This film is held by the BFI (ID: 13187).


The visit of Winston Churchill to Jamaica in January 1953.

The film opens with the arrival of Winston Churchill at Montego Bay airport on Friday 9 January 1953 on board the 'Independence', the personal plane of the President of the United States of America. Churchill is met by the Governor Sir Hugh Foot and Sir Harold Mitchell, at whose house he is staying. A 'smart array' of Police constables forms a guard of honour and Churchill begins his inspection in his 'own inimitable way'. Churchill next meets W. A. Bustamante, who presents him with cigars. Street scenes celebrate Churchill's arrival - in St James' and Montego Bay - while Churchill gives 'his famous V sign' from the car. He receives a civil reception in Kingston on 17 January. The film shows further celebrations - crowd members fainting, the Jamaican battalion performing the guard of honour - before Churchill meets Bobby Jones, the director of the performing Jamaican military band. Mayor Edward Fagan presents Churchill with the key to the city, and then Churchill gives a speech. He next visits the University College of West Indies, unveiling a plaque to mark the opening of a teaching hospital. Finally he visits the 'Spanish town' of St Catherine, where he sees Admiral Rodney's memorial. The commentary concludes that 'by his visit Jamaica's history has been enriched, her popularity increased and her prestige enhanced'.



Churchill Visits Jamaica was produced by Martin Rennalls, the head of the recently established Jamaica Film Unit, and his two assistants, Milton Weller and Trevor Welsh, all of whom had received their training from two members of the Colonial Film Unit – R. W. Harris and G. Evans – as part of the first West Indies Film Training School in 1950 (Colonial Cinema, September 1950, 66). Rennalls explained in an article in Colonial Cinema that in October 1951 ‘a branch of the Education Department was established for the proper integration of the services of Film Production, Projection and Library Services’, with the Film branch becoming a permanent unit in April 1953 (Colonial Cinema, March 1953, 15). The unit often used the Colonial Film Unit in England to process the films and to carry out the synchronisation of sound and visuals. The sound itself was often, as in this case, recorded at Radio Jamaica’s studios, although a subsequent report on the film Together We Build concluded that ‘this is manifestly not the perfect place for the complexities of co-ordinating and laying a sound track’ (Daily Gleaner, 5 October 1953, 7 and 28 December 1953, 14).

Churchill Visits Jamaica was first previewed at the Unit’s headquarters at 5 South Race Course on Friday 3 July 1953 before the Mayor, Mr Edward Fagan, who also features in the film. The Mayor said he was ‘pleased with what he had seen and requested that the film be shown at Bournemouth, Bath and throughout the island’. The Mayor also promised to speak to the Chief Minister about a number of issues, including the acquisition of new technical equipment and the provision of a theatre specifically for public showings of the organisation’s films (Daily Gleaner, 6 July, 1953).

Churchill Visits Jamaica was screened at Shortwood College as part of the annual retreat of the Women Teachers Federation on 20 July, ‘presented by Messrs. Rennalls and Powell’ and then played at The Garrison Theatre on 24 July, as part of a show arranged by a local scout association, which included the screening of the ‘1st Caribbean Boys Scouts Jamboree’. The report outlined the film’s contents and explained that ‘it is hoped that many persons will avail themselves of this the first opportunity when the film will be shown to the general public’ (Daily Gleaner, 31 July 1953, 10 and 24 July 1953, 11). The footage of Churchill in Jamaica was also shown under the collective title ‘Jamaica Magazine No. 3’ in the Old library at the University College of the West Indies on 5 August. The screening was attended by the Governor Sir Hugh Foot and W. A. Bustamante, the Chief Minister, both of whom appear within the film. The Daily Gleanerfurther explained that the show ‘was attended by a representative crowd, consisting chiefly of staff members and undergraduates of the University College’ (Daily Gleaner, 7 August 1953, 14).

