The Beavers Break Through

On a Saturday in November 1962 a band of intrepid explorers climbed up the steep side of Mendip's Burrington Coombe in order to explore two caves - Goatchurch Cavern and East Twin Swallet. They were not regular cavers nor were they foolhardy novices: this party was from Bristol Cine Society. They were accompanied by an expert caver to act as guide, Dave Newman. This was a reconnaissance for a future film. Not one actually got stuck, though two of the larger members of the party were unable to get through a narrow slit in Goatchurch. They were in search of locations for the next Scout film, written by Philip Grosset and which contained a caving sequence.

The year 1962 went out under a thick blanket of snow which began falling on the evening or Boxing Day. The worst blizzards for many years followed and the temperature dropped to something like Siberian figures, The BCS New Year party was, like a lot of other things, postponed and later cancelled because the great freeze brought power cuts, black outs and lowered gas pressures in its train. The unit's report understated the matter when it said that "inclement weather during January and most of February made it impossible to reach the Mendip location". The thaw came, mercifully, in March and operations then began.

A portable generator was hauled to the mouth of Goatchurch Cavern, and lighting cables were sent down some 50 feet, almost vertically. A test film on 8 mm was shot and the caving sequence was filmed in March. Walter Webber arrived early at Burrington Coombe with the equipment - in pouring rain. The first shot was ready to be taken in mid-morning. Then the lighting failed due to carburettor trouble on the generator. Repairs were put in hand but the engine still proved to be faulty; and the rain continued. By 4.30 p.m. the party returned dejectedly to Bristol.

A week later they went back to the scene of their previous troubles and had a successful day’s filming. The camp sequence was shot at Compton Dando in mid June; and the famous portable generator was whistled up, hopefully, for the camp fire shots. It worked. The title of the film at this stage was Breakthrough.

Filming was finished and an edited version was approved by the sponsors - the Boy Scout Association. The Scouts had provided 3000 feet of 16 mm colour stock and £200 to cover other expenses. They obviously had faith in the skill of BCS. At this stage the title was changed to The Beavers Break Through.

Votes of thanks were passed with acclamation for Ron Elson and his B & H 70 DL; Fred Lorenz and his Bolex H16; the Saltford Scouts, Scoutmasters C.Harrison and David King; the Mendip Cafe for provided sustenance and hot water; and Dick Byles for stills in the cave.


Made for the Boy Scout Association

Written and Directed by Philip Grosset

Camera Ron Elson

Lighting Walter Webber

Titles C.H.Harrison and Peter Harrison

Assistant Director Fred Lorenz (who also directed part of the cave sequence)

Before the year ended Beavers was screened to the club. Out of 67 votes, 65 thought Beavers was good or very good. Contradictory remarks, as usual appeared on the comment slips. This film was awarded the 21st Trophy at the 1963 Scottish Amateur Film Festival with Ken Annakin (Longest Day) as adjudicator.

The film was distributed by the Scouts to no less than 16 countries outside Europe.