This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: AYY 1170).


START 10:00:03 Views of dry savannah country in Kenya where two giraffes are seen roaming. Five white hunters turn up in a pick-up truck and pose with their weapons - mainly SMLE Mk III rifles - but one of the men, a professional game hunter, has a proper hunting rifle. They head cautiously through the spiky undergrowth in search of prey. The professional hunter fires a round with his high-powered hunting rifle to bring his prey down. He has killed an impala with a single shot to the skull. Three Masai guides join the hunters in examining the impala, whose entrails are fed to a dog. The dead animal is carried off by two white hunters and one of the Masai guides.

10:02:19 The African manservant brought along by the white hunters has lit a camp fire to boil a kettle of water for tea. He washes his hands in a nearby stream and from boxes of food brought by the hunting expedition uses a frying pan to fry butter scooped out of a tin and bully beef. The manservant unwraps a bunch of bananas. Sergeant Wernham in uniform poses for the camera while eating a sandwich. The five white hunters sit under the shade of a tree drinking mugs of tea poured from the kettle, eating sausages and spreading butter onto bread. Tea is poured into a mug followed by condensed milk from a tin. The Masai guides sit out in the open nearby. The skin of a freshly-killed cheetah is stretched out to dry.

10:04:38 People converge on Nairobi Gardens where a fete is being held, possibly on United Nations' Day, 14 June 1945. Supervised by African policemen on traffic duty, members of the European settler community leave their vehicles in a tree-lined car park where shade offers protection from the sun. Visitors to the fete are a multi-racial mix of Indians (notably Sikhs), European settlers, members of the British armed forces (including a Royal Navy shore leave party up from Mombasa) and Kenyan Africans. Signs such as 'Beer Garden', 'Prize Stall', 'The Theatre' and 'Fortune Teller' highlight the occasion's English Home Counties character. The sideshow attractions include a game called 'Corporal Punish Ment' (sic), in which the object is to hurl hard objects at a wooden ledge upon which a human dummy is seated, so causing it to dangle by its neck at the end of a rope like the victim of a hanging when the ledge is dislodged. Four young Sikh boys stare seriously at the camera. Two young European men dressed in Greek and Yugoslav (?) costumes make their way through the multi-racial crowd. Asian women in saris and carrying infants in their arms stroll past the camera.

10:06:37 A brightly-coloured bunch of flowers. A middle-aged British settler couple in their garden, playing with two of their dogs, a saluki (?) and a white bull terrier. The bull terrier sleeps by the garden shed. Several puppies are seen playing with one another.

10:07:11 Scenes at a railway station (Nanyuki?) filmed from a railway carriage window (?) showing Africans - mainly women, some with babies strapped to their backs or, in one case, carrying a shopping basket - walking past. A young child walks in front of its pregnant mother who balances a load on her head. African girls cross over the road in Nanyuki's African 'location' or township. The camera observes an African woman wearing saffron-coloured robes as the vehicle he is filming begins to move.

10:08:09 Scenes from a pageant at a British school for boys (Prince of Wales School, Nairobi or Duke of York's School, Nanyuki), possibly to celebrate Empire Day on 24 May 1945. Musicians of King's African Rifles Band play on bandstand in the school grounds. Scenes from dramatic tableaux based on key moments in British imperial history such as the story of how Captain John Smith of the Virginia Company was saved from execution by native American tribesmen by Pocohontas, a wounded Highland piper playing the bagpipes at the Battle of Vimeira in 1808 (?), a victorious charge by British troops during the First World War and the heroism of the boy sailor Jack Cornwell who won a posthumous VC for his gallantry during the Battle of Jutland in 1916. It also features shots of the school's Combined Cadet Forces band playing, British boy scouts carrying the flags of the British Dominions (including South Africa), African boy scouts in procession, and the actors who took part in the Pocohontas story leaving the field once the celebrations have ended.

10:10:40 A herd of camels somewhere in Kenya's Northern District makes its way along a road under the watch of a few herdsmen.

10:11:07 A signpost at a road junction at Nanyuki, pointing the way to six towns in the district and a signboard advertising the Silverbeck Hotel, built exactly on the Equator.

