This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 2739).


START 00:00:00 Colour shots filmed on 20 July 1940 showing HMS Queen of Bermuda, a 22,500-ton ex-Furness Bermuda passenger liner now serving as an armed merchant cruiser for the Royal Navy, during a refit at Durban, South Africa, as HMS Kent slowly steams along her port side and around her stern; while her hull and lower superstructure are battleship grey, the upper works are painted in a buff colour scheme but her three funnels are still in their pre-war black. All her lifeboats have been temporarily removed. She has been armed with two single 6-inch naval guns at both ends of her promenade deck and at the stern and carries close-range anti-aircraft guns on two firing platforms, one between the bridge and No. 1 funnel and the second just aft of No. 2 funnel; an open gun director position can been seen aft of No. 3 funnel for the 6-inch guns.

00:01:00 Impressive colour footage filmed on 21 - 24 July 1940 with Convoy WS1: a view of the 81,000-ton Cunard White Star Line passenger liner RMS Queen Mary at sea somewhere between Durban and Trincomalee on HMS Kent's port side steaming on the same course; now serving as a troopship, she is in an overall battleship grey finish. Scenes filmed on 24 July on board HMS Kent in heavy seas as spray whipped up by a strong wind breaks over her foc'sle each time bow dips into the swell. Views of three large Cunard White Star Line passenger liners converted into troopships steaming in wind-swept seas in line ahead on HMS Kent's port quarter part obscured (by the wings of her Vickers Supermarine Walrus biplane seaplane) - the nearest one is the Queen Mary, behind her RMS Aquitania (producing a lot of smoke) and bringing up the rear is RMS Mauretania. An albatross rides on the sea wind alongside HMS Kent. Views of the quarterdeck rising and falling with the motion of the sea and spray breaking over the bow as the ship steams through the heavy swell.

00:03:04 Monochrome footage showing spray breaking over the foc'sle of HMS Kent in heavy seas. A view from the cruiser's starboard quarter of the Queen Mary steaming at high speed on the same course.

00:04:19 Shots filmed between 22 and 30 June 1940 en route from Durban, South Africa, to Mombasa, Kenya, showing on Kent's portside the wake made by the line attached to the port side paravane and the paravane itself being lifted clear of the water by a lifting boom operated by a single naval rating. Views showing troopships sailing in convoy on Kent's starboard beam; they include SS Talamba, a three funnelled ex-British India Steamship Navigation Co. liner, HMT Lancashire, an old four masted troopship, SS Dilwara, an ex-British India Steam Navigation vessel (with another liner in the background), and, finally, another British India Steamship Navigation vessel, either SS Rajula or Rohna. A South African Air Force (?) Avro Anson flies very low along Kent's starboard side. A view of SS Talamba on Kent's starboard quarter. Shots of a young naval officer identified by Blundell as Lieutenant-Commander O R Sitwell on the starboard side of the bridge, smoking a long pipe.

00:05:51 Scenes at Kilindini Docks, Mombasa, showing a Fordson 30-cwt truck being unloaded by crane onto the quayside off the SS Clan Macfarlane (unseen) with the help of local African stevedores and army stores, mainly coils of barbed wire, piled high on open railway waggons. A view of a modern freighter and (behind it) HMT Lancashire moored at Kilindini Docks. An African police constable is seen running along the quayside. Shots filmed 6 - 8 June 1940 showing the name and pennant number '6' on the hull of of the 4,000-ton French armed merchant cruiser Caraibe seized off Mombasa by HMS Kent on 5 June and a row of six soldiers of the King's African Rifles on guard duty with SMLE rifles and fixed bayonets. A view of one of the Caraibe's 3.9 inch (100mm) deck guns, this example mounted on the starboard side just forward of the bridge. Scenes taken on board the French vessel showing the ship's engine order telegraph on the bridge with its instructions in French and with the manufacturer's nameplate, 'Chadburn's, Liverpool', abandoned French steel helmets on deck, the 3.9 inch gun at the stern and the site of another deck gun that has been completely dismantled and naval ratings supervised by an officer busy dismantling the mounting for another deck gun that is then removed by an unseen dock crane.

