and presented to me by Field Marshal Lord Alexander of Tunis.  I meet all the important people.

In June, we had the Victory Parade in London.  Troops and personalities from all over the Commonwealth and Empire and from the Allied countries gathered in London for the great celebration to mark victory over the Axis.

It was a great day which resembled the festivities which marked the end of the war in Europe and the Far East.  London was bustling with crowds who had come up to see the great show of military splendour, some had camped out all night to make sure of a good position in the morning..  People lined the route in their tens of thousands, they were high up in the trees wherever they found them.  The windows of every building on the route were full of cheering office workers and their families.

The marching columns were, overwhelmingly, soldiers, sailors and airman who had served in all theatres of the war.  Some of the wounded were brought along to witness the parade from wheelchairs.

I was assigned to be with Martin Gray, a former sound recordist who had become a cameraman. He was out on his first camera job by himself.  He had worked for Movietonews for some time as a sound recordist, but he now realised his ambition to be a cameraman.  This was a plum job and it paid £9 per week (plus expenses).

The Official Programme of the Victory Celebrat...

Image via Wikipedia

Martin’s viewpoint was the roof of the Odeon Marble Arch which stood at the north-east corner of Oxford Street and Edgware Road.  This gave him a head-on view of the approaching columns as they came from Park Lane into Oxford Street.  My job was to collect his film and rush it back to Movietone in Soho Square.  This would have  to be done on foot by dodging through the back roads because Oxford Street was packed with people watching.  As long as I was close to Martin Grey, I could park myself anywhere.

High up on the building was the great sign ODEON which was a neon sign about eight feet high. It was placed outside the wall which formed part of the exterior decoration of the cinema.  The wall was a facade and on the inside there was a drop of some thirty feet to the roof of the auditorium. I was able to sit in the second “O” with my feet dangling over the edge and my hands gripping the sides, over a hundred feet above the ground.  What a view !

The parade was magnificent.  At the head were allied commanders, followed by a huge mechanised column that was four miles long.  It consisted of vehicles from The Royal Navy, The Royal Air Force, Civil Defence and the Army.  Then followed the marchers. Service personnel from almost all of the allied forces.

After the last of them passed our position, I retrieved myself from my viewing position and collected Martin’s film.  I then had a job to get it back to the laboratories at 22, Soho Square, the offices of Movietonews and Kay (West End) Laboratories.

The Underground was packed with people trying to get away from central London, so I pushed my way down Park Lane and the set off down a side-road going east.  I got into Grosvenor Square, I ran east, over Bond Street, over Regent Street into Great Marlborough Street, into Dean Street and finally into Soho Square.

That night, we were treated to a fireworks display that many of us at Movietonews witnessed from the roof of 22 Soho Square.  The streets were still thronging with people into the small hours.

Some years later, when passing the Odeon Marble Arch, I looked up at ODEON, my perch and I thought “I must have been quite mad”.

Additional links:   Victory Celebrations, 8th June 1946 by Ron Goldstein WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar

© Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and terencegallacher.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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