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1916 on Film

The war dragged on - and on… but cinemas offered more news from the Front, while trying to entertain those at home. Watch along with cinemagoers a century ago.

The war really began to take its toll on the film industry in 1916. Films and film stock were harder to come by, while conscription robbed studios and cinemas of workers. The big release of the year was The Battle of the Somme, a government-sanctioned 'documentary' seen by some 20 million people. Government relaxed its censorship, allowing greater (but still limited) access to the Front and commissioning films to keep the public informed. Cinema managers did their bit for the war effort by absorbing the entertainment tax and raising funds for ambulances across the sector. The newsreels increased their war coverage, carrying reports from the Front and stories of returning heroes and war work at home. Repackaged travelogues and information films helped make up for the shortage of new titles. The war increasingly crept into comedies and drama. One comic hero found himself pursued by man-hungry land girls, while moralistic features explored the strains on marriage during wartime or warned of German fifth columnists infiltrating the aristocracy. This collection is supported by The Eric Anker-Petersen Charity

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Shower Baths in the TrenchesShower Baths in the Trenches

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

A humble scrub is all it takes to get these French troops in a lather.

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Airship No. 9Airship No. 9

Non-Fiction191614 minsSilent Location: Walney Island

The maiden flight of Britain's first successful rigid airship – just don’t call it a zeppelin…

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The ScarecrowThe Scarecrow

Comedy191612 minsSilent

A tramp steals the clothes from a scarecrow, but when he realises two couples are using its pockets to pass messages, he sees an opportunity.

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Tubby's TypewriterTubby's Typewriter

Comedy191611 minsSilent

Newlywed Tubby fancies another man's typewriter and ends up in hot water with his new wife

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Preston North End Football Club at DeepdalePreston North End Football Club at Deepdale

19168 minsSilent

Preston North End play Liverpool (probably) in a regional football competition during WWI.

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Industrial SidelightsIndustrial Sidelights

Interest film19167 minsSilent

Goat farming, salmon farming and copper mining all feature in this enlightening oddity.

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The Man with the Glass EyeThe Man with the Glass Eye

Drama191626 minsSilent

There's shades of Moriarty to the mastervillain in this wartime potboiler.

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CheddarCheddar

Travelogue19161 minsSilent Location: Cheddar Gorge

Pure tranquillity in rural Somerset, a world away from the war raging on the continent.

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Hastings Sea Angling FestivalHastings Sea Angling Festival

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Hastings

It's Hastings' first fishing festival since WWI broke out and Britain's foremost newsreel company take to the pier to capture the catch on film.

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Empire DayEmpire Day

Non-Fiction19162 minsSilent Location: London

London schoolchildren wave their flags for the first official Empire Day, as soldiers parade in the playground.

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Pimple's PartPimple's Part

Comedy19163 minsSilent

The clownish Pimple turns thespian with inevitably chaotic results in this riotous comic fragment.

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Shortage of MunitionsShortage of Munitions

Non-Fiction19162 minsSilent

Was this a lesson in how to shell out on frontline firepower?

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Sinn Fein RebelsSinn Fein Rebels

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

In the wake of the defeated Easter Rising in Dublin, the British Army parades its Republican prisoners.

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Trial of CasementTrial of Casement

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

Crowds throng Bow Street during the trial of British diplomat turned Irish nationalist Roger Casement.

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St Patrick's Day St Patrick's Day

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Chelsea

Smiling soldiers receive shamrocks at a traditional St Patrick's Day ceremony.

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British Sports and Pastimes Series. 2British Sports and Pastimes Series. 2

19167 minsSilent

Rip-roaring motorboat scenes, plus one of the earliest examples of the Boat Race on film

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British Sports and Pastimes. Series 5British Sports and Pastimes. Series 5

19163 minsSilent Location: Coire Làgan

British leisure time, from intrepid climbing and frolics on the ice to the skill of billiards.

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Aeroplanes - UnidentifiedAeroplanes - Unidentified

Non-Fiction1916 minsSilent

Magnificent men - or perhaps women - in their flying machines in this beautifully tinted film fragment

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Blinded Soldiers Playing Push BallBlinded Soldiers Playing Push Ball

Sport19161 minsSilent Location: Catford

This moving scene of wounded WWI fighters in a London park reminds us of the real costs of combat.