00:07:49 Views from the Caraibe of at least four French naval 3.9 inch guns removed by the Royal Navy from the vessel in a railway waggon on the quayside. A view of the ship looking forward from the stern as stores are removed in a pallet by a dock crane. The sign '2-Capitaine' on one of the Caraibe's clinker-built lifeboats. African stevedores form a chain to remove 3.9 inch shells from the ship. Scenes showing African stevedores in charge of unloading ammunition into a barge alongside the French vessel from a cargo pallet, watched by the African constable seen earlier with other dock workers, and rows of propellant charges for 3.9 inch shells, depth charges and boxes containing fuses stowed neatly in the barge. A view of depth charge projectors on the Caraibe minus their depth charges. The hold on the barge fills up with the ammunition. One of HMS Kent's officers watches the stevedores at work in the barge.

00:09:54 Scenes filmed on 14 August 1940 as HMS Kent is transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet showing the port of Suez and its oil storage installations at the Red Sea end of the Suez Canal. A naval rating on duty on the foc'sle with a signal flag informs the bridge that the ship's anchors are being raised. One of the anchor chains is lifted out of the water and then hosed and scrubbed down as it passes through the hawsepipe with the help of one of the capstans and is then fed into the chain locker via the navel hole. Shots showing another naval rating in the anchor party holding in succession three signal flags. Scenes taken during the first half of the cruiser's voyage along the Suez Canal looking to port and directly ahead, passing one of the French-manned canal stations - 'Gare de Chalouf ' - at Shallufa (the time on the station clock reads 10.55am) and, a short distance further on, a camel; on the starboard or Sinai desert side a glimpse of camels and a Bedouin camp and the waves made by HMS Kent washing up against the canal bank on the port side and three large cargo-carrying lateen-rigged feluccas in full sail heading along the canal in the opposite direction. On the port side, HMS Kent passes the tall memorial erected by the British at Ismailiya to commemorate the successful defence of the Suez Canal when the Turkish army tried to cross it in February 1915 and a beach resort complete with sunchairs and a diving platform where Europeans, including children, gather to greet the cruiser as she floats by. Views from the ship's bridge of a strong wind causing ripples on the surface of the canal and, as the sun sets in the west, the long shadows of Kent's three funnels, her Walrus seaplane and the aft searchlight platform (known as 'Sutcliffe's Birdcage' after the naval architect who designed it) moving along the Sinai side of the canal.

00:13:18 Scenes filmed on 16 August 1940 in the eastern Mediterranean showing a mess waiter carrying a tray with a jug of mik and a pot of tea on the quarterdeck and naval ratings with paint brushes on long broom handles and crouching low with ordinary brushes painting the teak deck planks on the quarterdeck grey in order to make them less conspicuous a target for enemy bombers. A shot looking skywards at three triangular kites flown from HMS Kent to discourage enemy pilots from making low-level bombing attacks.

00:14:15 Shots filmed in Alexandria on 22 August showing a naval rating sitting on a bosun's chair over the side of HMS Kent painting a panel of dark grey paint as the vessel adopts a disruptive pattern camouflage scheme, sailors crowded into a dinghy with ropes and planks of wood as they move from one section of the ship to another whilst on camouflage painting duty and ratings standing on planks or sitting on bosun's chairs slung over the side of the ship at work with their paintbrushes.

00:14:40 Dramatic scenes filmed in the Mediterranean on 30 August 1940 showing the fleet aircraft carrier HMS Eagle steaming at high speed on Kent's port quarter, the battleship HMS Warspite ahead of HMS Eagle, an Aldis lamp on Warspite's bridge sending a signal, and stern views of the battleship creating a big wash as she steams at high speed. Views of a Southampton Class light cruiser HMS Gloucester on the port beam and the battleship HMS Malaya on the port bow steaming at high speed and HMS Eagle in formation with the two battleships; note the different disruptive camouflage schemes on all the ships seen here (with the exception of HMS Eagle). Shots of Kent's own anti-aircraft armament - the gun barrels of one of her 4-inch dual purpose guns raise at a high angle in anticipation of Italian air attacks and the crew of the starboard 8-barrelled Mk VI pom-pom close-up and on alert; note the cork matting in front of the gun mounting placed there by the crew as an anti-shrapnel screen. Close up of a sign that reads, 'If you hear the shriek of a bomb, fall flat'.

