- Title: BUILDING A STRATEGIC RAF JUNGLE AIRFIELD ON THE COCOS ISLANDS [Allocated Title]
- Film Number: ABY 113
- Other titles: ROYAL AIR FORCE OPERATIONS IN SOUTH EAST ASIA DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR [Allocated Series Title]
- Summary: Anticipating air operations against Japanese-held Malaya and Singapore, British and Indian personnel are landed on the jungle-covered Cocos (Keeling) Islands, in order to construct a strategic airbase.
- Description: Reel 1: A small motor launch draws alongside a troopship. A Major climbs a staircase up to the deck followed by a Major-General. Talking to a Military Policeman. The general is saluted aboard. Close-up of the general talking with Air Commodore A W Hunt followed by an Indian Sikh wearing a shoulder flash reading '16 Cav' (probably 16th Light Cavalry). The general heads for his cabin. Men on the deck with piles of kitbags and equipment. An island on the horizon. View through rigging. A davit. Men looking out to sea. A small motor launch passes. The island on the horizon. View onboard looking forward. A large merchantman, possibly a tanker, in the distance. Two large ships. A row of davits with two gun positions, probably 20mm Polstens. A launch comes alongside. Men watching from the deck rails. Men descending a set of stairs onto a barge. Men with kitbags. The launch pulls away. A large case is brought down the stairs. Shot from a higher deck with men leaning over rails in the foreground. Supplies are piled up on a barge. Men in fighting order pass supplies from one to the next. Indian troops on the stairs pass kitbags. British servicemen smoke an Indian 'hookah' pipe with an Indian man watching. A transport ship. A landing barge numbered '16' comes alongside. Armed men in fighting order board the barge. Barges '22', '10' and '20' seen with others in the background. A barge packed with men reverses with Indian troops watching. Men boarding a barge. Barge '22' with '5' alongside. Barge sailing away. Indian troops descend the ladder to board. View from the barge as it pulls away. The men onboard. The barge passes the ship; the name of the ship is not clear. Two large ships. Close-up of the men. Another barge, '2', passes. A motor launch passes. Another close-up of the men. Reel 2: Onboard a barge of Indian troops heading towards the beach. Panning shot of beach; a tent and a sign with a figure '4' (presumably to mark disembarkation points for landing craft). The ramp is lowered at '3' and the men disembark. Ships on the horizon; camera pans left to see landing craft (most of the following landing craft are LCTs - Landing Craft Tanks) and a crane. Group of men move a crate. A small hut on the edge of the jungle with a beached landing craft. A group of Indian soldiers disembark from a landing craft while one man, probably a local islander, climbs down a palm tree. A man winds a handle on a generator trolley amongst trees; a crane stands nearby. LCTs. A mobile crane, possibly a Coles crane, drives past camera and away into the jungle. Indian men unloading supplies from an LCT. The supplies include sacks, cable drums, crates, wheelbarrows etc. A crate, marked O/C 352 Petrol Platoon RASC Light [O/C - officer commanding; RASC - Royal Army Service Corps], is manhandled by a number of Indians. More supplies unloaded. A large mobile crane is driven off an LCT and it drives away into the jungle. A Dodge lorry reverses off an LCT. A crate marked 'Secunderabad' (an Indian city, directly under British rule, twinned with the princely city of Hyderabad) is carried by a number of British men. RAF men carrying cylindrical magazines for 20mm Hispano light anti-aircraft guns. A crane being assembled. A British Army officer (probably a Royal Engineer) operates a theodolite. Close-up of the officer. A man operates a compressor. Men at work on a jetty; an air hose can be seen leading below the surface. The diver on the surface. The diver under the jetty. A man uses a sledgehammer. Men at work with the crane behind. An LCT drops its ramp and men disembark carrying kitbags. Several shots of men marching into the jungle. A lorry passes. Kitbags are piled up. Reel 3: A sign reading 'Report Centre' with men and vehicles amongst trees in the background. Another sign reads 'All Motor Transport drivers report here'. A desk outside a tent with two drivers reporting. A man speaking on a Tannoy loudspeaker. Reverse angle showing men coming ashore. Close-up of the loudspeaker. Indian workers drag a large wooden beam along a jetty with a crane in the background. An LCT comes ashore with its ramp down. A Chevrolet CMP lorry, with the word 'Cockroach' painted across its passenger-side windscreen, comes ashore. A bulldozer drives through trees. A