COLOUR FILM OF THE BATTLESHIP HMS NELSON ON ACTIVE SERVICE, 1941-1943
This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 2746).
START 00:00:00 Scenes filmed in slow motion during a practice gunnery shoot off Scapa Flow, possibly 16 June 1943: a gunnery officer (?) scanning the sea through a pair of binoculars on the bridge of HMS Nelson, a cloud of cordite drifting by as the main armament is fired and the triple 16-inch guns of A and B turrets trained to starboard for the practice shoot as seen from the bridge. The big guns are seen in action, the first time with only one of A turret's guns (No. 3) and two of B turret's…
START 00:00:00 Scenes filmed in slow motion during a practice gunnery shoot off Scapa Flow, possibly 16 June 1943: a gunnery officer (?) scanning the sea through a pair of binoculars on the bridge of HMS Nelson, a cloud of cordite drifting by as the main armament is fired and the triple 16-inch guns of A and B turrets trained to starboard for the practice shoot as seen from the bridge. The big guns are seen in action, the first time with only one of A turret's guns (No. 3) and two of B turret's guns (Nos 2 and 3), the second time a complete salvo from all the guns seen here. After each firing, the gun barrels are depressed to allow for re-loading. Shots of a beaky faced gunnery (?) officer wearing a white soft hat on the bridge. The big guns open fire again, this time only with A turret's Nos 1 and 3 guns and B turret's No. 3 gun. On HMS Nelson's starboard beam, her sister ship HMS Rodney is seen firing a salvo from all nine of her 16-inch guns. From a vantage point overlooking the portside secondary gun battery (probably the funnel searchlight platform), the twin 6-inch guns of P2 and P3 turrets are seen trained on the port bow and firing two salvoes; after each salvo is fired, the guns are depressed to aid reloading. A view astern of the battleship of an escorting Tribal Class destroyer.
00:01:39 Scenes on board HMS Nelson during a fancy dress competition held somewhere off Freetown, Sierra Leone, circa 3 June 1941; couples dance a walz on the main deck and a group of sailors in fancy dress pose for the camera. Two of them are dressed up as women, one in a scarlet bikini and wrap around skirt, the other in a scarlet dress. Views of ships sailing in Convoy SL.75 on the battleship's starboard beam; the vessel nearest the camera is a cargo-passenger ship and there is another large ship, possibly an ex-Shaw Savill passenger liner, in the background but the others are tramp steamers.
00:02:09 Scenes filmed over a period of several years featuring sea birds, starting with shots filmed on 11 March 1941 showing herring gulls feeding on bits of bread in Scapa Flow, resting on ship's rigging. Black-headed gulls and herring gulls patrolling the waters and swooping down to feed and immature herring gulls sitting in the water. Slow motion shots of sea gulls in flight, swooping down onto water and feeding from bits of bread. A gull is seen swooping down @ 05:01 with the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire in the background.
00:05:44 An albatross gliding in the wind.
00:06:16 A swallow in flight, feeding on insects in mid-air, probably filmed somewhere in the Tropics.
00:06:50 An oystercatcher in flight.
00:07:01 Scapa Flow: Three herring gull's eggs in a nest. Herring gulls resting on a mooring buoy and feeding on bits of bread on the water. An unidentified species of bird in the water.
00:08:30 A wandering albatross in flight over the ocean waves, filmed somewhere in the southern hemisphere.
00:09:17 Views filmed 20 April 1942 (?) showing the Forth Rail Bridge as HMS Nelson leaves the dockyard at Rosyth after a refit and a modern steam locomotive pulling a passenger train south over the bridge from North Queensferry on the northern bank of the Firth of Forth and the bridge's three massive four-tower 340-foot tall steel cantilever structures. Filming from the foc'sle, the battleship is seen steaming out of the Firth of Forth under the bridge's central span where there is a clearance of 150 feet - a good view of both the span over the main navigation channel in the Firth of Forth and HMS Nelson's octopoidal superstructure (surmounted by a Type 79 (?) air warning radar aerial on top of the foremast and then the aircraft lookout platform and the gunnery control towers for the 6-inch and 4.7-inch anti-aircraft guns). A view looking back at the 1.5 mile long Forth Rail Bridge with North Queensferry on the right. A brilliant red sunset in the Royal Navy's anchorage at Scapa Flow (?) - there may be an Illustrious Class aircraft carrier lurking in the middle ground.
