This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 2744).


START 00:00:00 Scenes filmed on 28 February 1941 on a cold and wet day in Scapa Flow as a large 24.5-inch torpedo is hoisted back on board HMS Nelson after a practice torpedo firing in the naval anchorage; note the magnesium flare still burning in the dummy warhead that enables the torpedo test range personnel to recover the torpedo once the test is over. The ungainly object is first laid flat on a trolley, lifted slightly to drain any water that has got inside and then raised up into a near vertical position by a specially designed gantry whilst still on the trolley before being returned to the torpedo handling room below decks; note the stays keeping the gantry upright. A line of ratings provides the muscle power to lower the torpedo through a narrow hatch (unseen) with the help of the gantry. Shots showing several ratings and Petty Officers on deck on the battleship and on board HMS Nelson's harbour tender, a requisitioned gaff-rigged drifter called HMD Marigold, sorting out bags and other personal effects; the drifter sets off from the battleship and heads through the anchorage carrying a small number of sailors from HMS Nelson.

00:02:09 Scenes filmed in the North Atlantic sometime in March 1941 showing one of HMS Nelson's quadruple .5 inch multiple machine-gun mountings and, as seen from the searchlight platform on the starboard side of the funnel, two of the three twin 6-inch gun turrets that form part of the battleship's secondary armament on the starboard side (S2 and S3), and the large triple 16-inch gun turrets (all trained on the starboard beam) as sea spray from the stormy seas breaks all over the bow and main deck. The two U/P (Unrifled Projector) rocket projectors on the roof of B turret are especially prominent.

00:03:11 Scenes filmed circa 22 - 24 March 1941 showing a large number of travelling boxes and trunks on the main deck as Admiral Sir John Tovey, Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet, transfers his flag from HMS Nelson to HMS Queen Elizabeth (whose initials 'QE' are seen chalked on some of the boxes) and on the deck of HMD Marigold. Patches of snow can be seen on the battleship's deck planking.

00:03:22 Scenes filmed on 17 April 1941 in Cape Town, South Africa, showing an inspection of the battleship by Jan Smuts, the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa: a Rolls-Royce limousine flying an admiral's pennant arrives at the dockside and Smuts, accompanied by an army general, a senior Royal Navy officer and several plain clothes bodyguards (?), is piped aboard HMS Nelson and is greeted by Captain Geoffrey Miles before being led away towards the stern. One of the ship's officers tests a microphone on the roof of Y turret whilst the ship's crew gathers on the main deck to hear the famous South African statesman address them. Accompanied by his entourage, Smuts surveys the scene whilst Captain Miles makes a few opening remarks and then he steps forward to make his speech. As he speaks, he holds his Homburg hat behind his back. Afterwards, Captain Miles leads the 71 year-old premier off the roof of X turret down a ladder.

00:05:29 Scenes in the South Atlantic filmed between Cape Town and the Island of St Helena from 13 to 18 May 1941: a skua sea bird, possibly the South Polar variety, flying low over HMS Nelson, the pointer on an engine telegraph rotating between 'Ahead' and 'Astern' (it doesn't look big enough to be the ship's main one), an albatross flapping its wings and gliding low over the waves and early morning exercises on deck for the crew, consisting of a jog and brisk walk on the main deck (filmed from the conning tower), walking backwards and forwards (at one point the image is flipped upside down) and PT exercises under the supervision of a PT instructor on the roof of X turret whilst the ship's Royal Marine band provides the musical accompaniment.

00:08:16 Shots filmed en route to St Helena showing the elderly fleet aircraft carrier HMS Eagle at sea, directly astern of HMS Nelson and steaming at high speed on her port side; there are several Fairey Swordfish Mk I torpedo-bombers on her flight deck. Views of HMS Eagle on HMS Nelson's starboard bow and on her port beam showing one of her eighteen Swordfish biplanes taking off simultaneously as another one comes into land and other Swordfish touching down on the flight deck and coming to a stop with the aid of arrester wires. One of these aircraft is seen being pushed backwards onto the hangar lift at the aft end of the flight deck; once its wings have been folded back, it gradually disappears from view as the hangar lift descends.

00:10:02 Shots showing men sitting in deck chairs on the main deck, either relaxing in the sun or fast asleep. A view from the foc'sle looking towards the main armament (the lead U/P rocket launcher on the roof of B turret is clearly visible) and the octopoidal bridge tower, with the secondary armament and high-angle gun control towers and the air defence platform right at the top.