crane towing a trailer drives off an LCT. The crane drives along a road through the jungle. British servicemen loading kitbags onto a lorry. The lorry drives away. A bulldozer at work amongst thick undergrowth; it fells palm trees. An officer uses a small optical instrument. Close-up of the officer. More shots of the bulldozer at work. In a large clearing, presumably the site of the new airfield, more bulldozers are at work. One of the vehicles seen is named 'Violet'. Motor transport parked amongst trees. Men attending to their camp beds. One man writing a letter; camera pans to another man, wearing a towel, lighting a cigarette. Men washing and bathing in the sea. Men shaking out blankets a camp amongst trees. Men in swimming trunks looking for sea shells. Close-ups of the men examining a small coral. Men thrashing their clothes in the sea. A man kneels on a groundsheet while shaving. Cookhouse amongst trees. An Indian man tends to a can (probably containing tea) on a fire and a British man pours something into it. One can is emptied into another. Airmen with a number of pails. The contents, some unidentifiable foodstuff, is transferred from one container to another. Men being served tea from the can. Men stand about drinking. A man sets about making his bed under a small tarpaulin while another appears to be cleaning the bolt of his rifle. The airmen's camp. Men around a small camp fire. A sign reads 'Airmen's Cookhouse No. 2'. Another sign reads 'RAF St[atio]n Brown. BOR's [British Other Ranks] accommodation'. Reel 4: Men at work building a road in the jungle. Two lorries approach. A jeep drives along the road. Various shots of bulldozers felling trees, clearing undergrowth, and leveling ground. A lorry (probably a Leyland Retriever) tows a trailer loaded with a large crate. A crane lowers a crate onto a trailer. The trailer is marked '136 Sqdn'. Various shots of the lorry and trailer on the road. The lorry parks up and the crate is hoisted off. A caterpillar tractor named 'Beryl' towing a scraper. Two tractors pass each other; one of them tows a trailer in which a hydraulic ram pushes loose earth onto the ground. Two men operate a large chainsaw which they use to chop up a palm tree trunk. More footage of the chainsaw. A church service conducted in the open air. Palm trunks serve as pews and the chaplain, despite the remote location, appears to be wearing full vestments. Men on their knees in prayer. The chaplain kneels in front of the cross on an altar made of small rocks. A crate marked '136 Sqdn' being opened. The fuselage of a Spitfire Mk VIII, covered in a tarpaulin, is unloaded. The Spitfire's tail assembly (minus the rudder) is carried away. Men pitching a tent. A man hammering in tent pegs with a mallet. A Spitfire fuselage, missing its wings and engine cowling is held up by a crane. Airmen position a rest under the nose of the aircraft and a second rest under the tail. (Aircraft is Spitfire Mk VIII MT567). The wings are fitted to a second Spitfire (MT962). A Spitfire fuselage is towed out of a crate by a jeep. A four-bladed propeller is fitted. Close-up of the propeller. Reel 5: Two men with a pile of Pierced Steel Planking (PSP), used for quickly building runways. Various shots of the airstrip under construction with British and Indian men at work. View of the airstrip as seen through the holes of a section of PSP as it is carried past camera. Sections of PSP being laid. An RAF Regiment light anti-aircraft gun team pushes a 20mm Hispano gun on a wheeled carriage through trees. The gun team emerges onto the beach, park the gun, and set it up for firing. The gunner takes his seat and a magazine is fitted. Close-up of the gunner; men in the background fetch ammunition. View looking down through the sights at the gunner. Another gun team dragging their gun through the jungle. Rolling the gun along a beach the team passes close to the camera. Barrel of the gun silhouetted against the sky; tilt down to the gunner. The gunner points something out and a man looks through binoculars. View of the gun through palm fronds. RAF ground crew roll a Spitfire Mk VIII; the aircraft is missing its engine cowling. Spitfires being serviced. PSP runway being laid with a parked Spitfire behind. A Spitfire is fueled from a bowser. Scenes from a local wedding procession led by a man in elaborate ceremonial clothing (presumably the groom). The procession arrives at a house. Behind the groom is a group of men beating small drums and chanting or singing. The bride, equally elaborately dressed, emerges and both bride and groom are sheltered by umbrellas used as parasols. The couple lead the procession; the camera follows. A large group of local children joins the throng. The procession passes camera