This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 2747).


START 00:00:01 Panning shots of the naval anchorage at Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria, April (?) 1943: there are several tank landing ships (LSTs), a U or V Class destroyer armed with four twin 4-inch guns moored alongside the ex-cruiser turned fleet repair ship HMS Vindictive overlooked by the old fort at the port's northern end and high ground beyond it. A flash frame showing a Royal Marine officer. Shots showing two of Blundell's comrades on board HMS Nelson, the first one in the uniform of a Commander in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, posing with an academic's mortar board for the camera on the maindeck near P3 twin 6-inch gun turret.

00:00:47 4 May 1943: views of Algiers as HMS Nelson slowly steams into the harbour, featuring poorly-framed shots of a sea wall on a harbour jetty with the patriotic slogan 'La Victoire' (Victory) and panning shots of the city overlooking the waterfront - with the two funnels of a Dido Class cruiser (possibly HMS Dido) and large dockside cranes visible in the foreground. Shots filmed from the bridge showing the battleship's crew lining the starboard side of the maindeck as a tug tows her to a mooring in the harbour. A good view of patriotic slogans painted in black on the wall along the harbour breakwater - 'La Victoire' and (in smaller letters) 'General Giraud'. An RAF rescue launch passes between the battleship and a fast Commando troop ship or Landing Ship, Infantry (Small) (either HMS Queen Emma or Princess Beatrix) moored in the background. HMS Nelson's prow is seen pointing towards the breakwater and several floating platforms moored nearby at the northern end of the harbour. Views of gleaming French-built public buildings and the rest of the modern city on slopes overlooking the port and Allied shipping moored along the waterfront. Shots showing a motor launch approaching HMS Nelson's starboard side and Captain Burgess standing on the maindeck near the ship's gangway as General Dwight D Eisenhower arrives with Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean Fleet, and Vice Admiral Algernon Willis, the commander of Force H, to inspect the battleship. Eisenhower is seen being introduced to HMS Nelson's officers and inspects the ship's detachment of Royal Marines drawn up on parade before proceeding along the main deck with the senior British naval officers. Deck level shots of Eisenhower and his party touring the warship - the battleship HMS Rodney is seen moored close by and going down below to the Admiral's cabin on the battleship's quarterdeck (P2 and P3 twin 6-inch guns visible in the background). The motor launch re-appears alongside HMS Nelson to take Eisenhower away; the rating on the foc'sle does the regulation drill with his boat hook.

00:03:20 Force H in the Ionian Sea during Operation 'Husky' (the invasion of Sicily), circa 10 July 1943: slow motion shots showing two Vickers Supermarine Seafires taking off from the fleet aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable as she steams on a parallel course on HMS Nelson's port beam. A Seafire lands on Indomitable's flight deck and is quickly brought to a stop by the arrester wires. Steaming in a column in the wake of HMS Nelson is a Dido Class cruiser, either HMS Euryalus or HMS Cleopatra, and the battleship HMS Rodney in the rear. The light cruiser flashes a lamp signal as she draws level on the starboard beam.

00:04:08 14 or 17 July 1943: Poorly-framed views of the Maltese capital, Valletta, as HMS Nelson approaches the entrance to the Grand Harbour; much of the city lies in ruins. Scenes in the garden of 'Sandy' Campbell (Lieutenant-Governor of Malta ?) featuring a couple in their thirties and their very young daughter, two other women, a middle-aged Englishman in a white suit, probably 'Sandy' Campbell himself, and a younger Englishman, probably Captain Guy Russell; they seem very at ease in the presence of the cameraman. A view of what looks like restored Roman baths with columns in the water and around the edge of the pool. Bunches of green grapes hanging from an overhead lattice roof. A dragonfly hopping over the surface of a pool. A bunch of black grapes hanging from the lattice ceiling. Hibiscus (?) flowers in bloom. The route sign on a bus 'Valetta - Rabat'. A view of the baroque limestone gateway that marks the entrance to the walled city of Mdina, Malta's ancient capital, and a view from the city over the centre of Malta, with the Cathedral of St Paul to the left. Views of the Cathedral restored in baroque style between 1697 and 1702.

