This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 2732).


START 00:00:00 Monochrome scenes on board HMS Kent with views of the name plate on the quarterdeck, X and Y twin eight-inch gun turrets and the mainmast (from which the White Ensign flies) and a view along the starboard side from the ship's gangway in its stowed position; another warship (the light cruiser HMS Cardiff) can be seen in line ahead. Views of the foc'sle showing the bow jackstaff, the two anchor chains and capstans, a Chinese crew member and off-duty (?) RN ratings resting on deck. An interior shot of the wheelhouse, where an officer keeps watch over the helmsman, and an exterior view filmed from the bridge of the foc'sle with aerial recognition markings - a large Union Jack painted on the roof of A turret and the ship's initials 'KE' painted on B turret - clearly visible. A clear view of the 4,000-ton C Class light cruiser HMS Cardiff on HMS Kent's starboard side.

00:01:27 Scenes ashore at Wei-Hai-Wei, a British enclave in mainland China, showing three rickshaw runners pulling three Britishers along a dirt road, a rickshaw boy named Ah Yu (Blundell's personal driver). Views of the local club for British expatriates.

00:01:57 Scenes on board HMS Kent showing the bow anchors being raised and mud on the starboard anchor being hosed down by a Petty Officer with a water hose and the small motor dinghy (known as the 'skimming dish') being lifted on board. Views filmed on 17 June 1939 from the aft control position showing the wash created by the cruiser as she steams at top speed during full power trials (the letters 'KE' can be seen painted on the roof of X turret) and from the quarterdeck, where the cameraman leans over the starboard rails to include the admiral's sternwalk in the shot. Shots of the depth charge rail at the stern of HMS Kent on the port side - the depth charges are seen minus their hydrostatic fuses - and naval ratings grouped around the rail as they receive instruction from Chief Torpedo Gunner's Mate 'Daisy' Bell (in the centre) whilst HMS Kent is moored in an anchorage. Shots showing two depth charges being rolled down the rail over the side and producing underwater explosions astern of the ship while it is moving at speed.

00:04:01 Clandestinely shot scenes filmed through a porthole on board HMS Kent at HMS Tamar, Hong Kong's naval dockyard, showing Admiral Percy Noble, Commander-in-Chief, China Station, and a British Army officer bidding farewell to three Japanese army officers and their senior British Army escort at the end of their courtesy visit; the old nineteenth century vessel with the white hull is HMS Tamar. A view of the Royal Navy river gunboat HMS Ladybird and a Royal Navy sentry on duty in the foreground.

00:04:32 A view of a large building overlooking the Straits of Johore as HMS Kent steams towards Singapore naval base on 20 June 1939. A shot from the aft control position as ratings spread the canvas awning over Y turret and the quarterdeck before arriving at Singapore naval docks; a Union Jack is clearly visible on the awning. Wearing tropical whites, Admiral Sir James Somerville, Commander-in-Chief East Indies Station, walks up the gangway onto HMS Kent, where captain and a party of naval ratings is ready to receive him.

00:05:26 Scenes on board HMS Kent at sea off Singapore during naval exercises on 21 June 1939: a live high-angle firing exercise with the port Mk XVI 4-inch high-angle/low-angle gun battery and Kent's sistership, HMS Berwick, and the submarine depot ship HMS Medway. A view of HMS Berwick on Kent's starboard quarter shows the large boxlike seaplane hangar astern of the three funnels; there is smoke visible as HMS Berwick's starboard 4-inch gun battery opens fire. Kent's Vickers Supermarine Walrus seaplane is seen being launched twice from its steam-driven catapult, the second time under the supervision of the flying officer in the aft searchlight platform. The seaplane is retrieved from the sea and hoisted on board by the cruiser's starboard lifting crane - note the crew of the safety boat ready to be lowered into the sea at a moment's notice in case of an accident.

00:08:50 Scenes showing Siamese and Royal Navy officers (?) seated on the quarterdeck of the Siamese royal yacht (?) and a framed portrait of the young King of Siam, Ananda Mahidol Rama VIII (1935-1946), on board. A view of the starboard side of HMS Kent, with the Walrus seaplane on its catapult and the quarterdeck awning clearly visible. Views of the large two storey wooden house and attached garden where Lieutenant-Commander Blundell stayed whilst in Bangkok and a water buffalo grazing in the grounds. Brief glimpses of Bangkok - the Chao Phraya river with small river craft and two freighters in mid-stream, two bicycle rickshaws heading across a modern steel cantilever road bridge and people flying kites in Sanamluang park whose skyline is lined by Buddhist pagodas.

