This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 4626).


Reel 1: "Shall Mills, TPT and Camp". Camel and mule transport. Ambulance truck. Two British officers in solar topees.

Reel 2: "Shall Mills and Tennis, Pishin" (ie Baluchistan). Camel transport. ASD (DSA) on mountainside. Playing tennis. [Film transferred reversed]

Reel 3: "Guard mounting Shelabagh and RAF leaving Hindubagh" (ie Baluchistan). Turbaned troops (Rajputana?) mounting guard in arid mountainous area. Playing golf. Bristol Fighter F.2Bs land and take off in arid area. Volley ball.

Reel 4: "PTF Nco PT" Indian troops do PT.

Reel 5: "Sholapur" Indian wedding procession, with bride on horse and musicians. Indians play quoits.

Reel 6: "Dewar Villagers and Mali, Ajmeer" [Ajmer.] Soldiers practise Aid to the Civil Power in exercise where they confront villagers bearing (Congress Party) flags on open road, and wrest from them this symbol of defiance against continued British rule in India. Captain Reed's houseboy, Mali, repairs roof.

Reel 7: "Kgrims 3/6/33 and Bundi" British officer takes salute at parade by Indian troops. Two British officers outside house. Tracking shot through Indian town.

Amateur film without titles shot by Captain Ronald Reed of 2nd Battalion 4th Bombay Grenadiers (King Edward's Own) of Indian Army records military and off-duty scenes of an Indian Army regiment at the start of Gandhi's campaign of civil disobedience.


Summary: Titles are as transcribed from original 9.5mm cassettes before films were extracted and compiled onto larger reel for screening.

Summary: re "Reel 6": Captain Reed's detailed letter narrating his activities controlling Congress demonstrations in Sholapur in May 1930 (following arrest of Gandhi) is held by IWM Department of Documents. It is unclear whether this film is a training exercise or actual small-scale encounter between villagers and troops or police.

Technical: original 9.5mm transferred at IWM onto Hi-8 tape for access, May 1997.



This amateur film was shot by Captain Ronald Reed, who served with the 2nd Battalion 4th Bombay Grenadiers (King Edward’s Own). During early 1930 his battalion was stationed in Ajmer, in the province of Ajmer-Merwara (now part of Rajasthan state). On 8 May 1930 Captain Reed’s company was transferred to Sholapur, where civil disobedience protests were underway (Reed, 8 July 1962).

The campaign of civil disobedience in India lasted from early 1930 to early 1934. It was prompted by the failure of the British government to acknowledge the proposal of the Nehru Report, backed by the Indian National Congress (INC), which had demanded Dominion status for India by the close of 1929. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, the campaign was launched with his famous march to Dandhi, where he protested against government taxes with the gesture of illegally making salt by boiling seawater. Following Gandhi’s arrest on 5 May 1930 there were widespread protests throughout India.

In Sholapur the mill workers came out on strike, and during angry demonstrations held on 8 May, police shot and killed protestors (The Times, 9 May 1930). This led to reprisals, in which police stations were attacked and two Muslim policemen were killed, with initial reports stating that they had been cremated by protesters (The Times, 9 May 1930 and 12 May 1930). Following the evacuation of Europeans from Sholapur, the police were withdrawn from the city (Reed, 8 July 1962). The Congress leaders raised the national flag above the municipal building, and from 9-11 May 1930 the district was declared independent of British rule (‘Historical Importance’).

In a letter held at the Imperial War Museum, Captain Reed recalls his experiences at Sholapur (Reed, 8 July 1962). After arriving in the district his company joined with the police force and headed out in buses on reconnaissance missions. They had been instructed to disperse any gathering of four or more people, but found that crowds were easily able to scatter into lanes that were too narrow for the buses, and then reassemble once the vehicles had passed by. On 10 May, he reports of seeing police stations on fire, and recounts removing a Congress flag that he found flying above one of them. On the same day, he assessed the situation as follows:

The unarmed police could not go into the city without armed police or troops to protect them. The armed police discipline was such that they would probably have avenged the murder of policemen by uncontrolled firing. Military bus patrols were practically useless + military picquets [pickets] could only have made their presence felt in a very small area. I pointed out that the troops could do nothing if the magistrate refused to allow them to fire. I was asked how many troops I thought would be required to occupy posts + patrol the city, + my answer was ‘One Bn [battalion]’.

