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England Expects

Military heroes came second only to the Queen herself in the hierarchy of Victorian celebrity culture. With the British Empire at its peak, filmmakers jostled for glimpses of conquering heroes like Lord Kitchener and Field-Marshal Roberts.

The second Boer War was the first major conflict of the film era, and a few intrepid pioneers travelled with their cameras to South Africa. While they rarely captured the fighting, the footage they sent home gave filmgoers an unprecedented window on the war. Other filmmakers were content to re-enact skirmishes at home or film processions of departing or returning troops to excite patriotic audiences.

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Ambulance Crossing the Modder
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Ambulance Crossing the Modder

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent

A surprisingly languid scene shot far from the Boer War battlefields.

Coldstream Guards Embarking on Troopship Gascon
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Coldstream Guards Embarking on Troopship Gascon

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent Location: Southampton

This close view of departing troops gets up close and personal with soldiers off to the Boer War.

H.M.S. "Powerful" Arriving in Portsmouth Harbour
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H.M.S. "Powerful" Arriving in Portsmouth Harbour

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent Location: Portsmouth

A mighty naval cruiser returns home to Britain, covered in glory - and Nelson's ship is there to welcome it

Lord Roberts Presenting Medals to Boer War Volunteers in Liverpool (1901)
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Lord Roberts Presenting Medals to Boer War Volunteers in Liverpool (1901)

Non-Fiction19019 minsSilent Location: Liverpool

The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces recognises war heroes old and new in front of crowds on a wet day in Edwardian Liverpool.

Wooden Walls of Old England
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Wooden Walls of Old England

Non-Fiction19001 mins

Panorama of two wooden battleships, both by this time used as training ships for naval cadets

Royal Scots Regiment at Edinburgh Castle (1901)
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Royal Scots Regiment at Edinburgh Castle (1901)

Non-Fiction19015 minsSilent Location: Edinburgh Castle

Troops play up for the camera in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.

Battle of Spion Kop: Ambulance Corps Crossing the Tugela River (1)
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Battle of Spion Kop: Ambulance Corps Crossing the Tugela River (1)

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

Stunning cinematic record of a key British defeat in the Boer War

A Skirmish with the Boers near Kimberley
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A Skirmish with the Boers near Kimberley

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

A Boer War re-enactment with a ring of authenticity

Band Marching down a Street
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Band Marching down a Street

Non-Fiction18970 minsSilent Location: Barnet

A uniformed marching band takes to the street in this early film by pioneer cinematographer Birt Acres

Warships at Sunset
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Warships at Sunset

Non-Fiction19000 minsSilent

A stunning shot of ships at sea - with a little help from some creative ingenuity

Dispersing the Troops at Windsor after Parade
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Dispersing the Troops at Windsor after Parade

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent Location: Windsor

The senior regiment of the British Army, the Life Guards, are dismissed after a Royal Review

Boer War Recruitment March
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Boer War Recruitment March

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

Come face to face with the Victorian age in this Boer War-era parade film with an unexpected ending

Trafalgar Day London 1900
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Trafalgar Day London 1900

Non-Fiction19001 mins Location: Trafalgar Square

With the Boer War raging 1,000s of miles away, Victorian Londoners pay tribute to the military

Lancers Crossing the Modder River
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Lancers Crossing the Modder River

Non-Fiction18991 mins

British cavalry advance after the Battle of Modder River in the Boer War

Sailors on H.M.S. Black Prince Firing Cannon and Rifles
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Sailors on H.M.S. Black Prince Firing Cannon and Rifles

Non-Fiction19001 mins

Naval trainees show off their weapons prowess for the camera

Train Load of C.I.V.s Leaving Southampton
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Train Load of C.I.V.s Leaving Southampton

Non-Fiction19001 mins Location: Southampton

Back in Blighty - after fighting in the Boer War, these volunteer soldiers are heading home to London and Middlesex

War Balloon and Transport Crossing the Vaal River
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War Balloon and Transport Crossing the Vaal River

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent

A Boer War poser: how do you get a balloon and a train of carts drawn by mules and oxen across a river with no bridge?

Colonial Troops and Cavalry on the March
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Colonial Troops and Cavalry on the March

18992 minsSilent

A dispatch from South Africa? Or an elaborate deception?

French Military Procession
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French Military Procession

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

Military processions could usually be relied on to draw a crowd, both in the streets and later in the cinemas.

