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Movietone at War: The search for Information

When I started to write about Movietone at War I intended to write several separate articles. These were to be around fifteen hundred words each.   I started to write and research at the same time.   I gathered more and more information.  The discovery of events associated with the subject were most interesting.  I continued to write realising that what I was writing was more than an article.  I soon had a word count over 6,000.
Before long I had reached 25,000.   As I write today, the score is 125,000.

What interested me about the subject was what the staff at 22 Soho Square were doing during the War. The logistics concerning the movement of cameramen to the war fronts.

The staff at 22 Soho Square, during the blitz, sometimes had difficulty in getting in to work.   They would have to deal with cancelled trains, bomb holes in the road, blocked roads due to unexploded bombs and bomb debris across the pavements.  Some of them were bombed out.

Reference material included the writings of the cameramen, the diaries of members of the staff, the records of the Movietone News output.  Various cameramen have recorded interviews of their recollections of the War.

I decided that I would attempt to write a book presenting a chronology of events as they affected Movietone whether it was the work of the cameramen around the world of what was happening  in London.  I listed the dealings with the Ministry of Information which were frustrating for the Newsreels. They were faced with bureaucrats and bureaucracy resulting in long delays in receiving film  via the censor.

Photo of Paul Wyand’s Wall camera courtesy of the Tyneside Cinema.

Photo of Paul Wyand’s Wall camera courtesy of the Tyneside Cinema.

In terms of the cameramen, I wished to know where they were, what they were shooting and how they lived.  I also wanted to know how they got where they were.  This last question of transportation to a location is fascinating. For a cameraman to get to Cairo from London they had to go by convoy to Cape Town, a train to Durban and then fly by B.O.A.C. C-Class Flying Boat up the coast of Africa.  This last part of the journey took four days with passengers  (Maximum 17) being let off the flight to sleep.   To reach the Far East they would leave Cairo by another C-Class Flying Boat and fly to Rangoon.   This is in 1941.

Paul Wyand wrote a book and tells of his experiences in great detail.  Some of the information I have came directly from him and other colleagues when I worked with them.

I know there is lots more information on the subject out there somewhere and I would like to find it.

Alec Tozer spent over four years alone in Burma and China from 1941 to 1944. He wrote a book.   We do not know if it was published, but Gerald Sanger, Movietone’s Editor, said in 1946 he wrote a book.

In all that time, Tozer sent back his rushes to London.   London sent him fresh rawstock.   How ?   We know that the British military were involved in the deliveries, but sometimes they were not around.

I would be interested to know what happened to the Movietone Offices around the world when the War came.  The Fox-Movietone Office in Paris was taken over by the Germans when they were in occupation. The same would have happened in Brussels.   We know from Paul Wyand that the staff in Rome had not been paid, they thought he would pay them.  Lastly, there was Australian Movietonews which would have been seriously deprived on news stories from Europe and the United States.

The first chapter of the “book” starts in 1938.  It can be seen that a good deal of work was going on in anticipation of War.   In fact there were wars going on like the Spanish Civil War and the Italian invasion of Abyssinia.
These wars would have shown the Newsreels what to expect.

I have extended the limit of the book to 1946 when wartime conditions still prevailed, we still had rationing, there was still censorship, there were troubles in India and Palestine and Movietone were in the process of changing over to peace-time conditions.

This was the year of the Nuremberg Trials.

I am wondering if anyone reading this article knows of any source of material that would assist me. If so would  you let you me know how to access the information ?.

Useless If Delayed by Paul Wyand

Useless If Delayed by Paul Wyand

At the moment, I have assistance from, and access to British Universities Film and Video Council records for Movietone. I have their “Researchers Guide to British Newsreel – Parts I and II”. I have their publication “Yesterday’s News”.

I have a copy of Paul Wyand’s “Useless if Delayed“. I have Ian Grant’s “Cameramen at War”. I have read George Roger’s “Far On The Ringing Plains”. I have the three volumes of Gerald Sanger’s ” The Svenhonger Diary”. I have also found a number of references on the Internet. We know there are audio interviews with Norman Fisher, Martin Gray, David Prosser and Jack Ramsden in the Imperial War Museum’s collection and we hope to access them at some point.

Since starting this website on a couple of occasions I have provided information to authors, who wished that information was available before publication, so it could be included in their book, similarly I would welcome any information on Movietone staff to add before publication.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2013.  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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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