This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: MGH 2622).


(Reel 1) A soldier in uniform stands in heavily frosted yard. View of white cliffs, from ship (Troopship Vienna?) leaving Southampton . The regiment watch other boats and a destroyer from the deck. The train stationary at a station in France. The regiment drink hot drinks, smoke cigarettes and hang out of the train windows. A soldier drinks from a bottle with a ceramic stopper. A young woman runs up to the train offering a newspaper.

Soldiers walk along a snowy country road, a snowplough (?) parked at roadside. Men in hooded capes lead horses along the road. Two officers pose in front of the snowy landscape. Horses feeding in snow-covered fields (in village near Marseilles, Aubagne?). Soldiers stack bails of hay for the horses.

(Reel 2) [Possibly as a result of an unintentional use of a feature in-camera the following shots are jumpy and change rapidly] Palestine. Preparing camp on the plains (of Esdraelon, about 3 miles from small town of Afula?). Horses standing in waterlogged mud. Camp fires. Soldiers ride down slope towards the plain at Rosh Pinna. Arabs and their horses at a quarry. Soldiers on horseback leading other horses. Cows, mules and horses in fields separated by dry-stone walls. An Arab peasant poses with walking stick for the camera. The soldiers and horses cross a small stream (a wadi?). [choppy filming ends]. Yeoman poses on his horse. A view of the distant landscape seen through a hole in the wall of a ruin. The soldiers lead the horses past a larger stream. Three officers standing outside camp talking. View of rolling landscape, grassy but also very rocky. Sheep grazing. An Arab shepherd poses for the camera. Wooded area in landscape.

[Join in film?] An Arab family, the woman and children dressed all in black. A soldier on horseback. Landscape with path winding its way to a pass between two mountains. Horses drinking at the river, silhouetted by twilight. A boxing match, watched by the regiment. Soldiers lying in grass throw fireballs (small missiles on fire) at a cart loaded with straw. Egypt: An aerial view of the pyramids and desert landscape. Fertile, green patchwork fields filmed from an elevated position. A young English woman poses for the camera, and is joined by an English man.

Soldiers, in gardens with palm trees, playing up to the camera. A building and corrugated metal hut are visible in the background. An Alsatian dog is with them.

Back in Palestine? French troops including Spahis - Algerian cavalry in French Service - (probably leaving Syria?) lead their horses along the road. A British and French officer talk at the side of the road.

A young (European-looking) girl and boy pose with a boxer dog. Soldiers (off-duty?) in make-shift camp under trees, one takes a photograph using a stills camera. View of open landscape with what appears to be a cloud of smoke rising in the far distance.

Soldiers taking part in a gymkhana and donkey derby.

Men posing on shore of Lake Tiberias / Sea of Galilee. A young woman sits on the sand amongst the deckchairs. Two officers sit in a blue car.

A field of camels. Two Arabs and an English man pose with rifles. Men from the regiment pose with Arabs around a car. An Arab shows off his equestrian skills, tent-pegging. A car parked in front of a row of tents.

(Reel 3?) Two Arabs walking with a cow, late in the day, the sun is low - Capt Wilsons shadow in shot.

The Regiments Sports Day. A man smoking a pipe stands with a pile of hats on his head - when another man tries to remove the top one they all fall. Tug of War. Soldier with badly burned face or birthmark ? lights his pipe. A Bedouin tent with cat and chicken sitting outside.

A fountain and gardens in a square in an urban setting (Jerusalem?). Street scene shows Arabs wearing traditional white keffiyeh (head-dress) and red fez. Three officers in civilian dress pose for the camera in the street. A woman rides along the street on a mule, other heavily laden mules are led past. Other animals in background. Heavily laden camels are led along the road passed orange sellers on the side of the street.

Rugged, mountainous landscape. A rainbow. Scenes of the Roman ruins at Baalbek. The columns of the Temple of Jupiter.

Troops walking along a road in a village. Four French men, three in red cloaks, wearing French peaked caps walk along the street.

(Reel 4?) A mounted Yeoman. The Yeomen ride across sweeping landscape. A group of buildings, a water tower (possibly a border/frontier?). Two men walk past with papers.

The regiments tents pitched alongside and in between railway lines. A group of Arabs with a French ? man reading a newspaper. An Arab on a mule leading his camels past palm trees. View of mountains taken from a moving vehicle. Mounted soldiers. Landscape from a moving car. Small town on the edge of a lake.

