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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Pathe Newsreels of WW1

Guest Pete Wood

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I have just heard from an airship forum that I belong to, that Pathe (the newreels with the cock crowing at the introduction) has digitized most of it's footage - thanks to a lottery grant - and that this is all available to watch online. The best bit, though, is that it is totally free.

I have just tried it and, ladies and gentlemen of this forum, it is going to make the hairs rise on the back of your neck.

Go to British Pathe and now click on the advanced search facility.

Choose the decade you like - most of this forum will choose, I suspect, the 1910s or 1920s (but you can narrow your search to a particular year!!).

Now put in a keyword (try names too, like Kitchener) in the 'General' section, and press GO.

You will now see the results of your search. Select the film you want to see, which has a description that contains your keyword(s), and a load of thumbnails - each thumb is a section of the film.

Choose the footage you want to watch, and select the resolution (the free-to-view resolution is 128kb/second). Now press DOWNLOAD FILES.

The first time you use this facility, you are asked to give your name, address and email details. Fill this out, and prepare to be whisked back 80 years (or more) and see what the British Public were watching at their local cinemas.

While the resolution isn't perfect, it is still very acceptable. You can choose to play it, or save it to your hard drive. Pathe seem fine about it being used for educational purposes, but I may be wrong. I've only just found this site myself and have yet to fully explore all the Q&A sections.

If you've got a few quid to spare - and choose to buy some footage, the resolution is much higher.

I've just watched: army bakers, shovelling hundreds of loaves of bread out of home-made ovens; troops being awarded medals by the King; the burial ceremony of the Unknown British Warrior and more.........

I'm on broadband at my office, so downloading huge files isn't a problem for me. But if your have a dial-up modem, try just downloading one thumbnail at a time - rather than a complete news reel.

Have fun!!

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I have found the website without any problem. All I can say is WOW!!!

However, when I tried to download the clip to my system I got a message that the server was unable to comply due to high demand...and I can understand that VERY easily given the information available on the site.

I am also having a problem getting the clip to play on my computer (i have high band-width) and just get thumbnails of the film when I clip on preview. I will try again later, but is this a typical response or could it again be related to the problem with the high demand on the server.

Thanks very much for sharing this site - truly great stuff...


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I don't understand why you are getting this message Patrick. A bunch of us have been using this all day without a hitch. Reload the site and try again. You should get a confirmation email from Pathe which states the details of the film you have ordered for downloading. If you haven't had an email from Pathe, I reckon you should re-load whichever movie viewer you are using.

We've noticed that the player by REAL, seems much better at organising and watching the films than the WINDOWS player. But I'd be interested to hear what others think.

A good tip though when searching for films, is that you get more 'hits' if you put your keyword(s) in the little box labelled "description."

Also, you'll find that there is a lot of relevant (to this forum) film in the 1920s - so don't narrow the years to just 1914-1918. Also be aware that there is a lot of film that Pathe can't indentify by the year; so if you are looking at an obscure subject, don't limit the date at all.

Here's one film I recommend. There's some great footage of a platoon, all sat down having their feet inspected/washed; then a couple of guys putting on trench waders - keywords: soldiers feet

Film Number 2356[1].11

Title: Soldiers washing feet

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The video files that you can download from the British Pathe site are Windows Media 8 video files. Microsoft provide a number of players for different platforms and there are third party players for Linux.

All of the Microsoft players can be downloaded from:


The current version of Windows Media Player that will play Windows Media 8 video files is:

Windows (except XP) Windows Media Player 7.1

Windows XP Windows Media Player (8) for XP

Mac OS 8.1 to 9.x Windows Media Player 7.1 for Mac

Mac OS X Windows Media Player for Mac OS X

Solaris Windows Media Player for Solaris

For Linux try these players:

1) mplayer - see http://www.mplayerhq.hu/homepage/info.html

2) xine - see http://xine.sourceforge.net/index.php?resource=2

You may also find the following links useful:

Data formatting:MPEG


Windows Media Player: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsme...dia/default.asp

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Thanks for the link, I shall spend some time, no doubt, looking at many of these.


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