This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: COI 1064).


Short account of the Duke of Edinburgh's visit to the Gambia as part of his four-month world tour, 1956-1957.

Gambia, "one of Britain's oldest connections in Africa, and certainly one of the happiest", prepares to receive a visit from Prince Philip. Soldiers stand to attention; numerous dignitaries, including clergy and (white) judges, wait outside a customs house. Prince Philip arrives, dressed in white and accompanied by other servicemen in tropical uniforms (including RAF officer and a man with a ceremonial sword, possibly an Australian army officer). Motorcade in street; children run past, waving. "It was one gigantic rainbow-coloured picnic". Children and Gambian women in bright clothing sit to watch displays at Bathurst, the seat of government. Prince Philip, "still wearing the beard he grew in the Antarctic" and accompanied by Governor (?) in white ostrich-plumed helmet, greets members of the government and walks across parade ground to podium, shadowed by photographers; commentary applauds the (British-drafted) 1954 constitution which decrees "the participation of many and the subordination of none". Schoolchildren parade past as the Prince salutes. Later, he drives through the Bathurst streets in a Ford Zephyr convertible and past the ornamental gates of the Government building. People throng around him. Banner THE UNITED PARTY WELCOMES YOUR ROYAL HIGHNESS TO THE GAMBIA SARITA DAU. Entertainments include spectacular dance displays. Later, the Prince goes on a trip in a canvas-roofed pleasure boat "M3" up one of the Gambia River's 'crocodile creeks' - he shoots a 14-foot crocodile which is hauled on board and lashed to the foredeck. Black Gambians wave from jetty. Next, Prince Philip visits a native village in the Protectorate (adjacent to the colony itself) and watches traditional crafts: a woman making a bowl, and a man carving a boat from a tree trunk using only an axe. He also observes agriculture, both modern (McCormick tractor) and traditional (hand-made tools), and visits rice fields in a shallow boat, and walks past women picking the rice by hand. They wave him off at his departure. Gambian chiefs attend a reception on the Royal Yacht Britannia. To close his visit Prince Philip, dressed in white with a blue sash, attends the "Protectorate Chief's Conference Assembly Hall" (actually an open-air enclosure) and greets the chiefs one by one and gives a speech (not heard). Commentator praises the Prince and the British Commonwealth as Philip returns to his car.


Summary: the film was made when Gambia was still under British rule; independence did not come until 1960.



The Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to The Gambia in January 1957 came at the conclusion of a four-month world tour. The tour began on 15 October 1956 and was initially organised to allow the Duke to open the Olympic Games in Melbourne in November. He arrived at Bathurst, Gambia on the Royal Yacht Britannia, after a one-day visit to Ascension Island at the end of January 1957. Newspapers reported that he was the first Prince to travel up the Gambia river for more than four centuries and noted that he shot a crocodile – shown within the film – that was subsequently brought back to England. He also inspected agricultural developments in the Bolong region, visited a Mosque and a Baobab tree, which was ‘the reputed resting place of the Sacred Pelican’, and attended the annual Chiefs’ conference at Sankwia (Daily Gleaner, 31 January 1957, 11).

The Times suggested that this conference bore ‘testimony to a steady evolution in local responsibility in one of the smaller and less known British dependencies’ and further argued that ‘the small number of government officers resident in the Protectorate – about a dozen at any one time among a population of 250,000 – leaves little danger of imposing that kind of development which is done for the African instead of with him. What is not sincerely accepted on both sides cannot be accomplished, and that ensures a close and continuous collaboration’ (The Times, 30 January 1957, 9).

On his return to England, the Duke of Edinburgh gave a lecture organised by the Imperial Institute to 2,000 schoolchildren, which was illustrated with films – ‘many of them in colour’ – of his trip (The Times, 4 April 1957, 7). In May he presented his account of the trip on a television show intended for children, which again included footage from Gambia (e.g. images of the crocodile hunt), before an exhibition was presented in June at St James’s Palace (The Times, 18 May 1957, 4).

Prince Philip in the Gambia was reviewed in Film User in December 1957. 



Prince Philip in the Gambia shares much in common with the earlier films of Royal African tours from 1925 and 1947, as it represents and displays ‘traditional’ African life, highlights African loyalty to the British Royal family and emphasises the modern developments introduced by the British. However, the film also now recognises and responds to the changes occurring both within Africa and the Empire.

In many respects then, the film offers a traditional representation of Africa, with ethnographic shots of African activities, displaying ‘colour, laughter, movement and excitement’. Costumed Africans dance and perform to the camera in what the commentator refers to as ‘spontaneous displays by witchdoctors and dancers’. These Africans are represented as contented and happy – the voiceover explains that Gambia is ‘certainly one of the happiest’ places in Africa – and welcome the Prince in their ‘colourful, generous, African way’. The film endorses traditional racial stereotypes, as the commentator asks ‘could there have been a more joyous welcome than in the Gambia? It was one gigantic, rainbow-coloured picnic’.

This representation also ensures that the locals display complete loyalty to the Royal visitors, and by extension, the British. The four thousand ‘delightful’ Gambian children have, the voiceover asserts, never before ‘marched so proudly before so distinguished a visitor’, while the film shows repeated shots from a travelling car of the crowds lining the streets. The commentary also emphasises that Prince Philip serves at the Chiefs’ Conference as a ‘symbol of a larger association of which they are a part’. 

Despite the unity presented of Britain and Africa, the film does present a contrast between the British, aligned with modern developments, and Africa, with its ‘ancient unchanging methods’. This is evident as new methods – represented by a tractor inspected by Prince Philip and other British visitors – are contrasted with the ‘pastoral timeless African landscape’, represented by local women working in the fields and collecting rice ‘in the old primitive way’.

However, this film does recognise the changes occurring within Africa and the Empire. First the commentator refers to the new constitution of 1954, based on ‘recommendations of an all-Gambian committee’, before emphasising that ‘The Gambia is a country of change and experiment’. The shots from the conference – ‘these magnificent stately figures are not just taking part in an empty pageant’ – are intended to indicate the shifts in power within Africa and the moves towards self-government. This is further emphasised by the terminology used. The film does not refer to the British Empire, but instead considers the Duke of Edinburgh’s journey within the ‘scattered British Commonwealth’. The film’s conclusion refers to the ‘small and the great, the white and black, the island and the continent, the hot and the cold’, as the commentary emphasises the ‘marvellous mixture of variety on that ever changing but very real thing, the British Commonwealth’. The film thus seeks to validate the Commonwealth at a moment when the Empire was breaking up – Ghana was the first African country to achieve independence during 1957 – and emphasises the continued role of the British within this changing Africa.

Tom Rice (June 2008)


Works Cited

‘Duke Shoots Thirteen Foot Crocodile’, Daily Gleaner, 31 January 1957, 11.

‘Progress in the Gambia: Duke of Edinburgh at Chiefs’ Conference To-Day’, The Times, 30 January 1957, 9.

‘Duke of Edinburgh Talks to 2,000 Schoolchildren’, The Times, 4 April 1957, 7.

‘Royal Tour In Retrospect: Television Trip with the Duke’, The Times, 18 May 1957, 4. 




Technical Data

Running Time:
8 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
758 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Central Office of Information
Royal Naval School of Photography, member of