This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 2736).


START 00:00:00 Agfa 8 1939 logo. Scenes showing Lieutenant-Commander 'Casanova' Coleman (HMS Kent's paymaster) on the left and Petty Officer Desmond Holbrook (as identified by Blundell) holding a pay parade for naval ratings on board HMS Kent; as he approaches to collect his pay, each man removes his cap, collects his money, steps away and replaces his cap. Boy sailors are seen lining up to receive their pay and handing back their savings books for safe keeping once they have received it. One young sailor holds up his Post Office Savings Bank Book to the camera.

00:01:07 Scenes on board ship showing men belonging to an off-duty watch relaxing on deck by playing draughts, dozing in deckchairs (the men in the deckchairs are named by Blundell as 'Schoolie' Edwards, Lieutenant (E) Knocker and Petty Officer Holford), playing darts and lying on the deck sleeping, with only one man, a cook, who is peeling a potato over a bucket, doing anything active. Members of the ship's orchestra playing to an audience of off-duty naval ratings during the 'Dog Watch' (between 1600 and 1800 hours). Others play deck quoits.

00:03:00 Scenes ashore at Wei-Hai-Wei where competitors for the China Fleet cross country race gather at the start line and are sent on their way by a race umpire waving a flag. Spectators - exclusively British civilians and naval personnel - gather at the finishing line to watch the first runners complete the course; behind the winner and the runner-up comes a runner from HMS Kent, wearing dark sports vest with a conspicuous flag of St George, and the rest of the field. A close up of Captain Wethey, the Fleet Paymaster, a large cheerful looking man in civilian clothes and a Panama hat. A single shot of the prize giving ceremony in which at least seven runners are seen receiving small silver cups from Lady Noble, wife of the Commander-in-Chief, China Station, Admiral Sir Percy Noble. A brief view of the submarine depot ship, HMS Medway, at Wei-Hai-Wei. Informal scenes on board a motor launch with HMS Kent's captain, Leslie Ashmore (wearing a white Panama hat), and his wife (also wearing a hat), and the couple on board a sampan being rowed by a Chinese oarsman with another couple on board (the man identified by Blundell as Flag Lieutenant Pat Matheson and Matheson's wife (?)). A naval officer (possibly Blundell himself) waiting in the water for a turn on a a ski board or aquaplane.

00:04:31 Scenes filmed on 24 August 1939 at Wei-Hai-Wei showing a large cargo lighter loaded with crates, barrels and sacks alongside HMS Kent on its port side during the clear-out of all Royal Navy stores at the British enclave prior to its final evacuation by the British. Naval ratings are seen unloading sacks filled with split peas and other foodstuffs from a cargo net swung on board by the portside seaplane crane and taking them to storage areas on board ship on porter's trollies; note the way they prevent the deck timbers from being stained or damaged by spreading mats over the deck. The sacks and wooden crates of food are seen stacked in a neat and tidy fashion at the waist of the ship before being taken to storerooms below. Close-ups of the stencilled inscriptions on the wooden crates and sacks describing their contents - tins of evaporated milk, salmon, split peas, carrots etc. Views of the large amount of victualling stores on board the cargo lighter manned by a Chinese crew and sacks of flour being loaded one by one onto HMS Kent through a porthole or sidescuttle near the waterline from another cargo barge. Shots of items from the Royal Navy's shore station at Wei-Hai-Wei - wooden crates, barrels, two large glazed vases and ornamental garden statues of Chinese tigers and silverware - stowed on HMS Kent's quarterdeck.

00:08:26 Views filmed on 8 August 1939 at Tsingtau showing of the flagship of the US China Fleet, the Northampton Class heavy cruiser USS Augusta, on HMS Kent's port quarter and an Imperial Japanese Navy warship, a Nagara Class light cruiser (possibly the Nagara herself), on HMS Kent's port bow. Scenes showing naval gunners handling 4-inch projectiles and a specially-designed crate containing four 4-inch projectiles being lowered by rope through a circular hatch in the deck down to the 4-inch magazine below. Shots showing a box filled with 4-inch fuse cones and sailors removing the safety plugs on the noses of several 4-inch shells and screwing on the fuses. A rating fits the fuse cone on a much larger and heavier 8-inch shell with the help of a special spanner. Another 8-inch shell is lifted through a hatchway from an 8-inch magazine belowdeck and lowered onto the deck to have a fuse fitted. A close-up of a box containing seventeen 8-inch fuses (with space for twenty).

