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Rosie Newman’s Britain at War In Colour DVD

Image of a portrait of amateur film maker Rosie Newman using her Cine Kodak Model K 16mm film camera.

Amateur film maker Rosie Newman using her Cine Kodak Model K 16mm film camera. HU 65393

Winner – Focal International Awards, ‘Best Use of Footage in a Home Entertainment Release’, 2012

Britain at War, filmmaker Rosie Newman’s film of Britain during the Second World War, is one of the most important amateur films in our collection, notable for its content and the fact that it was shot, almost entirely, in colour. This film has interested and intrigued many researchers.  Who was Rosie Newman? How did she manage to film in places considered as ‘off-limits’ to amateur filmmakers? How and where did she show her films?  In order to answer such questions I did some research and discovered a most remarkable filmmaker.

Miss Rosie Newman bought her first 16mm camera in 1928, indulging in the latest amusing hobby of the time. Over the next decade, however, this hobby became a serious pursuit. She filmed all her foreign travels and, encouraged by friends, began showing these films publicly as entertainment and to raise funds for charity.  In recognition of her achievements, in particular for her films of India, she was elected fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.

In 1940 Rosie Newman filmed in and around her home area in London’s Piccadilly, recording the bomb damage and people ‘carry-on’. Using her network of social contacts and undoubtedly equal measures of charm and persistence, she obtained unprecedented access to the Armed Forces – filming troops on manoeuvres, Spitfires at RAF Digby, onboard HMS Berkeley on active service, troops departing for France and the return of the wounded.

The first version of Britain at War was completed in 1942 and was shown in venues such as the Dorchester hotel.  The film was always presented with music.  Rosie Newman would sit by the projector and operate a dual turntable gramophone player moving from one record to another – like an early DJ.

The 16mm Kodachrome film was given to the IWM by the filmmaker in the 1970’s, but unfortunately her records were not acquired at the same time. Although my research revealed some information about her choice of music, there was not enough detail to fully understand how the film was presented.

In 2010, the IWM was extremely fortunate to be offered a large number of Rosie Newman’s original 78rpm records.  Although these records were in very poor condition (having spent several decades in a garden shed with a family of mice), we were able to produce digital copies.

The production of the recent DVD gave us a wonderful opportunity to use these digital copies. Working with Strike Force Entertainment and using my research notes as a guide, we created a new version of the original music. This music track was combined with the film to produce Rosie Newman’s Britain at War In Colour. So now after several decades you can see and hear this remarkable film – as the filmmaker intended.

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  1. P W J Bishop says: August 20, 20128:01 pm

    I have just recieved the IWM DVD, including Rosie Newman’s booklet which arrived by return. I had always wondered how she obtained acess to the many secret places, let alone permission to film, but all is clear at last. Thank you for including the repro booklet, which must be scarce now.

    I met Miss Newman, with her Rolls-Royce and Chauffeur, shooting in Scotland about 1970. The car used to go back to the house at lunchtime, with the morning “bag” and return with lunch which cook had been preparing since breakfast..

    Miss Newman was a very modest lady and though my parents knew, I had no idea who she was, let alone what she had accomplished in the past.

  2. Jane Fish says: August 28, 20123:14 pm

    Thank you – it is good to know that the DVD answered some of your questions. Unfortunately I never had the chance to meet Miss Rosie Newman, however my research has revealed her as a most remarkable woman who was quite modest about her achievements.

  3. P W J Bishop says: October 30, 201211:05 pm

    Sorry, I had not noticed your answer until this evening – I thought I might get en email!

    There is a tantalising glimpse of “The Flying Scotsman “passing at 80mph”. Pre-War colour film of trains (and everything else) is scarce, of course., but Kodachrome has lasted so much better than the others; the LNER Apple Green comes across correctly, for instance..

    Is it possible to go through Miss Newman’s other film, which was not included in the DVD? I am particularly interested in trains, and could make a list which would be of use to the National railway Museum for instance. They have some colour film, but little of this quality.

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