This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: WPN 51).



A map of India shows the provinces, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea. The commentary introduces this edition devoted entirely to matters Indian by stressing the contrasts found in the landscape between temples and steel mills. Smoke belches from chimneys at one of India's steel foundries as the commentary highlights the fact that India is now ranked the eighth industrial power in the world. External views of a steel foundry follow showing the railway lines that supply it with raw materials. An Indian foundry worker wearing protective glasses operates a blast furnace in the interior of a foundry building. The commentary states that although industry is important, the bulk of the Indian population still work the land. Wheat threshing and grain milling sequences follow. Indian men wash clothes in the open air using wooden vats. Back at the steel foundry, molten steel is carefully poured into holding containers, pressed and then transported along a conveyor belt to the next stage of the industrial process. Elsewhere steel has corrugations moulded into its surface by means of a massive industrial press. Other male foundry operatives tackle the more detailed jobs, making rifle and machine gun bullets. A boy worker seated at a bench hand sorts and packs bullets with amazing speed and dexterity. Elsewhere at a textiles factory, looms spin material that will eventually produce essential war goods such as uniforms, tents and wound dressings. Pulp is rolled and shaped in a paper factory as an Indian factory worker inspects the finished product during the quality control process. The commentary highlights the Indian military contribution to the war effort, especially in the fighting in Eritrea. A South African gun crew bombard Italian positions with a BL 26cwt 6-in howitzer with pneumatic tyres. Italian infantry and local Eritrean levies surrender to Commonwealth forces. Indian sappers use pneumatic drills and picks to clear an Italian earth and rock roadblock. A mule train led by Indian infantry winds its way up a rocky incline bringing supplies to the front line troops. Indian troops drive 15cwt 4X2 GS (Indian) Chevrolet trucks across a rugged landscape. Elsewhere, a ship without its superstructure is launched down a slip way as the commentary stresses the hazards posed to shipping by the Japanese even in Indian home waters. An Indian naval vessel fires depth charges from its stern which explode creating a large water spout. At an aircraft maintenance depot Indian mechanics inspect the tyre bays and under wing area of an unidentifiable aircraft. The commentary states that many young Indians have taken their wings in the cause of freedom. Sikh infantry march along a dusty track on the outskirts of Cairo with pyramids evident in the background. An Indian Army instructor watches his pupil firing a vehicle mounted Bren .303-in light machine gun in the anti-aircraft role. Sikh troops run to 15cwt 4X2 GS (Indian) Chevrolet trucks at the start of a desert patrol. Indian troops run past a disabled Universal Carrier carrying Lee-Enfield .303-in Mk III rifles with fixed bayonets. Indian troops armed with Lee-Enfields apparently force a German tank crewman to surrender. The German climbs out of a PzKpfw III carrying a large jerry can of water and walks off escorted by his Indian captors. The commentary states that from the first days of the war, India has demonstrated that her future is linked with that of the British Empire over scenes of sheet metal being pressed in a steel foundry and Sikh troops marching.



The newsreel series War Pictorial News was compiled by the Cairo Office of the Ministry of Information for exhibition to allied troops serving in the Middle East and the Mediterranean as well as to local civilian audiences. Footage was largely assembled from items used by newsreel companies in England but was provided with a new commentary, with versions being issued in English, French and Arabic as deemed appropriate. The series ran between September 1940 and August 1946. It was renamed World Pictorial News in October 1945.

Released 4 April 1942, number 51 in the series is a special issue devoted entirely to India. The film’s focus is on the country’s contribution to the war effort, outlining India’s increased industrial output and the activities of her troops.

At the outbreak of hostilities with Germany, Viceroy Lord Linlithgow offended many Indian nationalists by declaring that because Britain was at war, India was at war. There was, however, soon a vast increase in the number of Indian troops: numbers increased from approximately 200,000 in 1939 to 900,000 by the end of 1941 (Jackson, 2006, 363). These troops and military resources were destined for East Africa, the Western Desert and Italy. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 and the fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942 the need for increased Indian support became more pressing. The sub-continent itself was now under threat. Indian troops reached a peak of about 2,600,000 in 1945 (Jackson, 2006, 363).

War Pictorial News 51 contrasts the traditional farming methods of the vast majority of India’s population with the skills that were required to man the burgeoning industrial sector. India’s economy remained overwhelmingly rural – the proportion of the population employed in agriculture and related occupations remained steady at roughly 70% throughout the first half of the twentieth century (Brown, 1994, 254). An expansion of industry is nevertheless indicated by the expansion of major urban centres: in 1931 only 2.86% of the population lived in cities of 100,000 and over; by 1941 this figure had risen to 4.25% (Brown, 1994, 254). Industrial growth during the war was determined by military needs: all mill production of textiles, all factory production of leather and footwear, approximately three-quarters of steel output and over two-fifths of paper production was destined for the war effort (Jackson, 2006, 358). By 1943 India was third only to Britain and Canada in producing goods for the Allied cause (Jackson, 2006, 358).

