This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 2741).


START 00:00:00 Monochrome views of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon filmed in late 1939, showing a French light cruiser identified by Blundell as the Duguay-Trouin at anchor off Hong Kong harbour and the elderly Canadian Pacific passenger liner RMS Empress of Russia docked at Kowloon, the Kowloon waterfront, notably the Canton-Kowloon Railway clock tower, the Star ferry terminal (a ferryboat can be seen in the foreground) and the Peninsula Hotel, the hills rising above Hong Kong, where the new Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building is clearly visible, and, on the Kowloon side, clearer detail of the large seven-storey Peninsula Hotel. Shots filmed from HMS Kent as she heads out to sea past the Kowloon waterfront, in particular Whampoa Dock and an adjacent marine industrial site marked in big white lettering 'HWD', and through the Hong Kong archipelago past the boom at Lei Yue Mun (Blundell refers to it as Lye Mun Pass) where a Moorgate Class boom gate vessel is seen on duty.

00:02:11 Shots filmed under the tropical awning on the quarterdeck of HMS Kent during a Sunday religious service: a back view of a senior naval officer in tropical uniform (identified by Blundell as Admiral Sir Percy Noble, Commander-in-Chief China Station) reading the lesson, the back of the heads of naval officers seated in front of Blundell, with Y turret behind them, naval ratings seated facing the ship's officers. All are seen standing for hymns and prayers led by HMS Kent's chaplain, Reverend Douglas Wanstall. The ship's Royal Marine band can be seen playing in the background

00:02:53 A view of choppy seas through a cabin scuttle (porthole) on the starboard side of HMS Kent and, from the quarterdeck, the French heavy cruiser Suffren ploughing her way through a heavy swell in the Indian Ocean on HMS Kent's starboard quarter. Shots filmed on 17 January 1940 showing landfall at Fremantle: passing a harbour mole at the entrance to the harbour and a naval officer standing on the ship's foc'sle in tropical rig, a small crowd of women, children and soldiers on the quayside and a large warehouse - 'R Smith & Co.' - overlooking Victoria Quay. Shots filmed on 18 January showing the Suffren anchored in the Gage Roads off Fremantle and Convoy US.1 appearing on the horizon, led by a battleship and three large troopships; they steam past HMS Kent on the port beam in the following order: HMT Sobieski, RMS Empress of Canada, SS Otranto or SS Orford, RMS Empress of Japan, SS Orford or her sistership SS Otranto, SS Rangitata, with SS Strathaird or her sistership SS Strathnaver behind her, and, bringing up the rear, the R Class battleship HMS Ramillies and an Australian heavy cruiser, either HMAS Australia or her sistership HMAS Canberra. A panorama of the city of Perth and the Swan River from Kings Park and shots of the Western Australian War Memorial erected in honour of the men from this part of the country who died on active service during the First World War.

00:05:25 Scenes filmed on 19 January 1940 on board HMS Kent showing the officer in charge of flight operations high up in the aft searchlight platform ('Sutcliffe's Birdcage') giving the order to launch the cruiser's seaplane by dropping his signal flag and the two-man Fleet Air Arm crew in the cockpit of the Vickers Supermarine Walrus, identified by Blundell as Ian Sarel (the pilot seated furthest away from the camera) and Milner-Barry (the observer). Ian Sarel raises his hand to let the flight operations officer he is ready for take off. Aerial views filmed from the observer's position in the Walrus of the seaplane casting a shadow on the water seconds after being launched from HMS Kent's catapult and as it approaches Fremantle harbour; the aircraft flies over four large troopships docked at Victoria Quay - SS Orion or her sistership SS Orcades, SS Orford or SS Otranto, SS Strathaird and RMS Empress of Japan. Aerial panoramas of some irrigated farmland, the centre of Perth and stretches of the Swan River before coming into land at Perth's airport. Shots showing the pilot Ian Sarel in conversation with some people on the tarmac near the amphibious seaplane, and climbing back onto the aircraft (there is somebody in the observer's seat) and the name 'Marina' stencilled on its fuselage near the cockpit. Aerial views from the Walrus as it flies over HMS Kent, HMS Ramillies, the French cruiser Suffren, SS Strathnaver (with RMS Empress of Canada in the background), HMT Sobieski and SS Otranto or SS Orford anchored in Gage Roads outside Fremantle harbour. Filmed from HMS Kent, the Walrus touches down on the cruiser's port side as she does a turn to port (thereby making the sea surface smoother for the seaplane); having climbed onto the uppermost wing, the observer grabs the lifting hook suspended from the portside crane and attaches it to the aircraft's lifting bracket.

00:07:16 Scenes filmed 21 - 22 January 1940 on the voyage across the Indian Ocean from Western Australia to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) carrying the first ANZAC contingents overseas after the outbreak of war in the previous September: SS Strathnaver fires up its boilers in Gage Roads, producing a large amount of oily smoke from its No. 2 funnel, whilst RMS Empress of Japan and SS Orion steam out of Fremantle on an opposite course in the background. Australian and New Zealand army 'leave breakers' (as Blundell describes them) wearing a variety of headgear including Australian bush hats and New Zealand stetsons are lined up for inspection on the quarterdeck by Captain Young-Jamieson, accompanied by his officer-of-the-watch and the officer in charge of the cruiser's Royal Marine detachment. Views along the starboard side of HMS Kent showing eleven signal flags flying from the foremast and, on the starboard beam about a quarter of a mile away, the SS Sangander, a Norwegian oil tanker, steaming on a parallel course in a heavy swell.

