This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: COI 425).


Ships of the British Home Fleet pay goodwill visits to islands in the West Indies and then join Canadian ships for joint exercise in the North Atlantic.

After some scenes from the outward voyage (including refuelling of a destroyer by a fleet auxiliary at sea) the film reports on the visits of various ships (mainly HMS Ceylon, Bulwark and Maidstone) to Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Aruba, and Trinidad (open days, friendly sporting fixtures, entertainments, tourism etc). The reunited fleet heads north, calling at Bermuda; the film at this stage illustrates various duties and activities on board: signalling, meteorological operations, laundry, galley, NAAFI, medical facilities, delivery of mail, issue of rum ration. Rendezvous with the Canadians is made at Halifax, and the exercises (mainly anti-submarine) take place, guns, torpedoes and depth charges, Sea Hawk, Sea Venom (and Tracker?) aircraft are all used (but not linked by film into any pattern). The fleets separate with cheers, the "dual purpose" of Naval training and a mission of goodwill having been "served well."


Remarks: fair only; treatment of everything is superficial.



A report in The Times on 14 January 1958 explained that ships of the Home Fleet, ‘which are to take part with units of the Royal Canadian Navy in joint exercises in the western Atlantic’ were due to sail in three days time. The report confirmed that ‘the exercises will be part of the Home Fleet’s spring cruise programme during which visits will be paid to the West Indies’ (The Times, 14 January, 1958, 10).

In Jamaica, where the Home Fleet stayed between 1-8 and 20-26 February, the visit was widely discussed in the local press. The Daily Gleaner reported a whole range of activities enjoyed by the visitors, including barbecues, dances, and a visit to a local alumina plant (Gleaner, 25 February, 2). There were also numerous sporting activities arranged, including a series of water polo matches against local sides (Gleaner, 30 January 1958, 13), a football match against Jamaica (‘JFA’) at Dunoon (Gleaner, 10 February 1958, 14) and horse racing at ‘little Ascot’ (Sunday Gleaner, 23 February 1958, 3).

On arriving in Jamaica, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Home Fleet, Sir William Davis, explained that he hoped the trip ‘would cement the good relations between Britain and the islands of the newly formed West Indian Federation’ (Gleaner, 2 February 1958, 1). The West Indian Federation – which formed in 1958 with ten islands – was described by Piers Brendon as a ‘futile exhalation of a dying Empire’ (Brendon, 2007, 606). Certainly by 1958 British Caribbean colonies were moving ever closer to self-government, which had ‘previously been thought possible only within a Federation’. With Jamaica growing as an economic power, ‘local autonomy proved stronger than federal authority’, and by September 1961 Jamaica had voted to withdraw from the Federation (Johnson, 1999, 619). The Federation came to an end in May 1962, and in August Jamaica became the first of the Caribbean colonies to gain independence. 



At its conclusion, Spring Cruise outlines the duel purpose of this naval trip in ‘linking naval training with a mission of goodwill’. The picture is similarly divided. The initial scenes of the West Indies appear almost as a holiday travelogue – ‘acquire a real Jamaican suntan at one of the lovely beaches, of which the island is famous’ – and appear in stark contrast to the later sequences of military training with the Canadian navy. This contrast has clear repercussions for the viewer’s understanding of the respective regions, and their role within the Empire.

The move from the West Indies (‘goodwill’) to Canada (‘training’) represents a shift visually from holiday to work, and from sun to snow. The seemingly attractive representation of the West Indian islands can thus assume a negative connotation when positioned alongside the Canadian military exercises. Canada offers military assistance, as an active self-supporting power, while the West Indian islands, by comparison, are devoid of imperial responsibilities and still heavily reliant on the British. This contrast is reinforced by the music and voiceover. While a traditional British voice speaks on behalf of the West Indies, a new voice explains that ‘now we’re in my country Canada’. The British voice articulates perceived West Indian thoughts from a position of superiority and authority – for example, the Bermudan youngsters are ‘wide-eyed with curiosity’ at boarding the British ship ‘on a wonderful voyage of discovery’ – yet Canada has its own voice. The West Indies, without its own voice, is, for the most part, represented through conventional British imagery.

For example, Grenada is introduced through shots of a cricket match. This serves to promote the continuing British influence here, as the commentary explains that ‘the Navy was responsible for introducing cricket to the West Indies’. Cricket serves as a representation of traditional British ideals, so that the film suggests that it is not merely the sport but, more specifically, a set of social values that Britain has transported to the West Indies. The commentary notes that ‘there’s nothing like cricket as a symbol of goodwill … unless it’s football’, as a game of football is also then depicted.

Within eight years – four years after Jamaica – Barbados would achieve full independence, yet the commentary states that ‘Proud of its nickname “Little England” Barbados is the most English of them all’. It further notes that ‘no other flag has ever flown here’. Spring Cruise offers Technicolour footage of pre-Independence Caribbean colonies, but avoids any mention of either the newly formed Federation or of any emerging independence movements. Instead, the representation of the West Indian islands – particularly in contrast to Canada – promotes a continued dependency on, and support for, the British Empire.

Tom Rice (April 2008)


Works Cited

Brendon, Piers, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781 – 1997 (London: Jonathan Cape, 2007).

‘UK Warships to Visit West Indies’, Daily Gleaner, 18 December 1957, 8.

‘Programme for Visit of Home Fleet Units’, Daily Gleaner, 20 January 1958, 7.

‘Water Polo Games for Home Fleet’, Daily Gleaner, 30 January 1958, 13.

‘Home Fleet on First Phase of Visit’, Daily Gleaner, 2 February 1958, 1.

‘JFA XI Tackles Sailors Feb. 25’, Daily Gleaner, 10 February 1958, 14.

Johnson, Howard, ‘The British Caribbean from Demobilization to Constitutional Decolonization’, The Oxford History of the British Empire Vol. IV: The Twentieth Century edited by Judith M. Brown and Wm Roger Louis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 597-622.

‘Home Fleet’s Spring Cruise’, The Times, 14 January 1958, 10. 




Technical Data

Running Time:
22 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
798 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Central Office of Information
film editor
Bowden, Dennis
Naval cameramen
Production company
Victor M Gover and Co ("Technical service by")