This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: AYY 141-2).


Mules on Mount Olympus. Scottish soldiers eating at Othello's Tower at Famagusta, Cyprus. Soldiers cheering. Local farmers employing traditional farming methods: yoking of oxen, threshing, winnowing corn. Woman riding a donkey, goats are tied behind for transport to market. Girls washing clothes in mountain stream at foot of Amiandos Asbestos Mine. Recruiting notice "Cyprus Needs You" in English, Turkish and Greek. There is also a poster warning people of the danger of listening to Nazi broadcasts. An innkeeper carries a tray of coffee to a monk in the Orthodox Greek church. Seascape. Copper mine.

Durham Light Infantry in transit camp drawing water, eating, buying lemonade from a local vendor and drawing pay. 20th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery installing 3.7 anti-aircraft guns. 8th Battery on a route march. They direct a Cypriot labour party in digging a gun pit. A signals party tests a heliograph. English soldiers sightseeing at the mosque of San Sofia. A Cyprus Volunteer Force officer having his shoes cleaned.


Remarks: this film incorporates AYY 141-1-2 and AYY 141-2-2 as numbered on the dope sheet.



At the outbreak of the Second World War the British military lagged behind the French and the Germans in an understanding of the propaganda value of film. There were no military cameramen in uniform and a ban was placed on civilian newsreel cameramen filming military subjects (Gladstone). The first cameramen appointed by the Army to cover the War were drawn from professional backgrounds in either documentary film or feature film: none of them had previous military experience and they were instead given honorary military ranks (Gladstone).

These men were posted to Public Relations Units at home or overseas where they acted as lone camera operators. Among them was Bryan Langley, who shot the footage for Cyprus Goes to War in the summer of 1941. Langley had begun his career in 1927, working as a cameraman for H.B. Parkinson Productions. In the 1930s he worked for British International Pictures at Elstree Studios, where he shot several noted productions, including a number of Alfred Hitchcock films. Following the War he worked as a special effects cameraman at Pinewood. Among the films he worked on in this period are Piccadilly Incident (1946), The Weaker Sex (1948), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), Reach for the Sky (1956) and A Town Like Alice (1956) (‘Donor in Focus: Bryan Langley’).

Langley joined the Army Film Unit in 1941. He later recalled being issued with ‘a great big revolver’ but having no military training (‘Bryan Langley: BECTU Interview Part 3’). The War Office informed him that he was better off ‘going as a cameraman uninhibited by any military regulations’; consequently he felt free to film military personnel of all ranks (‘Bryan Langley: BECTU Interview Part 3’). He was first posted to Africa, followed by stints in Cyprus, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. In India he was responsible for setting up the Indian Army’s Public Relations film Unit in Tollygunge, Calcutta. He was proud of the fact that several of his Indian students went on to become professional cameramen in India and Burma (see Coronation of the Maharajah of Manipur (1944), British and Indian Troops Liberate Ramree Town (1945) and Liberation of Yenangyaung (1945)).

In April 1941 German troops defeated Allied troops in Greece, and then achieved further success in the Battle of Crete, which lasted from 20 May 1941 to 1 June 1941. Stationed in Cairo, Langley filmed the retreat of Allied troops from Crete. Cyprus was expected to be next in line for an attack, and Langley was sent there to cover events. The island was bombed by the Germans, Italians and the Vichy French, but did not suffer an invasion by Axis Forces. Langley stayed for two months and adopted a policy of ‘filming everything’ he saw (‘Bryan Langley: BECTU Interview Part 3’). Once it was felt that the island was no longer in great danger, he was sent onwards in search of more graphic action, being informed by his employers, ‘better luck next time’ (‘Bryan Langley: BECTU Interview Part 3’).

Prior to the fall of Athens, Greece had been Britain’s only European ally fighting the Axis powers. As a means of cementing Anglo-Greek solidarity, Sir Michael Palairet, the British Minister in Athens, had recommended that the British rule of Cyprus be ceded to Greece (Hitchens, 1984, 36). His proposals were overruled by officials in the Foreign Office, who felt that such a move would prevent Turkey adopting a pro-British policy in the War (Hitchens, 1984, 36). Similarly, following the fall of Greece and Crete, the Greek government in exile had requested that it be stationed in Cyprus, but the British government insisted that they instead rule from Egypt, for fear of offending Turkish Cypriots (Hitchens, 1984, 36). The British government also initially banned the flying of the Greek flag on Cyprus, but later issued recruiting posters that used its colours and which urged Cypriots to ‘Fight for Greece and Freedom’ (Hitchens, 1984, 37). Cypriots enlisted in great numbers: by 1944 over 10,000 of them were serving in the British Army (Jackson, 2006, 133). 



Bryan Langley’s impulse to film a wide variety of subjects while stationed in Cyprus is in evidence in this film. He documents Army preparations for the attack by Axis forces; Cypriots carrying out their daily lives; the interaction between the local people and the Allied troops; and something of the history of the island.

He applies his professional skills to matters of both military and human interest. The construction of a military derrick is covered with attention to detail worthy of an instruction manual. These images of modern military installations contrast strongly with those of the ancient methods of Cypriot agriculture. For example, Langley films a threshing machine constructed by a farmer and his son. This consists merely of an old chair placed on some planks of wood, which the farmer sits on as it is dragged slowly by oxen. The difference with the military footage is not only one of modernity and tradition: Langley also adopts a different approach in the way that he films his subjects. While filming the Cypriots he uses a larger number of close-up shots; he is more interested in filming expressions than he is when depicting Army personnel. Moreover, some of the footage of Cypriots is staged, with action being repeated from different angles for the camera’s benefit. It should be noted, however, that Langley appears to have a good rapport with all of his subjects. Both the military and locals appear at ease in his presence and happy to perform for the camera.

Although there is no military engagement in this film, Langley does document the effects of the War upon Cyprus. He films posters, written in English, Greek and Turkish, requesting military volunteers. The one written in English is addressed to Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike, stating generally that ‘These Cypriots are fighting to win the World War for freedom and you should help them too’. He also takes note of the wartime economy. The War boosted demands for the island’s agriculture but brought much of the mining industry to a standstill (Jackson, 2006, 133). Correspondingly, Langley covers a great deal of farming activity, but he also films some of the remaining work taking place in the mines. Langley also captures the relationship between the Army and the locals. In another of his staged scenes he depicts a lemonade seller, who pours out drinks for the troops in an extravagant manner. Elsewhere there is evidence of the way in which the military presence boosted the agricultural economy: he films a horse and cart returning to base loaded with local produce.

Finally, in attempting to document as much of Cyprus as possible, Langley films a variety of places of local interest. The film begins with scenes of the Army’s base at Othello’s Tower, located at Famagusta in Northern Cyprus. Here Langley is careful to record the stone carving of the Venetian lion of St Mark; he then pans up from this carving to reveal the Union Flag flying above it. Later he films at the San Sofia Mosque in Nicosia. Here there is another panned shot, which this time pointedly shows a Muslim minaret.

Richard Osborne (July 2010)


Works Cited

‘Bryan Langley: BECTU Interview Part Three’, 1987,

‘Donor in Focus: Bryan Langley’,

Gladstone, ‘Borg el Arab: Filming in the Desert’,

Hitchens, Christopher, Cyprus (London: Quartet Books, 1984).

Jackson, Ashley, The British Empire and the Second World War (Hambledon Continuum, 2006).



  • CYPRUS GOES TO WAR (Allocated)
Series Title:

Technical Data

Running Time:
12 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
1132 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Langley, Bryan (Lieutenant)
Production company
War Office Film Unit





Production Organisations