Brian Borthwick (1930-2015)

Brian Borthwick at work

Brian Borthwick died on November 16th, the day by some strange co-incidence I was in the Imperial War Museum viewing one of his first films made for Halas & Batchelor in 1946, Coastal Navigation. He would have been around 16 at the time. You can read his biography here

My memories of Brian are that he was always working away in the background; my parents depended on his skills as a model maker, draftsman, artist, animator and technician. He was someone who enjoyed solving problems as well as initiating ideas.

One summer in the 1960s I was at a loose end and asked if I could help in the studio. No one wanted my help but Brian put me to work sorting and clearing out the photographic lab. He had a way of greeting you with quizzical interest with his head tilted to one side. He was always friendly and enthusiastic and made me welcome as I sorted out old film negatives and re-filed them. At one point I found some old glass plate negatives, I think someone’s personal hobby rather than an H&B production as they were all pornographic… when I explained the problem he said, just file them under miscellaneous!

He was always resourceful and certainly without him so many films would not exist. He was responsible for two of my childhood favorite films, The Owl and the Pussycat and Figurehead 1953. He had a passion for model making and I heard a story that he was so brilliant that the model club he belonged to in the end begged him not to compete any more because he won every prize.

Here is talking about his early experiences and making the Owl and the Pussycat in part of an interview that I made of him at the BFI some years ago with the help of Jez Stewart and Martin Pickles in 2010.

Interview with Brian Borthwick (1930-2015) from Halas & Batchelor at 75 on Vimeo.

Brian Larkin remembered him as the "last of the old men of H&B" and said:

I spoke to Richard Wolff the other day - Richard worked as a rostrum cameraman in the early seventies... Richard said to John [Halas], "You know, I think Brian Borthwick is a genius but does not know it". To which John replied, "Ahhh... but the important thing is, I know it!"

Brian was a gentle, unassuming, and very talented man. It was a privilege to work along side him for almost thirty years.

Roger Mainwood said:

He always struck me as a true gent, and the backbone of many Halas and Batchelor projects

His friend Brian Boot wrote:

Brian was as the article says a warm but retiring man who never blew his own trumpet.

Brian belonged to a couple of London based scale modelling clubs, South London Modelling Club and The Association of London Modellers. The South London Club disbanded a two years ago but the The Association of London Modellers Club is still thriving and it is one of the scale modelling clubs I also belong to.

Our clubs have competitions for members several times a year, usually with a theme such as 'Civil Aircraft 1930- 1960' or 'Film Related Models'. Also all the clubs go to large model shows throughout the Southern Counties during the year. The shows have competitions for 'Best club model'  or 'Best 1:32 scale aircraft'. So if you are very skilful and can use the many arts required to produce a first class exhibit you will succeed in winning trophies and/or medals honouring your skills.

This was Brian's forte and he was very successful at most competitions and he was known well throughout the modelling world which is international.

Brian and planes