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'Our Navy'
Surviving Films

Though it was believed for a long time that all of Alfred West's films had been lost at the outbreak of the First War, a number of clips and fragments have survived. There is a also a catalogue which was made in 1913 when the films were sold.

As of August 2012, The Internet Movie Database also catalogues a number of clips from 1898 and 1904, though it is not yet known if this means that more material exists in archives. If material is found, please contact the webmaster of this website and the Wessex Sound and Film Archive in Winchester.

At the foot of this page is an edited sequence of the extant films which was set to music in 2011 by Charles Mauleverer of the Royal College of Music. Charles Mauleverer is a descendant of the West family through Alfred West's sister. The original 'Our Navy' film performances were often accompanied by live music and sound effects, so this recreation is wholly in keeping with the spirit in which they would originally have been shown.

Stationer's Hall Copyright assertions
In order to assert copyright of his films, Alfred West attached sections of 35mm nitrate film to an application form which was held at Stationer's Hall.  These have now been passed to the Public Record Office. The clips have been preserved and photographed. These are the sources of some of the animated GIF files below and FLV versions playing in an open source SWF player. 

Longer clips
There are also links to longer clips (some of which clearly bear A.J West's studio imprint on the first frame to authenticate them). The clips have been transcribed from Telecine to MiniDV format to .AVI format - and then rendered into .FLV format. Higher resolution versions are are available through the Wessex Sound and Film Archive at Winchester, Hants.

Original versions
This list of fragments and clips currently known to be preserved at the British Film Institute, is cross-referenced where possible to their descriptions in A.J.West's printed catalogue 'Life in Our Navy and Our Army' (PDF Download 5Mb - Transcript Download) which is held at the British Library as well as some of the frames preserved in the Public Record Office. (in some cases this is conjectural because some of the descriptions are slightly at variance with the content)

A 'Warm Welcome' from Alfred J. West F.R.G.S.

Before you start looking at the clips, Alfred West will send you a smiling welcome (install Quick Time) in this short clip taken by his Grandson, Tony Clover, in 1936 on 9mm cine film. Although he took hundreds of thousands of feet of film durig his life, this is the only known film footage of him..

Play Clip

Cat. Page Cat. No. Description and Length
14 92 'Another party brings a 9-Pounder gun along the Beach and fire several rounds out to sea' (75ft') NB - in fact, this clip, embossed on the first frame as 'West & Son', depicts this activity in a parade ground at Whale Island - the gun is afterwards dismantled along the lines of the Field Gun competition at the former Royal Tournament. That tradition started in 1907 in its current form - so this displays its precursor by 2 years (see also Pathe clip (not by West) of a field gun evolution)

Full clip
3 40 'One of Nelson's Captains, placing a wreath as his Centenary Tribute on the spot where Nelson fell, assisted by a First-Class Petty Officer and two boys of the Royal Seamen's and Marines Orphanage' One of the boys is believed to be Frank Beggs - the names of the others are not known.

Full Clip

to follow to follow Underwater Explosions - Spar Torpedo boat in Fraser Lake, Portsmouth Harbour (6 Frame Fragment of nitrate film in  Public Record Office as part of assertion of copyright) Probably one of West's earliest sequences.

Full clip

(NB - The first frame bears the West and Son embossed imprint)





Combined clip - 3 scenes found together in archives and attributed to A.J.West's 'Our Navy' series. Full versions available from Wessex Film and Sound archive at Winchester UK
  1. Horses Bathing (slow motion)
    "Swimming Horses. Across a wide River. An endless rope is stretched across to which the horses are tied and on the opposite shore this rope is being hauled in. Those horses unaccustomed to water protest, but the rope pulls on, and they have to plunge; but they arrive safe and sound on the other side."
  2. Outdoor Gymnastics (poor quality)
  3. 'Picturesque Swedish Drill' (Heavily restored - "The Navy's Cradle - The Royal Greenwich Hospital School")

Full clip

22 150 'Others seek for any pleasure that may be going; the Pier has special fascination for two twin souls, who watch with great interest two ladies rinking very gracefully. They try to do the same, but being the first time they have tried roller skates, the results are somewhat exciting, certainly very humorous' (9 frames only) (Strip kept as illustration in margin of 'Sea Salts and Celluloid' autobiography, derived from Catalogue of 1913
34 241-242 'Torpedo boat ....dash forward and discharge their deadly Whiteheads. There is a terrific explosion' The battle rages in detail. One of our ships is torpedoed and has a nasty list, but fights on. Another is like a floating volcano with her rapid discharge of 12 and 6in guns.' The ship was in fact a model used for promotional purposes.

Full Clip

In the clip above, you will see a gunboat steaming from right to left, apparently wearing the Japanese 'Sun' ensign. The flag was actually painted in frame by frame. One frame has been missed out - probably deliberately, and on this, the gunboat is clearly seen wearing the British White Ensign. The sequence starts with a !The scenes appear to have taken in Fountain Lake, near Whale Island in Portsmouth Harbour, and may have been used to simulate a programme about Naval action in the Russo Japanese War (1904-1905). The chalk pit at Paulsgrove near Fort Southwick on Portsdown Hill to the North is clearly visible.
    Masthead. (6 Frame Fragment of nitrate film in  Public Record Office as part of assertion of copyright)
4 49 The Turbinia (2 frames only) - from a picture of the film stock located in contemporary account
? ? Fragment of nitrate film in  Public Record Office as part of assertion of copyright showing sails and a bridge with man walking and sailor ascending a ladder - animated below
    Field Gun firing and evolution  (6 Frame Fragment of nitrate film in  Public Record Office as part of assertion of copyright)

(See first item above for a a fuller clip of which this is a small part)
    Field Gun firing on Southsea Common (Queen's Hotel in background). 6 Frame Fragment of nitrate film in  Public Record Office as part of assertion of copyright
    Masonic Procession along Fawcett Road Southsea in 1902 . This 4 minute sequence is the longest (and quite uncharacteristic) Alfred West film preserved to date - it was discovered in the projection booth of a Portsmouth cinema and carefully re-photographed frame by frame. It depicts the opening ceremony of St Matthew's Church, Southsea, on 21 May 1902 (the church was bombed and destroyed in the Second World War). It is filmed from a single static position. This clip has been substantially reduced in quality for web use. A better print is available from the Wessex Film Archive at Winchester The clip is not mentioned in Alfred West's 1913 catalogue but was identified from markings on the film and container.

Full Clip

    "A Tribute To My Great-Great-Great Uncle, Film-maker Alfred West"

The composer Charles Mauleverer, RCM, a great great great nephew of Alfred West, has written music to an edited sequence drawn from some of Alfred West's surviving film - here's the YouTube version.

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