Gymnasts on Parallel Bars
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Gymnasts on Parallel Bars

Sport18981 minsSilent

An impressive eight-some performs some Victorian gymnastics for the camera.

Lord Roberts Hoisting the Union Jack at Pretoria
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Lord Roberts Hoisting the Union Jack at Pretoria

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent

A triumphant moment in the Boer War

Military Parade
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Military Parade

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

An enigmatic bit of film rescued from history's dustbin

Bluejackets' Field Gun Drill at Durban
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Bluejackets' Field Gun Drill at Durban

Non-Fiction19003 minsSilent

Boer war sailors fire, dismantle, move and reassemble a pair of heavy guns in a contest of skill and dexterity.

Soldiers March along a Road
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Soldiers March along a Road

Non-Fiction19001 mins

Troops on the move - but are they destined for the battlefield?

The Arrival and Reception of Lord Roberts at Capetown
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The Arrival and Reception of Lord Roberts at Capetown

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent

A military supremo takes command of British forces in South Africa

The Gordon Highlanders
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The Gordon Highlanders

Non-Fiction18971 minsSilent

The Gordon Highlanders parade over Edinburgh's (brand) New North Bridge

Parade of Troops with Band and Crowds Following
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Parade of Troops with Band and Crowds Following

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent

For Britons during the Boer War, a welcome opportunity to support the troops - and march alongside them

1st Volunteer Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment - Blackburn Rifle Volunteers (1900)
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1st Volunteer Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment - Blackburn Rifle Volunteers (1900)

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent Location: Blackburn

An impressive display of numbers from the local volunteer force as part of the Blackburn Easter Fair.

The 5-inch Siege Guns Crossing Vaal River
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The 5-inch Siege Guns Crossing Vaal River

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent

Boer war soldiers play at cowboys, as long teams of oxen are harnessed to keep heavy siege guns moving

Artillery Crossing a River
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Artillery Crossing a River

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

A menagerie of animals helps troops cross a river without getting their feet wet

The Australian Mounted Rifles Marching through Cape Town
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The Australian Mounted Rifles Marching through Cape Town

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent

Australia’s contribution to the Boer War effort is glimpsed en route to the front.

Bayonet Drill
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Bayonet Drill

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

A vigorous military drill is watched by a large crowd.

Duke and Duchess of York at Conway
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Duke and Duchess of York at Conway

Non-Fiction18993 minsSilent Location: Conwy

The spectacle of a royal visit in Victorian Wales is captured by local showman Arthur Cheetham.

Entry of the Scots' Guards into Bloemfontein
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Entry of the Scots' Guards into Bloemfontein

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

RW Paul’s tactic of lending a camera to Walter Beevor of the Scots Guards pays dividends in this Boer War footage.

Field Ambulances Crossing the Vaal River
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Field Ambulances Crossing the Vaal River

Non-Fiction19000 minsSilent

Field ambulances attempt a tricky crossing of the Vaal during the Boer War.

The Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers Digging Entrenchments at Orange River, South Africa - The passing of the Armoured Train
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The Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers Digging Entrenchments at Orange River, South Africa - The passing of the Armoured Train

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent

British troops dig in during the Boer war campaign

Gordon Highlanders Leaving for the Boer War
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Gordon Highlanders Leaving for the Boer War

18991 minsSilent Location: Aberdeen

A rambunctious crowd greets the Highlanders in Aberdeen, some more interested in the camera than the soldiers.

Indian Army Parade
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Indian Army Parade

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

The British Indian Army present arms for the camera in this early actuality film

Infantry at Pretoria (c.1900)
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Infantry at Pretoria (c.1900)

Non-Fiction19003 minsSilent

First-hand footage of troops on parade in Boer War era Pretoria.

Mounting and Dismounting a 3-ton Gun
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Mounting and Dismounting a 3-ton Gun

Non-Fiction19003 minsSilent

Royal Marines demonstrate the fearsome artillery skills they would take to the Boer War - all without firing a shot

Troopship Nubia Leaving Harbour
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Troopship Nubia Leaving Harbour

Non-Fiction18992 minsSilent Location: Southampton

The Nubia sets sail from Southampton as the crisis in South Africa escalates.