00:10:16 Scenes filmed on 20 August 1939 showing the Red Duster flying from Tavy II, a two-masted ketch in full sail off Hong Kong; on board wearing just swimming costumes are four male friends of Lieutenant-Commander Blundell and a woman (wife/girlfriend of one of the men). Blundell is filming from a dinghy trailing behind the yacht at the end of a rope.

00:11:37 Scenes taken from HMS Kent as she steams through Hong Kong harbour past the boom at Lei Yue Mun where a Bar Class boom defence vessel and two Moorgate Class boom gate vessels are seen on station with a Chinese junk in full sail. Shots showing Admiral Sir Percy Noble, Commander-in-Chief of the China Station, strolling along the quarterdeck with his Chief-of-Staff, Captain Rhoderick McGrigor (on the left), and looking at Chinese junks in Hong Kong harbour.

00:12:25 Scenes filmed on 4 September 1939 just after Great Britain's declaration of war on Nazi Germany showing members of HMS Kent's boarding party - as seen here, three sailors and six Royal Marines - wearing steel helmets and webbing on the quarterdeck. A naval rating standing on the roof of A turret paints over the brass muzzles of the two 8-inch gun barrels on B turret and other sailors paint over the brass railing on the side of a deckhouse and one of the twin 4-inch gun mountings. Scenes showing four anti-shrapnel protective mattresses placed on deck and being fitted to the bridge wings and the large and elaborately carved piece of woodwork containing HMS Kent's battle honours being taken down and teak deck fittings stowed on the quarterdeck after being dismantled as a fire prevention measure. A shot of HMS Kent's bell on the quarterdeck after it has been taken down and the bracket from which it was hung. Views of the ship's name plate on the deckhouse behind Y turret with the letters painted over in grey and then covered up with a canvas screen. On another ship's name plate, work has begun in unscrewing each letter.

00:16:30 Filmed on 6 September 1939 while HMS Kent was hunting for German blockade-runners between mainland China and Japan, the Canadian Pacific passenger liner, RMS Empress of Japan, is seen steaming a mile or so off on the port beam en route from Shanghai to Honolulu. Views filmed whilst HMS Kent patrols the Straits of Tsushima on 18 September 1939 showing three (?) small volcanic islands in the Luchu Archipelago between Kyushu Island, Japan, and Okinawa, including Suwanose Shimo with its active volcano.

00:17:06 Scenes showing an inflated weather balloon between decks, a young naval rating in charge of inflating it (?) Shots of an Able Seaman (?) known as the Gunnery Officer's Writer holding an inflated weather balloon on deck and on the bridge wing (the moment of release is not filmed). A shot looking up at the aft searchlight platform on HMS Kent showing an army Major (seen here speaking into a telephone) and a naval officer next to him identified by Blundell as 'Baron' Clifford; both men smile when they see the camera.

00:18:09 Shots (possibly filmed at Alexandria, Egypt, on 22 August 1940) showing naval ratings sitting in bosun's chairs suspended from the tops of HMS Kent's tall raked funnels repainting No. 2 and No. 3 funnels.

END 00:18:19

Silent 8mm black and white footage shot by Lieutenant-Commander George C Blundell showing life on board HMS Kent on the China Station as her routine changes over from peacetime to war.


Remarks: a competently-filmed and diverting record of life on board a large Royal Navy warship as war begins to loom large in its daily routine. Together with the rest of Blundell's coverage of duty in the Far East, this material is a fascinating 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. 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. Wei-Hai-Wei, a British administered enclave on the Shantung peninsula until 1930, remained the China Station's summer anchorage until August 1939, according to Blundell's own diary. The heavy cruiser USS Augusta had a distinguished career during the Second World War, taking President Roosevelt to meet Churchill at Placentia Bay in August 1941, serving as General Bradley's command ship for the D-Day landings in Normandy and transporting President Truman to Europe for the July 1945 Potsdam Conference. The passenger liner Empress of Japan was subsequently twice renamed, Empress of Scotland in 1942 and Hanseatic in 1958, and remained in service until 1966. Rhoderick McGrigor (1893-1959) eventually reached the rank of Admiral of the Fleet and was First Sea Lord from 1951 to 1955.




Technical Data

Running Time:
18 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
220 ft (ca)

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Blundell, G C (Captain)