- Title: THE GEN NO 14 [Main Title]
- Film Number: GEN 14
- Other titles:
- Description: I. [Recent developments in aviation.] a. Sikorsky two-seater training Helicopter, Hoverfly I; commentary explains advantages over the autogiro. b. A Stinson Reliant demonstrates - first with a sheep, then a human - a new method of 'snatching' passengers from the ground. c. The 'Squirt', prototype Gloster-Whittle E 28/39 jet aircraft, on test flight. d. The University of Toronto's Banting Institute conducts research into the effects of "G" [gravity force] on pilots' reactions, using a centrifuge, and tests Wing Commander Franks' patent flying (pressure) suit. II. SEAC. At an airbase in Burma, a Gurkha boy "Jimmy" has become the Squadron mascot. III. [Educational and Vocational Training - EVT.] A survey of the choices open to a flight mechanic, a spitfire pilot, a WAAF driver, and a "GD", after demobilisation. Film of life in offices, factories, railway yards, is followed by a detailed description of the RAF EVT scheme, including an interview with Air Commodore Perry Keen. The scheme is divided into (1) Resettlement training (lectures on citizen's rights) (2) Educational training (including a refresher course in pre-war trades) and (3) Vocational Training (particularly for the GD who has no trade). A mobile unit takes EVT to more remote areas. A lecture on voting and democracy (with pre-war footage) is followed by film of airmen collecting civilian clothing (from GEN No 10). A happy family watches television. -------- Enhanced data reproduced from COLONIAL FILM CATALOGUE - www.colonialfilm.org.uk CONTEXT The RAF was the only British service to have its own newsreel during the War, producing 18 issues of The Gen between April 1943 and September 1945. Intended ‘to show the service to the service’, the films were shown exclusively to RAF personnel serving at home and overseas. An unpublished history of the Royal Air Force Film Production Unit (RAFFPU), written at the end of the war, explained that each issue had to provide ‘topical interest’ and ‘entertainment’, so that they could be shown ‘in all R.A.F. camp cinemas as part of the normal cinema show’. The document further claimed that ‘The Gen proved to be extremely popular with the Service from the first and was considered by commanders to have very high morale value – particularly for troops overseas, many of whom worked and lived in isolated conditions’ (‘History of the RAFFPU’, 3-4). Amongst the items featured within The Gen 14 is the story of ‘Jimmy Nathu’, a Gurkha boy, who was ‘adopted’ by the No. 17 squadron in Burma. The item was filmed by Stan Goozee, a sergeant cameraman with the No. 3 RAF Film Production Unit, on 31 January 1945 and appeared not only in this film but also in Indian News Parade 105. As the unedited rushes for the film are also held at IWM (ABY 69), it is possible to see the way in which Goozee constructed this story specifically for use within the newsreels. There are virtually no unused sequences within the unedited rushes, while Goozee’s comments on the accompanying ‘dopesheet’ greatly directed the narrative and language used within the commentary for both The Gen and Indian News Parade. On the ‘dopesheet’, Goozee outlined Jimmy’s story in detail, and noted, for example, that Jimmy calls a Group Captain ‘Uncle George’, has his education funded by the squadron and intends to come to England. This rhetoric of British social welfare and paternal imperialism is particularly emphasised in Indian News Parade 105 – ‘He’s an orphan… or rather he was. Now he has dozens of loving fathers… in fact everybody in the squadron. He calls a Group Captain Uncle George’. Much of the language used within the commentary of The Gen 14 also comes directly from Goozee’s dopesheet (‘Jimmy is a regular erk’), although there are a few lines that don’t make it to the commentary (‘His manners are typically English and apart from his colour he would pass for an English child’). The story of Jimmy is also told by Richard Townshend Bickers, in his biography of the fighter pilot, Ginger Lacey. Bickers writes in his epilogue that ‘No story that concerns No. 17 squadron in the Second World War should omit mention of the squadron mascot, christened “Jimmie Nutti” and more usually known as “Chico”’. Bickers recalled how Jimmy first came to the squadron’s attention in 1942 when the squadron was living in