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The Great BlizzardThe Great Blizzard

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

In the year that British Summer Time is introduced, the weather gods have their say, with a snowy gale ripping across southern England

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Hands Off Baby's MilkHands Off Baby's Milk

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

High milk prices during WWI drive mother and child onto the street in protest

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From Trinidad to Serve the EmpireFrom Trinidad to Serve the Empire

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: London

Colonial recruits from Trinidad meet the Lord Mayor of London during WWI

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John Bull's Animated Sketch BookJohn Bull's Animated Sketch Book

Animation & Artists Moving Image191610 minsSilent

The hand of the artist tweaks the nose of “Kaiser Bill” and friends in this episode from an early animated propaganda series

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Little Cripples DayLittle Cripples Day

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: London

A generous display of charity from London - or just good PR for the politicians?

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Tubby's Rest CureTubby's Rest Cure

Comedy191615 minsSilent

WWI conscription has whisked away all the young men, leaving the girls so man-hungry that even Tubby looks attractive!

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Horses' New Year's DinnersHorses' New Year's Dinners

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Cricklewood

Retired nags enjoy a well-earned New Year's feed at the Cricklewood Home of Rest for Horses.

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Maundy MoneyMaundy Money

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Westminster

The elderly of Westminster are the grinning beneficiaries of royal charity on Maundy Thursday.

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Chiswick's Gallant GunnerChiswick's Gallant Gunner

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Chiswick

Three cheers for Maurice Samuels, as a Chiswick tram driver receives a medal for bravery at the Western Front at Ypres.

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Eccentric Club Entertain Wounded SoldiersEccentric Club Entertain Wounded Soldiers

Non-Fiction19164 minsSilent Location: Molesey Lock

Soldiers stage a mock brawl and watch performances during festivities for 600 wounded soldiers held on an island in the Thames near Hampton Court.

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Bruce Castle FeteBruce Castle Fete

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Bruce Castle

A huge crowd watches the Lord Mayor of London open a fete in Tottenham for blinded soldiers and sailors.

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Army EconomyArmy Economy

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Osterley

Soldiers show off a fine crop of sprouts, grown at the Army Service Corps depot at Osterley Park in Hounslow.

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Caterpillar Tractors Pull Gun CarriagesCaterpillar Tractors Pull Gun Carriages

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

New Zealand artillery troops might not have to pull their big guns, but they are in for a bumpy ride

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New Zealanders Win at RugbyNew Zealanders Win at Rugby

Sport19161 minsSilent Location: Richmond Park

Soldiers representing South Africa and New Zealand billeted in London get stuck in during a rugby fixture in Richmond Park.

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Town Crier Still Kept up in Many TownsTown Crier Still Kept up in Many Towns

Interest film1916 minsSilent

Oyez! What's the news from Devizes' town crier?

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Demonstration of the ChurchesDemonstration of the Churches

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Wanstead

Top-hatted dignitaries turn out in force for this service held to honour Wanstead locals serving in the armed forces.

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Wimbledon ElectionWimbledon Election

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Wimbledon

A wonderful newsreel showing scenes at the 1916 by-election in Wimbledon, featuring charismatic challenger Kennedy Jones.

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London's May QueenLondon's May Queen

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Hayes Common

Excitable children in their Sunday finery gawp at cameras during the parade for London’s May Queen.

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Devonshire Hospital BuxtonDevonshire Hospital Buxton

Non-Fiction19162 minsSilent Location: Buxton

Rheumatic soldiers are treated with the latest in hydrotherapy at the Devonshire Hospital in Buxton, Derbyshire.

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In the Interests of MercyIn the Interests of Mercy

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Croydon

Firepower and fancy dress as a captured German field gun is the focus of a parade through Croydon to mark Red Cross Week.

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Topical Budget 245-1Topical Budget 245-1

Non-Fiction19161 mins Location: Kensington and Chelsea

Brass bands, bicycles and marching special constables outside the Albert Hall for a Sunday presentation before Bishop John Taylor-Smith outside the Albert Hall.

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Palm Sunday Celebrations Palm Sunday Celebrations

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Westminster

Palms and fanfare ahead of Easter - a salient event in the Christian calendar is captured with crisp clarity.

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Home-coming of Private Young, Preston's V.C.Home-coming of Private Young, Preston's V.C.

Non-Fiction19167 minsSilent

Preston turns out in force for the homecoming of Private William Young, the valiant recipient of a Victoria Cross

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Richmond Boys Naval BrigadeRichmond Boys Naval Brigade

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Richmond

Young sailors from the Boys Naval Brigade give a demonstration on the lawn of the Star & Garter Home in Richmond.

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England: Changing Guard at Horse Guards and St. James's PalaceEngland: Changing Guard at Horse Guards and St. James's Palace

19161 minsSilent

Police officers hold back curious crowds as George V's infantrymen go about their day-to-day.