[Here the film becomes very jumpy and fast moving] Cultivated land. Arabs standing at roadside. An Arab whips a horse ploughing the field. Mounted soldiers. Lake Tiberias / The Sea of Galilee (?).

A Red Cross ambulance and two other cars parked outside a building. More vehicles, one loaded with hay outside a building flying the Union Jack. Bad weather; very windy, the ground is waterlogged. Camp - brown and white tents. Other larger tents pitched on waterlogged ground. A lake - waves breaking off shore. Bright light on the horizon. Fellow officers wearing jackets and ties play up to the camera, one holds a cin camera. [This scene is over-exposed] A French soldier walks towards the camera carrying a rifle. One of the men from the previous scene talks to the French soldier and two French officers.

Mules laden with branches walk along the road followed by people and a truck. Sunset.

A football match, on a marked-out pitch with goalposts. One team wears yellow and black halves, the other black and white hoops. Lake just visible in background.

Horse jumping exercise. [Some slow motion has been used.]

(Join in film?) Scenes of the ruins at Baalbek. Mounted soldier jumps dry-stone wall. Mounted soldiers on path between cypress trees. An Arab and laden mule. View over lake. Flowers (clematis?) growing over garden wall. Three people on a small boat on the lake. A boxer puppy. A man in a small boat on the lake. A small settlement on the edge of the lake. High in the mountains; terraced olive groves. [The film becomes choppy and fast moving again.] A small village nestling in the mountains. Snow covered slopes. Three men on skis. (Golan Heights?)

(Join in film?) Cedar trees in the snow. Two men ski towards the camera.

French flags flying above a field where a gymkhana is taking place. The crowd watching is made up of French troops, some sitting on wooden chairs. Shot from an elevated position of troops marching in the street, alongside a river. Watched by an Arab crowd. Mounted troops (Foreign Legion and Spahis?) follow.

Mounted troops in a courtyard (Foreign Legion and Spahis?). Foreign Legion wearing white kepi (French peaked caps). Close-up of a white stallion. A few Foreign Legionnaires pose for the camera plus one officer in a red peakless hat.

Some Arab peasants with laden mules.

Leisure activities and entertainment for the Yeomanry. The regiment watches a fancy dress parade which includes a horse carrying a treasure chest, a rider imitating an Arab by wearing a piece of white fabric on his head, two men - one dressed as Hitler - riding mules and saluting Nazi-style, an Alsatian dog follows. Another man dressed as Hitler rides his mule facing backwards. Various Lady Godiva imitators, wearing long blonde wigs of straw and 'brassieres' riding white horses. One is led by a man wearing a shirt showing the Warwickshire Bear. The contestants line up. One entrant has hung a sign around his horses neck which reads Wer ist der Yo-Yos? (probably a reference to a nickname for the Yeomanry). Horse jumping. A swimming competition, lanes are marked out with ropes. A diving competition and pillow fight on a beam over the water [both filmed in slow motion and some too fast].

Boxer dog on the road. High jump competition, tents in the background. [Some slow motion, some too fast]. Tug of war (possibly featuring Capt Wilson?) on the football pitch. Running races. Obstacle race, the boxer dog appears behind briefly. A view of the lake through flowering shrubs. Mounted troops on parade on the plains (possibly the Staffordshire Squadron?).

Scenes showing the Warwickshire Yeomanry and their horses stationed in Palestine and on the border with Syria, prior to the defeat of France in 1940. Other scenes show them en route through France and briefly in Egypt.



The various Yeomanry Regiments of the British Territorial Army date from the late 18th century when, in response to the perceived threat from Napoleon’s France, volunteer mounted forces were raised in the counties as a supplement to the regular cavalry. The Warwickshire Yeomanry were founded in 1794, and subsequently saw action in various theatres, including the Crimean and Boer Wars. In the First World War the ‘Warwicks’ were active in the Middle East. Under the command of General Allenby they were instrumental in the defeat of Ottoman forces in southern Palestine, taking part in the famous ‘Charge at Huj’ of November 1917, a critical moment in the campaign to destroy the Ottoman Gaza-Beersheva line (Adderley 1922 passim; for Allenby’s campaign, see 109-32).