10:11:23 Travelling shots from a long passenger train as it crosses a river whose banks are surrounded by lush vegetation. Two African women wearing print dresses at a railway halt. Travelling shots from the train as it passes close to Lake Victoria on the way to Kisumu (?).

10:12:01 A herd of giraffes in savannah grassland; once they become aware of the presence of humans, they run away.

10:12:42 African women pose for the camera outside their home (?), a brick cottage with a thatched roof. A young mother holds her baby.

10:12:57 African Storks in grassland near Nanyuki (?); they are seen landing and, as they become aware of the presence of humans, making short flights to get further away.

10:13:35 The sign board for Nanyuki railway station. Scenes in Nanyuki's African 'location' showing the 'Township Store' and more stores on the other side of a broad avenue; the sun has forced most people to stay indoors or in the shade.

10:14:22 Views of a low round 'beehive' hut with a thatched roof - a typical dwelling in much of sub-Saharan Africa - and of a dried-up river bed during the dry season, over which several Africans can be seen crossing. A dust-covered civilian US-manufactured saloon car crosses the dried up river. Lush green tropical vegetation. An African in his fifties (?), wearing a hat, a shirt and shorts, uses his walking stick to scale a slope; he greets the cameraman as he passes by with a few words and a smile.

END 10:16:10

Game hunting in Kenya. Festivities in the capital, Nairobi. On safari.


Summary: John Wernham recorded audio commentary over this film on 14 May 1992, DVD Reel 3 from 1.55 to 12.59.

Remarks: Colourful glimpses of the peoples and landscapes of Kenya at a time when British domination seemed permanent. This material, together with the rest of Wernham's film record of his time in East Africa, constitutes a valuable and possibly unique pictorial record at this time in the region's colonial history.



Although Sergeant Wernham worked largely independently within East Africa, he was asked by General Platt, the Commander-in-Chief of the East Africa Command, to take films of African life. Platt thought that the African soldiers were ‘lonely’ and, it appears, sought pictures of East Africa to exhibit to ‘homesick’ troops serving in South-East Asia. Wernham travelled for three months with Captain Crittenden – who had originally come to Africa as a missionary – and Lieutenant Horne. Wernham explained that ‘we had to go out on safari and take pictures of the family life’, yet there is no evidence of the films being publicly exhibited, although it is possible, as Wernham suggests, that they were shown at army camps within Nairobi (Wernham audio commentary).

The footage was filmed in colour, which was unusual for army material. Kay Gladstone noted that ‘colour film was never considered a practical alternative to black and white film’. ‘The major consideration’, he argued, ‘was that newsreels and documentaries were made in black and white, primarily for cinemas equipped with 35mm projectors’. Yet, Wernham seemed unconcerned about the potential exhibition of his 16mm films, and also filmed in colour during a trip to Madagascar. He acknowledged though that the supply of colour film was ‘very limited’ as the small quantities of Kodachrome imported from America were largely reserved for scientific research and training purposes. He also experienced difficulties with the completed films, ultimately sending the safari material to London for processing (Gladstone, 2002, 328).

Colour Scenes in Kenya covers a range of events, people and areas within East Africa. As well as scenes of local life, the film contains two sequences depicting a fete and pageant. The exact purpose of both the fete – at what Wernham describes as a ‘sort of Hyde Park of Nairobi’ – and the pageant are unclear. The school pageant may have been filmed at the Prince of Wales School in Nairobi, which held a large Empire Day Parade each year. The school magazine for 1945 explained that ‘the usual Empire Day Parade was held on May 24th, when H.E. the Governor, Sir Philip Mitchell, inspected the Guard of Honour, and afterwards addressed the large gathering of boys and parents. The Rt. Reverend the Bishop of Mombasa conducted the usual open-air service’ (Impala Magazine, December 1945).