00:06:18 Scenes taken at night, probably on 20 July 1943 when enemy aircraft bombed Malta, showing flashes from secondary armament and automatic cannon as unidentifiable British warships open fire on enemy aircraft in the night sky.

00:06:49 At sea off the coast of Sicily, circa 27 August 1943: a Tribal Class destroyer, probably HMS Tartar, is seen off the starboard beam steaming at high speed; beyond lies a mountainous coastline that tapers to peninsula on the right of the frame. A view of the the fleet carrier HMS Illustrious steaming on HMS Nelson's port quarter on a parallel course as one (possibly two) Fairey Barracuda Mk II torpedo/dive-bombers belonging to 810 Squadron Fleet Air Arm takes off from the flight deck; the camera follows the ungainly-looking aircraft as it flies past HMS Nelson.

00:07:25 The surrender of the Italian fleet at Malta, 11 September 1943: filmed from the roof of X turret, Admiral Alberto da Zara, commander of the Italian Navy's V Division, steps onto the main deck of HMS Nelson, flagship of Force H, and is greeted by Vice Admiral Algernon Willis; the motor launch used by the Italian admiral is seen alongside the battleship's starboard side with the Royal Italian Navy (Regia Marina) ensign flying from its stern post. An over-exposed shot of two Maltese boatmen rowing a dghaisa (dghajsa), a traditional Maltese rowing boat. A brief view of HMS Nelson at anchor at Birzebbuga (?) from her starboard side (her Admiralty disruptive camouflage scheme is clearly visible). Shots showing the buoys for her anti-torpedo nets and two 17th century coastal fortresses at Birzebbuga. A brief shot of a Royal Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) Cant Z. 506.B 'Aerone' (Heron) seaplane. Views from land showing a surrendered Italian battleship, Vittorio Veneto (a seaplane mounted on a catapult and a crane at the stern) slowly steaming into Marsaxlokk (?) and another battleship, Italia (a seaplane mounted on a catapult on her quarterdeck), apparently dead in the water. Both warships carry large white (?) identication bands on their main turrets. Views from HMS Nelson as she steams through past seven surrendered Italian submarines anchored in Marsaxlokk (?) - note the laundry their crews have hung out to dry. An assault landing craft or LCA (LCA-540) motors past HMS Nelson.

00:08:55 Brief views of the shore at Devonport (?), circa May 1943.

00:09:02 HMS Nelson in the Grand Harbour, Valletta, September 1943: a view of a part of the city overlooked by a large church or basilica and sailors standing on the maindeck of near a twin six-inch gun turret in the foreground. Sailors from the battleship cool off by taking a swim and attempt to climb up onto one of the battleship's big motor cutters - in the background is an infantry landing ship, small (LSI (S)). View of HMS Nelson at her moorings in St George's Bay at Birzebbuga. Studies of an Italian air force Cant Z. 506.B 'Aerone' (Heron) seaplane, the technical specification painted onto one of its two floats, the '186' aircraft code and the 'fasces' insignia on the underside of the starboard wing and its three 750hp Alfa Romeo air cooled engines and propellers. HMS Nelson and other warships can be seen at anchor a short distance away. Views of another Italian seaplane, a twin-engined Fiat RS.14, with a large RAF seaplane hangar at Birzebbuga visible in the background, and another Cant Z. 506.B seaplane lying half submerged in the shallows after an unsuccessful landing. A view of two tank landing craft (LCT-IIIs) painted in the Western Approaches camouflage scheme moored alongside each other - the nearest craft is LCT-332.

00:10:01 Scenes in Grand Harbour, Valletta, showing the G Class destroyer HMS Gallant, stripped of all its guns and other fittings and in service as a hulk following the loss of its bow to a sea mine in January 1941, whilst a landing craft (LCM-III) and a Maltese oarsman in a dghajsa make their way through the harbour.

