Film ID: YFA 2781 Video of YFA 2781 King and Queen Visit Hull 1941 KING GEORGE AND QUEEN VISIT HULL 1941 Visitor TabsDescription This E.F. Symmons film documents the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Kingston-upon- Hull in August 1941. All in black and white, it contains some superb footage of the damage to Hull’s buildings caused by the Luftwaffe, many close-up shots of the visiting Royals, and depicts the amazing resilience of the people of Hull even in the face of the destruction of their homes and communities. Inter-title: ‘Their Gracious Majesties The King and Queen visit Kingston-upon- Hull. August 1941.’ Inter-title (screen two): ‘KINGSTON, meaning KING’S TOWN, UPON HULL is a Loyal City and never has there been such a spontaneous outburst of Loyalty, Love and Welcome as on this present occasion when our gentle King and Queen pay a private visit to England’s Third Largest Port.’ The opening footage is of the King and Queen (the King in military uniform; the Queen formally dressed) standing at the entrance to a public building with the Mayor of Kingston-upon-Hull and other local officials, looking outwards and talking. The Queen is inside the back of a car, looking out of the window and waving as she is driven away. A longer-distance shot shows a crowd waving Union Jacks and standing by the roadside in front of a badly bombed building. Footage is taken from a moving vehicle of piles of rubble, twisted metal and shells of buildings. Footage of the roadside crowds as the Royals would have seen them as they passed. There are more bomb-damaged houses, and striking is the number of people who have turned out to watch the King and Queen pass. Inter-title: ‘Their Majesties, accompanied by the Lord Mayor, Coun. Sydney H. Smith, and the Sheriff, Robert G. Tarran…..talk with the Civil Defence Workers and Citizens of Hull.’ The citizens are lined up, and the dignitaries walk along the line taking time to chat and shake hands. More panoramic shots of large warehouse-style buildings badly damaged. Inter-title: ‘Amidst the damage caused by the Hun the cheerful spirit and wonderful morale of the people win the admiration of the Royal Visitors.’ The King and Queen again speak to various men in front of large crowds. There are close-up shots of mountains of rubble; protruding wood and metal. Longer-distance ground-level footage of the King and Queen picking their way across the rubble in front of some bomb-damaged houses or shops. The King, Queen, Mayor and Sheriff approach lines of men with helmets, again watched by a crowd. Inter-title: ‘Surrounded by the affection of their People THEY NEED NO BODYGUARD.’ The Queen, pearls around her neck and handbag under her arm, speaks to uniformed and helmeted men. She holds her finger out to a baby and tickles it. There is more longer-distance footage of the King and Queen speaking to more men. The next scenes are shot from a higher vantage point and show the Royals and the other officials approaching the rubble in front of the large warehouse-style building seen earlier. A crowd of onlookers, at least ten deep, watches. The camera pans upwards and focuses on the badly damaged building. The Royals are then seen on the pavement outside the bomb-damaged Dyson’s wedding and engagement ring shop, speaking to a man in military dress. The King salutes to a crowd of locals across a pile of rubble. The next series of footage is again taken from a moving vehicle in the Royals’ convoy. Crowds line the streets; some wave large Union Jacks; children wave smaller flags. Trams can be seen in the background. The buildings are less damaged in this area of town. The King and Queen speak to another line of people, including some elderly women. The press stand by with cameras poised. There is some close-up footage of the King and Queen. A line of nurses wave (as the King and Queen arrive at a hospital?). Most likely inside a hospital, the Queen leans over a bed and speaks to a patient. The patient’s crutches lean against the wall. Outdoors again, footage is taken from a slow-moving vehicle and shows a street busy with cyclists, cars, lorries and pedestrians. A banner can be seen which reads, ‘Do slow down. We do want to see our King & Queen’. The King, Queen and Mayor meet and speak to more people, who seem to be uniformed volunteers (St John’s Ambulance? – an armband with the Crown and some writing is worn by one man close to the camera). The Queen seems to take the lead in chatting to the people in most scenes. Inter-title: ‘A workman shouts “Tell Winston that we are still smiling”’. A brief shot of a crowd perched on the wall of a damaged building, waving to the camera. The King and Queen get back into their car and wave to a line of men wearing white helmets with a black ‘W’ stamped on the front. There is a close-up in the next scene of a sign: ‘Menu for To-Day: soup, pie & vegetables, milk pudding, college pudding, cold meat & salad’. The King, Queen and others are then seen walking under the sign, out of a building and in to the sunshine. The next shot is of the outside of The Prospect Cafeteria (‘The PROSPECT is GOOD.’). Inter-title: ‘NO MILITARY OBJECTIVE. Homes of the People, Business premises, Hospitals, Churches and Theatres are the targets of the Luftwaffe.’ A large church is filmed from the opposite side of the road. Its structure, from this angle, looks relatively undamaged. The next footage is taken from the inside, or from the opposite angle, and the bomb-damage can be observed. Most of the roof is missing, and rubble is strewn across the floor. Pillars and windows have also been damaged. There are panoramic shots of bomb-damaged terraced houses. A tram with ‘Hull’ written on the side passes in front of the camera. More footage of bomb damage – buildings are just heaps of twisted metal and rubble. Cars and pedestrians pass in front of the camera. Inter-title: ‘The Oldest Church in Kingston. The once Beautiful Church of St. Peter’s, Old Drypool.’ A long outdoor view of an old woman in a shawl walking slowly away from the camera down a churchyard path towards the church. Inside, the woman with her back to the camera, stands in the middle of the badly damaged church. This is followed by a close-up of her face and body. There is also footage of the clock tower of the church from the outside. Back indoors, the woman stands in the middle of the rubble of the roof and walls. Inter-title: ‘Her home destroyed by the Luftwaffe…Grannie…82 years old, in the Church in which she was married…looks with sorrow at the remains of the font where her children and grandchildren were baptised.’ A close-up of the old woman inside the church shows her looking contemplative. Assorted close-ups of the rubble and twisted metal on the floor of the church, and of Grannie, wearing a black shawl over her head is followed by outdoor footage of the church, missing its roof, taken from the overgrown graveyard. The scene switches to lines of men and women wearing overalls, waving Union Jacks and standing next to a sign which reads, ‘Thank You For Coming. Goodbye and God Bless Your Majesties.’ Finally there are other shots of crowds waving handkerchiefs and the King and Queen being driven off in their car. Inter-title: ‘The End. Filmed by E.F. Symmons, Debenham & Co., Beverley, East Yorks, England.’ Context Although the YFA has many films made of Royal visits to Yorkshire, this film is one of only a few to feature a Royal visit to Yorkshire during World War Two; others include at Sheffield (Sheffield At War) and Halifax, both filmed around the same time towards the end of the blitz in 1941. The only other films of visits from George VI are to Bradford and York, both in 1937. Royal visits are, and were then, always very special, and the Town or City Council would often commission local filmmakers to make a film of the event. This is what in all probability, given the sub-titles, was the case here: although there is no certain information on the making of the film. What we do know, from the credits, is that it was made by Ernest Symmons, who founded the film making company of Debenham & Co., which relocated from York to Beverley, a short distance from Hull, before the First World War. Debenham’s also made films from the First World War, such as Scrap of Paper, also shown on YFA Online, and Farewell Send-Off To The Darton Recruits, in 1915, held at the Imperial War Museum. The YFA holds a number of other films that they made, mostly in Hull, including Hull Victory Celebrations made in 1945, all having a very similar format. Ernest Frederick Symmons, together with his brother-in-law Leslie Holderness, had a photography business before going on to show moving pictures at the Corn Exchange in Beverley in 1911 – on the first programme was The Egg Harvest of 1908, which can also be seen on YFA Online. In the same year they made their own first film, going on to make over 200 films – although the real number is unknown and the majority are lost (a list of known films is given in Peter Robinson, see References). These included fictional works as well as informational and documentary films. Among their informational films Debenham’s made many films for the police promoting road safety and shown widely in Britain and beyond – including Man with a Notebook and Tomorrow Is Too Late made immediately after the World War Two, the latter also on YFA Online (see the Context for this film). Ernest also ran the Picture Playhouse Cinema in Beverley, which was kept going after Ernest’s death in 