This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 4635).


Amateur film without titles shot by Bandsman Mr T A Link of 2nd Battalion Welch Regiment records soldiers of the Battalion dressed up in a variety of mock oriental guises and as Welsh miners parading, playing a rugby match and cycling on traditional Gheluvelt Day of festivities, while Battalion was stationed at Abbottabad (1931-1934).

Soldiers marching in mock parade: amongst the first group of men some blow bugles, and most are wearing blackface makeup. Second group of men in the parade are riding horses of various sizes and are dressed in rugby uniforms and pith helmets. They are followed by a horse and cart bearing more revellers including someone in oriental costume; more rugby players on horseback; and by a member of the battalion who is borne on a stretcher and is dressed as a ‘rajah’. Further scenes of the parade, showing the military band in blackface; the horse and cart; and the rajah. Indian soldiers can be seen observing the proceedings. A member of the battalion, dressed in mock oriental guise, reads from a scroll that is written in large, fake oriental script. The rajah bows while crowds gather around. The band are shown playing trombones and bugles. Soldiers in white masks that have protruding noses. They are lined up for attention for inspection by the rajah, who is assisted by a member of the battalion who wears oriental clothing, a fake beard and fake stomach. The Rajah and his assistant drink beer. A fancy dress rugby game, which takes place before a large crowd of soldiers, including a few Indians. The game is possibly between the ‘miners’ and those dressed as Indians, but soon descends into farce. Player in pyjamas feigns injury; some players play with umbrellas raised. At the close of the game a soldier drinks from a large cup. A frantic bike race around the perimeter of the sports field. Soldiers, now in casual clothes, smiling and laughing. Further shots of the bike race.


Summary: Kodak box marked "Gheluveldt Day. 1933. Abbottabad Camp. Gymkhana".

Date: Kodak box marked "Develop before 12/1933" (though US date symbol is 1927 square and diamond), sent to Kodak in Bombay and returned to Link at Victoria Barracks, Rawalpindi.

Shot list entry by Dr Richard Osborne, AHRC Colonial Film Database 2010.



Formed in 1881, the Welch Regiment was the county regiment of Carmarthenshire, Glamorganshire and Pembrokeshire. During the first Battle of Ypres in World War One, the Regiment was involved in combat around Gheluvelt, West Flanders, Belgium. Here the British Army was outnumbered by German troops and a German advance threatened to cause a breach in the Allied line (Jacob). The fighting was at its most intense on 31 October, when British troops managed to capture the village despite a concerted German attack. Although German troops eventually recaptured Gheluvelt on this day, the momentum of their advance had been broken (‘Gheluvelt’). The battle was of great significance: had the Germans been successful the British Army could have found itself facing a Dunkirk-style evacuation (‘Gheluvelt Park’).

The most noted actions in the battle for Gheluvelt are the stand of the South Wales Borderers and the advance of the 2nd Worcestershire Regiment. The significance of the battle for these regiments has been memorialised in the Gheluvelt Day celebrations of the South Wales Borderers, held on 31 October each year, and in the construction of the commemorative Gheluvelt Park in Worcester, opened in 1922. The 2nd Battalion Welch Regiment was among those to suffer heavily in the battle. At about 10 a.m. the Welch Regiment’s Colonel Morland informed Colonel Leach of the South Wales Borderers that his troops had been nearly wiped out by shellfire; later the Battalion was overwhelmed by German troops (Atkinson, 1931, 46). The 2nd Battalion Welch Regiment also chose to commemorate Gheluvelt Day each year.

Following the War the 2nd Battalion Welch Regiment received regular postings throughout the British Empire, including Malta, India, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore and India (‘The Royal Regiment of Wales’). Between 1 March 1931 and 11 December 1934 they were posted to Roberts Barracks, Rawalpindi, India. Although troops stationed near the North-West Frontier faced agitation from Afghan tribesmen in this period, the Battalion’s stay appears to have been a quiet one. Lomax and DeCourcy’s history of the regiment recalls extensive training with the 1st Indian Infantry Brigade and a Flag March through the Mansehra and Oghi Districts, which was met with ‘much friendliness from the inhabitants’ (Lomax and DeCourcy, 1952, 29). There also appears to have been a great deal of rugby played, with the Battalion winning the All-India Rugby Cup in 1931 and 1933.

Much of the Battalion’s training took place around nearby Abbottabad, which housed the headquarters of the 1st Indian Infantry Brigade as well as three Infantry Battalions of the Gurkha Rifles. It was here that T. A. Link, a member of the Battalion’s band, shot this amateur footage of the Gheluvelt festivities on 31st October 1933. 



The 2nd Battalion Welch Regiment’s commemoration of Gheluvelt Day is peculiar and could be considered offensive to the Asian troops who were present at Abbottabad and who can be seen viewing the festivities. The Battalion’s festivities are centred upon the troops adopting fancy dress and an indulging in a mock game of rugby and a frantic cycling race.

The Regiment’s choice of costume and their actions mock their host country. The film begins with a parade that mimics the procession of an Indian Prince. Several of the troops are dressed up in flamboyant oriental costume, and one of them is carried on a military stretcher in parody of the Indian palanquin. This, it transpires, is the ‘Prince’. He is later seen proclaiming the beginning of the festivities, reading from a large scroll inscribed with fake oriental script. After doing so he inspects the troops, who are lined up in deliberately scruffy formation. In the following scene he is shown enjoying a drink of beer. Accompanying him here is another soldier dressed in ‘oriental’ guise, including a false beard, which he lifts to consume his drink; the Prince later wipes his mouth on this beard. Other costumed characters in the parade appear to be still more offensive. Several members of the band have been painted with the blackface and white lips of minstrel entertainers. However, the blackface here was meant to imply the darkened faces of Welsh coalminers. Elsewhere the costumes appear to have less specific references: for example, the soldiers lined up for inspection wear protuberant white masks. The self-mimicry and absurdity of the festivities does something to temper the Indian caricature that is on display, although it would presumably be hard for the Nepalese onlookers to unpick both the meanings and non-meanings of the various guises that the troops assume.

While the racial stereotypes in T.A.. Link’s film now provide uncomfortable viewing, elsewhere the troops’ humour has aged better. The rugby match, for example, is undertaken and filmed with a honed awareness of slapstick comedy. It is possibly meant to be taking place between those dressed as Indians and those dressed as miners, however all rules are abandoned as the players charge in all directions, some bearing umbrellas aloft. One player, dressed in pyjamas, feigns injury, and is tickled back to health on the touchline. What all this has to do with the events in Gheluvelt is hard to discern, although absurdity could perhaps be considered one of the more valid responses to the horrors of the Great War.

Richard Osborne (June 2010)


Works Cited

Atkinson, Christopher Thomas, The History of the South Wales Borderers, 1914-1918 (London: The Medici Society, 1931).

‘Gheluvelt’, http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/flanders/gheluvelt.html.

‘Gheluvelt Park’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/herefordandworcester/low/people_and_places/history/newsid_8404000/8404038.stm.

Jacob, Field Marshal Sir Claud, ‘Battle of Gheluvelt’, http://www.wfrmuseum.org.uk/Gheluvelt.htm.

Lomax, Cyril Ernest Napier, and John De Courcy, The History of the Welch Regiment, 1919-1951 (Cardiff: Western Mail & Echo, 1952).

‘The Royal Regiment of Wales’, http://www.rrw.org.uk/museums/cardiff/fact_sheets/4.htm.



  • T A LINK AMATEUR ARMY FILM (Alternative)

Technical Data

Running Time:
5 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
97 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Link, T A