00:10:44 Scenes filmed on 24 - 25 June 1939 featuring the Ma-on-Shan, a type of two-masted yacht known as a wishbone ketch and owned by Blundell's friend, RAF Squadron Leader Geoffrey Francis, being rowed ashore from the Ma-on-Shan in a small dinghy with three men and their wives/girlfriends, on the jetty at Seletar yacht club, sailing past Chinese junk and a Short Sunderland flying boat in the Straits of Johore, relaxing on board the yacht and leaving it on board a small motor dinghy. Views of a palace owned by the Sultan of Johore and a sleeping rickshaw driver (almost hidden by the shadow of the tree he is resting under). Shots showing two British men in the grounds of a pineapple canning factory owned by a friend of Blundell called Bill Johnson, Malay workmen excavating the foundations for a building and removing soil in baskets and a modern factory shed and office building.

00:13:30 Scenes filmed on 26 June 1939 showing an Admiralty tug, HMT St Just, towing HMS Kent out of Singapore naval base and the ship's Royal Marine band playing under the awning on the quarterdeck. Views of the French cruiser Lamotte Picquet (whose decks are entirely screened by tropical canvas awnings) and several Short Sunderland flying boats belonging to Royal Air Force 230 Squadron at their moorings at Seletar as HMS Kent slowly steams through the Straits of Johore between Singapore and the mainland of Malaya. One Sunderland piloted by Squadron Leader Francis is seen setting down on the water, taxiing past HMS Kent and taking off.

00:15:12 Views of the town of Sandakan, centre of the commercial timber industry in North Borneo, as HMS Kent enters the anchorage there; also present is HMS Falmouth, the yacht of the C-in-C East Indies Station. View of the tall sandstone (?) cliffs overlooking the bay at Sandakan. Scenes filmed during an anti-gas warfare exercise on HMS Kent showing a rating holding a gas float in his right hand, Chinese crewman leaving the ship down the ship's gangway and on board one of HMS Kent's motor launches and gas floats emitting gas vapour some distance from the ship.

00:17:10 Colour footage on board HMS Kent showing ratings scrubbing and hosing down the quarterdeck and cleaning the crosstrees on the foremast.

END 00:18:12

Silent 8mm black and white and colour footage shot by Lieutenant-Commander George C Blundell on board the 10,000-ton County Class cruiser HMS Kent as it calls in on Wei-Hai-Wei, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and Borneo in early 1939.


Remarks: on the whole, technically competent camerawork. In the round, a fascinating record both of life on board a County Class cruiser and of a chapter in British naval and imperial history that came to an abrupt end with Japan's entry in the Second World War in December 1941.

Summary: with the rank of Lieutenant-Commander, George Blundell (1904-1997) served on board HMS Kent as a torpedo and electrical specialist from December 1937 to January 1941. As HMS Kent was not armed with torpedoes, he was put in charge of the depth charge party and the ship's anchors as well as serving as the China Station's fleet torpedo officer until the end of 1939. Wei-Hei-Wei, a British administered enclave on the Shantung peninsula until 1930, remained the China Station's summer anchorage until August 1939 when, according to Blundell's own diary, the Royal Navy base was closed down. HMS Kent was a County Class cruiser, launched in March 1926 and commissioned in June 1928. Her first ten years of service were spent in the Far East with the 5th Cruiser Squadron, returning to the UK for part reconstruction in 1938. In early 1939 she returned to the Far East and remained in tropical waters until August 1940, when she joined the Mediterranean Fleet in Alexandria. After being badly damaged by an Italian torpedo (see MGH 2740), HMS Kent spent more than one year in dock for repairs and was then assigned to the Home Fleet. In January 1945, after three years of duty in northern waters, she was paid off into reserve and scrapped in 1948. Her commanding officer from 7 April 1938 to 12 September 1939 was Captain Leslie Haliburton Ashmore. With a war raging throughout China between the Nationalist Chinese and the Japanese, the aerial recognition Union Jack and the ship's initials displayed prominently on 'A' and 'B' turrets were placed there to warn off Japanese and Chinese Nationalist pilots. HMS Cardiff left the China Station for the UK in April 1939 so it is possible to assign some of this footage to the January-March 1939 period. Beginning in June 1938, 230 Squadron was the first RAF unit to operate the Short Sunderland flying boat. The wishbone ketch Ma-on-Shan was built to a design by yacht designer H S Rouse at the Whampoa Yard in Hong Kong in 1938. Geoffrey Francis planned to sail Ma-On-Shan back to England but he got no further than Singapore before the war intervened. In February 1942, she was scuttled to avoid capture by the Japanese. Her much more famous sister, Tai-mo-Shan (originally owned by Geoffrey Francis's brother Philip), still sails and was used in the filming of the Abba musical 'Mamma Mia!' (starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan) in 2007. War losses among the ships seen here: HMS Ladybird, HMS Medway and HMT St Just.




Technical Data

Running Time:
18 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
B&W (part Colour)
218 ft (ca)

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Blundell, George C (Captain)