This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 2733).


START 00:00:00 Black and white scenes filmed on board a twelve-oared cutter showing the crew 'pulling' hard on each of the seventeen-foot foot long oars during training. Shots showing several types of craft - three twelve-oared cutters, the Chief Petty Officer's six-oared carvel (smooth-hulled) gig and the stokers' clinker-built five-oared whaler - taking part in a practice race in the straits between Hong Kong and Kowloon and passing close to Chinese junks. A naval Lieutenant wearing glasses and smoking a pipe (identified as 'Cd. Gnr. (T) Mr Skinner' in Blundell's notes) is seen standing at the top of HMS Kent's gangway. A 12-oared cutter approaches the ship. Members of a rowing team wearing white singlets with the cross of St George on them head down the gangway. One of the ship's officers at the top of the gangway with a sign 'Regatta HQ' around his neck as other rowers return. A twelve-oared cutter is rowed away from HMS Kent. One of the ship's motor launches tows three cutters to the start of the course.

00:03:39 Scenes on board HMS Kent showing twelve rowers 'pulling' on a rowing exercise machine described as the 'Blundell patent "Dry Puller"' (similar in concept to a modern ergo machine) on board deck at the waist of the ship. Naval ratings lying on the deck painting the hull of 'K1', one of HMS Kent's twelve-oared cutters and applying paint to the carvel hull of the Chief Petty Officer's six-oared gig. Ash oars, with numbers painted onto their blades, lying on deck near a sign which warns the crew not to walk onto them.

00:06:21 Views taken at dawn on the first day of the China Fleet Regatta (20 July 1939) at Wei-Hai-Wei showing a County Class cruiser (probably HMS Cornwall) and the fleet aircraft carrier HMS Eagle shrouded in mist. Several sailors and Royal Marines belonging to a 'chucking up party' (a boat load of supporters) head down the ship's gangway with Kent's chaplain, Reverend Douglas Wanstall, and smile for the camera and wave their football rattles, looking down into the Petty Officer's carvel gig. Scenes on board HMS Kent during the regatta - a big muscular oarsman (identified as Petty Officer Wilson), two men posing for the camera together (one dressed up as a coloured minstrel ?), a deck winch in operation, the crew of a twelve-oar cutter waiting to be lowered into the sea from the starboard side of HMS Kent. One of the heavy cruiser's motor launches heads off towards the start with rowers and supporters on board flying a big St George's flag past other craft. The Royal Marine band playing on HMS Kent's quarterdeck. Sea level views of several twelve-oared cutters racing each other as they pass an Admiralty tug and several warships at anchor, including the fleet carrier HMS Eagle and HMS Cornwall.

00:08:45 Colour scenes filmed on board HMS Kent (20 and 21 July 1939) showing boards with different coloured labels showing the number of different boats and the times of their training sessions in the run-up to the Wei-Hai-Wei Regatta. The crew of the Stokers' five-oared whaler posing for the camera in their white singlets adorned with the cross of St George whilst sitting in their vessel still in its davits and in the water. Another boatload of rowers - the members of the one of Kent's big twelve-oared cutters - sitting in their seats waiting to be lowered into the water. The cutter flying a big St George's flag heads away across the anchorage. Victorious rowers climbs back up the gangway on HMS Kent and the Royal Marine band is seen playing 'See the Conquering Heroes Come'. More crewmen return on board the motor launch sporting the large St George's flag.

00:11:44 Views of HMS Eagle (almost hidden in the sea mist) and the County Class cruiser HMS Dorsetshire. Members of another twelve-oared cutter sitting in their boat and wearing hats, handkerchiefs and towels to ward off the sun waiting to be lowered into the water. Views across the anchorage with large ship's boats carrying 'chucking up' parties from the other warships taking part in the Regatta and looking down onto one of Kent's motor launches with small signal pennants stowed on its roof. A twelve-oar cutter being rowed between HMS Kent and another County Class cruiser in the background and, just alongside, the crew of one of HMS Eagle's twelve-oar cutters, 'E2', being urged to keep up their stroke rate by their helmsman/cox; all the the oarsmen are wearing distinctive striped vests

00:13:32 A close-up of an unidentified officer and shots of HMS Kent's chief gunnery officer, Commander C E Foster-Hall and the skipper, Captain Leslie H Ashmore (on the left in dark glasses) greeting the crew of one of the twelve-oar cutters back from their race. Views of seven officers and two naval ratings on duty in the white canvas and timber-framed 'Judges' Hut' on top of B turret from which a square shaped signals pennant flies; B turret itself is trained on the starboard beam and the flag marking the end of the course is mounted on a bracket on both 8-inch gun barrels. Flags flying from HMS Kent's foremast indicating her total score in the Regatta. A motor launch sets off across the anchorage from the cruiser. The Petty Officer's carvel gig is lifted back on board whilst the ship's crew line the starboard side of HMS Kent to watch the regatta. A view of two cutters rowing against each other in the stretch of water between HMS Kent and HMS Cornwall. Captain Ashmore standing at the top of the gangway greets crewmen returning to HMS Kent after finishing their race. One of the competitors larks about in front of the camera in a Chinese straw hat. A large number of silver cups etc on table before the start of prize-giving ceremony.

00:16:03 A motor launch from HMS Cornwall comes alongside HMS Kent. A blackboard announcing the results of the Regatta; of the the five ships competing, HMS Kent came first with 106 points and HMS Cornwall last with 58 points. Shots showing the various winning crews receiving trophies from the Commander-in-Chief of the China Station, Admiral Sir Percy Noble. The final shot shows Lieutenant-Commander G C Blundell receiving the All-Comers Cup (having trained and stroked the double-banked pinnace crew) from the Admiral.

END 00:18:23

Silent 8mm black and white and colour footage shot by Lieutenant-Commander George C Blundell showing rowing teams on HMS Kent training in Hong Kong for the annual China Fleet Regatta at Wei-Hai-Wei in July 1939 and emerging as overall winners.


Remarks: a competently-filmed and diverting record of an important aspect of life on board a Royal Navy warship in the first half of the twentieth century. In the round, a glimpse into 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-Hai-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 there was closed down. Before becoming C-in-C China Station in 1938, Sir Percy Noble (1880-1955) had a series of senior appointments at sea and on land. On his return to Britain in 1940, Admiral Noble was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches, in Liverpool, a position he held from early 1941 to November 1942. Thereafter, he was the Head of British Naval Delegation in Washington DC and retired from the Royal Navy in 1945. The flag of St George's Cross, originally belonging to Genoa but used on English ships since the 12th Century, is also the rank flag of an Admiral in the Royal Navy. The fact that Admiral Sir Percy Noble chose HMS Kent as his flagship determined the choice of the St George's insignia for the ship's rowing crews. 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. War losses: HMS Dorsetshire and HMS Cornwall were sunk by Japanese aircraft off Sri Lanka (Ceylon) on 5 April 1942. HMS Eagle was torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterranean by a German U-Boat escorting a Malta-bound convoy during Operation 'Pedestal' on 11 August 1942, an event which Blundell actually filmed (see MGH 2745).




Technical Data

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

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Blundell, George C (Captain)