This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: INR 55).



I. BENGALS SUPPLY AND TRANSPORT SITUATION IMPROVED - Watching army trucks being loaded with precious food grains. Mr Casey, Bengal's new Governor, sees how military aid is helping to beat the famine. They say that statesmanship calls for a good sense of balance, anyway, it led Mr Casey to one of the great fleet of country craft which are taking food to places which the railway and the main roads by-pass. Bengal's famous waterways are nowadays arteries through which the life blood of the province pours. Pressing every form of transport into service, Bengal's fighting a winning battle on the home front.


II. PUNJAB WELCOMES MEN ON LEAVE FROM THE HOME FRONT - Talking of fronts, these men brings news of fronts very far from home. They're soldiers on leave and M Wazir Chand give them a cordial welcome back to the Punjab. Nothing's so restful as watching other men get hot and tired, so a tug-of-war was staged for the soldiers' entertainment. Next came Pirkaudi. It starts with a challenge from one man who defies two others to catch him, then, when they do, it's a game as to who can knock down whom. It's rather like Rugby football, minus the clothes. In fact minus everything but the bruises, and the fun. Judging from the cordial handshakes at the end of the party, it's the stuff to give the troops.


III. CHINESE GOODWILL - part of a world wide mission to explain the New China, these members arrive at new Delhi. Interesting figure is white haired Mr Wang Yun Wu, responsible for China's Commercial press, a publishing house which has done great service to scholarship in making Chinese classics available to the rest of the world. A very striking Chinese lady with the group is telling India about the emancipation of China's women - something which might be described as the second Chinese Revolution.


IV. CEYLON'S YOUTH - AIR MINDED AND WAR MINDED - When the Royal navy's battle wings get damage, it needs experts to repair them, and in Ceylon they're giving large numbers of young men the chance to become those experts. They work under instructors who don't so much teach as get them to come up and handle and get familiar with engines. A good mechanic needs instinct just as much as knowledge. And experience too. Working on damaged planes they take them to bits and put them together again - the only real way of learning anything about a machine. They learn to dismantle it to the last dial, it's easy then to put it together again. What No? I stand corrected. Anyway, the collapsible boat holds no mysteries. Wrong again, twiddle a knob and the thing blows itself up. Young men everywhere are getting fascinated by modern inventions, getting the itch to have them in their hands and to make them work. It's trained men like these who are going to make the wheels go round in the India of tomorrow.


V. HONEY BEES - As busy as bees; well in this place they think bees a lot TOO busy. In fact, they train men to make the bee's hive for it, out of paper dipped in wax. The reason for this kindness is very practical. The bee used up twelve pounds of honey in building its house. When its house is prefabricated, so to speak, that honey is saved. After the bee's house is made and ;put together, the next thing is to get a tenant. For that you have to be as cautious as a house agent trying to sell a house with bad drains. Once you have got your swarm, a little coaxing is required to get them to settle happily in your desirable residence, but once in they don't know it from the ones they build with their own hands - or whatever they do build with. Well, they're in and they get to work, and this is the result, honey combs. Their honey is removed from the combs in this machine. How it does it is a mystery. But in any case, the honey is untouched by hand, filling bottles which are, in fact, the bees' rent for their man-made home.


VI. WAR NEWS FROM SOUTH EAST ASIA - China's leader and the United Nations' supreme commander for South East Asia. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten with Madam Chiang meet to discuss Allied strategy in this important theatre of war. In an American-made jeep, Madame Chiang accompanies her husband, recently elected President of China, to inspect units of China's armies now mobilising for attack. Sworn to hurl the invader from China, Chiang Kai-shek places in the hands of his veterans the future of their homeland. Even as he speaks, United States transports are flying guns and ammunition to a Chinese Army fighting in the jungles of North Burma. Dropping supplies by parachute, they reach, in a matter of hours, an objective that would take days of travel by land. American-trained, these Chinese units are stabbing into Japanese positions guarding the Burma Road. Howitzers, also flown in by air, already are in contact with the enemy. Gallant fighters, they receive from General Stilwell medals for valour. Heroes of the opening Battle of Burma.