Although Churchill frequently holidayed in Jamaica, Cabinet papers reveal that he was strongly opposed to the immigration of Jamaicans to Britain during this period. Churchill’s Government asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1954 to produce a report on ways of stopping black people getting jobs in the Civil Service, and Churchill told Sir Ian Gilmour in the same year that ‘immigration is the most important subject facing this country’ (The Times, 2 January 1985, 4 and 20 March 1978, 16). In 1954 Churchill also told Sir Hugh Foot, the Governor of Jamaica, that he feared Jamaican immigration would produce a ‘magpie society, and that would never do’, while Harold Macmillan recalled Churchill suggesting ‘Keep Britain White’ as a slogan for the forthcoming 1955 election campaign (James, 2004, 370).



Martin Rennells wrote in March 1953 that the policy of the newly formed Jamaica Film Unit was ‘to produce films for Jamaicans, by Jamaicans, with Jamaicans, designed to assist in the solution of Jamaica’s problems – educational, social, cultural, and economical’ (Colonial Cinema, March 1953, 16). The establishment of the Unit may indicate a move towards self-representation and autonomy within Jamaica, yet Churchill Visits Jamaica would appear to offer a very traditional image of Jamaica and its relationship to the Empire.

This relationship is best explained in terms of the spectatorial structure of the film. The film follows Churchill throughout and is comprised of a series of crowd scenes – at the airport, at St James’, in Kingston, and finally at St Catherine’s – in which Churchill is framed centrally, watched by thousands of spectators. This creates a clear relationship between leader and public, and the commentary – ‘spontaneous cheers’, ‘even the trees were already crowded with eager spectators’, ‘cheers and shouts of welcome reached a deafening roar’ – suggests a homogeneous group, unified in their support of Churchill and thus the Empire.

The image of Empire projected through Churchill is a traditional one – pastoral, ceremonial and military – repeatedly showing military inspections and band marches. The visit is aggrandised through the specificity of the details within the commentary – ‘at precisely five minutes to five o’ clock’, ‘then at 12.37’, ‘at fourteen minutes past two’ – while the film’s final lines further emphasise the importance and centrality of Churchill within Jamaica: ‘by his visit Jamaica’s history has been enriched, her popularity increased and her prestige enhanced’. The position of Jamaica within the Empire and Commonwealth is also reiterated through Churchill’s recorded speech, as he offers his ‘warmest good wishes for the economic and political progress of the island with the Great British Empire and Commonwealth’.

This emphasis on Jamaica’s role within the British Empire sits uncomfortably with Churchill’s objections to West Indian immigration to Britain at this time, which challenge the notion of a common British nationality and united Empire. Although Churchill Visits Jamaica was produced by a newly formed Jamaica Film Unit less than a decade before independence, by its content and structure, the film appears to endorse a traditional relationship between Jamaica and Britain with Britain in pride of place.

Tom Rice (June 2008)


Works Cited

Bradley, Ian, ‘Why Churchill's plan to limit immigration was shelved’, The Times, 20 March 1978, 16.

‘The West Indies Film Training School’, Colonial Cinema, September 1950, 66-69.

‘Jamboree Film Show Tonight’, Daily Gleaner, 24 July 1953, 11.

‘Jamaican Films for UCWI Preview’, Daily Gleaner, 31 July 1953, 3.

‘Women Teachers Hold Retreat at Shortwood’, Daily Gleaner, 31 July, 10.

‘Film Show at UCWI’, Daily Gleaner, 7 August 1953, 14.

‘Colour Film of UC for Early Showing’, Daily Gleaner, 5 October 1953.

‘”Together We Build” Gets Second Preview’, Daily Gleaner, 28 December 1953.

James, Winston, ‘The Black Experience in the Twentieth Century’, in Philip D. Morgan and Sean Hawkins eds., Black Experience and the Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Rennalls, M.A., ‘Visual Education in Jamaica’, Colonial Cinema, March 1953, 15-19.

Sellers, W., ‘Film Production in the West Indies’, Colonial Cinema, December 1951, 91-93.

Walker, David, ‘Cabinet papers of 1954:1 Churchill sought ways of keeping blacks out of Civil Service’, The Times, 2 January 1985, 4. 




Technical Data

Running Time:
12 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
16mm Film
453 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Great Britain
Production Company
Jamaica Film Unit





Production Organisations