00:09:10 Views of Convoy US.1 at sea on 22 January 1940 as HMS Kent steams towards it on an opposite course: the battleship HMS Ramillies, backlit against the sun which is beginning to set, is heading on an opposite course about a mile away on Kent's starboard side, and the troopships in the convoy are sailing in three columns. The ships furthest away in the port column are SS Strathnaver, SS Strathaird (both identical ships with three funnels) and SS Otranto (with two tall funnels); leading the centre column is SS Orion (with a tall single funnel) and leading the starboard column nearest to HMS Kent is RMS Empress of Japan (with three large funnels) - behind her in the centre column is SS Orford (identical to SS Otranto). SS Empress of Canada (also with three funnels) is seen steaming behind SS Empress of Canada in the starboard column. Shots of the ship's officers, either stripped to the waist or in tropical uniforms, pacing up and down on the quarterdeck as part of their exercise routine; Captain Young-Jamieson, balding and with a compact build, is seen taking part (00:09:41-00:09:51). Lieutenant-Commander Blundell poses on the quarterdeck near Y turret in a new lifebelt with his name stencilled on it. Shots showing naval ratings, the Australian and New Zealand 'leave breakers' and HMS Kent's complement of Royal Marines mustered on the quarterdeck in their new lifejackets with their officers; the ship's crew includes several Somalis. One of the officers seen wearing his new lifejacket is Royal Marine Captain F A Eustace.

00:10:31 Views of Convoy US.1 steaming through the Indian Ocean on the same course as HMS Kent beginning with the cruiser some distance away on the starboard side, then on either side of the starboard column before finally ending up on the convoy's port side: distant views of SS Strathnaver and SS Straithaird leading the port column furthest away from the camera, SS Orion leading the centre and SS Empress of Canada in the starboard column and SS Orford in the centre, much closer shots of the ships in the starboard column - SS Empress of Japan, SS Empress of Canada and SS Orcades - overtaking Kent on her port side, troopships of the centre column steaming on the heavy cruiser's port bow behind the French cruiser Suffren, the starboard column steaming on Kent's starboard side - SS Rangitata (with two funnels) and SS Orcades - and in front of them SS Empress of Canada and SS Empress of Japan, the convoy's port column - SS Strathnaver, SS Otranto and HMT Sobieski - on Kent's port side and, finally, SS Orion and SS Strathaird or SS Strathnaver on the starboard side.

00:12:19 Scenes on the quarterdeck of HMS Kent in harbour somewhere in the tropics showing Captain Young-Jamieson (back to camera) standing and saluting as the ship's company files past him in a continuous line (described by Blundell as 'open list') whilst the Royal Marine band plays near Y turret; at least a dozen of the ratings seen here are Somali. Views over the portside of one of HMS Kent's paravanes running under water as the ship races along through tropical water.

00:13:13 Scenes filmed at Colombo after the arrival of Convoy US.1 on 30 January 1940: one of HMS Ramillies' steam pickets (note the brightly polished brass funnel) heads away from HMS Kent across the harbour and Australian soldiers learn how to operate hand-powered propulsion machinery on a lifeboat from one of the troopships (possibly SS Strathnaver). The steam picket sets off from HMS Kent with several naval officers wearing solar topees on board. Views of two ships in Colombo harbour - the large one being SS Strathnaver, and the smaller one, SS Afrika, a Danish freighter which has conspicuous markings on its hull to denote that it belongs to a neutral country. Shots showing Australian soldiers on shore leave in Colombo, talking to street traders (?) and taking rides in rickshaws. The film concludes with a shot of eight Australians learning how to row a naval whaler (possibly filmed in slow motion).

END 00:14:19

Silent 8mm black and white film filmed by Lieutenant-Commander George C Blundell on board the County Class cruiser HMS Kent during a stay in Hong Kong late in 1939 and whilst escorting the first large troopship convoy from Australia and New Zealand to the Middle East early in 1940.


Remarks: a rare and possibly unique record of the sailing of the first large troopship convoy from Australia and New Zealand in the Second World War, with good shots of all the ships named in the full summary. An evident maritime enthusiast, Blundell reserves his best camerawork when he is filming at sea.

Summary: The US.1 convoy left Wellington on 5 January 1940 with four liners, Orion, Empress of Canada, Strathaird and Ragitata carrying NZ troops to the Middle East. Next day, they were joined by Dunera and Sobieski. On 9 January, the convoy joined up with Orcades, Strathnaver, Otranto and Orford out of Sydney and Empress of Japan, from Melbourne, three days later. HMS Kent and the French heavy cruiser Suffren replaced HMAS Australia and HMAS Canberra as convoy escorts at Fremantle. With the rank of Lieutenant-Commander, George Blundell (1904-1997) served on board HMS Kent as a torpedo and electrical specialist from December 1937 to January 1941. As HMS Kent was not armed with torpedoes, Blundell was put in charge of the depth charge party and the ship's anchors as well as serving as the China Station's fleet torpedo officer until the end of 1939. HMS Kent was a County Class cruiser, launched in March 1926 and commissioned in June 1928. Her first ten years of service were spent in the Far East with the 5th Cruiser Squadron, returning to the UK for part reconstruction in 1938. In early 1939 she returned to the Far East and remained in tropical waters until August 1940, when she joined the Mediterranean Fleet in Alexandria. After being badly damaged by an Italian torpedo in September 1940 (see MGH 2740), HMS Kent spent more than one year in dock for repairs and was then assigned to the Home Fleet. In January 1945, after three years of duty in northern waters, she was paid off into reserve and scrapped in 1948.




Technical Data

Running Time:
13 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
159 ft (ca)

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Blundell, G C (Captain)