SCENES SHOWING THE MANUFACTURE OF SOAP FROM COCOA BEANS ON THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA [Allocated Title]
- Title: SCENES SHOWING THE MANUFACTURE OF SOAP FROM COCOA BEANS ON THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA [Allocated Title]
- Film Number: AYY 294
- Other titles: SCENES OF THE TOUR OF INSPECTION OF THE WEST AFRICAN TROOPS BY G.O.C.–IN–C. GEN. SIR GEORGE J. GIFFARD, K.C.B., D.S.O. AND OF ARMY NURSES AT EASE IN ACCRA, WEST AFRICA [Allocated Title] A DEMONSTRATION BY WEST AFRICAN TROOPS OF A FIELD AMBULANCE UNIT AT WORK [Allocated Title] BRITISH ARMY OPERATIONS IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR [Allocated Series Title]
- Summary: This film shows the process of manufacturing soap from surplus cocoa beans for the West African Forces at Nsawam in the Gold Coast (now Ghana), an inspection of West African Troops and nurses in Accra, and finally a demonstration by the 5th West African Field Ambulance Unit.
- Description: Reel 1 (AYY 294-1) Africans in shirts and shorts carry sacks of cocoa beans on their heads. The sacks are unloaded from the lorry. The beans are stirred, tipped from a sieve into a tray and then put into a tub by a local woman. The beans are melted and women stir them with planks. The liquid is poured out, before the soap is cut up into bars and stamped with WD (War department). Reel 2 (AYY 294-2-1): General Sir George J Giffard visits the 14th Battalion Nigeria Regiment, which is commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Jones. (General Giffard visits the following units of the 6th Gold Coast Regiment: 7th General Transport Company, 2nd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, 4th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery and the 5th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery. The General inspects the guard, signal training and a Physical Training class. Kanuri troops from Bornu at aiming practice. The troops are given instruction in English by naming various objects. The General and other officers inspect vehicles at 7th General Transport Company. Bayonet drill and training for an assault course. He watches the Light and Heavy Anti-Aircraft batteries practising. Predictor and range finder. Guns firing. (AYY 294-2-2): An African lies on the ground, as four Africans in uniform run towards the camera with a stretcher. They cut his hair, give him water and place him on the stretcher before bandaging his head and cutting his sleeve in order to bandage his arm. The men carry the stretcher back to the base where an Englishman inspects the man. He is carried to the English doctor who treats him. Two Africans then peel back camouflage to reveal a Red Cross ambulance into which the body is loaded and driven off. The Africans camouflage the stretcher – in two takes – and it is loaded on a boat which takes the stretcher across the water. (Shotlist version of above: General Sir George J. Giffard talks with officers, while in the background an African works on a car. The officers watch the West African troops undergoing signal training. An officer talks to an instructor wearing a white T-Shirt, who is leading the African’s physical training. The officers continue inspecting the Africans in military uniform, before watching the local troops at shooting practice. An officer, with a tin of food in his hand, is talking to a local – teaching English - before further shots of the physical training, led by an African man. They engage, without tops on, in bayonet practice, before the West Africans work with the British in loading and firing the Bofors Gun. The film then shows nurses unloading their luggage and waving goodbye and shaking hands as their train departs. A group of nurses, seated at a table, drink tea, while one offers a drink to a cat. There follow further shots of two women in the market, carrying baskets and inspecting jewelry.) Reel 3 (AYY 294-3) A "wounded" man laying in the grass. A stretcher bearer is called and the man's wounds are bandaged, he is given a drink and lifted onto the stretcher. The stretcher is carried on the heads of the bearers. They enter the Reception Depot. A native corporal takes details. A European corporal examines the patient. The patient is brought into the operating theatre, "operated" on and carried out. The patient is carried to an ambulance. The driver removes the camouflage and opens the doors. The patient is loaded in and the ambulance drives off. The patient is put into a canoe to cross the stream then disembarks. (Shotlist version of above: An African lies on the ground, as four Africans in uniform run towards the camera with a stretcher. They cut his hair, give him water and place him on the stretcher before bandaging his head and cutting his sleeve in order to bandage his arm. The men carry the stretcher back to the base where an Englishman inspects the man. He is carried to the English doctor who treats him. Two Africans then peel back camouflage to reveal a Red Cross ambulance into which the body is loaded and driven off. The Africans camouflage the stretcher – in two takes – and it is loaded on a boat which takes the stretcher across the water.) -------- Enhanced data reproduced from COLONIAL FILM CATALOGUE - www.colonialfilm.org.uk CONTEXT The items filmed here by Captain Feilmann illustrate the different roles of Africans within the war effort, from the production of goods for overseas to the work of the Field ambulance units. This footage offers particular insights into British attitudes towards African troops, yet it also indicates the ways in which army film was deployed as propaganda both at home and abroad. These sequences were intended for use within newsreels. It appears that the first item, depicting the manufacture of soap, featured as part of the Gaumont British News series in January 1943. Issue number 943, released on 18 January 1943 – six weeks after the item was filmed – included an item entitled ‘Making soap from cocoa beans’. The commentator introduced the footage as ‘something of the war effort from the Gold Coast’ and concluded by stating that ‘it’s nice to see the war effort being pushed ahead even in these remote corners of the Empire’. The footage also featured in the Dublin edition (No. 945) a week later, with the commentary relating closely to Captain Feilmann’s footage – ‘the sacks arrive by truck load and are then unloaded… the liquid is now poured into linen-lined