1957 by his second wife Thelma and others. This has subsequently been gutted with only the façade remaining. The visit to Hull by George VI was one of many that he made throughout the war to munitions factories, supply docks and bomb-damaged areas, as well as Allied armies on several battle fronts. With all the damage it is not easy to make out the areas visited in the film, but one long standing citizen of Hull informs us that we see Prospect Street, with glimpses of the Central library and the Dock Offices, before proceeding along Hessle Road, with the City Temple, and the Boulevard. On unexpectedly becoming King in 1937, after the abdication of his brother Edward III in 1937, many thought that the shy George would struggle in his role, but in fact he became very popular. In this he was aided by his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who famously remarked, following bombs falling on Buckingham Palace in September 1940, "I'm glad we've been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face." The King and Queen claimed that they wanted to share the hardships of the rest of the population, and in some respects they did; although they were able to escape to Balmoral just after visiting Hull. The royal visit was shortly after the devastating bombing raids on Hull made during the blitz, the nine months of intensive bombing of British cities which left 43,000 civilians dead. Hull was the worst hit city in England outside of London, indeed in the entire British Empire outside of Malta. Altogether it suffered 82 large and small night attacks, mainly in bombing raids in March and May 1941; but they continued throughout the war right up to March 1945. In total over 90% of the city was damaged by bombing, with only 6,000 of the 92,000 houses escaping bomb damage. Twenty seven churches were destroyed and fourteen schools. 1,200 people were killed in the raids and a further 3,000 injured. The pre-war population of 320,000 had dropped by some 30,000 by the end of the war. Being such an important area for industry, with the docks the third largest in the country, Hull was a natural target; especially as it happened to be on the flight back to Germany, and so handy to off-load any bombs not dropped elsewhere because of bad weather. Hull was also bombed, by Zeppelins, in the First World War, and endured the first daylight raid of the war and the last piloted air raid – leaving aside the pilotless V1 (the buzz bombs or doodlebugs) and V2 missiles, aimed at London and South East England in 1944. Well before the bombing, many of the children had already been evacuated, although, judging by the film, there were clearly enough still in the area to see the King and Queen. About 38,000 children were evacuated from Hull, to Bridlington, Scarborough, Malton, North Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire and as far away as the Isle of Man (on the evacuees, see the Context on ARP/Malton Evacuees, also on YFA Online). The film shows us not only the devastation of the bombing, but also those involved in the war at home, the Women’s Voluntary Service and women working in traditional male jobs, possibly munitions work (on these two aspects of the Home Front, see Formation Of The Homeguard and Munitions Factory, both on YFA Online). The film was taken back to Roosevelt, the President of the USA, by the ambassador to the USA Viscount Halifax, in September 1941, before the US entered the war. Hull has changed dramatically since 1941, of course much of it because of the need to re-build after the devastating bombing: the film bears testimony to the fact that it wasn’t only ‘legitimate war targets’ that received a battering. For example, St. Peter's Church, seen in the film, which used to be near the junction of St Peter Street and Great Union Street, is now gone, leaving only some 19th century headstones set against a brick wall in the old churchyard, now in the busy industrial area around the Citadel Trading Park. As with many other cities, the devastation provided an opportunity to rebuild a better living environment. Two local town planners drew up an ambitious ‘Plan for the Reconstruction of Hull’, named after one of the planners, Patrick Abercombie (an important architect at that time). But very little of this was realised, and many feel that the opportunity wasn’t taken, and in fact made worse (see the film New Towns for Old, also on YFA Online, and Amery and Stamp in the Context for this). As might be expected, the film has a propaganda aspect. Yet the condemnation of the German bombing in the caption, for hitting non-military targets, natural enough at the time, nevertheless might be thought to somewhat miss the mark, as the Germans could say the same: only one in five of British