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Army Life - Mounted Infantry (1900)


Main image of Army Life - Mounted Infantry (1900)
35mm, black and white, silent, 39 feet (surviving fragment)
DirectorR.W. Paul
Production CompanyPaul's Animatograph Works

Mounted troops of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment are seen riding over a plain.

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This single shot of mounted infantry (thought to be the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment) is all that appears to remain of one of R.W. Paul's most ambitious projects. Had it survived in a more complete form, contemporary accounts suggest that it would undoubtedly be considered one of the most important precursors of the modern documentary.

According to the film historian John Barnes, Army Life, or How Soldiers Are Made would originally have run for some two hours, and was intended to be accompanied either by an explanatory lecture or by text-based slides that Paul's Animatographe machine was also equipped to project. The accompanying publicity stressed the co-operation of Sir Evelyn Wood, then the Army's Adjutant-General. Barnes quotes the newspaper The Era (13 October 1900):

From these pictures one obtains a thorough insight into the methods employed in converting the raw recruit into a smart soldier. Information concerning such an important branch of our national defence, and conveyed in so interesting a form, cannot but be of supreme interest at the present time, when a General Election has been contested on the South African War question. As to the excellence of the pictures shown by Mr Paul at the Agricultural Hall there can be no difference of opinion. The films are remarkably clear, the vividness of the military scenes depicted being a distinctive feature of the exhibition.

The film was shown in two parts. The first covered the process from recruitment to initial training, and contained five sections: 'Joining the Army', 'Training at the Regimental Depot', 'Camp Life at Aldershot', 'Army Gymnastics at the Central Gymnasium, Aldershot' and 'The Comissionaire Corps'. The second part explored the various different branches of the army, and included 'Training of Cavalry at Canterbury', 'Royal Army Medical Corps', 'Royal Horse Artillery at Woolwich', 'Army Service Corps', 'Garrison Artillery', 'Infantry' and 'Royal Engineers'. The surviving fragment comes from the opening of the 'Infantry' section.

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'R.W. Paul: The Collected Films 1895-1908', with music by Stephen Horne and optional commentary by Ian Christie.

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Video Clips
Surviving fragment (0:27)
Paul's Animatograph Works: Longer Actualities