wooden moulds. Then the moulded blocks are cut into bars’ (http://www.bufvc.ac.uk). Furthermore, the sixth edition of The British Empire at War – the Colonial Film Unit’s silent monthly newsreel which was intended for distribution by mobile cinema units in Africa – contained an item entitled ‘Gold Coast: Soap from Cocoa’ (Colonial Cinema, July 1944, 28). This official army footage was thus incorporated into newsreels and adapted for British, African and international audiences. The second reel shows an inspection of West African troops by Sir George Giffard. Giffard had served with the King’s African Rifles during the First World War and was appointed the first Commander-in-Chief in West Africa in June 1940. Based at Achimota College in Accra, one of Africa’s leading educational establishments, Giffard was responsible for the training and organisation of two West African divisions and one from East Africa, which would later serve under his command in Burma (Jackson, 2006, 216). The Times described him, upon his retirement in 1946, as ‘probably the foremost authority in the Army on the training of African soldiers’ (The Times, 17 August 1946, 4). An earlier report commented that one of Giffard’s ‘main pre-occupations’ was ‘the teaching of English to all native troops’, who took a minimum of six English lessons a week (The Times, 21 July 1942, 5). Since the establishment of the West African Command, after the Fall of France, Africa had become an increasingly important strategic base. Yet, by November 1942 the Vichy threat to West Africa had receded, and military authorities now seriously considered the use of West African combatants as troops in Asia. Nancy Lawler noted how the Gold Coast battalions continued to ‘recruit and train men in preparation for combat in other theatres’ and in December 1942 Giffard proposed to the War Office that two West African divisions should be raised for service in Burma (Lawler, 2002, 228). At the end of December 1942, the Chiefs of Staff Committee determined that West African troops should be available for service outside of Africa by June 1943 (The Journal of African History, Vol. 20, No. 3, 1979, 32). The end of 1942 thus marked a turning point in the deployment of West African troops. ANALYSIS This army footage highlights some of the ways in which the British perceived the African troops at a moment when the African role within the war was under discussion. The initial footage follows the conventions of industrial process films, in showing the manufacture of soap within the Gold Coast. While the film shows Africans transporting the sacks and local women cultivating the beans, of more significance is the way in which this footage is used within newsreels both in Britain and in Africa. In particular this footage is contextualised – through an additional commentary – as an indication of the Gold Coast’s loyalty to the Empire and its continued support for the war. The final sequence, showing the work of the 5th West African Field Ambulance Unit, is also evidently staged and produced as a narrative. It would appear that the footage here is intended for African audiences, as it focuses on the work of uniformed Africans in attending to a wounded African man. The message within this sequence shares much in common with the earlier footage of African troops in training. First, both sequences emphasise the collaboration between the Africans and British. The African men carry a stretcher to the English doctor who attends to the wounded man, while in the earlier sequences British officers guide the African troops in lining up the Bofors gun. Secondly, the role of the British in organising the African troops is shown. In the example of the Field Ambulance Unit, the film shows the varied responses to injury, as the body is transported by foot, by car, and by boat. In the footage of General Giffard inspecting the African troops, the role of the British in ‘training’ and ‘developing’ the West Africans is promoted. The footage emphasises the physical capabilities of the Africans – showing P.T. training and including shots of the torso – but also contains a brief shot in which an African man is learning English. The film highlights the ‘educational’ policy of the British, and in particular of Giffard, at a decisive moment in the history of African troops, as Giffard would shortly propose their deployment overseas. These two African training sequences are interspersed by footage of British nurses in Africa. While the footage, in showing the nurses in uniform, may acknowledge the role of British women in Africa during the war, it largely endorses gender stereotypes. The film establishes a clear disparity between the male and female roles. The African men are shown in military training, while the nurses are presented, not at work, but drinking tea, feeding a cat and shopping for jewellery. Tom Rice (July 2008) WORKS CITED Brett-James, Antony, ‘Giffard, Sir George James (1886–1964)’, rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), accessed 18 August 2008 from www.oxforddnb.com.catalogue.ulrls.lon.ac.uk:80/view/article/33394. British Universities Newsreel Database accessed at http://joseph.bufvc.ac.uk/BUND/search.php on 19 August 2008. Colonial Cinema, July 1944, 28. Killingray, David, ‘The Idea of a British Imperial African Army’, The Journal of African History, Vol. 20, No. 3, 1979, 421-436. Jackson, Ashley, The British Empire and the Second World War (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2006). ‘West Africa in the War’, The Times, 21 July 1942, 5. ‘Sir George Giffard’, The Times, 17 August 1946, 4. ‘Sir George Giffard’, The Times, 19 November 1964, 14. See the original shot sheets (A2944), available at the Imperial War Museum.
- Access Conditions: IWM Attribution: © IWM
- Featured Period: 1939-1945
- Production Date: 1942-12-04 1942-11-26 1942-11-27 1942-12-10
- Production Country: GB
- Production Details: War Office Film Unit (Production company) Feilman, F P C (Production individual)
- Personalities, Units and Organisations:
- Keywords: Nsawam, Gold Coast, British West Africa (geography) West Africa 1939-1945 (theme)
- Physical Characteristics: Colour format: B&W Sound format: Silent
- Technical Details: Format: 35mm Number of items/reels/tapes: 1 Footage: 1261 ft (ca); Running time: 13 mins
- Notes: Technical: AYY 294/1 and AYY 294/2 are held on the same reel.
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