The opening item within Indian News Parade 55 offers an update on the Bengal Famine. During the week of this film’s release, the Government published figures outlining the work performed by the military since it began distributing supplies in November 1943. The report claimed that military vehicles had covered over 610,000 miles and delivered 1,700,000 maunds (a unit of weight used in British India) of food grain in their relief work. It further stated that 16 military hospitals and 61 army mobile treatment centres were now in full operation and had already treated over 750,000 medical cases, with approximately one and a half million people now given inoculation and vaccinations. It also emphasised the work performed in repairing derelict boats along the Bengal rivers and waterways (Indian Information, 1 May 1944, 499).

Philip Woods, in his analysis of Indian News Parade, noted that the series treated the Bengal famine as ‘a natural disaster which government and armed forces were acting effectively to combat’. The series highlighted in particular, he argued, the ‘involvement of the army in combating famine by helping to distribute supplies to outlying areas’ (Woods, 2000, 102-3). Yet, while the series may have endorsed an official governmental line, Sanjoy Bhattacharya suggested that these governmental claims were often either rejected or adapted before playing to local audiences, as district officers or local officials, ‘fearful of food riots … desisted from making grandiose promises of providing economic relief’. Bhattacharya argued that this ‘tendency to readapt centrally-prescribed messages’ indicated a ‘general increase in hostility against colonial rule’ and certainly it emphasises a disparity between the messages promoted within the newsreel and the experiences of those watching the film (Bhattacharya, 2001, 95). Of the 89 copies of Indian News Parade issued each week, seven were in Bengali, and Bhattacharya acknowledged that local publicity officials often ‘felt uncomfortable about the mass screening episodes of the Indian News Parade that combined snippets of allied victories in South East Asia with footage of the ever-improving transport and food supply networks in India’ (Bhattacharya, 2001, 73, 95).

The film also emphasises the diplomatic relations with China. First, it shows footage of a Chinese goodwill contingent in Delhi. The group had travelled to England in December 1943 – stopping off in India as shown in Indian News Parade 39 – and had subsequently travelled to, amongst other places, America and Turkey. The film highlights Wang Yun-Wu, who was the managing director and editor-in-chief of Commercial Press, the foremost publishing house in the Far East. Dr Soong, the Chinese Foreign Minister had also visited Britain in July 1943 while in November Chiang Kai-Shek had attended the Cairo Conference with Churchill and Roosevelt. Although these meetings may suggest improving diplomatic relations between Britain and China, relations were still extremely fraught. Chiang resented what he perceived as a lack of British support and interest in Burma and was reluctant to commit Chinese troops to, as he saw it, reinstate British colonial rule in Burma, particularly when he wanted greater strength on the eastern front to protect against the advancing Japanese.

By the middle of 1944, there were 102,000 Chinese soldiers stationed in India, which also fuelled British fears – expressed by Leo Amery, the Secretary of State for India – that the Chinese might ‘meddle’ in Indian politics, with Chinese troops assisting the Congress Party and causing civil disturbances (Bhattacharya, 2001, 49, 50). The British expressed concerns about inviting large quantities of Chinese troops into Burma, but the increased Chinese presence also fuelled the historical mistrust between India and China. Alistair Lamb has illustrated in detail the underlying tensions between the countries over Tibet, as India feared the growth of a Chinese political and military power on her borders (Lamb, 1989, 328).

China had been dependent on America for financial and military support, but relations between China and America were also crumbling by 1944. In January 1944 Roosevelt threatened to cut off Land-Lease unless Chinese forces attacked across the Salween, and by March it was actually used as a quid pro quo to exert pressure on Chiang (Dreyer, 1995, 284). By the summer of 1944 relations between Chiang and General Stilwell – his American Chief of Staff, the controller of land-lease in China and Deputy Supreme Commander for the China-Burma-India theatre – had completely broken down. Stilwell now felt that ‘the cure for China’s trouble is the elimination of Chiang Kai-shek’, while Chiang strongly opposed Stilwell’s proposals to include and arm his communist opponents within a unified coalition force. In October 1944 President Roosevelt recalled Stillwell from his post in China (Miller, 1979, 60). 