Between the wars the regiment was maintained, and undertook annual training exercises throughout the twenties and thirties; the recruitment drive in the run-up to war saw them muster at full strength by May 1939. They were mobilised in September 1939, and brigaded in Nottinghamshire at Thoresby Park with the Cheshire and Staffordshire Yeomanry, with whom they formed part of the 1st Cavalry Division. In December they received the order to move to the Middle East. The horses were moved before the men on 22 December; the rest of the regiment followed on 28 December, leaving for Southampton from Ollerton station. The journey to the Middle East was via France – landing at Cherbourg, the regiment and their horses took a train to Marseille, and departed by boat for Palestine on 3 January. The boat journey was extremely arduous, with men and beasts both suffering in rough seas for several days before disembarking at Haifa on 9 January 1940 (Baker 1971: 12-13).

They arrived and encountered a situation of moderate calm, considering the general circumstances. By early 1939 the Arab uprising against the British had been effectively quashed through the severe repression meted out by the Mandate authorities, and Jewish rebel groups, though active, were not yet causing major administrative problems. The French had not yet capitulated to Germany, nor had Italy entered the war, and so the first half of 1940 was relatively quiet in the Middle East.

In late January, after a few weeks encamped at Afula, the regiment moved to high ground near Rosh Pinna in the vicinity of Lake Tiberias to establish the regimental camp, although very poor weather hampered their efforts for several weeks more. Once settled, the regiment undertook exercises, and were employed in what was essentially a colonial policing capacity. Baker, in his history of the Warwicks, Yeoman Yeoman, describes their role as being to ‘assist in maintaining the uneasy peace between Jew and Arab’, and to be on hand in the event that the ‘animosity between Jew and Arab developed again into open hostility (ibid.: 14, 17).’ They patrolled the countryside and conducted raids as auxiliaries to the Palestine Police, and Baker also mentions a further highly significant task – to ‘maintain  the stability of the area and guarantee the flow of the much needed oil supplies’, very probably a reference to the security of the Iraq-Haifa oil pipeline (an especially important task after June 1940, when the refinery at Haifa began to operate Krämer 2008: 297). During this first period local leave was granted, and there was much leisure time; Baker reports that ‘various sporting activities started to flourish’ in the camp (Baker op. cit.: 16).

After the French defeat and capitulation on 24 June, the Commander-in-Chief of the Levant, General Dentz, sided with the Vichy regime, prompting an exodus of French forces hostile to Vichy from Syria into Palestine. Many of these French troops, including an entire squadron of Spahis (French colonial cavalry), were received by the Yeomanry regiments.

Despite an increase in patrols in response to the new threat from Syria, the regiment still saw no frontline action for the remainder of 1940. Between July and August they were moved to various other locations, including Jish and Umm el-Faraj; in September they were informed that they were to lose their horses and be fully mechanised. The winter of 1940-41 was spent exercising near Karkur and Nablus, and by late March 1941 the horses were all gone, and the regiment was barracked in Jerusalem at the Allenby barracks. The Warwicks left for their first combat engagements of the war on 12 May as  armoured cavalry. They were due for Iraq, sent to quell the violence started by pro-Axis Iraqi Prime Minister Raschid Ali al-Gaylani, and to secure the northern Iraqi oilfields and wells of another British concern, the Iraq Petroleum Company (ibid.: 24-5).



The film, shot in Eastmancolor on 16mm Kodak Safety Film, is an amateur record of the early part of the Warwickshire Yeomanry’s time in the Middle East. Shot by Major Jeffrey Wilson (possibly Geoffrey Wilson? – see below) of D Squadron, it is an indiscriminate mixture of scenes both military and personal. The large proportion of shots devoted to regimental sports, travel (some apparently personal, presumably shot during leave periods, e.g. sequences with friends at the pyramids in Egypt), and general fun and games – particularly combined with the several shots of children and some sequences of a pet dog – imbue much of the film with the flavour of happy holidays rather than wartime. This effect quite probably gives a fairly accurate impression of the Yeomanry’s first year in the Middle East, at least according to the account given by Baker, who has only a few minor incidents to report for the whole of 1940, even after Vichy took control in Syria (Baker op. cit.: 14-21).

After a brief shot of an unidentified man, the film begins with a sequence shot aboard the boat for Cherbourg; there are then several shots of troops and officers waiting to depart by train, presumably from Cherbourg for Marseille. The regiment was encamped for the few days over Christmas 1939 near the latter city, and Baker’s source reports that the weather was bitterly and unexpectedly cold: the following sequences, showing the horses tethered in a snowy valley and several shots of men in quite heavy snow, were no doubt shot here. There is no footage of the very difficult journey to Palestine. 

