This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: JFU 259).


At an East African Reinforcement Camp an entertainment unit stages a show for troops of 11th East African Division.

Close-up of poster advertising a show called 'The Boys' decorated with the badges of 2nd Division (crossed keys) and 11th East African Division (a rhinocerous' head) and 14th Army (sword and shield). An African band performing with a British conductor Close-ups of various musicians including a double bassist and a guitarist playing his instrument across his lap. The musicians wear their divisional patch (the rhino) on their shirts. Wide shot showing the audience and the band. Applause. A comedy sketch in which an African soldier, made to look fat and ridiculous with a cushion under his shirt, makes several very enthusiastic attempts to halt a stranger. Audience reactions. The officer in charge of the unit, Captain Jeff Seabrook of Finchley, north London, plays 'Sweet Sue' on a harmonium with close-up. Sergeant House, usually the unit's stage manager and electrician, performs as a 'lightning cartoonist'. He draws a number of lines on a board which quickly turn into an image of Winston Churchill. Close-up of an 'astonished' African soldier applauding and wearing a toothy grin. Banjo and accordion players accompany a tap dancing performance by an African soldier. Captain Seabrook gives an enthusiastic accompaniment on maracas. A female impersonator dances to 'Minnie from Trinidad'. Audience applauding.


The dopesheet states that this unit had given 350 performances in one year and had also toured British and Indian divisions, travelling some 60,500 miles across Ceylon (Sri Lanka), India and Burma.

The 11th East African Division was formed in February 1943 and comprised troops from Kenya, Uganda, Nyasaland (now part of Malawi), Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Rhodesia. The Division's combat debut was in August 1944, relieving the 23rd Indian Division.

More footage of East African troops, shot by a Sergeant John Wernham (of the Army Film and Photo Unit) while attached to East Africa Command, can be found at the references below. See related items.



No 1 East African Entertainment Unit depicts the unit entertaining members of the 11th East African Division in South East Asia. The 11th East African Division had formed in February 1943, and had arrived in Ceylon during the summer of 1943, where it trained until June 1944. The Division – which included fourteen King’s African Rifles Battalions – would make its combat debut two months later, in August 1944, when it relieved the 23rd Indian Division (Jeffreys and Anderson, 2005, 57, 58).

Katrin Bromber suggested that much of the propaganda aimed at East African troops in Ceylon – including a weekly paper entitled ‘HESHIMA’, films, talks, and broadcasts – was initially used to ‘counter inactivity and boredom’, and to ‘secure the individual and collective discipline of the askari’ (Bromber, 1). The East African Entertainment Unit not only entertained African troops, but also toured British and Indian divisions, providing two distinct programmes for East African and British forces. The ‘dope’ sheet (cameraman’s notes) explains that the unit had given 350 performances in a year and had covered 60,500 miles in Ceylon, India and Burma.

The film shows Captain Jeff Seabrook, who was in charge of the unit, conducting the African musicians and later playing a version of ‘Sweet Sue’ on the harmonium. After the war, Seabrook would manage, and arrange the songs for, the enormously popular post-war group, Rhino Boys. It is probable that some of their members feature within this film, as Gerhard Kubik noted that most of the Rhino Boys’ members were ‘recruited into the entertainment unit of the Education Corps of the King’s African Rifles’. The group, Kubik added, ‘comprised musicians from Kenya and Uganda, but it became famous in the whole of East Africa after the war’ (Kubik, 1981, 92). Amongst the musicians performing in South East Asia was the hugely influential guitarist Funde Konde, who joined the King’s African Rifles band in 1944 and who was, according to an obituary in 2000, ‘posted to India to entertain African, Asian and European troops’ (The Guardian, 21 July 2000). The ‘dope’ sheet offers little information on the African musicians, but does note that the double bass was played ‘by a corporal from Uganda’ and was made in the jungle a few miles from Kalewa.

