WWI Troops on board the ship

WWI Troops on board the ship
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This clip shows the on board activities of some of the troops about to depart Sydney to fight in the First World War. It begins with many of them relaxing on deck. Another group of men participate in a coordinated exercise regime which includes stretches and push-ups. The final segment of this clip shows a group of men posing and smiling for the camera as part of what appears to be a group photograph. Summary by Poppy De Souza.

This clip is interesting because it was taken on board the ship. This may indicate that the footage could have been shot for use in a newsreel, or short documentary. If the footage was to be used in this way, it is possible that the cameraman came on board especially to film such sequences before the ship departed, to capture the daily life of the troops. Similarly staged sequences in clip three and four also look especially set up for the camera.

As in this example, early actuality footage often contains a visual record of significant cultural or historical events, places or people, and even with patchy information as to the origins, the images themselves stand up to the tests of time. Parts of the footage indicate that it may have been used in a newsreel context, but this is not clear.

This archival footage is part of the Pearson Collection held at the NFSA. James (Jim) Pearson was a director working in the 1930s and 1940s who was also an avid film collector. Pearson himself worked as a laboratory technician, director, editor, camera operator and producer for Movietone, and later the British Ministry of Information’s Far Eastern Bureau. This footage is just one of many cans of film Pearson deposited with the National Film and Sound Archive and contains a vivid portrait of Australian troops around the beginning of the First World War.

With many archival titles deposited with, or donated to, the National Film and Sound Archive (especially from the earlier part of last century), there is often little or no information available as to the material’s provenance, origins, or context in which it was screened. Sometimes the little information there is relates to how the footage came into the National Collection, and this also forms part of the material’s history.

Notes by Poppy De Souza