As well as necessitating the support of India during the Second World War, the triumphs of Japanese forces also ‘undermined the myth of European invincibility’ (Jeffery, 2001, 319). Prior to the war the nationalist movement in India had gained increasing support and power. The Indian National Congress party (INC) witnessed its first political victories, emerging as the dominant party in the 1937 elections. In 1939, however, the party’s government members resigned their positions, protesting at Viceroy Linlithgow’s declaration of war. In March 1942 Sir Stafford Cripps, Leader of the House of Commons, was despatched to India in order to develop a proposal that would help ensure nationalist support during the forthcoming battles against the Japanese. The ‘Cripps Offer’ stated that, in return for co-operation during the war, India could have full Dominion status or the option to secede from the Commonwealth once the war had concluded. There was also a proviso that no part of India could be forced to join the new state. Disliking this opt-out clause the INC and the Muslim League both rejected the offer in April 1942. This action led to the open rebellion of the ‘Quit India’ movement. The Cripps Offer, according to Judith Brown, was ‘the point at which the British departure after the war became inevitable’ (Brown, 1994, 328).



The 51st edition of War Pictorial News delivers a reassuring portrait of Indian backing for the war effort. The film opens with some background detail about India. A spinning globe stops to reveal the country’s position among the continents. We are informed that this is a land of ‘strange contrasts – from temple to steel’ (here the camera pans from one to the other).  The primary purpose of speaking of contrasts, however, is to illustrate the fact that the ‘primitive’ methods of India’s agriculture are matched by the ‘up-to-the-minute’ procedures of the country’s factories. Scenes of labour-intensive agriculture are intercut with imposing shots of factory machinery, which dwarves the few workers who are pictured. Mirroring this transition the backing music for the film switches from Indian for the rural scenes to rousing and triumphant western music for the images of the factories.

The narrative stresses India’s ranking among the industrial powers; her wealth in raw materials; the craftsmanship of local workers (easily adaptable to the ‘intricate machines of modern industry’); and the fact the factory operatives have the ‘strength of knowing they are forging weapons that may soon be used in defence of theircountry’. The sheer size of India’s population is also mentioned. Following this we move to more densely populated factory scenes, depicting operatives at work on the ‘more delicate machines’ in a munitions factory. Eventually we arrive at a young employee who is wrapping a parcel of bullets at tremendous (possibly manipulated) speed. His actions are the first to be directly addressed by the narrator, who informs us that ‘He’s only a little fellow but he’s good and there are thousands like him’.

The latter half of the film depicts the two halves of India’s industrial-military complex. The ‘essential’ manufacture of paper and cotton is shown and we are informed that India’s industries have reached ‘war production speed’. At this point the film is more speedily intercut and the tempo of the music increases. We see layered shots of paper production, scenes from the munitions factory, and the return of the ‘little fellow’ with his advanced wrapping techniques. Next we are informed that this output is matched by ‘thousands of fighting men’, at which point the film switches to a panned shot of the serried tents of Indian forces. In these scenes of the Eritrean campaign the parallels with factory production are continued. We see Indian soldiers employing industrial procedures as they drill into mountain rocks to create a pathway. Later there is a more direct correspondence between manufacture and military. Scenes of shipbuilding are followed by scenes shot aboard a Royal Indian Navy vessel, which is ‘manned by her own sons’. The film closes with a further parallel: we return to the use of increased tempo and layered shots. Where the first montage had depicted industry this one illustrates the War machine. The scenes are of warships, aircraft and marching troops.

War Pictorial News 51 is reciprocal in its nature: it depicts India’s support for the war effort and it offers its own support for the effort that is being made. The film presents a sub-continent united behind the allied cause. Scenes of the forces show Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, and they depict Indians marching alongside British troops. The conclusion of the narrative reveals the film’s underlying purpose: ‘From the first days of the war India has overwhelmingly demonstrated that her future is linked with that of the British Empire. Her co-operation has been wholeheartedly given. The inability of Indian leaders to accept Britain’s recent proposals is purely a political issue. Between the war purposes of the British government and the Indian people there are no differences. Both are determined to defeat Japanese aggression and to achieve ultimate victory.’

Richard Osborne 


Works Cited

Brown, Judith M., Modern India: The Origins of an Asian Democracy, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).

Jackson, Ashley, The British Empire and the Second World War (Hambledon Continuum, 2006).

Jeffery, Keith, ‘The Second World War’, in The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume IV: The Twentieth Century, ed. by Judith M. Brown and Wm. Roger Louis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 306-28.



  • WAR PICTORIAL NEWS NO 51 (20/4/42)

Technical Data

Running Time:
10 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
925 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Ministry of Information, Middle East
Keating, Rex
film editor
Martin, Charles
Production company
War Pictorial News