This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: AYY 1171).


START 10:16:29 A morning parade for seven African NCOs and 27 Other Ranks wearing white cook's uniform serving with 10th Field Bakery. They march to the camp bakery and hold out their hands for inspection by three British officers, probably the camp commandant, his adjutant and the officer commanding the field bakery.

10:17:38 African soldiers unload bags of flour from the back of a three-ton truck and stack them inside a storehouse. An African army cook tips carrots into a tub of water, cleans them with a scrubbing brush and tips them into a cooking pot which he stirs with a ladle. African army cooks mix yeast and water in a tin bucket and pour the mixture into an empty beer barrel.

10:20:25 African soldiers chop up fire wood and transport the logs in wheelbarrows to a row of mud-brick ovens located under a large sloping roof. Wood fires are lit in the ovens to heat them up.

10:21:53 African cooks wash their hands under water taps. Inside the mixing room, cooks pour bags of flour into a big rectangular tub. A thermometer is thrust into the flour and the difference between the room and the flour temperatures is noted by a British Lieutenant. Buckets of yeast in water are poured into several large rectangular tubs and their contents are kneaded with fists by the cooks to form dough.

10:25:12 Muslin sheets are removed from one large rectangular tub to reveal that the yeast has risen. This is re-kneaded by the cooks and is then cut up into small lumps, weighed on a set of scales and taken away to bake as small bread rolls. Other larger pieces of dough are made into rolls and placed six at a time in large baking trays.

10:28:19 Two Askaris rake hot ash and wood embers out of the mud-brick ovens and carry the waste away in wheelbarrows. Cooks turn up with dough in baking trays, load them into the ovens which are then sealed up with hemispherical vertical steel plates. 30 to 40 minutes later, freshly-baked bread is taken out of the ovens.

10:29:36 African army cooks carry freshly-baked bread loaves from the bakery and store them in an out-house. Very dark interior shots of wood fires burning in the ovens in order to warm them up for a fresh supply of baked bread.

10:30:59 A demonstration of the ease with which mud-brick bread ovens can be built in the field. The components of three baking ovens, notably the hemispherical steel plates with which each oven is made, baking trays and weighing scales. African soldiers hammer in tent pegs and adjust the guy ropes on a large bell tent. They assemble the components for the ovens on a stretch of open ground. They then smear mud over each oven, using soil that they have excavated from a trench they have dug to create a working space in front of them. Three cooks remove freshly-baked loaves from each oven and carry them to the big bell tent.

END 10:33:00

Bread-making at an army camp at Naivasha, Kenya.


Summary: John Wernham recorded audio commentary over this film on 14 May 1992, DVD Reel 3 from 12.49 to 22.23. Synchronised copy available.

According to John Wernham, the bread seen being baked in this footage was made to feed the large numbers of Italian prisoners of war at Naivasha.

Remarks: Thorough coverage of this mundane but vital aspect of army organisation. This footage, together with the rest of Wernham's film record of his time in East Africa, constitutes a valuable and possibly unique pictorial record at this time in the region's colonial history.



During his time as an army cameraman in East Africa, Sergeant John Wernham was detailed to record footage of the engineers at Nanyuki and asked by General Platt – the Commander-in-Chief of the East African Command – to take films of African life to show to ‘lonely’ soldiers. Yet, despite the instructions, Wernham worked largely independently, shooting the material that interested him. Describing himself as a ‘loner’ with a ‘natural artistic bent’, Wernham explained that ‘when I did the bakery film with Stanborough, he warned them [Sergeants] off … left me entirely, gave me all the co-operation in the world’. There is little evidence to suggest that Wernham’s films were widely used or exhibited to troops, but they remain an interesting record of rarely seen aspects of African military life.

Wernham spoke fondly of the finished film, which he ‘made up as I went along’ with ‘no scenario’. He noted though that the film differed from much of his material in presenting a fully contained narrative. ‘It was difficult to find stories out there’, he argued. ‘The black bakery’s a story, otherwise it was just haphazard shooting’. Wernham emphasised in particular that the film was edited in camera – ‘shot without cutting’ – and filmed entirely with natural light.

The film depicts the 10th East African Army Field Bakery in Naivasha. John Wernham noted that, along with this ‘very considerable bakery’, Naivasha also had ‘a considerable Italian Prisoner of war camp’. Christine Stephanie Nicholls stated that there were 54,684 Italian POWs in Kenya in 1944, which ‘greatly outnumbered Kenya’s white population’. The prisoners, collected largely from Abyssinia and Somalia, were sent to a series of camps, including Naivasha, with the two largest at Nanyuki and Nyeri station. The Italians often worked within the area, for example farming, erecting buildings, and constructing the road between Nairobi and Naivasha (Nicholls, 2005, 231). Although the bakery would have produced food for the Italians, Wernham dismissed the suggestion that any Italians worked in the bakery, claiming that there were ‘about four Britishers… the rest were all natives’. Wernham did film a sequence showing an Italian prisoner of war at Naivasha making tagliatelle in Kenya’s Contribution to the Allied War Effort.



In generic terms, An East African Army Field Bakery closely follows the form of an industrial ‘process’ film, yet it shows an industry rarely depicted and largely overlooked in histories of the war. Furthermore, in using this generic form, Sergeant Wernham is able to illustrate the British organisation, in particular, of African labour.

This is achieved in a number of ways. First, the narrative structure and, in particular, the chronological framework enables the viewer to see the specific roles assigned to each African within the process. For example, Africans chop wood, which others transport by wheelbarrows and then load into the ovens. Later, an African cuts up the dough, passes it to the next man to weigh, who in turn hands it on to a group who roll it. Secondly, the scale and regimented structure of the industry is presented through a series of images – for example the symmetry of the ovens, the loaves lined up, the fires burning in the dark – which, at times, evokes comparisons with the more celebrated poetic documentary filmmakers, and which is certainly unusual amongst army cameramen, who were, for the most part, expected to record events or, on occasion, present material for newsreels. This again indicates Wernham’s independent spirit – he described himself as a ‘charming nuisance’ within the army – producing an ambitious self-contained narrative.

The film displays East Africans at work during the war, and highlights the ways in which these non-combatant roles were militarised for the serving East Africans. The opening sequence displays the Africans marching and on parade, and then shows an inspection, in which it is their hands that are checked. This reiterates a European emphasis on cleanliness – again apparent elsewhere with a further shot of washing hands – and also highlights the clear division between the European and African roles within the process. The European men inspect and supervise – for example when the Africans are chopping wood – and undertake the scientific roles within the process, checking and noting down the temperature. The film ultimately reveals both work performed by serving East Africans, producing food largely for Italian prisoners of war and Europeans, but also the rigid organisation of these labour practices. As such, An East African Army Field Bakery offers a lengthy depiction of Africans working within the war effort, yet it also, to an extent, dehumanises these individuals within the process.

Tom Rice (October 2008)


Works Cited

Nicholls, Christine Stephanie, Red Strangers: The White Tribe of Kenya (Timewell Press, 2005).

John Wernham Audio Commentary accessed from Imperial War Museum.

See Also: AYY 1176 - Kenya’s Contribution to the Allied War Effort.




Technical Data

Running Time:
16 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
412 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Directorate of Public Relations, War Office
Wernham, John (Sergeant)
Production company
Army Film and Photographic Unit







Production Organisations