This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: COI 167).


Two items on the logistic aspects of the campaign in Burma: the "bloodless battle" of the latter stages of the 15th Indian Corps' advance through the Arakan peninsula, and parachute supply drops to units in the jungle.

A verbal introduction seeks to put the apparently peaceful scenes into the war context of the campaign as a whole, and the involved units' previous records: the film shows supplies being moved along the Buthidaung road by lorry and mule, and as head-loads carried by auxiliaries of the Corps' two divisions of West African troops. The part played by the African troops is illustrated with scenes of reconnaissance patrols as well as supply carriage. Indian M3 Lee (medium) and Stuart (light) tanks are also seen moving up. On reaching the Kaladan River, the units transfer to native sampans and continue by water. The brief second part of the film shows the loading of supplies into Dakotas, and shots from inside the aircraft as the supplies are dropped to the troops below.


Title: Also known as WEST AFRICANS IN BURMA



Far East War Magazine No. 1 was designed as ‘the first of a series for West African distribution’. Yet, despite the initial intention to produce further films ‘at intervals of six to eight weeks’, only one further issue –West Africa Was There – was made.

The Crown Film Unit was authorised to spend £270 on Far East War Magazine No. 1 but, according to the COI file, ‘the Colonial Section was dissatisfied with the quality of the film, which was poor, and dubious about sending it to all posts, as only 80ft of the film covered West African troops’. The file noted that a print was sent to the Resident Minister’s Office in the Gold Coast and that the film was subsequently distributed in West Africa. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this film was widely viewed (COI File, 27 October 1948).



Far East War Magazine No. 1 presents ‘the routine story of transport and supply’. The producers attempted to re-contextualise stock footage of Africans marching, using music and commentary in an attempt to generate excitement. The commentary explains that the Africans ‘had fought all the way. It had been tough fighting’, and that they ‘had been a year at the battle front’, but no fighting is shown. The film concludes by stating that ‘the battles which ended at Rangoon and Mandalay were beginning’, yet ultimately the representation of war, both for the Africans who had fought and for those watching in Africa, is of largely mundane work.

The West Africans are depicted walking and carrying supplies. The commentary explains that ‘the West Africans carried supplies and tins of petrol as they had been used to carrying the belongings on journeys at home – on their heads’. The film highlights ethnographic features of the Africans, emphasising their distinct customs and explaining how they operate ‘at home’. Such commentary, while common in films intended for British audiences, is evidently not tailored for the African audiences. Furthermore, the film defines the Africans in traditional terms as ‘men who lived in up country villages, who had worked the land and followed the ways of their fathers’. The commentary implies that this traditional world – ‘the way of their fathers’ – is outdated, as it suggests that the War has benefited the Africans, as ‘now they were part of a powerful, modern army’.

The film does highlight the unity of the Empire effort – ‘men from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia and the Gold Coast’ – and, in keeping with other British propaganda films, illustrates the work of civilians –‘from towns, from office jobs and shops’ – in fighting for the Empire. Yet, while it attempts to address a largely overlooked subject – the African war effort – it ultimately offers traditional attitudes, shows merely the ‘routine’ work performed, and fails to adapt the material for African audiences.

Tom Rice (April 08)


Works Cited

‘Far East War Magazine No. 1’, COI File, 27 October 1948. 




Technical Data

Running Time:
6 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
568 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Ministry of Information