Sifting the film archives for memories of Hunts

GOLDEN archive footage of 20th century Huntingdonshire has been made public.

Film buffs can search dozens of newsreels held by British Pathe to find out what life used to be like in their towns and villages more than 100 years ago.

A quick internet search unearths hours of screen material, including war propaganda, a documentary about Huntingdon’s churches and pubs as well as a film showing American servicemen pouring tea for their British counterparts at RAF Wyton.

But British Pathe general manager Alastair White says archivists need local knowledge to make the collection an effective historical record.

He said: “We are asking for local people who are much more knowledgeable than we are to let us know if they see any can add any information.

“We put data with our films but we have had lots of emails from people giving us details which we didn’t know about the footage.

“The more data we have, the more use it is to people.”

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At the click of a button people can view a promotional film called Good Huntingdon, screened at British cinemas during the Second World War.

The 1944 newsreel contains shots of old churches and pubs such as The George Hotel and The Market Inn.

Another war film shows Britain’s youngest woman billeting officer, Barbara Meadows, calling in on Huntingdon homes to find people willing to take in bombed-out families.

And there is also a biography of Huntingdon farmer and athlete A.R. Mills training for an all-important running race in 1923.

However many viewers will be fascinated to see black and white footage of American and English soldiers chatting to each other at RAF Wyton.

The revealing film shows men using a Morse code machine while officers check papers and documentation at the air base gates.

Meterological experts also carry out an experiment by releasing balloons into the air to gather data.

In another film from 1930, a famous motorboat racer man known as the “Flying Scotsman” is also shown practising his daring routine along a two mile stretch of the River Ouse.

Mr White said: “We were finding that more people wanted to go online to view footage.”

He said the response the opening of archives films from 1896 to 1976 was “phenomenal” and said: “People love it. It is not just people who lived through those eras that enjoy it but younger generations as well.”