The remainder of the film is shot in the Middle East, beginning with a panning shot of unpitched tents on a high ridge – the scene tallies with Baker’s assertion that D Squadron, to which Wilson belonged, were sent ahead to high ground near Rosh Pinna to pitch the regimental camp (ibid.: 15). Subsequent shots of the still unpitched camp in rough weather also confirm his account of the difficulties encountered. There follow several sequences of the countryside and some brief, shaky shots of local Palestinians and their livestock. The footage as a whole contains many scenes of rural Palestine, and there are several sequences shot in neighbouring countries (eg  Lebanon, including images of the temple ruins at Baalbek, and possibly Syria?). Sequences of the soldiers on mounted exercises recur regularly throughout the film.

At several points we see shots of French soldiers – quite near the start of the film, a large contingent of armed, colonial cavalry troops passes the camera, and again towards the end there are sequences featuring French officers and what appear to be French colonial cavalry. These sequences may well show some of the French troops received by the regiment, as per Baker’s record, and may well include the Spahis, who by his account caused a great stir of interest in the camp (ibid.: 17).

The film ends with shots of the troops mounted and on parade. Horses are present throughout the film, and so it is possible to be fairly certain that almost all the film was shot during 1940, although some may have been taken in early 1941. (Around the half-way mark we see a demonstration of Molotov cocktails – this event is mentioned by Baker, who records that it took place in January 1941 (ibid.: 18). There is thus perhaps a question whether the events shown in the film are in chronological order. It seems unlikely that the sequence near the end of the film showing some fairly relaxed French officers and French cavalry on parade would have been shot more than six months after the surrender of Dentz to Vichy. It seems more probable that these sequences were shot in the summer of 1940.)

Overall the greatest amount of time is given over to sports and leisure, including boxing, football, rugby, athletics, horsemanship, swimming, donkey derbys, and a marvellous, relatively long sequence of theatrical entertainments including fancy-dress for both men and horses, with plentiful cross-dressing and the lampooning of a figure dressed as Hitler who rides a donkey. These sequences are touching, and show the camaraderie and good humour of young men on their way to war, but who have not yet arrived there.

Horses are present throughout the footage, and there is pathos and significance in this, for not only is the film a record of the final months of the Warwickshire Yeomanry et al. as horse cavalry units, but is also in fact a snapshot from the very end of mounted warfare. The carnage inflicted by German armoured forces on the Polish cavalry in September 1939 meant that the horse on the modern battlefield was already an anachronism by the time the regiment left for Palestine in December of that year (Baker admits as much; ibid.: 14). There was a role for the horses as long as the regiment supported the Palestine Police, but once major combat operations threatened, there was little further realistic combat role for the horse, closing thousands of years on the frontlines of war. The Yeomanry regiments were amongst the last British cavalry forces to be mechanised; the 1935 assurance from government gained by Dorothy Brooke, founder of the Brooke Hospital for Animals, that unwanted military horses would be humanely destroyed or returned home rather than sold locally meant that the horses seen here may well have been destroyed just weeks after the final shots of this film were taken (Brereton 1976: 139-40; www.thebrooke.org; the original viewing notes in IWM acquisition documents suggest as much). Wilson’s film records scenes from the closing weeks of the history of the mounted cavalry in European warfare.

After mechanisation, the Warwickshire Yeomanry fought in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Italy. Baker’s Roll of Honour records that a Major G. N. Wilson died on November 2 1942 from wounds received at El Alamein; his description of the battle identifies a Geoffrey Wilson, who was caught in his tank by shell fire, though (perhaps erroneously?) identifies him in the text as a Captain (Baker op. cit. 115; see also 57). It is possible that the Major Jeffrey Wilson who took the film is the same as this Geoffrey Wilson/ Major G. N. Wilson, but further research would be necessary.

Francis Gooding October 2009


Works Cited

Adderley, H. A. The Warwickshire Yeomanry in the Great War (Warwick: W. H. Smith 1922)

Baker, Paul Yeoman, Yeoman: The Warwickshire Yeomanry 1920-1956 (Birmingham: Queen’s Own Warwickshire and Worcestshire Yeomanry Regimental Association 1971)

Brereton, J. M. The Horse in War (London: David & Charles 1976)

Krämer, Gudrun A History of Palestine (Oxford: Princeton 2008)





Technical Data

Film Gauge (Format):
472 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Wilson, Geoffrey (Captain)