00:10:21 Scenes filmed on 4 May 1943 during an inspection of HMS Nelson, flagship of Force H, by the commander of all Allied forces in the Mediterranean, General Dwight D Eisenhower, at Algiers: Captain Guy Russell and naval ratings lined up on the maindeck next to X and B turrets take off their caps and shout three cheers for their visitor - a scene captured on film by a US Signal Corps cameraman with a Bell & Howell Eyemo cine camera on Blundell's left. Eisenhower (wearing a beige-coloured uniform) and his small entourage - a British general and Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean Fleet - are seen on deck before he them climbs up a ladder onto the roof of B turret where Blundell films him inspecting the platform for the 8-barrelled Mk VIII pom-pom mounting. A gaggle of US Signal Corps film and stills cameramen records the moment Eisenhower takes his leave of HMS Nelson; accompanied by his naval aide, Captain Harry Burcher, Admiral Cunningham and Vice Admiral Algernon Willis, Ike heads down the ship's gangway and is seen with the senior British naval officers on either side of him heading shorewards in a Royal Navy motor launch.
00:11:20 Views of the bastion at the northern end of the port of Algiers and the northern breakwater as HMS Nelson puts to sea; the camera picks out bold lettering on the sea wall on the breakwater that reads 'Seule But la Victoire' ('The only Aim - Victory') and 'General Giraud' (the French leader favoured by both the Americans and the French in North Africa). A view of the forepart of HMS Nelson filmed from the bridge, showing members of the ship's crew lining the port side of the main deck, the additions to B turret (the Carley floats on the back of the turret and the Mk VIII pom-pom mounting on the roof) and the tug towing the battleship out of the harbour. The final shots reveal the fortifications and the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater.
00:12:00 Circa 24 April 1943: a view of the Rock of Gibraltar and the town nestling on its slopes as seen from the sea a mile or two to the southwest. A panorama of the Bay of Algeciras and a view of O'Hara's Tower (?), the craggy peak at the highest point of the Rock 452 metres above sea level. A view looking down onto East Side Jetty (?) and a narrow pathway leading along the side of O'Hara's Tower. Looking north along the central spine of the Rock; the camera tilts down to reveal the massive water catchment on the slope of the Rock and below it Sandy Bay on the Mediterranean side. A view looking north along the spine of the Rock and beyond it low-lying Spanish territory at La Linea.
00:12:53 Shots of a senior naval officer identified by Blundell as Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham asleep in a deckchair on board HMS Nelson. Scenes filmed at Devonport on 30 May 1943 showing Major-General C H Gairdner and Lieutenant-General Sir John Crocker, who has been repatriated to the UK on the battleship after being severely wounded in Tunisia. The two generals take their leave and make their way down the ship's gangway (Crocker goes down first) and head shorewards in a Royal Navy motor launch with Admiral Cunningham (?), who is seen waving goodbye. Another naval motor launch arrives at the foot of the gangway with a detachment of armed sailors to escort senior German generals taken prisoner after the capitulation of Axis forces in Tunisia ashore. The escort party consists of a Lieutenant and (at least) five petty officers armed with service revolvers. Another motor launch arrives, disturbing a flock of seagulls as it does so. One by one, (at least) seven blindfolded German army officers (Nos 3, 4 and 7 are definitely generals) are led by members of HMS Nelson's Royal Marine detachment and the Royal Navy escort party along the obstacle-strewn quarterdeck past the mountings for two 4.7-inch AA guns, the Mk VII pom-pom mounting and a 20mm Oerlikon gun; the last prisoner is seen being helped down the ship's gangway one step at a time. Vice Admiral Willis leaves the ship past three ratings (P3 twin 6-inch turret in the background) who are there to pipe him ashore and heads down the gangway. A view of Plymouth Hoe as HMS Nelson steams into Plymouth Sound.
