This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: COI 647).


An 'on the spot' report by Julian Pettifer showing the rle of the Royal Hampshire Regiment in the Caribbean.

The film shows: some of the men swimming in the sea; the regimental headquarters in Jamaica; training at base and in the jungles of British Guiana; sorting out hurricane damage in British Honduras; the troops that are stationed in British Guiana; a regimental band on parade; more training and leisure sessions; the women and families; British Honduras, devastated by Hurricane Hattie (October 1961); what the Hampshires are doing to help the area, and the men rebuilding their own destroyed quarters.



The Royal Hampshire Regiment served in the Caribbean from 1960 until June 1962, a couple of months before Jamaica achieved independence (Sunday Gleaner, 3 June 1962, 1). The regiment had four companies stationed throughout the British Caribbean and served partly in a peacekeeping role, responding to outbreaks of violence throughout the area. For example, two soldiers were killed in June 1960 after a raid on a ‘Rastafarian camp’ in Red Hills, Jamaica (Gleaner, 22 June 1960, 1), while a detachment was sent to Punta Gorda in British Honduras in January 1962 after a group of armed Guatemalan soldiers, calling themselves ‘Belize Freedom Fighters’, had burnt down the Union Jack and replaced it with the Guatemalan flag (Gleaner, 23 January, 1962, 1). Forces were also sent to British Guiana in February 1962 to quash riots (The Times, 19 February 1962, 10).

However, the regiment’s most prominent work was in the aftermath of Hurricane Hattie, which killed an estimated 262 people in British Honduras in November 1961 (Gregg, 1968, 115). Here again, they worked partly to restore law and order after martial law was declared – in particular stopping widespread looting – and also in providing food and supplies to locals (Gleaner, 3 November 1961, 1).

Julian Pettifer initially worked on ITV, but moved to the BBC and worked on news shows including Tonight, 24 Hours and Panorama during the 1960s. The cameraman, Brian Probyn, would subsequently work as a cinematographer on films including Badlands (1973) and The Mango Tree (1977). This film was completed in 1962 under the title ‘Caribbean Army – Royal Hampshire Regiment’ with the musical rights secured  ‘for non-commercial, non-theatrical release’ (INF 6/900). During 1962 there were other television documentaries on British Honduras, including a Roving Report, which aired in June (The Times, June 14, 1962, 8).  



The Royal Hampshires in the Caribbean explains from the outset that army life in the Caribbean ‘is not just a matter of sitting on a beach with a beautiful blonde and a bottle of cold beer in your hand’. The film thus attempts to illustrate the varied work of the British within the West Indies and to challenge popular perceptions, yet the first section ultimately endorses this ‘holiday’ image of life in the Caribbean. The film appears almost as a travelogue. The jocular tone of the commentary is akin to a postcard (‘Alligators! Don’t worry, Mum.’), while its content presents the military as holidaying tourists (‘rum’s cheap, there are a few night clubs and bars, and you can do a bit of shopping’).

However, there is a clear shift – in commentary and on screen – as attention shifts to the destruction caused by Hurricane Hattie in Belize. The film uses traditional racial stereotypes to highlight the unique set of skills and the necessary role of the British in response to the hurricane. The British admired the locals’ ‘cheerfulness, their friendliness’, but the locals were in a state of ‘apathy’ and were ‘really doing nothing concrete to help themselves’. In response, an interviewee explains that the British sought to ‘try to get some organisation into place’.

The film highlights the tireless work of the British army - ‘only when everything had been done to help the civilian population did the Hampshires begin to rebuild their own devastated quarters’ – and emphasises that these were shared experiences between the locals and the British. The film shows the damage to the governor’s house – ‘a hurricane is no respecter of persons – everyone lost something and some lost everything’ – yet while the commentary aligns the experiences of the British and the locals, the footage indicates clear divisions. For example, the British ladies discuss the destruction wrought by the hurricane while sitting by a swimming pool at a country club.

The commentary promotes a camaraderie between the British and West Indians, but it also highlights cultural differences. In the village of St Cuthberts, soldiers bring cigarettes, biscuits and ‘represent law and order’ to the Amerindians, who practise a ‘simple kind of agriculture’ that, the commentator explains, consists of picking a ‘coconut off the nearest tree’. The contrasts with western culture are emphasised – ‘if you happen to miss the juke box, there’s the local schoolchildren, singing some genuine country-style music’ – reinforcing a depiction of the ‘primitive’ West Indies at a moment of great change within the Caribbean.

The Royal Hampshires would leave the Caribbean in less than a year, yet there is virtually no acknowledgement of any political changes or unrest. Colonel David Warren explains in an interview that the Army ‘is here to keep things quiet’ as troubles ‘may occur within the countries with progress towards independence’, yet these ideas are not explored further. Indeed, in focussing on, and seeking to promote, the work of the Royal Hampshires, the film offers little indication of the attitudes and experiences of the West Indians.  This is an entirely British account, interviewing only British men and women, so that the West Indians are depicted as largely voiceless figures, in need of, and benefiting from, British assistance.

Tom Rice (May 2008)


Works Cited

‘The Royal Hampshires in the Caribbean’, COI File, INF 6/900, accessed at the National Archives. .

‘Desperadoes with Rapid-Fire Guns Kill Two Royal Hampshire Soldiers’, Gleaner, 22 June 1960, 1.

‘Martial Law in Suffering Belize’, Gleaner, 3 November 1961, 1.

‘Armed Guatemalans Enter B.H.’, Gleaner, 23 January, 1962, 1.

‘Farewell to British Garrison’, Sunday Gleaner, 3 June 1962, 1.

Gregg, A.R., British Honduras (London: H.M.S.O., 1968).

‘More British Forces for B. Guiana’, The Times, 19 February 1962, 10

The Times, June 14, 1962, 8




Technical Data

Running Time:
12 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
1129 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Probyn, Brian
commentary spoken
Pettifer, Julian
film editor
Stimson, Dorothy
sound recordist
Morgan, Bob