This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: IWM 809).


Unfinished film of the visit of King Amanullah and Queen Surayya of Afghanistan to Britain, 13th March-3rd April 1928.

The film is partially completed, and shows some signs of proper editing, but scenes may break off abruptly in one reel and resume in another reel. Throughout the film numerous reporters, press photographers and newsreel cameramen can be seen recording the visit. (Reel 1) The King tours the BSA works, Small Heath, Birmingham, on 16th March, escorted by the deputy chairman, Sir Edward Manville. The works makes both motorcycles and weapons. The King tries out a BSA-Thompson semi-automatic rifle. The film jumps to the King and Queen's visit to the Guildhall on 14th March, escorted by Lieutenant-General Sir Francis Humphries. They are met by the Lord Mayor, Sir J E Kynaston Studd, and the aldermen. The film jumps again to the royal reception in London on 13th March. The King and Queen leave in a carriage from outside Victoria Station, with lines of Grenadier Guards stretching down Wilton Street. It is almost snowing. The streets are decorated with British and Afghan flags. The King inspects the guardsmen, who march off after his carriage leaves. The film jumps again to the arrival of the King and Queen at Dover harbour on board SS Maid of Orleans, being met by the Prince of Wales. Another jump to the King's escort of Royal Horse Guards and the royal coaches arriving at Buckingham Palace, to the salute of the Irish Guards. Jump again to King George V, Queen Mary, the Duke of York, Stanley Baldwin and Lord Birkenhead (among others) waiting to greet the King and Queen as their train arrives at Victoria Station, also on the same day. (Reel 2) A continuation of the Birmingham visit. Another jump to Hatfield House and its grounds, where the King and Queen stay with the Marquess of Salisbury. Another jump to the King and Queen visiting Portsmouth on 19th March. They are shown over HMS Victory and HMS Tiger, and the King is taken out on board submarine L22, which dives. Jump to 17th March, the royal couple visit the RAF Technical Training Centre at Halton, being shown round the workshops. (Reel 3) The King visits a steel works, probably Sheffield on 27th March, and a railway engine works, where the engine "King Charles II" is on display. Jump to the L22 surfacing again at Portsmouth, and returning alongside the Tiger. Jump to the Royal Tank Corps centre at Lulworth (Dorset) on 20th March, where an old Mark V Star tank demonstrates its hill climbing ability. As the King watches with the CIGS, Field Marshal Sir George Milne, a line of Vickers Medium Mark I tanks pulls up, the King climbs inside one. Jump again to the King and Queen at Hendon on 16th March watching a flying display by De Havilland DH9as, Gloucester Grebes, and Handley Page 0/1500s of the RAF. (Reel 4) On 22nd March the King, on board the river steamer Marchioness, goes down the Thames to Greenwich Observatory, where the Astronomer Royal, Sir Frank Dyson, shows him around. Jump to the boat setting out from Victoria Embankment and a repeat of the journey. On the same day the King visits Woolwich Arsenal, where he is shown Vickers Mediums and 12-inch naval guns being made. Back to the trip down the river, the steamer comes in to the main dock at Woolwich, more of the works is shown. More of the river, showing the docks area and the various cargo ships. (Reel 5) The King and Queen visit the Rolls-Royce works at Derby on 27th March, followed by its Mappin and Webb factory, the Sheffield Steel works, and Port Sunlight in Birkenhead, then a textile firm. The royal party is taken across the Mersey and on to a formal reception at Liverpool Town Hall. The film jumps to the Grand National at Aintree on 30th March. In the enclosure before the race the horses "Grakle", "Koko" and "Billy Barton" are shown. The King and Queen watch the race. "Tipperary Tim" is shown winning. Jump to the King inspecting the cadets at RMA Sandhurst, probably on 26th March. Jump back to the Hendon display, with the King and Queen leaving. Jump again to the exterior of the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington Gore, visited by the royal couple on the evening of 22nd March. (Reel 6) The King's visit to a naval demonstration on 3rd April. Four R Class destroyers, led by HMS Thruster (nearest the camera), then HMS Salmon, HMS Torrid and HMS Rowena in line abreast drop depth charges in an anti-submarine exercise. The King, with the camera, is onboard HMS Nelson, whose sister ship HMS Rodney is also visible. The destroyer HMS Witch passes through the mist, followed by a Shakespeare Class destroyer and a C Class cruiser. The film jumps to the King, in protective clothing, on 29th March descending into a coal mine in Derbyshire. Back at the Rolls-Royce works on 27th March, the King tries out a new car. The King and Queen at the end of a formal ceremony, possibly in Derby. More of the coal mine, interspersed with film of a Tootal linen factory. The royal car arrives outside another town hall. (Reel 7) A still picture of the King and Queen in Oxford on 23rd March, where he received a DCL degree. Back to the fleet exercise, showing the King talking with Vice-Admiral Sir Hubert Brand and Rear-Admiral E J A Fullerton on board the Nelson. The aircraft carrier HMS Furious passes nearby. Jump to Longleat stately home. Jump again to the Army manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain on 20th March. The King's party arrives by car to be met by Field Marshal Milne. As the band plays, Rolls-Royce armoured cars of the Royal Tank Corps start a drive past, followed by Dragon transports with 6-inch Mark VII guns and 18-pounder field guns, Carden-Loyd Mark V tankettes and Vickers Medium Mark I and Mark II tanks, all seen in long shot, with an RAF fly-past above. The film ends abruptly.


Production: the Foreign and India Offices appear to have decided to produce an official British film of the visit for propaganda usage in Kabul etc. E Foxen Cooper ("Technical Adviser to HM Government on Cinematography", and incidentally the person at the time responsible for the IWM film collection) was placed in charge of the project and obtained from Gaumont the services of Bishop as cameraman, editor etc, although it was made clear that this was not a Gaumont production. A lecturer from the School of Oriental Studies, G H Darab Khan, was employed to produce Persian translations of the intertitles. The IWM Film and Video Archive has a file relating to the production, containing correspondence, passes, programmes of events in the tour, press cuttings etc. This file indicates that a single copy of the completed film was delivered to the FO on 14 May 1928 for despatch to Kabul. The material held by the Museum consists presumably either of a cutting copy or of offcuts from that film.

Foxen Cooper campaigned at great length for the systematic filming of events of national importance for historical purposes - the filming of this particular royal visit is perhaps the closest he ever came to success. Since the file suggests that neither he nor the FO were particularly happy with the experience, it is perhaps not surprising that the experiment was not repeated.

Remarks: unfinished and only partially edited, this film is inevitably tedious to sit through, and the finished version would probably not have been much more entertaining. Still, some of the camerawork is good, particularly in the river trip through the docklands, and their are some nice dissolves. Also, it is useful to see what the British government in 1928 thought that a visiting dignitary should see as significant in Britain. The visit is extensively documented in the file mentioned above. One wonders what a man from a land-locked mountain kingdom thought of battleships, and of tanks on Salisbury Plain




Technical Data

Running Time:
107 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
6422 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Foreign Office
India Office
Foxen Cooper, E
Bishop, W Herbert
Bishop, W Herbert
Production company