00:10:22 20 Circa 20 September 1943: a cycling and swimming excursion on the island of Malta by three of Blundell's shipmates: they pose for the camera next to their bicycles in the middle of a road in the Maltese countryside. Distant views of two Italian battleships, Caio Duilio and Andrea Doria, and several large Italian submarines at anchor at St Paul's Bay. Three of Blundell's shipmates pose in an informal matter on a cove surrounded by barbed wire. Shouldering their bicycles, four men are seen heading off the beach up a narrow and rocky path.

00:11:09 The signing of the Italian armistice agreement (or Treaty of Co-Belligerency) on HMS Nelson, 29 September 1943: scenes filmed from the conning tower showing Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean Fleet, and Vice Admiral Algernon Willis, commander of Force H, arriving on board the warship in the Grand Harbour, followed by General Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean, General Sir Harold Alexander and Air Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, who are accompanied by two officials in civilian clothing, the US diplomat Robert Murphy and the British Minister Resident in the Mediterranean, Harold Macmillan. Accompanied by his ADC, Field Marshal Viscount Gort, Governor of Malta, is the last Allied dignatory to arrive for the signing ceremony and he is seen inspecting HMS Nelson's detachment of Royal Marines. Together, the naval and military commanders, their staffs and the two senior civilian representatives head along the main deck towards the admiral's cabin at the stern. Accompanied by a civilian advisor, Marshal Pietro Badoglio, provisional head of the new Italian government, is met by General Eisenhower and Captain Russell as he arrives on board HMS Nelson. Scenes showing the Allied and Italian VIPs and staffers, including Harold Macmillan (seen here at 00:12:38 wearing a homburg hat and a three-piece suit) making their way towards the stern on HMS Nelson's starboard side and chatting on the quarterdeck. The Italian delegation of civilian and military advisors is the first to depart, followed by Badoglio and then by Alexander (in boots and riding breeches), Tedder and Gort who are seen descending the gangway and heading back to shore in a Royal Navy motor launch.

00:13:29 A parade on a hot day by one of HMS Nelson's divisions on the sportsground of a Royal Navy barracks in Valletta (probably HMS St Angelo): a large number of ratings wearing white shorts and tunics and webbing on parade, presenting and shouldering their SMLE Mk III rifles. A march past by the men as they makes an 'eyes right' as they pass the saluting base; Captain the Honourable Guy H E Russell takes the salute alongside one of his chief petty officers. HMS Nelson's Royal Marine band is seen playing in the middle of the sports field as the ratings, in ranks of three, march around them in a square formation. The men are seen drawn up on parade; they present arms and re-shoulder their rifles as each of the petty officers and junior officers standing in front of them makes a salute. Captain Burgess and one of his officers step forward to begin the inspection. Sailors at the back of the parade formation place their SMLE rifles on the ground and march forward in rows to close up behind the ranks at the front. The entire parade is seen standing at attention and then 'falling out'. In ranks of three, the ratings and the Royal Marine band march out of the sports ground and back to the Grand Harbour.

00:15:41 Rifle shooting contest (?) on a naval firing range on Malta: a stoutly-built gentleman with a cigarette (possibly Admiral Cunningham) is seen watching the shooting and then taking his turn to lie down on mattting and fire a round from an SMLE Mk III rifle. Shots of marksmen firing their SMLE Mk III rifles whilst other competitors stand behind them and watch. A young rating in charge of setting up the shooting targets (?) is seen speaking down a field telephone. The sequence closes with a shot of two riflemen lying prone in the firing position and an officer who is in charge of score-keeping.

00:16:29 Scenes filmed on board HMS Nelson showing a new gun barrel on one of the battleship's six 4.7-inch anti-aircraft guns (possibly HA6) being inserted, a laborious and time-consuming process involving the use of a rail-mounted trolley to give the gun barrel support, strong rope and muscle power. Blundell lines up the camera exactly in front of the splinter screen and the circular gun sleeve to film the replacement gun barrel being hauled into position, a task supervised by two cheerful-looking petty officers.

