This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: ABY 182).


Reel 1: Men laden with kit board the Otranto at Bombay harbour. Female personnel of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force ('the WAAFs') go aboard up a gangplank; Indian bearers carry their luggage. One of the WAAF's carries a teddy bear. RAF officers come aboard; one may be Wing Commander Furness and another Wing Commander D Tollerton, according to names on their luggage. An RAF Police corporal checks papers before men board. Close-up of feet stepping onto the gangplank. Various shots of men boarding. An Indian man stands by a pile of luggage, including a couple of rectangular metal trunks; the names are partly obscured but possibly 'Captain J L Williams RAMC' [Royal Army Medical Corps] of Llangefni and 'Major Shaw IEME' [Indian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers] of Dundee. A large net of luggage is hoisted aboard by a crane. On board the ship a group of men, women and children are inspected; they are all wearing lifebelts. An airman ties a lifebelt on a small girl. Dim footage of men eating. The ship starts to get underway; dockers seen hauling on lines, tugs at work and the ship slowly pulls away from the quayside. A waterfront building, possibly a warehouse or shipping office, bears a large sign reading 'Welcome to India - But Mum's the Word'. View of the harbour as it slowly recedes. A burial at sea; pallbearers carry the body of Private Douglas, covered in a British flag, on a board. The ship's chaplain is in attendance. The board is lifted and the body can just be seen slipping from beneath the flag. A firing party fire a rifle salute. An ensign flying from the mast. Series of shots of a church service aboard ship.

Reel 2: Physical training on deck. An extremely muscular man lifts another above his head with only one arm. The muscle-man, gyrating, shows off his physique to the camera in a surprisingly long continuous shot. Local boats coming alongside. The Otranto enters the Suez Canal. She passes another troopship in the canal. The master of the ship and the canal pilot. A performance by 'Tot Simpson and his Blighty Boys', a band drawn from servicemen on the ship. Dimly lit but atmospheric footage as Otranto approaches Southampton. A tug pulls the ship towards its berth and is received by a single lonely harbourmaster or docker. Attractive shot of the sun rising over Southampton docks. Air Commodore Howe waves to troops then goes aboard. [Change of location] The canal pilot is dropped off at Port Said, Egypt. Views of Port Said. A church service on deck. A man in diving equipment. Lifeboat drill; lifeboats are run out from their davits. At Southampton the troops are welcomed home by a band playing on the quayside; dock workers walk past pushing bicycles. Deputy Mayor Stranger, wearing medals on his overcoat, leaves the ship having given a welcoming address to troops. Two men lean from a porthole. An RAF sergeant throws his topee to a waiting parent. Troops display a captured Japanese flag. The ship's captain, Captain Savage, and the Officer in Command of Troops, Lieutenant-Colonel Batchelor, are introduced to Air Commodore Howe by Wing Commander Howden. An RAF Leading Aircraftman meets his parents on the quayside; he embraces them and they are obviously delighted. Troops disembarking down a gangplank; one of them an RAF sergeant carrying a guitar.

Servicemen, time-expired after years of service in India and the Far East, embark aboard the troopship HMT Otranto for repatriation to Southampton.


'Mum's the word' is an instruction to keep one's mouth shut in the interest of secrecy. The etymology is debateable but probably predates Shakespeare, as the phrase appears in Henry VI Part II.

The soldier buried at sea is named on the dopesheet as a Private Douglas of Cumberland and gives his date of death as 26th October 1945. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists a Private George Barbour Douglas of Aspatria, Cumberland as having died on that date. He was 31 years old and serving with 2nd Battalion the Border Regiment, and is commemorated on Panel 11, Column 3 of the CWGC's Brookwood Memorial near Pirbright.

HMT Otranto was a 20,000-ton liner built by Vickers-Armstongs for Orient Line in 1929. She was requisitioned in 1939, survived the war and was released to civilian passenger service in 1949 on the London-Sydney route. She was scrapped in 1957 at Faslane, Scotland.

Tot Simpson had apparently been a trumpeter in Jack Payne's band. Payne was a popular prewar bandleader whose band had toured widely and regularly performed on the BBC, Payne twice being appointed the BBC's Director of Dance Music.

Film of airmen on embarkation leave in Bombay, presumably waiting to sail home on this troopship and also shot by Sergeant Goozee, can be seen in the film referenced below. See related items.

There is a certain dual significance to this film. While it gives a good general impression of the lengthy sea voyage home for men who had long been overseas, it is also a highly personal record of Sergeant Goozee's own repatriation. Stan Goozee, a sergeant cameraman with No.3 RAF Film Production Unit, had been deployed in the far east for at least two years by the time this film was shot.

Film of airmen arriving in India is held under the references below.



Series Title:

Technical Data

Running Time:
15 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
1288 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Air Ministry Directorate of Public Relations
Goozee, S (Sergeant)
Production company
Royal Air Force Film Production Unit



Production Organisations