WORLD PICTORIAL NEWS NO 259 ((?) 22/4/1946)

This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: WPN 259).


I. 'TRANSJORDAN TREATY SIGNED.' Emir Abdullah of Transjordan arrives in Britain by British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) Avro York airliner for the signing of the newly renegotiated Anglo-Transjordanian treaty and is met by Lord Carrington. The commentary states that the Emir is in London to sign preliminary agreements which will lead to Britain "conferring independence on Transjordan." The Emir inspects a guard of honour drawn from the Royal Air Force (RAF) Regiment armed with Lee-Enfield No.IV .303-inch rifles. Interior film footage taken at the Foreign Office shows the signing of documents by Transjordanian Premier Ibrahim Hashim Pasha, and British representatives Ernest Bevin and A Creech Jones. Bevin and Ibrahim Pasha shake hands at the conclusion of negotiations.

II. 'LONDON HONOURS ALEXANDER.' Field Marshal Harold R L G Alexander and Lady Alexander are driven in a state landau from Temple Bar to the Guildhall (City of London). Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder is shown standing at door of the Guildhall. Alexander inspects a guard of honour drawn from the Irish Guards. Sir Charles Davis, Lord Mayor of London, welcomes Mr and Mrs Clement R Attlee. Interior film footage shows Alexander being presented with Allenby's sword as a token (Alexander's presentation sword was not yet completed). On receipt of the freedom of the City, Alexander makes a (live) speech on the theme of combating the "invisible foes of today: fear, fatigue, selfishness, laziness, and pessimism.

III. 'NYLON STOCKINGS SOON.' Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth visit and inspect stocking factory, which is soon to produce nylon stockings for the home market. Male factory workers stretch nylon stockings on leg shaped formers. Queen Mary inspects nylon stockings. female factory workers sit at work benches.

IV. 'WORLD'S LARGEST CARRIER LAUNCHED.' Large crowds throng the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast to watch the launching of HMS Eagle (ex-Audacious). Princess Elizabeth is presented with a bouquet of flowers by seventeen year old Harland and Wolff trainee Jim Christian. Princess Elizabeth climbs the stairs leading to the launching platform. Princess Elizabeth stands on the launching platform in the company of Admiral Andrew B Cunningham, and Earl and Lady Granville. Princess Elizabeth performs the ship naming ceremony and HMS Eagle is launched down the slipway (March 19 1946 ?). A Union flag flies from its bow.



‘The most contrived of all the Middle Eastern states’ (Louis, 1984, 349), Transjordan was an almost accidental by-product of the San Remo conference of 1920, at which Britain and France finally divided between them the territories of the defeated Ottoman Empire.

After the war the sparsely populated area east of the river Jordan had in theory been administered from Damascus by Hashemite scion King Faisal, son of Sharif Hussein bin Ali of Mecca. Faisal’s installation and rule had been encouraged as part of the British rewards that had been promised for Hijazi assistance during the war – Faisal had commanded the Arab ‘Northern Army’, and had joined with Allenby’s forces near Damascus. However, the British decision to honour the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement with France, in which she had specified her interest in Syria, led to Faisal being ousted by main force after British control was passed to the French in July 1920 (Dann, 1984, 1; Wilson, 1987, 39-40).

While the ousted Faisal would subsequently be offered the crown of British Iraq, Transjordan was eventually awarded to his elder brother, Amir Abdullah bin Hussein, whose candidacy (the ‘sharifian solution’ to the problem of administrating the territory) had been advanced by Winston Churchill and T. E. Lawrence at the Cairo conference of March 1921. On 1 April, Abdullah took over the administration of Transjordan, with a personal stipend of £5000 a month to be paid by the government of Palestine. The arbitrarily defined territory that he took under his nominal charge corresponded to no historical lines of ethnic, linguistic or political demarcation, and contained barely 225,000 people, around half of whom were nomads (ibid., 49-53, 56).

