The Museum Film and Video Archive - July 1999 Issue

At present the Museum is trying to put together a video entitled "History of Aviation in Berkshire." Please read the following and if you can help please e-mail me.

(Supplied by Alan E Lott)

I have not made any further significant progress with the listing of the remaining films but I have consolidated the identification of reels, cans and cassettes by attaching descriptive labels as well as just my arbitrary list numbers. Quite a tedious business. Once the dark nights return I shall continue to examine the films remaining.

We now have several video tapes donated by Jack de Coninck including the Fairey Aviation film of the Gannet mentioned as missing in the May update. Also we have the 16mm film of the Goodyear inflatable aeroplane kindly donated by a museum member. As a result of information entered on the Internet, a former chief test pilot of Handley Page contacted us. The result was that we were donated two 100 ft reels of colour 16mm film. The first is a series of air-to-air medium close-up shots of a Miles Master II in RAF roundels and camouflage; this must have been taken about 1942 and just the sort of material we are seeking. The Kodak return carton had an additional label stating 'Miles Aircraft Ltd; News Reel No. 68' but no place or date. So where are News Reels 1-68? The carton also has a Kodak 'process before' date of 1946. The machine has the identification number DL194 on the ; I have written to the Miles Association . The second reel is a colour film of a wind tunnel but no identification or date, possibly the windtunnel at . These reels had 35 years and had never seen them projected !

My appeal for information on members' videos has met with a minimal response. We were loaned four VHS camera cassettes extracts from these may be suitable for our Museum video; we have yet to see others from his collection. We are still without any prewar film of aircraft or related activities in Berkshire.

Following the film show in January Harry Fraser-Mitchell requested the loan of the Halton film. He has now had a video copy made which has been shown at the AGM of the Handley-Page Society.

Later as a result of contacts made by a museum member during a visit to Scotland we received a request from Ian Foster, Secretary of the Handley-Page 57 Rescue of Grangemouth for a video copy of this film. I arranged for a Super-VHS master to be made by a lab in Truro plus two VHS copies at their expense and we received a VHS copy for our Archives as a reciprocal gesture. Handley-Page 57 Rescue now plan to run off copies for their members; also they are hoping to have it shown during a local affairs program on a local Scottish T.V. Channel.

I have been making enquiries of several American Aviation Museums concerning a short length of very old 35mm silent film in our Archive. Some replied, some didn't. At first it seemed to be film of a Douglas DWC/0-5 World Cruiser of 1924. (See World Aircraft 1918-1935 - Sampson Low Guides page 219). The American Aviation Society of Santa Ana were the most responsive but could not give a positive identification. The puzzle centred on the very large white numbers on the fuselage; F-82. However, research carried out by Brian Lamb has now satisfied me that this plane is a DT-2B, the forerunner of the DWC/O-5. Seven of these planes were built in Norway in 1922 under the first manufacturing license granted to a foreign country by Douglas. This close-up air-to-air film must be extremely rare footage.

The history of Miles Aircraft Ltd is obviously of major interest to the Museum and like many other concerns some diversification took place. Last year my attention was called to an article in the Miles Magazine of October 1947 titled "Sound Reasoning - Development In Detail" by Robert Russell. This article describes a new and unorthodox system of printing films onto the 16mm gauge to improve the quality of the sound reproduction. The original idea was developed and patented by an employee, Martin Harper and was granted Patent Specification No. 509009 in January 1938. Special equipment consisting of a perforator, printer and projector were designed and manufactured under the personal direction of Mr F.G. Miles who was a keen cinematographer. In my private capacity I purchased a copy of the original patent from the British Library and subsequently I wrote a more detailed article than that published in the Miles Magazine. This article was published in the magazine "Amateur Cine Enthusiast" to which I contribute articles quite frequently. It appeared in the ACE for Spring 1999, Volume 10, No. 1. I assumed that this system had been abandoned at the outbreak of war and that no traces would remain. However a few weeks after publication I received a 'phone call from a Mr R. Corrigan MBKS to say a friend had shown him my article and he had a 50 ft reel of Harper film - it was only black leader but it had the unusual perforations. He kindly supplied me with two six inch lengths. One I have mounted on a card with a copy of my article for display in the Museum when space can be found. The other I have retained for my private collection for use when I give talks to other societies.

Then a great surprise; A few weeks later Reg Corrigan 'phoned again to say that when helping a friend to sort through many reels of film he had acquired from another private collector he had found two rolls of about 2,000 ft total of Harper film complete with pictures and sound track. Obviously this was the find of a lifetime and after consulting Jean I was able to acquire this remarkable footage for our Archive. It is not possible to run it on a normal projector but static inspection reveals that it contains two concert performances by the world acclaimed genius Ignacy Jan Paderewski who died In the USA in 1941. Of course piano music is the most severe test one can apply to any sound reproduction system. An even greater surprise was that the same footage contained Episode 8 of the feature film "The Franchise Affair". This feature film went on general release in 1950 ! Therefore someone was still experimenting with such equipment as had been made as late as 1951-52. Doany ex-employees of Miles Aircraft or Handley-Page remember anything about this? Because the equipment survived the war there now seems to be a sporting chance that it is still 'in hiding' somewhere. Can anyone throw any light on this or if the inventor Martin Harper is still alive.

To conclude this episode, two days before writing this article a long-standing friend of mine from the early days of the original Reading Movie Society presented me with a photocopy of a page from the now extinct Reading Review of September 1947. This has a heading "Revolution In The Cinema" Martin Harper Beats The Americans. This full page article contains many exaggerated claims for the system which could not be justified. However this again provides proof that the system survived the war.

Any additional information will be welcome.