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Inspection of Special ConstablesInspection of Special Constables

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Barking

Crowds applaud 900 Special Constables as they drill before a packed pavilion in Barking.

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Lord Charles Beresford in FranceLord Charles Beresford in France

Non-Fiction19167 minsSilent

A military legend on location, and some vertiginous thrills from a balloon.

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Liverpool Honours HeroesLiverpool Honours Heroes

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

Poignant scenes as a public roll of honour for Liverpool and Merseyside's war dead is unveiled.

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Gaumont Graphic No. 580Gaumont Graphic No. 580

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

Speed and stealth are on display as a US submarine tests its capabilities in this mid-WWI newsreel.

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U.S.A. Airship Somewhere in EnglandU.S.A. Airship Somewhere in England

Non-Fiction19166 minsSilent

Coming out, going up and landing – a British-built Sea Scout Zero class blimp is put through its paces with the US Navy

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Anzac DayAnzac Day

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Westminster Abbey

London's at a sombre standstill as both ends of the Empire mark wartime casualties.

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Tests from AeroplanesTests from Aeroplanes

Non-Fiction191613 minsSilent Location: Chingford

Developing the lifebelt of the air - or "how the stranglehold demon was exorcised"

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The Cornish RivieraThe Cornish Riviera

Travelogue19165 minsSilent Location: Polperro

Sail away to a bygone Cornwall in this wistful coastal travelogue

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The Porcupine - A Prickly SubjectThe Porcupine - A Prickly Subject

Interest film19164 minsSilent

Close encounters of the furred (and spiny) kind: cute critters put through their paces in this light-hearted nature film.

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London under SnowLondon under Snow

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: London

WWI recruits apply their training - to a friendly snowball fight

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Tom Brown's SchooldaysTom Brown's Schooldays

Period drama191675 minsSilent

The adventures of the spirited Tom Brown at Rugby School in the 1830s.

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Sylvia's SuspicionsSylvia's Suspicions

191612 minsSilent

Daft comedy in which a suspicious wife poses as a naked Venus statue to spy on her husband

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Interesting IncidentsInteresting Incidents

19168 minsSilent

Brace yourself for some unusual and sometimes disturbing sights from round the world

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On the Banks of Allan WaterOn the Banks of Allan Water

Drama191649 minsSilent

The course of true love certainly doesn't run smooth in this unlikely Scottish drama from the Clarendon Film Company.

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Jack Spratt's Parrot Gets His Own BackJack Spratt's Parrot Gets His Own Back

Comedy191612 minsSilent

Parrot takes umbrage at ticking off and exacts revenge by being super annoying

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Her Greatest PerformanceHer Greatest Performance

Drama19161 minsSilent

Edith Craig in a short fragment of this lost crime drama.

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Married Mens' CallMarried Mens' Call

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

The first married men to be conscripted to fight in WWI undergo training for the trenches.

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Bowls at BlackpoolBowls at Blackpool

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Blackpool

It's all about the angles at this bowls tourney, with the cameraman hitting the green for a nice ground level view.

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'Let Them all Come!' First Cinema Pictures (Taken Soon after Dawn) Of London's Second Zeppelin Brought down in Essex'Let Them all Come!' First Cinema Pictures (Taken Soon after Dawn) Of London's Second Zeppelin Brought down in Essex

Non-Fiction19162 minsSilent Location: Great Burstead

The scorched remains of a downed “baby-killer” draws half of London to Snail’s Hall Farm near Billericay

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Keep the Home Fires BurningKeep the Home Fires Burning

War191616 minsSilent

Two sisters love the same man - one marries him, but the effects of WWI complicate their relationship

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The Vicar of WakefieldThe Vicar of Wakefield

Period drama191698 minsSilent

Leads and locations shine in this feature adaptation of Oliver Goldsmith's popular novel, a tale to soften hard hearts

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Two Queens at Drury LaneTwo Queens at Drury Lane

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: London

No, not a poker hand but the arrival of royalty to a Saturday matinee in aide of women war workers

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General Haig Visits General JoffreGeneral Haig Visits General Joffre

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

The Battle of the Somme is looming as Allied commanders meet at the French Army’s HQ.

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Tessa Dunlop: 1916 on Film
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Tessa Dunlop: 1916 on Film

Tessa Dunlop, historian, journalist, presenter of BBC2’s Coast and Radio 4’s Crossing Continents, and writer of the recently published The Bletchley Girls, guides us through her selection of films from 1916.