00:17:59 Return to Rosyth, 6 November 1943: HMS Nelson steams towards the massive steel cantilever Forth Rail Bridge as HMS Nelson steams up the Firth of Forth, as seen from the bridge. Two men - the one on the left an RAF officer, the one on the right a naval petty officer (?), pose for the camera by the ship's stern. To capture on film the final moments before the battleship passes under the bridge, Blundell has moved to the quarterdeck and uses P2 twin 6-inch gun, the 4.7-inch anti-aircraft gun on the starboard side of the quarterdeck (HA5) and the main mast superstructure to frame the shots and, as he does so, he catches a steam train hurtling across the bridge. A good view of the mainmast's star-shaped cross trees supporting a Type 273 radar 'lantern', the White Ensign, the Scottish flag and the Union Jack flying from the mainmast and the Type 281 air warning radar aerials right at the top of the mainmast. Reverse angle views of the Forth Rail Bridge as it gradually recedes. A view from the bridge of A and B turrets and the ship's company lining HMS Nelson's portside as she enters Rosyth; the ship's Royal Marine band is seen performing in the space between B turret and X turret. Three of Blundell's fellow officers dressed for a cold climate pose for the camera in a light-hearted mood.

END 00:19:31

Silent 8mm black and white footage taken by Commander G C Blundell, executive officer of the 23,000-ton battleship HMS Nelson, whilst on active service in French North Africa, in the Mediterranean, on the island of Malta and the return to the United Kingdom, May - November 1943.


Summary: laid down in 1922 and commissioned in August 1927, HMS Nelson was named in honour of Horatio Nelson, the Royal Navy's most famous admiral. She had one sistership, HMS Rodney. Built to comply with the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, Nelson and Rodney each had a displacement of 35,000 tons. Consisting of nine 16-inch guns in three turrets, the main armament was mounted forward of the superstructure, giving these two battleships an unusual appearance. After transferring from HMS Kent, Blundell joined HMS Nelson, flagship of the Home Fleet, at Scapa Flow in February 1941. Up until that point, the battleship's war service had been unspectacular; in December 1939, she struck a mine and was laid up for repairs until the following August. After serving as a troopship convoy escort, Nelson was assigned to Force H in the Mediterranean in June 1941 and was torpedoed by an Italian torpedo-bomber in the following September (see MGH 2742). After repairs in the UK that lasted until April 1942, HMS Nelson resumed active service in the summer of 1942 in time for Operation 'Pedestal' (see MGH 2745). A month earlier, Blundell was promoted to the rank of Commodore and served as HMS Nelson's Executive Officer. In November 1942, HMS Nelson supported the Allied landings in North Africa for Operation 'Torch' and took part in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and the Salerno landings two months later. Returning to UK waters in November 1943, the battleship supported the D-Day landings in June 1944 and saw service in the Far East just before the war against Japan ended in August 1945. HMS Nelson was decommissioned in February 1948 and scrapped a year later. The Fairey Barracuda first saw active service during the Salerno landings on board HMS Illustrious.

Technical: for some of the scenes in this reel, Blundell, effectively HMS Nelson's First Lieutenant and therefore busy with his duties, must have given his camera to somebody else to do the filming. This probably accounts for the indifferent quality of the camerawork in scenes like HMS Nelson's arrival at Algiers and Valletta and Eisenhower's tour of inspection.

Remarks: not as a diverting or as lively a record as the rest of Blundell's footage of life on board HMS Nelson although the scenes on Malta, especially the surrendered Italian fleet at anchor and the arrival and departure of Marshal Badoglio, Eisenhower and co. on 29 September 1943, are of historic value. It is possible that this record of the signing of the Italian armistice is unique as war correspondents and cameramen are conspicuous by their absence on this occasion.




Technical Data

Running Time:
19 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
234 ft (ca)

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Blundell, G C (Captain)