CHINA STATION: the Capetown Incident on the Yangtse, October 1937

This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 710).


Home movie of the Capetown Incident on the Yangtse, October 1937, when two-thirds of the ship's company were evacuated by train from Hankow to Hong Kong.

The film begins with scenes of supplies being taken from HMS Capetown to a railway station at Hankow, including boxes marked 'Abandon Ship'. A skeleton crew is left on board HMS Capetown whilst the bulk of the crew and its citizen passengers were evacuated by train as supplies at Hankow for the inflated complement of the ship were running low, and the ship was blockaded by the war. The train, called "Capetown II", leaves Hankow and travels through the spectacular Chinese countryside. The train was repeatedly delayed by obstreperous Chinese officials and at one point the Japanese bombed the railway near a large bridge ahead of the train. All this is featured in the film, including the delay before the railway track is repaired. Finally the evacuation is successful and arrives safely in Hong Kong. This is the third of three reels which comprise a unique film record of this incident.


Technical: 8mm blown up to 16mm, at 16 fps.

Documentation/associated material: see Garnett folder for detailed notes see also 'The Royal Navy and the Sino-Japanese Incident 1937-41' by Martin Brice especially page 46ff.

Remarks: an outstanding piece of film which is the only record of this extraordinary incident. This film proves categorically how useful home movies can be as an historical document. For general assessment of this excellent collection see report by Taylor Downing. Captain Garnett died in July 1996.



  • CHINA STATION: the Capetown Incident on the Yangtse, October 1937 (Allocated)
Series Title:

Technical Data

Running Time:
17 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
400 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries: