SO THIS IS INDIA (7/1/1945)

This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: ABY 73).


Reel 1: Panning shot over rooftops of Worli Transit Camp, Bombay, (Mumbai) India. Local women carrying 'charpoys'; bedsteads or cots with interlaced strings rather than slats. A British airman treating these charpoys with an insecticide spray. Local people milling around the camp's main administrative building in the hope of work. Interior shot of a bare dormitory - a very long hall with four rows of closely-spaced charpoys. Indian women collecting charpoys from a dump and carrying them away. Shot from the deck of a troopship looking down on Indians on the quayside catching cigarettes thrown to them. Shot from the ship of a white-uniformed naval officer on the quayside directing operations with a loudhailer. A tug pulls the ship towards its berth. Indian dock workers waiting for the ship to unload. Dockers tying-up. Indian seamen on the troopship's forecastle preparing to berth. Gangways being positioned. Two Indians watch tugboats pull the ship towards the quay. Close-up on a tug with smoke billowing from its funnel. Ship slowly turning as the tug pulls. A rowboat picks up a tow line dropped from the ship. The tow rope is pulled up onto the quayside. Officer with a loudhailer directing operations. An RAF officer and a woman watching from the ship. Locals and servicemen on the dockside. Gangway moved into position. Troopship being tugged in; silhouettes of other ships on the horizon. Ship being tugged sideways. Ship at the entrance to the lock. Dockers pulling up mooring lines to a post. Troopship passing through lock. Second and third shot of this from greater distances. Airmen disembarking down gangway, with weapons, helmets, kitbags and personal equipment. Panning shot of disembarked airmen waiting for their transport.

Reel 2: Scenes from horse racing at Bombay, possibly the Bombay Derby at Mahalakshmi. Variety of spectators - men, women, servicemen and civilians, British and Indian. Spectators watching the race. Horses being led away. An RAF officer, Flying Officer (F/O) Hayes, receives a tip from an Indian naval officer. Airmen watching the race. An old Indian man sat reading on the grandstand. The tote board with airmen in the foreground. Native bearers carrying airmen's kit. Shot of a 'Dr Livingstone-looking airman'. More scenes of spectators watching the races. Horses and jockeys in the winners' enclosure. Shot from the grandstand of the track and a thick crowd. Indian ladies. Horses passing the finishing post. Horses being led away. A 'WAAF' of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. The tote building. Shot of the palatial sergeants' accommodation in Bombay with airmen arriving by lorry in the foreground, panning up to show architecture. Airmen queuing up for the issue of clothing and bedding. Men dumping their pith helmets (topees/topis) in a pile as they enter the storehouse. A chalk board states the items each man should receive (clothing, bedding, brushes, mosquito net, etc, and a 'dhurrie', a type of flat-woven coarse rug). Men emerging from the stores clutching their items. Close-ups on the men. One man, named on the dopesheets as Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Brindle, pauses to check his kit against the list, only to be comically and unceremoniously shunted out of the way by the men behind him. Shot of airmen entering a hut with sign reading 'RAF Invalid Depot Orderly Room - Report Here'. Newly-arrived airmen talking with 'repats' - invalids selected for repatriation to the UK. Dopesheet script gives the following exchange: '"If this is India," our types are saying "we shan't mind it at all". "I should think not," replies a 'repat' "this place is Paradise. You wait till you've been up in the forward areas."' [The dopesheet confides that a more common theme would be for the repats to ''shoot lines' about the deadliness of India'] Comic shot of an airman trying to walk whilst laden down with clothing, helmet, weapon (a Sten submachine gun), equipment and, somewhat incongruously, a dartboard. Four men looking over a barrier. An unnamed, senior Army officer with red staff tabs on his uniform arrives by car and is saluted. A senior civil official arrives by car and is greeted before speaking with airmen. An airman, Aircraftman (AC) Ray Allington (Radio Telephone Operator) leaves the Accounts Section and pauses to examine his pay. His distinctive 'Sparks' badge of a fist clutching thunderbolts is clearly visible on his right arm. Airmen on their way to 'Tin Town', a shanty-district of shops, are besieged by a throng of small boys urging them to have their photographs taken. Interior shot in a photographer's studio. AC 'Paddy' Murray, a motor transport driver, poses for the photographer while an assistant buzzes around arranging props. Close-up on Murray. Outside Murray and a group of other airmen pass an elderly beggar holding out his begging bowl and Murray pauses to bestow 'bakshish' (a small amount of money). At Juhu beach a group of airmen enjoy some female company. An awning has been set up against the side of a parked Chevrolet lorry. An airman in swimming trunks and a woman in bathing costume get up and run towards the sea. Two officers, one of them F/O Hayes, chat with a woman eating a banana. Two men and two women sit on the sand. An Indian man approaches who opens a coconut and one of the women drinks from it. Another Indian man approaches with four small monkeys on leads. The man rings a bell and beats the ground with a stick while one of the monkeys dances. In the distance figures can be seen in the surf.

Reel 3: AC Gregor Marr of Argyll, Scotland, on the quayside awaiting transport. AC John Ward, also of Argyll. Men boarding open lorries. Men disembarking from troopship. Shot from the gangway as men file off. View from the lorry of men boarding. Officers with their luggage walking along the quayside. Close-up on Warrant Officer (W/O) Hadlow of Belfast, aged 56. Close-up on AC Frederick Scarfe of Epsom aged 18. Lorries arrive at the dockyard to pick up the new arrivals. Footage from a lorry en route to Worli Transit Camp with escort of motorcycle outriders. Airmen dismounting from the lorries at Worli and forming up before marching to billets. Airmen marching along a road with lorries driving past them in the opposite direction. Men marching to billets. A local Indian boy carries a kitbag. Men arrive at their billets and go inside. Shot from dockside looking up at airmen lining the deck rails as the troopship berths. Men disembarking with pipers of the RAF Regiment in the foreground. Close-up on the two pipers, both of them corporals, with bagpipe insignia on their uniforms. Shots of men leaning out of portholes and over rails. An RAF Regiment airman leans out of a porthole to throw cigarettes to dockers below. Two airmen leaning from a porthole. Men on board see to their equipment before disembarking. Two men asleep on deck. Shot from the troopship of airmen waiting on the quayside. A lone airman plays cards. Pipers playing to an audience of Indian dockhands. Two close-ups on the faces of two dock workers (described somewhat generously on the dopesheet as 'enraptured') as they listen to the pipers. Cut back to pipers playing. Shot from a seafront street as a convoy of lorries passes the camera. Two WAAF's and two RAF Regiment men wave to the newly arrived airmen as the lorries pass them. Convoy passing along Marine Drive. Chowpatty Beach with crowds of people, some of them flying kites. Rooftop view of the convoy arriving at Worli. A snake charmer puts on a show for a crowd of airmen. Men watching the show. A mongoose kills a krait.

Reel 4: Parade ground at 35 Personnel and Training Command (PTC) Calcutta with new arrivals on parade. The men come to attention and fall out. Close shot showing AC Allington pushing his way out from the ranks and past men wearing sunglasses. Wipe transition to men falling out. A bespectacled corporal giving instructions. Several takes of W/O Gordon (the Station Warrant Officer of 35 PTC) giving instructions. A cobra in a basket is 'charmed' for the entertainment of watching airmen. Bombay as seen from a motor launch. Bombay seen from a troopship. Several angles of a route march along the seafront at Worli camp. An Indian lady looks on. Men playing netball. An airman sunbathing. Another airman winces as he is rubbed with oil after 'excessive sunbathing'. Shot of a parrot in a cage. An airman carrying the caged parrot and all his kit. The purchase of the parrot, reproachfully described on the dopesheet as 'wasteful and unwise', from an Indian man. Brief shot of a roadside tailor's stall where 'ill-fitting equipment may be altered speedily and inexpensively'. More shots of the parade ground at 35 PTC. Kitbags piled up at Howrah Station, Calcutta. Men leaving the station at Howrah. Men getting off a train. A Bedford articulated low-loader piled high with kitbags. Airmen loading a lorry. Men boarding a Leyland bus marked '35 PTC'. A lorry carrying airmen drives away from the station with the imposing Howrah Bridge in the background. A variety of horse and motor transport can be seen. Second shot of lorry driving away, with pan up to show Howrah Bridge.

Reel 5: Men being served tea. Men boarding a train. Footage from moving train with the Indian countryside rolling past. A train compartment showing airmen (named on the dopesheet as Allington, Murray, Flower and Johnstone) preparing their bunks. The commanding officer and adjutant of a [RAF Servicing] Commando Unit with F/O Hannaford in their compartment. F/O Hayes arrives at the window and asks if there is room for him. F/O Hannaford 'beginning to make himself useful' as baggage officer, along with F/O Hayes. Unloading the train. A lorry full of airmen approaching Howrah Bridge. Airmen jumping into the Beach Kandy Swimming Pool. Airmen entering the Town Hall Canteen in Bombay, where signs read 'Variety show every Wednesday', and 'Dances every Tuesday & Thursday', also an advert for an Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) show on Saturday 2nd February 1945 at 8:30. Crowds near Churchgate Station. Views of modern buildings including a cinema and an office block. Scenic shots of Bombay from Malabar Hill. Airmen returning to their billet (the sergeants' mess). Men dismounting from lorries at Victoria Terminus. Rations being collected from the rear of the train. Water bottles being filled. Pan down from the train to airmen queuing for tea, being served by LAC Brindle. Indian bystanders. Airmen washing. LAC Smith, Nursing Orderly, escorts an ailing airman to the train's medical compartment. Comic scene showing an Indian 'nappi wallah' or barber attempting to shave AC Allington, his face covered in lather, as the train pulls away. The commanding officer of Worli camp together with the Squadron Leader responsible for administration leaves the airmen's canteen and talks with a contractor about possible improvements to the grounds. F/O Hannaford examining a trunk in 'Tin Town'. Indian bearers carrying luggage. Airmen queuing for lunch at Worli camp. The Station Warrant Officer and Billeting Officer discussing the allocation of huts for the new intake. Indian cooks preparing lunch. Airmen washing up. Airmen on the poolside at Beach Kandy Swimming Pool, near Worli camp. Men gathered around outside a hut at Worli for news of their postings. AC Allington receives his posting and walks away, giving a thumbs-up as he does so. 'Bustee' or slum dwellers near the camp. A modern-looking block of flats. Malabar Hill Gardens with airmen passing through. Airmen entering Bombay's shopping district and passing the 'Flora Fountain', described on the dopesheet as the 'Picadilly Circus of Bombay'. Airmen passing through a fruit market and a bazaar. A banana cart passes. The airmen pass a series of hat shops. Airmen on an open-top bus pass along a road lined with palm trees. A cricket match in progress. A lawn being watered. A sleeping water-carrier. Airmen walking towards the Gateway of India archway, a monument to the Royal Visit in 1911. As they approach the arch they meet musician and entertainer George Formby and his wife Beryl, who stop to sign autographs. Both are in uniform with ENSA flashes. Close-ups on Beryl and George. Airmen passing a stall selling ladies' underwear - AC Allington enquires about prices and is quoted the equivalent of a week's pay. Later another airman (LAC Smith) enquires about the price of a chess set, the equivalent of six weeks' pay. LAC Brindle examining a knife and then trying on a bush hat. AC Allington combing his hair in a mirror before setting his bush hat at a jaunty angle. An airman and airwoman running into the sea. Shots of Juhu Beach and Marine Drive. A line of leather-working shops in 'Tin Town' with names such as 'Sincerity Store' and 'Trustworthy Store'. Repeat shot of underwear stall.

Documentary scenes of life for RAF airmen newly arrived in India in January 1945.


See also ABY 53 for footage of the first WAAF's to arrive in India.

Dopesheet remark about the 'Dr Livingstone-looking airman' refers to the Victorian popular hero and explorer Dr David Livingstone, used here in the sense of a Briton looking conspicuously out of place.

Though parts of this film are clearly meant to be presented with sound, the separately recorded soundtrack appears not to have been transferred to the Archive.

This film continues in several further instalments. See related items below.

Slate dates indicate that this film was shot over several weeks from 7/1/1945 - 30/1/1945.



  • SO THIS IS INDIA (7/1/1945) (Allocated)
Series Title:

Technical Data

Running Time:
47 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
4217 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Air Ministry Directorate of Public Relations
Lang, T W (Pilot Officer)
Layzell, R G (Sergeant)
Swain, J (Flying Officer)
Production company
Royal Air Force Film Production Unit



Production Organisations