00:15:58 A dramatic scene filmed on 4 September showing a stick of bombs dropped from high-altitude Italian bombers bursting in the sea a short distance from the port bow of a Southampton Class cuiser, probably HMS Gloucester, followed by another bomb that bursts just off her starboard bow. Shots of Norman Fisher, a newsreel cameraman with British Movietonews, filming with his Newman Sinclair 35mm cine camera, and a Canadian 'New York Times' correspondent (named by Blundell in his diaries as Aldrich) sporting an official British shoulder flash that describes him as an American war correspondent. Views from the bridge looking aft along the starboard side showing S2 4-inch gun and X turret, its two 8-inch gun barrels canted at different angles and the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Coventry steaming at high speed on Kent's starboard quarter as the sun sets low over the Mediterranean.

00:17:05 A distant view filmed on 15 September 1940 showing the Suvla Bay Memorial on the Dardanelles peninsula, Turkey, erected in memory of the ill-fated 1915 campaign. Scenes beginning with a shot of a big wicker fender on HMS Kent's port side showing the new J Class destroyer HMS Jervis coming alongside the cruiser to refuel off the island of Skyros in the Aegean. Views of the forward section of the destroyer, notably her A and B turrets, each armed with twin 4.7 inch QF Mark XII guns, the bridge, the depth charge rail at the stern upon which two smoke generators have been fitted, X turret at the stern, the funnel with two stripes denoting HMS Jervis as a flotilla leader, four ratings and five of the ship's officers on the bridge including the skipper (probably Captain Philip Mack, commander of the 14th Destroyer Flotilla), the director control tower (DCT) and above it the rangefinder and crow's nest, the party in charge of the anchors on the destroyer's foc'sle and the officers on the bridge, the funnel cap and cage and the quadruple Mk VII 2 pounder pom-pom mounting just aft of the funnel pointing skywards. Shots showing the refuelling point on board HMS Kent and the rubberised fuel pipeline extending over the ship's sides and onto the deck of HMS Jervis.

00:19:54 Views filmed at sea off Crete on 17 September 1940 showing the Leander Class light cruiser HMS Orion steaming at high speed on Kent's starboard beam and three Fairey Fulmar Mk 1 fighter/reconnaissance aircraft belonging to 805 Squadron Fleet Air Arm flying in a tight 'vic' formation overhead. The Indomitable Class fleet carrier HMS Illustrious is seen flying off a Fairey Fulmar, which is then passes low over HMS Kent as it retracts its undercarriage, and landing a Fairey Swordfish Mk I biplane torpedo bomber belonging to 815 Squadron FAA. Spray from a near miss on Illustrious's port bow briefly appears as another Swordfish flies over the carrier at a very slow speed; there are several Fulmars parked on the forward part of the flight deck.

END 00:20:40

Silent 8mm colour and black and white footage shot in the summer of 1940 by Lieutenant-Commander George C Blundell on board the heavy cruiser HMS Kent during convoy escort duty in the Indian Ocean and during her service with the Mediterranean Fleet after transiting the Suez Canal.


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. Douglas Young-Jamieson replaced Leslie Asmore as captain of HMS Kent when the later was hospitalised at the end of August 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. 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.

Remarks: a competently filmed and fascinating record of one ship's war, especially the scenes filmed in the Mediterranean that, among other things, show how badly the Royal Navy was equipped to deal with the menace from land-based enemy bombers. Excellent colour scenes at the head of this film and rare wartime views of the famous Cunard passenger liner Queen Mary just after her conversion to the role of troopship in March 1940. The scenes taken during HMS Kent's passage through the Suez Canal reveal Blundell's talent for artistic composition. Good shot of the warships listed in the summary, especially HMS Warspite, the Royal Navy's most successful battleship and the possessor of the largest number of battle honours awarded to any British warship, the destroyer HMS Jervis, another warship with a brilliant war record, earning no less than thirteen battle honours, and the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious whose Fairey Swordfish topedo bombers crippled the Italian fleet at its anchorage at Taranto a few months after this film was taken. HMS Orion, briefly seen here, was another survivor with thirteen battle honours.




Technical Data

Running Time:
20 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
248 ft (ca)

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Blundell, G C (Captain)