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Invasion of England (1909)


Main image of Invasion of England (1909)
35mm, black and white, silent, 316 feet
Production CompanyRosie Film Company

Troops are rushed from London to Hastings for a military exercise.

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On 17th March 1909, a battalion of Guards was experimentally conveyed from London to Hastings in motor cars in about three hours. A report went out quoted by the New York Times a few days before:

"LONDON, March 13. - England will prepare for a new battle of Hastings next Wednesday. This is no military necessity in the expectation of there being actual hostilities, but the scheme is to show how troops may be transported under novel conditions from London and assembled on the sea front at St Leonard's... this movement is devised by the War Office to carry out the idea of conveying troops by automobiles. ..over 500 automobiles have been offered for use by patriotic citizens who will pick up the Grenadier scots and Coldstrema Guards... thence proceeding fifty four miles to Hastings."

The patriotic citizens in this case were principally members of the Automobile Association who picked up the troops and their equipment at the London barracks and ferried them to the coast. The provocative title 'Invasion of England' reflects the invasion paranoia of that year and the efforts of the military to show themselves in a state of preparedness.

Clearly it was a well publicised event. In the film you can see the crowds that have turned out to watch the spectacle along the route. Speed doesn't seem to have been a particular feature of the journey - there is a moment when a heavily laden vehicle labouring up a long hill appears to be in danger of being overtaken by an old countryman with a walking stick. Clearly the novelty of seeing so many motor cars justified for contemporary audiences the very long shots as the cars pass the camera. Several camera crews turned out for this, event including Urban, Walturdaw and Gaumont. This film, released by the Rosie Film Company is the only one that survives.

Bryony Dixon

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Video Clips
Complete film (4:41)
A Year in Film: 1909