King's Liverpool Regiment
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King's Liverpool Regiment

Non-Fiction18981 minsSilent

Another example of early amateur cinematography from Robert A Mitchell, yet to perfect his cranking technique.

Lord Roberts' Arrival in London
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Lord Roberts' Arrival in London

Non-Fiction19011 mins Location: London

A conquering Boer War hero enjoys a rapturous homecoming parade

Lord Roberts Leaving for South Africa
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Lord Roberts Leaving for South Africa

Documentary18991 minsSilent Location: Southampton

With grim news from the Boer War, a popular military commander is given a fond farewell as he leaves to take command

C.I.V. Procession. Cyclists and Infantry
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C.I.V. Procession. Cyclists and Infantry

19001 minsSilent

A very patriotic heroes' welcome for men who volunteered to fight for their country in the Boer War

Lord Roberts' Visit to Manchester (1901)
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Lord Roberts' Visit to Manchester (1901)

Documentary190110 minsSilent Location: Manchester

The Boer War hero addresses a capacity crowd in Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens and unveils a statue to the late Queen Victoria.

Lord Rosebery in Carlisle (c.1901)
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Lord Rosebery in Carlisle (c.1901)

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent Location: Carlisle

Liberal politician and former Prime Minister Lord Rosebery addresses appreciative crowds.

Manchester's Welcome to the Imperial Yeomanry (1901)
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Manchester's Welcome to the Imperial Yeomanry (1901)

Non-Fiction19014 minsSilent Location: Manchester

A volunteer cavalry regiment is enthusiastically welcomed home after active service in South Africa.

Military Sunday in Newcastle
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Military Sunday in Newcastle

Non-Fiction19001 mins Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

A marching band leads the parades with the Boer War still raging

President Kruger
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President Kruger

Non-Fiction18981 mins

An early film scoop, capturing the South African president on film

Ralph Pringle Interviewing Private Ward V.C. Hero in Leeds (1901)
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Ralph Pringle Interviewing Private Ward V.C. Hero in Leeds (1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Leeds

An ordinary hero of the Boer War in a curious silent 'interview'.

Sir George White Leaving the London Hippodrome
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Sir George White Leaving the London Hippodrome

Non-Fiction19001 mins Location: London

Londoners turn out in their thousands to greet the returning Boer War hero after his famous defence of Ladysmith

Return of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1901)
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Return of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1901)

Non-Fiction190114 minsSilent Location: Birmingham

Soldiers returning from the Boer War get a warm welcome home from crowds in Edwardian Birmingham.

Return of the Brave Manchester Volunteers (1901)
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Return of the Brave Manchester Volunteers (1901)

Non-Fiction19015 minsSilent Location: Manchester

Crowds throng the streets for the return of Manchester's Volunteers from South Africa.

The Seaforth Highlanders' Return to Cairo after the Fall of Omdurman and Khartoum
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The Seaforth Highlanders' Return to Cairo after the Fall of Omdurman and Khartoum

Non-Fiction18981 minsSilent

The Scottish regiment filmed on their return from fighting in the Sudan

The Surrender of Kroonstad to Lord Roberts
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The Surrender of Kroonstad to Lord Roberts

Non-Fiction19002 mins

British commander Lord Roberts takes possession of Kroonstad - a huge symbolic victory in the Boer War

Torpedo Flotilla Visit to Manchester (1901)
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Torpedo Flotilla Visit to Manchester (1901)

Non-Fiction190119 minsSilent Location: Manchester

The might of the British Navy struts its stuff down the Manchester Ship Canal.

Trafalgar Day in Liverpool (1901)
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Trafalgar Day in Liverpool (1901)

Non-Fiction19015 minsSilent Location: Liverpool

Huge crowds turn out in Edwardian Liverpool for the annual celebrations marking the victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Bluejackets Amuse Themselves
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Bluejackets Amuse Themselves

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent

An unusual film showing Victorian sailors larking around.

Marines Firing In Rank
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Marines Firing In Rank

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent

Before the firing squad: a group of young marines aim their rifles at the camera during a drill.

Embarkation of the C.I.V. For South Africa
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Embarkation of the C.I.V. For South Africa

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent Location: Southampton

City Imperial Volunteers head for the Boer War battleground

Sirdar's Reception at Guildhall
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Sirdar's Reception at Guildhall

Non-Fiction18981 minsSilent

Military hero Lord Kitchener is presented with the Freedom of the City of London.