bombing raids managed to land within five miles of their targets. Given the limited technology at that time, it was almost impossible to bomb accurately on night raids. In fact it was Britain which first decided, in May 1940, on strategic bombing, as opposed to the tactical support of ground operations. The blitz itself began as a tit-for-tat process that only got underway after a wayward German plane mistakenly bombed London on the night of 24 August 1940. In 1941 Britain decided to change policy to ‘area bombing’, and this directive was given in February 1942 when Arthur Harris became head of the RAF. British policy was to undermine morale, and so the differentiation between military and civilian targets was effectively obliterated. The devastation this caused to German cities, such as Dresden and Hamburg with tens of thousands of civilians killed, remains a highly contentious issue to this day. The use of the name ‘the Hun’ for the Germans, seen in the film, adds to their portrayal as barbarians. A derogatory term – following its use by the French – it was in fact the Kaiser who first made the reference – meant as a positive comparison when German troops were putting down the Boxer rebellion in China in 1901 (although the term was purportedly used a lot in the First World War, there is dispute over how much it was actually used by ordinary people, rather than the press). Given the devastation caused by the war, patriotic sentiment would have been at an all-time high, and the Royal visit would have been seen as an important boost to morale. The battle to preserve morale was crucial, and the shout of “we are still smiling” shows the determination to keep morale up. How good morale actually was in these years, and how much unity, has become a contentious issue (References and Further Information provides a list of works that discuss this). In fact the fear of unrest in Hull was such that troops were stationed around the outskirts of the city in case of civilian disturbances. Films like this help to provide valuable insights into how people reacted to wartime bombing, and how this was influenced by the authorities. (With special thanks to Gillian Symmons and David Smith, Senior Local Studies Librarian, Hull Local Studies Library). References Angus Calder, The People’s War, Panther Books, London, 1971. Beverley, East Yorkshire Hutton Press, 1985. Gavin Stamp, Britain’s Lost Cities, Aurum Press, London, 2007. Gillian Symmons, Ernest Frederick Symmons: Cinema proprietor and film maker, unpublished manuscript, January 2009. Hull Local Studies has a large collection of material relating to Hull during the Second World War (not all can be found on the electronic catalogue). A selection of those used here are: Mike Green (ed.), On the Home Front: memories for Humberside, Stylus Publications, Wymondhand, 1992. Esther Baker, A Firewoman’s Recollections of the Hull Blitz, Hutton Press, Beverley, 1992. KimBrack, Hull and Humberside in the Second World War: a chronology and bibliography, Hull College of Further Education, 1992. Community Survey, Hull in World War II (No publication details are available for this – it brings together a range of information, stories and photographs) Sara Last and Liz Deverell, Evacuees from Hull 1939-41. (No publication details are available for this – it details the places evacuees were sent to and their experiences) Thomas Geraghty, A North-East Coast Town: the story of Kingston upon Hull in the 1939-1945 Great War, Mr Pye Books, Howden, 1989. (This focuses on the work of the various services during the war) Philip Graystone (Reverend), The Blitz on Hull (1940-45), Lampada Press, Hull, 1991. (This focuses on the raids and the damage they caused) Michael Ulyatt, Hull at War 1939-1945, Dalesman Books, 1992. (This has a comprehensive list of trawlers lost during the war). Peter H Robinson, The Home of Beautiful Pictures - the Story of the Playhouse Cinema, Beverley, Hutton Press, 1984. James Richards The Blitz: Sorting the Myth from the Reality Detlef Siebert, British Bombing Strategy in World War Two Further Information Colin Amery, Dan Cruickshank and John Betjeman, The Rape of Britain, Elek, 1975. Angus Calder, The Myth of the Blitz., Cape, London, 1991 Robert Rhodes James, A Spirit Undaunted: the Political Role of George VI, Abacus, London, 1998 Keith Lowe, Inferno : the devastation of Hamburg, 1943, Penguin, London, 2008. Robert Mackay, The Test of War: Inside Britain, 1939-45, Routledge, London, 1998. Robert Mackay, Half the Battle: Civilian Morale in Britain During the Second World War, Manchester University Press, 2003. Tom Harrison, Living through the Blitz, Collins, London, 1976. Mckibbin, Ross, Classes and Cultures: England 1918-1951, Oxford University Press, 1998.