14 mins
Dir: Henry Oceano Martinek
Starring: Percy Moran and Charles Raymond

The intrepid Lt Daring manages to arrange the capture of two foreign spies who have stolen secret plans

Lieutenant Daring (1912-14), like Lieutenant Rose (1910-1915), was an action-adventure series featuring a dashing naval hero, produced by series specialists B&C (British & Colonial). Lieutenant Daring was one of the most successful British series of the silent period, numbering 13 short episodes in total. Both Rose and Daring are naval officers whose job it is to protect the nation from foreign threat, most frequently in the form of spies or anarchists. While many of the films link this threat to concerns about the British Empire, for example Lieutenant Daring Quells a Rebellion (1912) or Lieutenant Rose R.N. and the Boxers (1911), Lieutenant Daring and the Plans of the Minefields concentrates on a threat from Europe, which anticipates the build-up of tension that would soon develop into the First World War. The specifics of the threat in any one episode are usually arbitrary; in this case a French spy steals a vital set of plans, interestingly by drawing them on his female assistant’s body (how risque was that for 1912!). Most of the narrative is devoted to Daring’s pursuit of the woman and the plans. The spies make their getaway by train from London Charing Cross station and there is a good shot of them boarding a SECR 1st Class carriage. As the train pulls out an SECR F1 Class 4-4-0 is revealed with an unidentified 0-4-4T behind. There is a shot of a train passing behind SECR D Class 4-4-0 No.729, the stock for which includes a couple of early Pullmans and an odd little luggage van at the rear, another unidentified 4-4-0 on a train near Folkestone (this time with three Pullmans in the consist) and a scene at Folkestone Harbour station, with the rear end of a coach visible. The complex chase scene continues on the other side of the channel in Boulogne having made extensive and striking use of location shooting. What is most remarkable about this chase is the variety of vehicles it employs: train, motorbike (very rare for the time), horse, car, biplane (in this case an original Bristol Boxkite) and boat, and this all leads to a wonderful historic account of technology that at the time had aesthetic appeal through speed and modernity. The railway footage can be found on Video 125’s Trains from the Arc’ DVD and the footage of the Bristol Boxkite can be viewed on the Bristol Aeroplane Company website.

The spies board a South Eastern & Chatham Railway 1st Class carriage
The historic value of these films far outweighs their entertainment, or even quality, for they show rich details of a bygone age. This is 1912 and London Charing Cross station appears in as built condition. Note the Nestle’s penny-in-the-slot chocolate machine and the four-wheeled coaching stock and luggage vans.
This shot at the end of the platforms shows a number of things. First is that the woman always wore hats that were the size of Bournemouth, and secondly the staff always have a bemused look on their faces when they see ‘crazy film people’ at work. Notice the guard looking at the camera crew and not the road ahead (!) and notice too the gap between the train and the platform, the reason why carriages where built with running boards in those days.
As the train pulls clear of shot we get a glimpse of an SECR Class F1 4-4-0 with big outside springs on the tender and a small 0-4-4 tank loco behind.
Somewhere on the South Eastern main line and a train passes over a small farm crossing. The loco is SECR D Class 4-4-0 No.729.
This rather blurred shot is of another, different train, at the hands of another unidentified 4-4-0. It looks too as though it may have just exited from a tunnel.
This is Folkestone Harbour station and this is my favourite scene. Shots like this really show railways in their social perspective. Everyone of these people is a genuine passenger who has arrived at Folkestone Harbour for a trip across the channel to France. Nothing in this shot has been staged for the camera, it is all truly authentic. Note the winchman in the centre who, having noticed the camera, is now completely at a loss as to what to do. Rather than carry on with his work he has stopped dead and stood back to stare completely mesmerised at the spectacle. The rope around his wrist shows that he is supposed to be tying the carriage up, presumably to a mechanical hawser to assist with shunting. Two years later and the horrors of World War One would be unleashed changing this social spectacle forever.