Alipore, Calcutta. ‘Every day, starving native children used to gather outside the Messes, begging for food’, he explained. The youngest of these – starving, homeless and seriously ill with Malaria – was Nattu Alis Salim, who was taken in by the squadron with the added prefix ‘Jimmie’. Bickers further explained that when the squadron left Malaya to go to Japan, Jimmy was ‘left in good hands at R.A.F. Butterworth, with a substantial sum of money to give him a start in life’ (Bickers, 1988, 203). In 1954 he left Butterworth for Singapore, where he joined the Merchant Service, and when it was decided at a squadron reunion in 1960 to try and trace him, he was found in America. At that time, Jimmy was putting himself through an engineering course at Greer Technical Institute in Chicago, having entered the US illegally. ‘He has since then’, Bickers concluded, ‘appeared in a “This is Your Life” programme in Hollywood, and been visited by one of the squadron’s ex-members from Canada. Finally, he has found a good job to go to on completing his course and obtaining a mechanic’s certificate’ (Bickers, 1988, 204). ANALYSIS The story of Jimmy Nathu is used within The Gen as an example of the British welfare efforts within Burma. It represents a traditional British imperialism, in which the British ‘fathers’ care and support for the colonial child. The film emphasises that Jimmy is ‘one of the boys’, promoting a notion of imperial partnership and brotherhood (‘he shares the food, the jabs and anything else that comes along’), and presents England as the aspirational centre of the Empire (‘one day he hopes to come to England’). The camera presents this as Jimmy’s story, filming him in the foreground (for example when working on the planes) and emphasising his position at the heart of squadron life. However, his physical difference and size is emphasised throughout, for example, as he lines up for his inoculation bare-chested alongside the other men, queues for his food, or plays in the water. Jimmy also appears an isolated example. No other locals are depicted within the film and the commentary emphasises that his care is the result of the squadron rather than any government initiatives – ‘members of the squadron are clubbing together to pay for Jimmy’s education’, while his pay ‘is paid by the boys instead of the Air Ministry’. The story is thus presented, within the RAF newsreel, as a tale by, for and about the RAF men, highlighting the efforts of the regular servicemen. While Jimmy’s story is presented as emblematic of British efforts within the colonies, this isolated example inevitably fails to address the broader problems facing thousands like Jimmy. This item highlighting the social welfare efforts of the RAF servicemen is flanked by two light-hearted pieces addressing modern technological advances and the post-war opportunities for RAF service personnel. The first, which includes footage of a sheep being projected into the sky (‘the first aerial hitchhiker’), also shows the development of the jet and the helicopter (‘the small man’s plane of the future’). The tone is jocular throughout, and this is again evident in the final item, which directly addresses the RAF viewers – ‘Oi you, yes you… what are you going to do when this is all over?’ – as the film begins to plan for a life after the War. Tom Rice (September 2009) WORKS CITED Bickers, Richard Townshend, Ginger Lacey: Fighter Pilot, 2nd revised edition (London: Blandford Press, 1988). Daily Progress Report, ABY 69, held at IWM. ‘History of the Royal Air Force Film Production Unit’, unpublished manuscript held at IWM, originally found in ‘Cinematograph 1950-1953 Acquisitions’, Central File B6/1.
- Access Conditions: IWM Attribution: © IWM
- Featured Period: 1939-1945
- Production Date: 1945-04
- Production Country: GB
- Production Details: RAF Film Production Unit (Production company)
- Personalities, Units and Organisations: Royal Air Force (regiment/service)
- Physical Characteristics: Colour format: B&W Sound format: Sound Soundtrack language: English Title language: English
- Technical Details: Format: 35mm Number of items/reels/tapes: 2 Footage: 1564 ft; Running time: 17 mins
- Notes: Item II, based on raw footage held as IWM film ABY 69. See entry for more details about 'Jimmy'.
- Link to IWM Collections page:
Related IWM Collections Objects:
ABY 111 (ELECTION DAY IN INDIA [Allocated Title])