and eventually arrives at a second house. Reel 6: Continued footage from wedding procession. The bride and groom. The procession silhouetted against a low sun. A game of football in progress; views from the sidelines and behind one of the goals. A British man attempts a volley but misjudges it and overbalances (the game appears to be Britons versus Indians). Crowd shots with British, Indian and islanders watching the game. A padre conducts a church service at dispersal. He stands on the bed of a lorry with a cross on a flag-covered trestle table serving as the altar. An organist sits at a small organ also on the bed of the lorry. Camera pans to show the congregation. Shot framed by the port leading edge of a Spitfire. View from the back of the congregation looking towards the padre. Panning shot over the congregation; some of the men are Indians. Padre at the altar. The organist. Very distant shot of Spitfires parked at PSP dispersal with motor transport and the congregation in the background. High shot, with palm fronds across the top of frame, showing the large congregation which is several hundred strong. Men with heads bowed in prayer. Shot of bright sunlight shining through palm fronds; tilt down and pan to congregation. Final shot of the crowd. Two RAF officers, one of them a Squadron Leader, take local children for a ride in a jeep. Close-ups of the driver and the children. Local people (men, women, and children) gather around a parked Spitfire. Three shots of smiling British airmen holding young local children. British airmen and local people in a small sailing boat. Another boat, without its sails, is punted along. A boat seen through the rigging of another. Pan over a beach crowded with sailing boats. Another panning shot showing at least 30 sailing boats. Some of the boats underway. The boats are triangular-rigged and single-masted with triangular jibs. Reel 7: An RAF Regiment 20mm Hispano light anti-aircraft gun traverses as two men carry a gun barrel past camera. A battery of three 20mm guns; a cameraman of No.3 RAF Film Production Unit attends to an 35mm Eyemo film camera on a tripod. Close-up of a gunner traversing his gun across shot with the RAF cameraman behind him. The cameraman gives a thumbs-up. A radio control post; two men wear headsets. One of them, a Flying Officer, speaks on the radio. Second angle with the Hispano guns in the background. Waves breaking. Close-up at the water's edge with sea lapping on the beach. A rocky section of shore with thick clouds overhead. A radio mast rotating. Close-up of the antennae. An Indian man in a steel helmet stands on a pile of logs and looks through a pair of binoculars. Close-up of the look-out. A battery of 3.7" QF ('Quick Firing') anti-aircraft guns; the guns elevate and traverse. Close-up of two seated Indian gunners, both stripped to the waist and wearing steel helmets, turning handles to traverse their gun. A gunner opens a gun's breech. Extreme close-up of the muzzle of a 3.7" gun; it elevates out of shot. An RAF pilot standing in front of Spitfire Mk VIII MT704 parked at dispersal. He climbs aboard and a member of his ground crew helps him strap in. Ground crewmen standing around. Propeller spinning; camera pans right to the pilot. Spitfire takes off. Low pass by a Spitfire; the aircraft rocks its wings as it passes. Ground crew watch the aircraft pass. Spitfire taxiing. Men watch the take off. (A small piece of debris, probably foliage, partially obscures the following shots). Two pairs of Spitfires take off together with 'J' and 'Y' closest to camera. 'K' passes. A squadron fly past of twelve Spitfires three abreast; one aircraft peels off to the left. Twelve Spitfires low over surf. Four Spitfires in line astern directly overhead. (Debris removed) Local people at work in an open-sided wooden building. They appear to be chopping coconuts. Close-up of a woman chopping the husks off coconuts with a large knife. Exterior shots of the building; a pair of rails leads into it. A number of large metal frames are wheeled out from the building covered in roughly chopped coconuts. The frames are laid out in the sun. A woman empties a basket of chopped coconuts onto the frame while a second uses a rake to spread them out. Interior of a carpenters' workshop with men at work with saws and planes. Close-ups of a man making a model boat. Spitfire 'V' taxiing on PSP surface. Spitfire 'Y' taxiing. Two Spitfires taking off. A line of parked Spitfires; in the distance a Consolidated Liberator heavy bomber comes in to land. The aircraft has had its turrets faired over. The aircraft is guided to a halt by a batman. The aircraft's crew and passengers disemplane; the first two men are naval officers. Six Spitfires low overhead.