The filmed pageant includes not only European schoolchildren and members of the Combined Cadet Force, but also the band of the King’s African Rifles and African boy scouts. The scout movement in East Africa was largely organised through the colonial schooling system and by 1936 there were an estimated 122 African scout groups within the colony. This figure would diminish – in part because of a lack of manpower – during the war, with ‘only a handful of African boys’ having the opportunity or resources to join the scouts. Timothy Parsons suggested that ‘individual troops remained tightly segregated (reflecting racial divisions in the colonial school system)’ and as a result, many East Africans formed their own independent unauthorised scout movements (Parsons, 2004, 142). There were, however, examples of prominent African scout groups, most notably the 6th Nairobi Troop at Kenya’s Alliance High School, which won an inter-racial competition in 1941 and partook in displays at Government House and for Armistice Day (Parsons, 2004, 113).

The film illustrates the multiracial nature of Nairobi at a moment of enormous upheaval within the city. The population of Nairobi increased by over 50% during the war to 66,000 in 1945 and then to 77,000 in 1947 (Jackson, 2006, 2000, Clough, 1998, 89). Yet, there were few social amenities in place for Africans, and living and housing conditions were often appalling. A survey in 1946 noted that the minimum wage was inadequate for a family to support itself in Nairobi, while a vast influx of men from rural areas – including ex-askari, and squatters from the highlands – brought what Frank Furedi described as, a ‘bitter popular resentment against the colonial authorities’ (Lewis, 2000, 288, Furedi, 1973, 281). 



Colour Scenes in Kenya provides colour footage of local life in East Africa, showing scenes of drought, of housing and of rail transport. It also though features footage of European recreation, most notably in the opening safari sequences. These sequences affirm an established racial structure, as the Masai guides prepare meals for the Europeans and then sit away from the group. Elsewhere, the film appears to show racial groups together within Nairobi. The film does not however show a multi-racial community, but rather the separate racial groups within the city. Furthermore it presents these non-European groups not in their own cultural environment, but at distinctly British forms of recreation.

First, Wernham shows Europeans, Africans and Indians enjoying that quintessentially British form of entertainment, the fete, complete with a fortune-teller, games and prize stalls. The film thus demonstrates a continuing attempt to position local groups within a European framework. It does not represent a confluence of these disparate groups – indeed Sergeant Wernham noted his complete lack of interaction with the local Africans – but rather shows these groups co-existing on European terms. This is apparent within many of John Wernham’s films. For example, Kenya’s Contribution to the Allied War Effort shows Africans and Europeans attending a military pageant, which again includes fairground games, organised by a European woman.

This colonial ideal of co-existence on British terms is later evident at the school pageant, at which Africans, specifically soldiers and boy scouts, join a traditional British celebration of the Empire, involving flags and historical recreations. Although Timothy Parsons noted the ‘racial segregation within Kenyan scouting’, the boy scouts serve again as an example of British ideals imparted to the Africans. They represent, along with the soldiers, the perceived ‘development’, in terms of discipline and character, of ‘the African’ by the British. However, these images also appear increasingly outdated within the context of a rapidly expanding post-war Nairobi. While Nairobi experienced the growth of an urban underclass, severe housing problems, and increasing anti-colonial sentiment – leading to the emergence of the Mau Mau movement – the incidents depicted on film endorse the primacy of British society, and in turn promote the continued role of the British in the ‘development’ of Nairobi.

Tom Rice (October 2008)


Works Cited

Clough, Marshall S., Mau Mau Memoirs: History, Memory, and Politics (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998).

Furedi, Frank, ‘The African Crowd in Nairobi: Popular Movements and Elite Politics’, The Journal of African History, Vol. 14, No. 2 (1973), 275-290.

Gladstone, Kay, ‘The AFPU - the origins of British Army combat filming during the Second World War’, Film History 14, 3/4 (2002).

Impala Magazine, December 1945.

Jackson, Ashley, The British Empire and the Second World War (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2006).

Lewis, Joanna, Empire State-building: War & Welfare in Kenya, 1925-52 (Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 2000).

Parsons, Timothy, Race, Resistance, and the Boy Scout Movement in British Colonial Africa (Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2004)

John Wernham Audio Commentary accessed from Imperial War Museum.




Technical Data

Running Time:
10 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
403 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Directorate of Public Relations, War Office
Wernham, John (Sergeant)
Production company
Army Film and Photographic Unit