Abdullah, a mercurial and intermittently canny operator with some rather fantastical dreams of founding a new Arab kingdom (‘Greater Syria’), had been raised in Mecca within the grand traditions of the Sharifian Hijazi nobility, and had been educated as a young man in late Ottoman Istanbul. His upbringing and background were in some ways very well suited to his new position: he was, as Wilson puts it, ‘thoroughly familiar with the indirect exercise of power in circumstances not of his creation and not wholly within his control’ (ibid., 16). If nothing else, his time as head of state during the mandate certainly seems to provide evidence of an astute ability to avoid major confrontations with the British, even with those officials who were openly hostile to him. (The departure of Churchill and Lawrence from positions of direct relevance left Abdullah shorn of high-level British advocates for many years, though he did develop a good relationship with the man in whose hand true power was held, namely Sir Alec Kirkbride, the British ‘Resident’ in Transjordan from 1920 onwards.)

Though he had little choice in the matter, his overall reliability during the mandate years did gradually deliver him increasing security and responsibility in his role, if not any greater measure of real independence for Transjordan, which in administrative terms was ultimately still part of Palestine. The appearance of indigenous rule in the country, fostered throughout the mandate period by a regularly renewed series of treaties, was merely a ‘façade’, writes Louis, and Abdullah was not held high in the esteem of either the Arab world or British officialdom in general, the former viewing him as a quisling, the latter adjudging him an unaccomplished statesman (Louis, op.cit., 348). Nevertheless, he was loyal, and during the Second World War Transjordanian units, principally the Mechanised Desert Force and John Bagot Glubb’s Arab Legion, acquitted themselves well in Syria and Iraq (see WPN 145 for a feature on the Transjordan Frontier Force).

In part a reward for this wartime fidelity, a ‘treaty of alliance’, heralding the termination of the mandate and the ostensible granting of sovereign independence, was signed in London on 22 March 1946. There were of course various strategic and geo-political concerns involved, since continuing British influence in other Middle Eastern states was looking increasingly shaky (for Palestine in particular the situation looked beyond resolution). Transjordan, previously something of a backwater, was re-imagined in this light as Britain’s most reliable ally in an increasingly unstable area – it was already of great strategic significance, not least because the Iraq-Haifa pipeline ran the breadth of the territory. The treaty drawn up with these issues in mind granted Transjordan an ‘independence’ of a tightly qualified kind. Britain would still supply Transjordan with money ­(around £2 million a year in ‘aid’); would have complete freedom to station ground and air forces within the country, and move these military forces around at will; would have the right to develop and use the strategically important port of Aqaba; and would be entitled to develop a ‘signal communication system’ within the country (Louis, op. cit., 353-6). In fact, the truth was that in higher official circles there was no question of allowing Abdullah a truly independent state: the intention was to grant merely ‘the outward semblance of sovereignty’ (Louis, ibid., 353, quoting a telegram sent by G. A. Cunningham, High Commissioner for Palestine and Transjordan).

Nevertheless, Abdullah agreed without demur to all of the various provisos. At the Foreign Office in London on 22 March 1946 Abdullah’s representative, Ibrahim Pasha Hashim, signed the treaty, and on 25 May that year the Legislative Council of Transjordan declared in Amman the independence of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, pledging their allegiance to Abdullah as its newly crowned king. 



The manner in which the signing of the treaty of 1946 is presented is worthy of note. ‘Transjordan Treaty Signed’ comes first in the programme  which features three other items: ‘London Honours Alexander’, concerning honours bestowed upon Field Marshal Alexander in the capital; ‘Nylon Stockings Soon’, a piece which sees Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth visit a stocking factory; and ‘World’s Largest Carrier Launched’, in which Princess Elizabeth launches HMS Eagle, ‘the world’s mightiest aircraft carrier’.

‘Transjordan Treaty Signed’ begins with Amir Abdullah’s arrival in Britain by aeroplane; he is seen descending the steps of the plane onto the tarmac with a retinue of officials, where he is greeted by Lord Carrington. The Amir salutes, genially shakes hands with various people, and looks in good spirits, before inspecting a guard of honour. The film then moves to the interior of the Foreign Office, where in a full room, Ibrahim Pasha Hashim, Ernest Bevin and Arthur Creech Jones are shown signing the treaty as the narration explains that ‘Transjordan was mandated to Great Britain after the First World War. The recent promise to confer independence has been carried out with all speed.’