In his study of post-war popular music in East Africa, Gerhard Kubik charts the emergence of new musical styles within East Africa after the War. Although Kubik suggests that the music of the Rhino Boys shows signs of being a ‘foster music’ – ‘the new East African music could not immediately free itself from the control of European teachers and “musical experts”’ – new musical styles and rhythms, most notably Rumba music, became increasingly popular. ‘The military musical forms of the colonial powers no longer made any impression on the young people’, Kubik noted, adding that ‘after the war, musicians who had been trained in brass band instruments went increasingly into dance-music groups where they used the instruments in which they had been trained by Europeans for something quite different’ (Kubik, 1981, 92, 93). 



The film illustrates the work of the East African Entertainment Unit in providing entertainment for East African troops in South East Asia. From its opening shot, advertising ‘an all-black concert’, the unit is promoted as providing entertainment by, and for, Africans. However, not only does the performance contain European personnel – for example Sergeant House drawing the cartoon image of Churchill – it also largely follows the traditions of other British army revues. This is evident in the characters, from the incompetent soldier to the female impersonator, dressed as a Burmese dancer, singing ‘Minnie from Trinidad’. The choice of music here and elsewhere – for example the ‘dope’ sheet indicates that the tap dancing is performed to ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’ – suggests European musical choices, which represent British notions of ‘black’ – rather than specifically African – music.

Indeed, while the film highlights the distinct performing styles of the musicians, the songs performed were arranged and conducted by a European, Captain Seabrook, and usually played from manuscript. Furthermore, while the unit did perform some ‘lively East African songs’, it also performed traditional military marches and a separate programme – including ‘British and American dance tunes’ – for British forces.

Gerhard Kubik hinted at the importance of the Entertainment Unit as a centre for some of the leading post-war African musicians. Indeed, the film may provide footage of these figures, but it also indicates an impending transition in both African music and, more broadly, African political life. Historians have indicated how, in many cases, the experiences of Africans serving overseas fuelled post-war nationalist movements. As an example, Ally Sykes, a renowned guitarist serving with the King’s African Rifles in Burma, argued that that ‘the lessons in the KAR’ – for example in highlighting racial discrimination back home – ‘were so crystal clear’ that he ‘personally came up with the name of TANU [Tanganyika African National Union] and the party emblem of the Green (peace) and Black (the Africans) … while still in Burma’ ( Sykes was an integral figure in Tanganyika’s struggle for independence, but these shifting responses towards colonialism were also reflected in, and inspired by, music. After the war, Kubik suggested that the ‘musical forms of the colonial powers’ lost favour, with those trained by Europeans now using their instruments for new forms of expression. While this film appears to highlight African music and performance still closely tied to colonial discourse and to British performative traditions, for many of the depicted African musicians, they would bring back new musical styles from the War, such as the Rumba, and would use these to shape new national identities. For example, when Kenya achieved independence in 1963, one of the men responsible for producing a new national anthem was George Senoga Zake, who had performed with the unit in Burma during the War.

Tom Rice (October 2008)


Works Cited

‘Ally Sykes’, accessed on 20 November 2008 at

Bromber, Katrin, ‘Do not destroy our honour. War Time Propaganda directed at East African Soldiers in Ceylon (1943-44)’ accessed on 20 November 2008 at

Ewens, Graeme, ‘Obituary: Fundi Konde: A Legend of East African Music’, The Guardian, 21 July 2000.

‘Kenya: Singer Who Angered the Colonialists’, The East African (Nairobi), 7 January 2008.

Jeffreys, Alan and Duncan Anderson, The British Army in the Far East 1941-45 (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2005).

Kubik, Gerhard, ‘Neo-Traditional Popular Music in East Africa Since 1945’, Popular Music, Vol. 1, Folk or Popular? Distinctions, Influences, Continuities (1981), 83-104.             

‘Dope Sheet for JFU 259’, accessed from Imperial War Museum. 



Series Title:

Technical Data

Running Time:
4 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
352 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
War Office Directorate of Public Relations
Heaney (Sergeant)
Production company
SEAC Film Unit