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“[BTF] can be taken as key cinematic expressions of much of the 1950s project of reconciliation: having banked social reform, Britain was now ready for more harmonious pleasures.”
Patrick Russell/James Piers Taylor, Shadows of Progress, BFI Palgrave Macmillan, 2010
Although British Transport Films is best known for train films, the unit’s brief covered all state-sponsored transport; its very first production, Berth 24 (1950) was a study of the workings of assorted dockyards. Six years later, in-house cinematographer James Ritchie gave Link Span similarly evocative black-and-white images, married to a commentary balancing fact with poetic simile (“The passengers test out their sea legs, nosing about the ship like puppies in a new kennel”).
The film examines three cross-channel ferry services: the SS Lord Warden, transporting cars from Dover to Boulogne; the SS Norfolk, carrying freight from Zeebrugge to Harwich (and thence to Covent Garden Market); and finally the ineffably romantic London-to-Paris overnight express by way of Dover and Dunkirk.
Other waterborne BTF productions include Inland Waterways (1950), Ocean Terminal (1952), The Coasts of Clyde (1958), Ferry Load (1960) and Southampton Docks (1964).