Unique Pre WWII Films Uncovered

Posted on March 27, 2011 by


BBC tower and transmitting mast

BBC Tower and Transmitting Mast © APTS

Unique films made before the second world war have been given a new lease of life by the Alexandra Palace Television Society (APTS).

After eight years of painstaking research, they will be seen and heard for the first time since their original transmission in the 1930s.

They were discovered in a garden shed in the late 90s where they had been stored for 40 years. But they were all silent.

Simon Vaughan, archivist for APTS, has been locating the sound and restoring the films. He told Alexandra News why the footage is so important:

“There has never been any colour material of pre-war television known to exist, thus making this film footage totally unique.  The colour contributes a significant factor, a vibrancy and reality, lost from monochrome footage of the era. Pre-war television has often been described as inconsequential and ephemeral – a toy for the well-off, with programmes made by the upper-classes for the elite.  Seeing this footage, some of it shot only six months after the high-definition television service started, this is clearly not the case.  The addition of sound gives the films a further dimension.  It is also the nearest we can get to the original programmes, which we all assumed were lost to us forever.”

The films were shot by Desmond Campbell who joined the BBC in 1932 and feature Britain’s first black ballet company, television’s first pantomime starring Cyril Fletcher, and a 1938 broadcast from the grounds of Alexandra Park on an Anti-Aircraft battery, amongst others.

Simon Vaughan will be giving a lecture this week on the footage, and presenting it at the British Film Institute in October.

Posted in: Alexandra News