Sounds of War Combat SFX Archive

When Tomahawk Films acquired a pile of original tins of German Combat Newsreels films in the mid-80s, (from a British Intelligence Officer that actually liberated them from a Gestapo HQ in Hanover towards war’s end), we researched our find and eventually turned the footage into our DVD The Combat Newsreels of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

As the producer I was tasked with cleaning up and restoring this batch of superb old 16mm mute film and dubbing on original German musik sound-tracks & combat SFX to bring these exciting newsreels alive.

Originally they would have been sent out around Germany to small civilian cinemas, to be shown with often just a piano accompaniment and all of the cans were totally silent; so I travelled up to London to the sound archive, (as it was then), at the UK’s Imperial War Museum, to hopefully purchase a selection of original combat effects, including that of the instantly recognisable Stuka..!

However, having arrived at the archive, I sat expectantly at the table as the cassette, (pre-CD era as it was then), containing the eagerly awaited Stuka effect was duly produced with a flourish and inserted into the cassette-player. The sound archivist proudly stood back to watch my reaction..but with amazement I looked up said; “ that’s not a Stuka effect, that’s a man blowing through a comb & paper!’…”ah, you are right”!, he said somewhat shame-faced, “we haven’t got an original.. nor much of anything else in fact..!”

So returning to the studio empty-handed I began our long hunt for original effects and had to start looking further afield..however it made me realise that, apart from a small BBC sound effects tape that was available back then, (sadly no longer), there was absolutely nothing original for us to immediately get our hands on and it was going to be a long search..!

However, happily my various Film & TV travels then led me to working with original Allied & German aircraft, (directing flying sequences with the US’s Confederate Air Force down in Texas and then working on the ‘Wings of the Luftwaffe’ series here in the UK); plus I also contacted a number of collector-friends that legally-owned original German machine- pistols & assorted still-firing weaponry and so slowly, but surely a whole host of authentic sound effects were recorded & acquired by us.

Around the same time, we also made a very fortunate purchase of two small, but now-defunct sound-archives and as a result Tomahawk Films eventually ended up acquiring even more genuine & exiting war-time sound effects from which we were able to build up our very own Tomahawk Films WW-II Combat Effects Archive. So we now had the effects we needed to dub onto our Combat German Newsreels film..but then a little later on we also started marketing this wonderful, eclectic resource to collectors & enthusiasts as a very comprehensive war-time sound-effects library, firstly on cassette thence on CD
Entitled Sounds of War, this archive has also, over the years, been bought by many professional dubbing studios & archival sound engineers around the world for use on the sound tracks of numerous documentaries & movies, on The Discovery, History and Yesterday channels and and the like and which are are regularly aired on satellite TV today.

Indeed many such combat sound effects that you will hear in the background on television, (often along with the stirring German music sound-tracks) are usually from The Tomahawk Films’ SFX Archive)..and having worked with these incredible effects myself for over 25 years, in both TV & radio, I can often play ‘spot the Tomahawk effect’  myself when they are now incorporated in so much of other producers’ televisual work, (and for which, happily, they have all paid the royalties to so do!!)..

We also had a great endorsement for ‘Sounds of War’ in the shape of a nice comment from a professional weapons expert, Sgt Walla in the Norwegian Army, who was kind enough to say of our effects that: “the quality was superb and the selections spot on..!”

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2012

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