- Access Conditions: IWM Attribution: © IWM
- Featured Period: 1939-1945
- Production Date: 1945-03-20
- Production Country: GB
- Production Details: Air Ministry, Directorate of Public Relations (Production sponsor) Royal Air Force Film Production Unit (Production company) Hughes, H R (Production individual)
- Personalities, Units and Organisations: Royal Air Force (regiment/service) Indian Army, Royal Indian Army Service Corps (regiment/service) British Army, Corps of Royal Engineers (regiment/service) Indian Army, Indian Engineers (regiment/service) Royal Air Force, 136 Squadron (regiment/service) Royal Air Force, RAF Film Production Unit, No. 3 Film Production Unit (regiment/service) Royal Air Force, Royal Air Force Regiment (regiment/service) Indian Army, 16th Light Cavalry (regiment/service) British Army, Royal Army Service Corps (regiment/service)
- Keywords: Cocos Islands (geography) Indian Ocean 1939-1945, Second World War (event) Fighter operations, Air operations over Burma, Burma 1942-1945, Second World War (event) Bomber operations, Air operations over Burma, Burma 1942-1945, Second World War (event) Royal Air Force 1939-1945 (theme) Far East 1939-1945 (theme)
- Physical Characteristics: Colour format: B&W Sound format: Silent
- Technical Details: Format: 35mm Number of items/reels/tapes: 7 Footage: 5322 ft; Running time: 60 minutes
- HD Media:Yes
- Notes: No date on dopesheet or slates. Date above is the date that landings on the islands began, but clearly this film was shot over a considerable period. Location is Brown's West Island, one of the Cocos Islands attol, approximately halfway between Sri Lanka and the northwest coast of Australia. RAF aircraft based on the Cocos Islands include Spitfires of RAF 136 Squadron (from April 1945), Liberators (from July 1945) of RAF 356 Squadron, RAF 99 Squadron and a detachment of RAF 321 (Dutch) Squadron, and a photo-reconnaissance Mosquito detachment of RAF 684 Squadron. Following Japanese capitulation these bombers participated in Operation Mastiff, the air delivery of food, medical supplies and radios to Allied prisoners of war. Footage in Reel 7 shows the process of making copra, or dried coconut, which remains the islands' only cash crop. Copra is used as livestock fodder or crushed to produce coconut oil. Construction of and operations from this strip covered extensively by RAF and British Army photographers. See related items. Some of this footage appears, in an edited form with sound, in the RAF's in-house newsreel 'The Gen' No. 17. See related items.
- Link to IWM Collections page:
Related IWM Collections Objects:
GEN 17 (THE GEN NO 17 [Main Title]) ABY 128 (FOOTBALL MATCH ON THE COCOS ISLANDS [Allocated Title]) ABY 129 (ATTACK ON ENEMY AIRSTRIP IN SUMATRA [Allocated Title]) ABY 139 (ISLAND BASES IN THE INDIAN OCEAN: ISLE OF MAHÉ, ADDU ATOLL AND DIEGO GARCIA [Allocated Title]) Documents.4628 (System.Xml.XmlElement)