Troops Leaving Port Elizabeth Jetty
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Troops Leaving Port Elizabeth Jetty

Non-Fiction19001 mins

British soldiers freshly in South Africa

Torpedo Explosion
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Torpedo Explosion

Non-Fiction19000 mins

An explosive bit of early war film

Arrival of Wounded at Hospital Ship
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Arrival of Wounded at Hospital Ship

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent

Injured soldiers head home from South Africa in this film advertised as portraying "one of the dark sides of war".

General Buller Embarking on the 'Dunottar Castle' at Southampton
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General Buller Embarking on the 'Dunottar Castle' at Southampton

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent Location: Southampton

Anticipating a swift victory General Buller heads for his third campaign in South Africa, with his wife in tow

General Buller's Transport Train of Ox-teams
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General Buller's Transport Train of Ox-teams

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent

A calm scene from the Boer War

Gordon Highlanders in Ladysmith
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Gordon Highlanders in Ladysmith

Non-Fiction19001 minsSilent Location: Ladysmith

The Scottish regiment joins the relief column following the devastating siege of Ladysmith in the Boer War

Guards Procession in London
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Guards Procession in London

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent

Horse guards and artillery going great guns in a London parade

The Heroes of Ladysmith Marching through London
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The Heroes of Ladysmith Marching through London

Non-Fiction19002 minsSilent

A Boer War celebration - but with the war still raging

Review of the Life Guards by Her Majesty the Queen
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Review of the Life Guards by Her Majesty the Queen

Non-Fiction18992 mins Location: Windsor

Spot the Queen, as she bids farewell to part of the Household Cavalry before they head off to the Anglo-Boer war

The 'Roslin Castle' (Troopship) Leaving for South Africa
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The 'Roslin Castle' (Troopship) Leaving for South Africa

Non-Fiction18992 mins Location: Southampton

The 2nd Battalion West Yorkshires head off to join the Boer War

Scottish Troops Leave for South Africa
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Scottish Troops Leave for South Africa

Non-Fiction18991 mins

Soldiers parade on a Scottish street before heading for action in the Boer War

Soldiers Working and Firing a Field Gun
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Soldiers Working and Firing a Field Gun

Non-Fiction19001 mins

Sailors from HMS 'Excellent' operate a 9-pounder muzzle loading field gun

Army Life; Or, How Soldiers Are Made - Infantry
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Army Life; Or, How Soldiers Are Made - Infantry

Non-Fiction19000 minsSilent

Fragment of an epic, starring the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment

Royal Leinster Regiment Halifax
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Royal Leinster Regiment Halifax

19001 minsSilent

A brisk drill on a cold winter's day

Nurses Attending the Wounded
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Nurses Attending the Wounded

War18991 minsSilent

Brits versus Boers... or are they?

Fleet in the Tyne (1901)
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Fleet in the Tyne (1901)

Non-Fiction19013 minsSilent Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

Destroyers from the Edwardian Royal Navy filmed from a ship in the Tyne.

Return of the Lancaster Volunteers (1901)
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Return of the Lancaster Volunteers (1901)

Non-Fiction19023 minsSilent Location: Lancaster

Some nifty product placement creeps in to this formal portrait of the Lancaster Volunteers.

Parade of the Bolton Artillery Volunteers (1901)
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Parade of the Bolton Artillery Volunteers (1901)

Non-Fiction19043 minsSilent Location: Bolton

The Bolton Artillery Volunteers put on an impressive parade despite the snow. 

Chasing De Wet
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Chasing De Wet

Trick film19010 minsSilent

A story from South Africa recreated rather closer to home

Troops Passing over the Modder by Train
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Troops Passing over the Modder by Train

Non-Fiction18991 minsSilent

Despite the retreating Boers blowing up the original bridge, the rapid movement of troops is quickly restored.

Battle Of Spion Kop: Ambulance Corps Crossing The Tugela River (2)
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Battle Of Spion Kop: Ambulance Corps Crossing The Tugela River (2)

19000 minsSilent

Stunning cinematic record of a key British defeat in the Boer War

Battle Of Spion Kop: Ambulance Corps Crossing The Tugela River (3)
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Battle Of Spion Kop: Ambulance Corps Crossing The Tugela River (3)

19001 minsSilent

Stunning cinematic record of a key British defeat in the Boer War