11 May  witnessed further fruitless patrols. Reed states that INC lookouts warned people in advance to take down their Congress flags when they saw troops approaching. On 12 May 12 he reports of the INC having assumed control of the city; they had been selecting their own officials and police force. In response, ‘The civil authorities would not send the police into the city, + this I understand, forced the declaration of Martial Law’. Martial law was backed up by the arrival of a battalion of troops. On 13 May the military began to establish control in the city, and by 15 May the mills were working again. There was swift retribution for those involved in the protests. Reed writes of over 315 immediate arrests and of the whipping of those held. The three men accused of murdering the policemen were later hanged (‘Historical Importance’).



The sequence of greatest historical interest in Captain Reed’s film features the capture of three Congress protesters in a country road. They walk in step, bearing Congress flags, towards an awaiting group of British military personnel and Indian policemen. When they reach them the leading military officer attempts to wrestle the flags off them, and he is later joined in this task by another officer. Meanwhile, the leading Indian policeman beats one of the Congress protesters with a stick, and is later joined by half a dozen Indian policemen, also raising their sticks.

There is something odd about the footage, however. Although it is filmed from the position that we would expect Captain Reed (or an assistant) to occupy, i.e. from amongst the policemen and troops, it appears to be staged. In light of the comments made by Reed in his letter, the actions of the protesters appear overly formal and too overt, and their number is surprisingly small. In addition, the way that they are set upon is not entirely convincing. Reed writes of his trepidation during these manoeuvres, but the action that takes place here is orderly and shows the police and military in absolute control. Most telling is the fact that, not only does this footage look staged, it is also re-staged. Shot from a slightly different angle, the whole process is repeated, with the film cutting just before the officers rid the protesters of their flags. Unfortunately, there is no documentation explaining this sequence. The Imperial War Museum have noted that ‘It is unclear whether this film is a training exercise or actual small-scale encounter between villagers and troops or police’. The fact that this action was filmed adds further confusion: is this the documentation, or perhaps the enforced re-enactment, of a genuine protest? Does it represent the way the military wished their actions to be perceived? Or did it serve as a training film? One outcome that remains the same no matter what prompted the film, is that the British-backed authorities had no qualms about meeting ‘non-violence’ with violence.

The surrounding material sheds no further light on these matters, but it does provide a complement to this moment of conflict. Reed has also captured routine military activity. Here there is a split between shots showing small groups of British officers, who can be seen at ease and smiling for the camera, and the footage of Indian troops, who are instead usually witnessed en masse. They are seen at inspection, performing exercises, and carrying out their daily duties. In neither instance is there any sense of this activity being orchestrated for the camera in the manner of the civil disobedience section. There is also footage of the military’s off-duty sporting activities. Both Europeans and Indians can be seen playing games that have been imported to the sub-continent: tennis, golf, volley ball and quoits. Reed also reveals something of his home life: there is a long scene in which he focuses upon the dexterity of his houseboy, Mali, as he repairs a roof. Finally, there are several scenes that illustrate Reed’s interest in Indian life. This collection of films begins with a sequence in which he focuses upon camels, and it concludes with a dynamic, but blurred sequence where he attempts to capture everything that passes by him as he films from a vehicle that is passing through a town. In between there is footage of some Dewar villagers. Here he pans across them making an ethnographical record of their expressions. There are also some shots of a wedding procession, in which he attempts to convey the full spectacle, focussing first on the brass band and then on the resplendent bride who rides a white horse. This ceremony was filmed in the district of Sholapur, and as such provides the strongest contrast, in both substance and sentiment, to Reed’s battles with the protesters.

Richard Osborne (February 2010)


Works Cited

‘Atrocities at Sholapur’, The Times (12 May 1930), 16.

‘Historical Importance’, http://solapur.gov.in/htmldocs/history.pdf

‘New Rioting in India, The Times (9 May 1930), 16.

Reed, R., Letter, 8 July 1962 (this correspondence contains a copy of a letter that Reed left undated, but which has been identified as being written in May 1930).




Technical Data

Running Time:
15 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
P 1/9.5/A
400 ft (ca)

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Reed, Ronald R (Captain)