- Title: THE GEN NO 12 [Main Title]
- Film Number: GEN 12
- Other titles:
- Description: I. "S.E.A.C." a. WAAFs arrive (by ship) in India and, as well as starting new duties, do some sightseeing. b. 'Scots' commentary describes bomber (Liberator and Halifax ?) maintenance in the Burma sector and (after film of take-off, flight and action) discusses the "rules" for survival following a jungle crash-landing. An RAF training course teaches crews how to cope with Burmese language, food, poisonous insects, Japanese booby-traps etc. The commentator's aircraft touches down safely. II. "RAF Warfront." 1 January 1945: Mitchells shown in action; while returning their pilots are told not to land at their usual airfields. Film of wrecked Mitchells etc. on airfield in Belgium/Holland sector following German attack. RAF Spitfires retaliate - good footage of dogfights with Me 109s. Messerschmitts crash into the snow; a German pilot bails out; one is shot down over a town; another crash-lands near a tramway. Shots of wrecked aircraft and dead pilots. The "battle of New Year's Day" is a reminder of the dangers of relaxing while the German "tiger" is still active. -------- Enhanced data reproduced from COLONIAL FILM CATALOGUE - www.colonialfilm.org.uk CONTEXT The ‘Gen’ series of films, subtitled ‘Voice of the Service’, were produced by the RAF Film Production Unit during World War II for screening to RAF personnel at home and overseas. The films contained a combination of news items and general information or ‘gen’ in RAF slang. Gen 12, produced in January 1945, features two separate films, the first of which concerns RAF activities in India and Burma. This section is titled ‘S.E.A.C.’, after South-East Asia Command, the body in charge of Allied operations in South-East Asia during World War II. It dovetails three separate stories: the arrival of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in India in late 1944; the aerial bombardment of Burma; and details of a training camp that provides guidance for those stranded in the Burmese jungle. This material has been edited from rushes shot by RAF Film Production Unit cameramen, whose ‘dopesheets’ provided the factual basis for the voiceover added at Pinewood Studios in England. The WAAF was created in June 1939 to serve as the female auxiliary of the Royal Air Force. At its peak strength in July 1943 it comprised nearly 182,000 women, representing 16 per cent of total RAF numbers (Escott, 2003, 38). Total numbers abroad never exceeded 9,000, however, and no more than 800 served in India at any given time (Escott, 2003, 33). The first WAAFs to serve in India arrived in Bombay in November 1944. They were employed in support work for the allied air forces, with roles ranging from catering to aircraft control. Ashley Jackson has described Burma as being a ‘low-priority British colony until it became one of the Empire’s major battlegrounds in the Second World War’ (Jackson, 2006, 386). Despite being a part of the Empire since 1886 Burma had only recently come under direct British control, having been administered as a province of India until 1937. The capture of Burma in May 1942 represented the furthest extent of the Japanese incursion into Britain’s South-East Asian Empire during World War II. Jackson has argued that among the dominant ethnic group, the Burmans, some ‘were actively anti-British and willing to work with the Japanese’ (Jackson, 2006, 386). Other ethnic groups, including the Karens, Chins, Kachines and Nagas, ‘were loyal to the British, or opposed to Japanese or Burman influence, and therefore prepared to support them’ (Jackson, 2006, 386). ANALYSIS Although its main purpose is as an information film, the ‘S.E.A.C.’ section of Gen 12 employs some sophisticated and novel film techniques. Most of these are occasioned by a desire to smooth the transition between its component parts. The link between the WAAF story and the aerial bombardment of Burma is achieved by showing the men that the WAAF will be working alongside priming the bomber planes in preparation for the attack. The link between the bombardment and the training camp section is achieved by imagining the situation that the crew would encounter should they crash into the jungle. Dominating all this is the commentary. Although the film begins with a third party narrator, from halfway through the WAAF section onwards it uses the voices of the RAF crew to elucidate the action. This device is employed to help the film hang together, the dialogue giving the impression that these characters are moving from scene to scene. Unfortunately, this conceit produces disjunctions of its own. In the aerial bombardment section the dialogue is linked with point-of-view shots. However, the surrounding footage requires them to take an omniscient position. Although the dialogue is scripted and is presumably spoken by actors, the use of ‘authentic’ voices does facilitate a more casual use of language than is common in military documentaries. One airman is referred to as a ‘clot’ (this is Pilot Officer Prune, originally a character in the RAF's ‘Tee Emm’ magazine), and we are informed that the WAAF will find the locals ‘a whole lot darker’ than the men that they are used to back home. The desire for continuity is in evidence throughout. The WAAF section includes a brisk travelogue. WAAF officers walk through each setting and, as they do so, they help to blend the transition from one scene to another. Against a background of Asian-styled music we see an ancient India untouched by war: there is Mughal architecture, snake charming, camel riding, a beggar, and a bazaar. Elsewhere the War dominates the film. The scenes of army activity in the WAAF are reflective of colonial hierarchy. Here a lone British soldier provides guidance to a group of Indians who are doing the heavy work of loading bombs onto aeroplanes. In contrast, the training camp section is notable for its positive portrayal of Burmese help. The Burmese are shown in a position of authority as they instruct the Allied forces about jungle survival. They provide translations and ‘useful tips’, including how to manufacture various devices out of bamboo. In this film it is ‘the Japs’ alone who are regarded as the enemy. While the Burmese use bamboo to trap wildlife, the Japanese are portrayed as having crafted it to create vicious man-traps. Richard Osborne (May 2009) WORKS CITED Escott, Beryl, E., The WAAF: A History of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in the Second World War (Princes Risborough: Shire Publications, 2003). Jackson, Ashley, The British Empire and the Second World War (Hambledon Continuum, 2006).
- Access Conditions: IWM Attribution: © IWM
- Featured Period: 1939-1945
- Production Date: 1945-01
- 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: 1294 ft; Running time: 14 mins
- Notes: The raw footage of the SEAC scenes can be found under the references below. The 'battle of New Year's Day" also known as Operation Bodenplatte or 'Baseplate'.
- Link to IWM Collections page:
Related IWM Collections Objects:
ABY 53 (THE FIRST CONTINGENT OF THE WOMEN'S AUXILIARY AIR FORCE ARRIVES IN INDIA [Allocated Title]) ABY 55 (AIR ROAD TO MANDALAY - RAF LIBERATORS OF STRATEGIC AIR FORCE, EASTERN AIR COMMAND [Allocated Title]) ABY 34 (RAF JUNGLE SCHOOL AT MAHABALESHWAR, MAHARASHTRA, INDIA [Allocated Title]) ABY 158 (JUNGLE SCHOOL [Main Title])