Cat no. 226481

British Cinema History Research Project Oral Histories: Peter Birch (sound engineer)

c.1988

Peter Birch [A.F. Birch] (10 October 1900 - ?)

Born in Lewes, Sussex, Birch served in the Royal Army Flying Corps during the First World War, and then in the Merchant Navy until 1925. He worked briefly for the JL Baird television company, and then for Marconi before entering the film industry as a sound engineer at British Instructional Films in Welwyn, working on early sound films such as Anthony Asquith's 'Tell England' (1931). During the 1930s he worked as a sound engineer mainly at Shepherd's Bush, under directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Victor Saville and Walter Forde, and on several of Michael Powell's early films. When Shepherd's Bush closed down Birch moved to Gaumont British News as a dubbing mixer. He served in the RNVR during the war. During the latter part of his career he was a dubbing mixer at GB Instructional at Elstree and later for the BBC on a freelance basis.

In this brief interview with Alan Lawson, Birch talks mainly about the early part of his career. He gives some vivid anecdotes about the working culture at Shepherd's Bush during its heyday and brief thumbnail sketches of the various directors he worked under. He also discusses various different early sound technologies.

(Lawrence Napper, BCHRP)