The representation of the Bengal famine here is largely consistent with other editions of the newsreel and endorses an established colonial polemic, which presented the famine as a ‘natural disaster’ and as a ‘war’ which the British and Indians were fighting. This is illustrated in the final line, which declared ‘Bengal’s fighting a winning battle on the home front’. The item highlights the military response to the famine, emphasised in the concurrent report, and promotes the modern methods and technological advances adopted by the British in ‘pressing every form of transport into service’. Once again the item displays a British ‘statesman’ – in this case the new governor Casey – looking over the operation, while the language used by the commentary suggests that the British are literally bringing life to the Indians: ‘the waterways are nowadays arteries through which the lifeblood of the provinces pours’. This government rhetoric is evidently increasingly removed from the experiences felt by many Indians, and Sanjoy Bhattacharya illustrated how this disparity inflamed anti-colonial hostility and ensured that these prescribed texts were often adapted for local audiences.

The film contains two items relating to China. The first presents an image of modern China through the commentary – a ‘new China’ in which a Chinese Lady is ‘telling the Indians about the emancipation of China’s women’ – and illustrates an ongoing attempt to promote ‘goodwill’ between the nations. The final item promotes Chinese co-operation in the war. Yet, more specifically it shows the Americans helping the Chinese as allies and, throughout the item, there is a marked emphasis on the American influence within the Chinese forces. Chinese leaders get in ‘an American-made Jeep’, before the film shows ‘United States transport’ dropping supplies to ‘American trained’ Chinese troops in the jungle. Perhaps unsurprisingly this footage was originally featured in United News – the newsreel sponsored by the American Government – and certainly it appears both to promote the American war effort and to emphasise the dominant American position within this fractious relationship. For audiences in India, this may reassure Indian viewers of the clear hierarchy and control exercised by the Americans over the Chinese forces. It may also indicate the continuing problems Indian News Parade experienced in acquiring war footage of troops in action. This was a constant criticism levelled at the newsreel and again here Indian News Parade is reliant on American newsreel footage.

The film also illustrates a continuing focus within the series on post-war India. This is most evident in the item depicting the training of Ceylonese men, which concludes with the commentator stating that ‘it is trained men like these who are going to make the wheels go round in the India of tomorrow’. This serves in particular to present the war effort within the context of post-war India – a familiar trait within the series – so that the Indians are encouraged to fight for their own future and development, rather than for the Empire or for social stability. This commentary also re-emphasises the importance of ‘trained’ men, promoting a process of gradual change, and shows the pre-eminence of the British, as the Ceylonese men display exaggerated expressions of astonishment at the technological advancements presented by their British instructors.

Finally, it is noticeable again that much of the commentary appears to be tailored to a non-Indian audience. For example, during the item depicting Indian soldiers on leave, the commentator describes and explains the local game of ‘Pirkaudi’, which he refers to as ‘rather like Rugby football… minus the clothes’. Again, the commentator assumes that the audience is unfamiliar with this local pastime, and presents the local game as a less ‘civilised’ – ‘minus the clothes’ – version of a British sport. 

Tom Rice (October 2008)


Works Cited

Bhattacharya, Sanjoy, Propaganda and Information in Eastern India, 1939-45: A Necessary Weapon of War (London: Routledge, 2001)

Dreyer, Edward L., China at War, 1901-1949 (London and New York: Longman, 1995).

‘Army Aid in Bengal Famine Relief’, Indian Information, 1 May 1944, 498-500.

Lamb, Alistair, Tibet, China and India: A History of Imperial Diplomacy (Hertfordshire: Roxford, 1989).

Miller, John R., ‘The Chiang-Stilwell Conflict, 1942-1944’, Military Affairs, Vol. 43, No. 2 (April 1979), 59-62.

Woods, Philip, ‘”Chapattis by Parachute”: The Use of Newsreels in British Propaganda in India in the Second World War’, Journal of South Asian Studies, 23:2 (2000), 89-110.



Series Title:

Technical Data

Running Time:
8 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
673 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
GB, India
Department of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India
United News No 90
cameraman (British, GB Rota)
Bonnet, S R
cameraman (Indian)
Birdi, E M
cameraman (Indian)
Ghatak, S C
cameraman (Indian)
Rao, D P
cameraman (Indian)
Sen, A K
Moylan, William J (FRGS, FRSA)
Moylan, William J (FRGS, FRSA)





Production Organisations