Riddle of the Missing Lonsdales Training Film

Riddle of the Missing Lonsdales Training Film

Postby kerchi » Mon Jul 16, 2012 10:53 pm

1. The following is a transcript from the Cumbrian newspaper, The News & Star, which the editor has given special permission to be shown here.
2. Please note that due to certain copyright issues images from the original article cannot be shown (with the exception of two images).
3. This article is from the Memory Lane series written by David Hay.


Lost_Lonsdale_Cine_Film.jpg
Part of the Lonsdale Battalion on the lost cine film.

A FILM showing the Lonsdale Battalion of the Border Regiment in training at Carlisle racecourse in 1914 was found in the regimental museum in the Castle 59 years later. It was an 8mm nitrate film, highly combustible, so John Tomkins of Border Television was called in for help and advice as to how to deal with it.

Taking great care, the film was run through an editing machine and was found to contain animated shots of recruits training, Lord Lonsdale, who created the battalion, and Lt Col Percy Machell, its commanding officer, who was to be killed while leading his men into battle on July 1, 1916.

Mr Tomkins and other Border TV personnel recommended that the film be sent to a firm in London to be copied onto safer material - and the film, a unique and priceless record, was never seen again. Inquiries locally and in London were met with the vague response that it had been “lost”.

The man who made the film was Leon Gould, who owned the Stanley and Rex cinemas in Carlisle. The film captured the transition of a thousand raw recruits into a highly-trained fighting force which was the pride of Cumberland and Westmorland, following them from the day they enlisted, through their training on Blackhall racecourse, and ending as they marched to the Citadel railway station where they they entrained for France.

Sadly, on July 1, 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, the battalion walked into the murderous fire of German machineguns and virtually half of them, 516, were killed wounded or posted missing. It was the blackest day in British military history for, in total, on that sunny July morning, 57,470 officers and men became casualties by nightfall, 19,240 were killed, 2,152 were missing and the rest were wounded.

For many years afterwards, Leon Gould showed at his cinemas his film of the Lonsdales, on or near the date which was decreed as Remembrance Day, November 11, before the film was bequeathed to the Border Regiment museum.

A few isolated clips, unwanted off-cuts from the 20-minute film, were found a few years ago by Mr Gould's daughter, Mrs Renee George, who lives in Harrogate. These are the only remnants of the moving pictures which showed 1,000 young men, many of whom were to die, joining up to serve king and country.

Lost_Lonsdale_Cine_Film_2.jpg
A section of the Lonsdale Battalion, led by the battalion drum and bugle band, on a recruiting campaign in Wigton in May, 1915. The instruments were the gift of Appleby Town Council. The band members' role in battle was that of stretcher bearers, who were responsible for saving many lives.

Next week: A 19-year old Lonsdale's memories of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Published Tuesday 17th July, 2001, The News & Star
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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