00:10:37 A shot filmed on 18 May 1941 off the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic with the cable party on standby on the foc'sle of HMS Nelson as one of its members, a Petty Officer, uses a hammer to release the Blake Slip keeping an anchor in place and the long anchor chain snaking across the deck and sending up a cloud of rust as it is dragged along by the weight of the falling anchor. Views of the armed merchant cruiser HMS Queen of Bermuda anchored in James Bay off St Helena and the high ground above Jamestown, the island's only town.

00:11:16 Scenes filmed on board HMS Nelson on 21 May 1941 showing another 'Crossing of the Line' ceremony as the battleship crosses the Equator en route to Freetown; three 'judges' dressed up in wigs on the bench, the petty officer (?) in charge of the ceremonies using a loudhailer and one of the judges who is also wearing over-sized spectacles and a false nose. Filmed from the bridge, men splash about and swim in a temporary swimming pool erected on the main deck. Shots filmed at the bow of HMS Nelson at the 'eyes of the ship' and looking down onto the ocean's surface as the prow slices through the water. A flying fish skims over the waves.

00:12:23 Shots filmed in slow-motion on 28 May 1941 showing the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle steaming a short distance behind HMS Nelson on her port quarter and a Fairey Swordfish torpedo-bomber landing on her flight deck and, once it has come to a halt, with its wings folded slowly disappearing out of sight on the aft hangar lift. Views of the aircraft carrier steaming at high speed on the battleship's port quarter and starboard quarter as Swordfish biplanes take off and land on the flight deck; once each aircraft has landed, the wings are folded back and it disappears down below on the aft hangar lift.

00:14:26 Shots from the roof of X turret and on the main deck itself of two teams playing deck hockey (one in white shirts, the other in black) watched by a large number of spectators and the ship's mascot, a bull terrier. The game appears to be taking place on the starboard side of the main deck forward of S1 twin 6-inch gun turret. An upside shot of the finals deck hockey match in progress. A Lieutenant-Commander presents a cup to the captain of the winning team.

00:15:36 Shots of pairs of dolphins swimming alongside both sides of the huge warship, occasionally breaking surface; the pair on the port side are filmed leaping into the air.

00:16:36 Scenes filmed in September (?) 1941 during swimming events held in Gibraltar (?) alongside HMS Nelson in a 'pool' roughly 50 yards long with a swimming platform at either end. The events seen here are relay races, breast stroke, backstroke and crawl. Large numbers of the battleship's crew line the railings on the port side to watch the competitions. Shots almost entirely in slow motion showing swimmers diving elegantly into the sea from a springboard; Blundell has reverse-printed six of these shots so that the action takes place in reverse. The sequence ends with a slow-motion shot of one of the divers entering the water in conventional fashion.

00:18:38 Scenes filmed in the Mediterranean on 13 September 1941during Phase II of Operation 'Status' showing the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal taking part in the ferrying of Hawker Hurricane fighters to Malta and a Dido Class light cruiser, most probably HMS Hermione, steaming at high speed on the same course as HMS Nelson on her port beam with a K or J Class destroyer in the background. Views of HMS Ark Royal and another aircraft carrier, HMS Furious (similar in appearance to a floating platform with a very small superstructure and painted in a distinctive Admiralty-pattern disruptive camouflage scheme), steaming in line behind HMS Nelson. An RAF Bristol Blenheim taking part in the mission as a guide for the Hurricanes being flown to Malta flies overhead; a signal lamp is flashing from its nose. HMS Furious is seen steaming on HMS Nelson's starboard quarter with Hurricanes on her flight deck. A Fairey Fulmar reconnaissance fighter from HMS Ark Royal flies low over the battleship. The two aircraft carriers are seen on the port beam steaming on slightly divergent courses. Another Fulmar flies over HMS Nelson and a Hawker Hurricane bound for Malta flies alongside the battleship. The aircraft carrier HMS Furious is seen entering Gibraltar on HMS Nelson's port quarter. A view of Gibraltar town on the slopes of 'The Rock'.

END 00:20:37

Silent 8mm black and white film shot by Acting Commander George C Blundell on the battleship HMS Nelson whilst at Scapa Flow and on active service in the South Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, February-September 1941.




Technical Data

Running Time:
20 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
248 ft (ca)

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Blundell, G C (Captain)