00:15:05 At sea off Scapa Flow, circa 7 June 1943: foggy views of the battleship HMS Rodney at sea on HMS Nelson's port quarter and behind her the battleship HMS Warspite; Rodney's forward 16-inch guns are trained to port at a high angle. Dramatic shots showing Force H in stormy seas in the Mediterranean in June (?) 1943: directly astern the bow of an aircraft carrier, probably HMS Formidable, rising and falling in the stormy seas and in her wake HMS Rodney. A view from the bridge showing waves breaking over the bow of HMS Nelson each time she pitches into the rough seas. A view of the aircraft carrier on the starboard quarter as the heavy seas almost succeed in lifting the bow of the massive vessel clean out of the water as she meets a huge wave. HMS Rodney is seen rolling badly in the heavy seas on the port quarter.
00:17:07 Views filmed on 30 June 1943 showing a fire burning fiercely at the old coaling wharf in Gibraltar harbour.
A silent 8mm colour film record made by Commander George C Blundell of various episodes between February 1941 and November 1943 during his time as Torpedo Officer and Executive Officer on the battleship HMS Nelson.
Remarks: an interesting and diverse range of subjects, especially the sequences showing sea birds (Blundell was a keen amateur ornithologist). As this cataloguer is not a bird-watcher, the identification of some of the seabirds seen here may be incorrect. Those interested in the subject of sex and gender issues in His Majesty's Navy will find much fuel for thought in the shots showing sailors in fancy dress. The shots of HMS Nelson's big guns in action and the scenes showing Force H at sea in a gale are very good. However, the coverage of Eisenhower's visit lacks a good close up of the man.
Summary: laid down in 1922 and commissioned in August 1927, HMS Nelson was named in honour of Horatio Nelson, the Royal Navy's most famous admiral. She had one sistership, HMS Rodney. Built to comply with the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, Nelson and Rodney each had a displacement of 35,000 tons. Consisting of nine 16-inch guns in three turrets, the main armament was mounted forward of the superstructure, giving these two battleships an unusual appearance. After transferring from HMS Kent, Blundell joined HMS Nelson, flagship of the Home Fleet, at Scapa Flow in February 1941. Up until that point, the battleship's war service had been unspectacular; in December 1939, she struck a mine and was laid up for repairs until the following August. After serving as a troopship convoy escort, Nelson was assigned to Force H in the Mediterranean in June 1941 and was torpedoed by an Italian torpedo-bomber in the following September (see MGH 2742). After repairs in the UK that lasted until April 1942, HMS Nelson resumed active service in the summer of 1942 in time for Operation 'Pedestal' (see MGH 2745). A month earlier, Blundell was promoted to the rank of Commodore and served as HMS Nelson's Executive Officer. In November 1942, HMS Nelson supported the Allied landings in North Africa for Operation 'Torch' and took part in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and the Salerno landings two months later. She was chosen to host the signing of the Italian armistice between General Dwight D Eisenhower and Marshal Pietro Badoglio aboard Nelson on 29th September 1943 (see MGH 2747). Returning to UK waters in November 1943, the battleship supported the D-Day landings in June 1944 and saw service in the Far East just before the war against Japan ended in August 1945. HMS Nelson was decommissioned in February 1948 and scrapped a year later. Lt-General Crocker had been commander of IX Corps in Tunisia until he was injured during the testing of an infantry anti-tank weapon. Among the captured German generals brought to the UK on HMS Nelson were von Sponeck, von Broich, Schnarrenberger and Liebenstein.
Technical: it is very likely that Blundell, effectively HMS Nelson's First Lieutenant, gave the camera to somebody else to film Eisenhower's visit although his diary does not disclose this.
- COLOUR FILM OF THE BATTLESHIP HMS NELSON ON ACTIVE SERVICE, 1941-1943 (Allocated)
- CAPTAIN BLUNDELL AMATEUR FILM (Alternative)
- Running Time:
- 17 minutes
- Film Gauge (Format):
- 208 ft (ca)
- Production Countries:
- Blundell, G C (Captain)