The presence of cameras at the moment of signing, the apparent staging of the room and the people within it, and the lingering shots of handshakes and of the signed and sealed treaty itself all suggest that the event itself was at the very least considered highly suitable for wide media representation, and quite possibly signify that a decision was made to actively turn the treaty signing into a media event with a powerful propagandist message. Abdullah is treated with honours on arrival, as befits a royal head of state, and the emphasis throughout is on Britain honourably keeping its word: the mandatory power is displayed acting with alacrity to secure independence for Transjordan, just as it had promised.

These themes – honour, power, and efficiency – are threaded through the rest of the newsreel, although with the signal difference that in all cases they are employed to show the continuing and future power of Britain, as opposed to the first case which appears to show the generous and honourable ceding of power, albeit to a loyal ally. First, the footage of Field Marshal Alexander receiving the freedom of the city shows  remarkable scenes of pomp and ceremony as the capital of the empire honours a military hero. In an extraordinary reminder of exactly how Abdullah came by his power, Alexander is seen being presented with ‘a token of honour’ – a sword which is  in fact ‘the one presented to Lord Allenby 25 years ago’: the same Allenby, of course, who had paved the way for British control by defeating the Turks in the Middle East, and who had entered Damascus in 1918 alongside Abdullah’s own brother (Allenby had been made a Viscount in 1919). The stocking factory item then focuses on the efficiency of Britain’s industrial recovery from war, and the launch of HMS Eagle offers proof of Britain’s continuing military might: in all these features, particularly the Alexander item, an image of vital and long-standing power is projected. All serve to undercut the apparent relinquishing of political control that appears in the first item; or rather, the granting of independence to Transjordan is reflected in them as an aspect of British power, rather than this power in retreat. And in fact, given the terms of the treaty, this was closer to the truth.

A comparison with a later edition of World Pictorial News (WPN 268) is instructive. This film covers the coronation of Abdullah, and has just two items. Unlike the signing of the treaty shown in WPN 259, an event given top billing, this edition sees the ‘Coronation of King Abdulla’[sic] follow the only other feature, ‘Latest Hair Fashions’, which concerns a new style of popular and cheap artificial tress for women. Thus relegated to lesser importance than a piece on a new kind of hair weave, Abdullah’s coronation – perhaps the event that signifies more than any other the newly won ‘independence’ of Transjordan – is introduced by faux Arabic music, and this music is present throughout. Despite the various assembled dignitaries (some of whom are British, though none except Glubb is identified), the tone of the piece tends toward painting the events as exotic and dramatic. It is all a far cry from the modern and civilised sobriety of Ibrahim Pasha and Bevin solemnly signing documents in the Foreign Office – but the Transjordan was now said to be its own master, and the importance the viewer is supposed to accord to local goings-on in such faraway independent kingdoms is perhaps suggested best by the preceding item, ‘Latest Hair Fashions.’ For what could more effectively belittle the accession of ‘Mr. Bevin’s Little King’ – the disparaging phrase was used within England by those who saw Abdullah as a British puppet (Louis, op.cit., 346) – than to have his coronation in second place to news of the latest fashion for decking out a woman’s crowning glory, in this case gaily-coloured tresses woven from buffalo tails, cheap to acquire, and worn ‘high on the crown’?

Francis Gooding 


Works Cited

Louis, Wm. Roger The British Empire in the Middle East 1945-1951: Arab Nationalism, The United States and Postwar Imperialism (Oxford: Clarendon 1984)

Dann, Uriel Studies in the History of the Transjordan, 1920-1949: The Making of a Statem(London: Westview 1984)

Wilson, Mary King Abdullah, Britain and the making of Jordan (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press 1987)



  • WORLD PICTORIAL NEWS NO 259 ((?) 22/4/1946)

Technical Data

Running Time:
7 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
642 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Ministry of Information, Middle East
film editor
Martin, Charles
Production company
World Pictorial News