Life aboard a sailing barge, 1947

View archive footage of an English sea-going barge in this Pathé newsreel which opens with the commentator saying ‘the tall mast of a ship is an age-old symbol of the romance and poetry, cruelty and bitterness of the sea, which appeals to every boy in Britain . . . ” We see crewmen going about their everyday business aboard a sailing barge just after the second world war. In black and white, the film is titled ‘Red Sails aka Sailing Barge’.

The Thames sailing barges were once common on the East Coast of England, trading the coastal ports and Thames Estuary carrying their heavy loads sometimes stacked high on deck. Their flat-bottomed hulls, with shallow draught and leeboards, were designed to suit the shallow waters and narrow tributary rivers of the Thames Estuary. These large sailing vessels could be handled by just two men with the average size being about 120 tons carrying 4,200 square feet (390 m2) of canvas sail in six working sails.

Created at the beginning of the 20th Century by the Pathé brothers, the newsreel was the world’s first televised news platform. Pioneering the technology and methods of cinema, British Pathé stayed at the forefront of filmed news for decades. Releasing three newsreels a week during that period, British Pathé was the way the people of Britain experienced world events until the advent of television.