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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 Trenches
Shower Baths in the Trenches
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Shower Baths in the Trenches

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

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

Airship No. 9
Airship No. 9
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Airship 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…

The Scarecrow
The Scarecrow
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The 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.

Tubby's Typewriter
Tubby's Typewriter
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Tubby's Typewriter

Comedy191611 minsSilent

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

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

19168 minsSilent

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

Industrial Sidelights
Industrial Sidelights
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Industrial Sidelights

Interest film19167 minsSilent

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

The Man with the Glass Eye
The Man with the Glass Eye
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The Man with the Glass Eye

Drama191626 minsSilent

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

Cheddar
Cheddar
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Cheddar

Travelogue19161 minsSilent Location: Cheddar Gorge

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

Hastings Sea Angling Festival
Hastings Sea Angling Festival
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Hastings 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.

Empire Day
Empire Day
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Empire Day

Non-Fiction19162 minsSilent Location: London

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

Pimple's Part
Pimple's Part
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Pimple's Part

Comedy19163 minsSilent

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

Shortage of Munitions
Shortage of Munitions
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Shortage of Munitions

Non-Fiction19162 minsSilent

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

Sinn Fein Rebels
Sinn Fein Rebels
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Sinn Fein Rebels

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

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

Trial of Casement
Trial of Casement
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Trial of Casement

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

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

St Patrick's Day
St Patrick's Day
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St Patrick's Day

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Chelsea

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

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

19167 minsSilent

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

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

Aeroplanes - Unidentified
Aeroplanes - Unidentified
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Aeroplanes - Unidentified

Non-Fiction1916 minsSilent

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

Blinded Soldiers Playing Push Ball
Blinded Soldiers Playing Push Ball
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Blinded 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.

The Great Blizzard
The Great Blizzard
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The 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

Hands Off Baby's Milk
Hands Off Baby's Milk
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Hands Off Baby's Milk

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

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

From Trinidad to Serve the Empire
From Trinidad to Serve the Empire
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From Trinidad to Serve the Empire

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: London

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

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

Little Cripples Day
Little Cripples Day
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Little Cripples Day

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: London

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

Tubby's Rest Cure
Tubby's Rest Cure
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Tubby'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!

Horses' New Year's Dinners
Horses' New Year's Dinners
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Horses' 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.

Maundy Money
Maundy Money
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Maundy Money

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Westminster

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

Chiswick's Gallant Gunner
Chiswick's Gallant Gunner
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Chiswick'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.

Eccentric Club Entertain Wounded Soldiers
Eccentric Club Entertain Wounded Soldiers
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Eccentric 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.

Bruce Castle Fete
Bruce Castle Fete
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Bruce 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.

Army Economy
Army Economy
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Army 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.

Caterpillar Tractors Pull Gun Carriages
Caterpillar Tractors Pull Gun Carriages
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Caterpillar 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

New Zealanders Win at Rugby
New Zealanders Win at Rugby
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New 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.

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

Interest film1916 minsSilent

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

Demonstration of the Churches
Demonstration of the Churches
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Demonstration 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.

Wimbledon Election
Wimbledon Election
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Wimbledon Election

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Wimbledon

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

London's May Queen
London's May Queen
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London'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.

Devonshire Hospital Buxton
Devonshire Hospital Buxton
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Devonshire Hospital Buxton

Non-Fiction19162 minsSilent Location: Buxton

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

In the Interests of Mercy
In the Interests of Mercy
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In 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.

Topical Budget 245-1
Topical Budget 245-1
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Topical 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.

Palm Sunday Celebrations
Palm Sunday Celebrations
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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.

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

Richmond Boys Naval Brigade
Richmond Boys Naval Brigade
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Richmond 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.

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

Inspection of Special Constables
Inspection of Special Constables
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Inspection of Special Constables

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Barking

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

Lord Charles Beresford in France
Lord Charles Beresford in France
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Lord Charles Beresford in France

Non-Fiction19167 minsSilent

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

Liverpool Honours Heroes
Liverpool Honours Heroes
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Liverpool Honours Heroes

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

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

Gaumont Graphic No. 580
Gaumont Graphic No. 580
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Gaumont Graphic No. 580

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

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

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

Anzac Day
Anzac Day
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Anzac Day

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: Westminster Abbey

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

Tests from Aeroplanes
Tests from Aeroplanes
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Tests from Aeroplanes

Non-Fiction191613 minsSilent Location: Chingford

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

The Cornish Riviera
The Cornish Riviera
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The Cornish Riviera

Travelogue19165 minsSilent Location: Polperro

Sail away to a bygone Cornwall in this wistful coastal travelogue

The Porcupine - A Prickly Subject
The Porcupine - A Prickly Subject
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The 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.

London under Snow
London under Snow
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London under Snow

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent Location: London

WWI recruits apply their training - to a friendly snowball fight

Tom Brown's Schooldays
Tom Brown's Schooldays
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Tom Brown's Schooldays

Period drama191675 minsSilent

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

Sylvia's Suspicions
Sylvia's Suspicions
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Sylvia's Suspicions

191612 minsSilent

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

Interesting Incidents
Interesting Incidents
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Interesting Incidents

19168 minsSilent

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

On the Banks of Allan Water
On the Banks of Allan Water
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On 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.

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

Comedy191612 minsSilent

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

Her Greatest Performance
Her Greatest Performance
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Her Greatest Performance

Drama19161 minsSilent

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

Married Mens' Call
Married Mens' Call
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Married Mens' Call

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

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

Bowls at Blackpool
Bowls at Blackpool
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Bowls 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.

'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
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'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

Keep the Home Fires Burning
Keep the Home Fires Burning
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Keep the Home Fires Burning

War191616 minsSilent

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

The Vicar of Wakefield
The Vicar of Wakefield
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The 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

Two Queens at Drury Lane
Two Queens at Drury Lane
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Two 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

General Haig Visits General Joffre
General Haig Visits General Joffre
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General Haig Visits General Joffre

Non-Fiction19161 minsSilent

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

Explore further

Tessa Dunlop: 1916 on Film
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.