Although records from the 1930’s are difficult to come
by I have managed to piece together a possible outline
of Quinnell's service during the filming of The Four
Feathers and in early World War II.
Quinnell seems to have been attached to the 1st
Battalion of the East Surreys while it was stationed in
Khartoum around 1937-38 when he recorded the file
being shot. Many other photos from the same album
(not shown here) were taken in Shanghai, China
around 1939-40 where the 2nd Battalion of the East
Surreys was stationed just before the outbreak of
World War II in Asia. The portrait of Quinnell is his
dress tropical white uniform appears to have been
taken in Shanghai based upon the style of the
photographic backdrop in the photo. The dark colored
uniform cords he wears in the photo would seem to
indicate that he was a bandsman, drummer or possibly
Quinnell was probably among the 153 officers and other
ranks of the 1/East Surreys left at Port Sudan when
their battalion returned to England and who were
subsequently picked up by the 2nd Battalion on the
outward bound trip to China and Malaya. After a bit of
digging I have come across the Roll of Honor* for the
“British Battalion” which was made up of the remnants
of the 2/East Surrey and the 1/Royal Leicestershire
Regiments on 20 December, 1941 after devastating
combat with the Japanese. The roll lists a Drummer
W. Quinnell of the 2/East Surrey Regiment, who may
well be the same man who once owned the album from
which the following photographs were taken. I have
been unable to find anyone by the name of Quinnell
listed in the 1939-45 Army Roll of Honour.
According to regimental histories at least seven officers
and an undetermined number of men of the 2nd
Battalion found wives while in Shanghai. The 1940
Index of Army Marriages list one William Quinnell
being married in Shanghai to a Miss Ivy E. Baviau.
widowed as single. This seems to indicate that William Quinnell did not survive the
Zoltan Korda’s 1939 production of A.E.W. Mason’s 1904 novel The Four Feathers was
the fourth of seven films versions of the book made between 1915 and 2002. Korda’s
version differs from the novel and other filmed versions by having its action take
place during Kitchener’s Omdurman campaign of 1896 instead of the Nile Campaign
of 1884-5. Korda’s version is noted for its historical accuracy – most of the extras who
portrayed British soldiers in the film were actually members of the 2/East Surreys who
were stationed in Khartoum at the time of the filming. This explains the remarkably
soldierly appearance of the British troops as depicted in the film. It is also said the
that c. 1896 British uniforms used in the film were selected from old British military
stores left over from Kitchener’s campaign some 40 years before that the production
crew found in Cairo. The other extras in the film consisted of real Hadendoa
tribesmen whose fathers and grandfathers had actually fought against Kitchener at
The photographs shown below are only a portion of those taken from Quinnell's
album. In some cases the photographs could easily be mistaken for actual photos of
Kitchener's campaign which says much about Korda's research and on set technical
advisors - in this case Captain Donald Anderson and Lt. Col. Sterling, D.S.O., MC.
|Drummer William Quinnell of the 1 & 2 /East Surrey Regiment
|William Quinnell in civilian dress
Real Photo Post Card
Signed "Your's Truly, Bill."
Unknown (probably British) Photographer
|Note: All of the photographs shown below measure approximatly 4 5/8 inches by
2 7/8 inches (11.8 cm x 7.2 cm) and were printed by A. Kazandjian of the Gordon
|Members of the 1/East Surrey Regiment arriving in Khartoum. c. 1937
|Members of the 1/East Surrey Regiment costumed as extras for the filming pose next to one of the production's breach
loading cannon with the production encampment behind.
|Above and below: Other shots of East Surrey's uniformed as extras for the film in the production camp.
|Above and Below: Overviews of the Korda's production camp outside Khartoum.
|Below: Additional shots of East Surrey extras.
|Below: East Surrey "extras" waiting between scenes.
|Below: Some of the Hadendoa extras between scenes - could these very swords have been carried at Omdurman in 1898?
|Below: Motor transportation on location. Kitchener would have loved to have a few of these in 1896.
|Below: Zoltan Korda (center in fedora) confers with Hadenoda extras between shots.
|Below: East Surrey extras at ease
Curiously the index lists Quinnell's father's surname as "Quinnell or Stonbridge" (the name is also listed by the alternate spelling
of Stonebridge.) After obtaining a certified copy of the marriage registration it appears that Quinnell's mother remarried sometime
after his birth to a member of London Metropolitan Police named Ernest Stonbridge which helps explain the dual surnames.
William Quinnells's marriage took place on 29 June, 1940 at Christ the King Church in Shanghai. Ivy Enid Baviau was some 15
years older that her husband with her nationality listed as Eurasian. A telephone operator she was the daughter of one Joseph
While I have been unable to find any mentions of William Quinnell after 1941 I did come across a ship's passenger manifest from
the SS Dominion Monarch that shows one Ivy Quinnell arriving in Southampton, England on 15 November, 1945 via Sydney and
Fremantle, Australia. Her destination was listed as the residence of a Mrs. Stonebridge at 86 Orne Road, Kingston Hill, Surrey.
The manifest listed all the passengers as "Hong Kong & Malayan Internees Embarked at Sydney for the United Kingdom". While the
manifest lists this woman as single it should be noted that ship's manifests listed women who were unmarried, divorced or
|One wonders what fate would befall these smiling soldiers just a few short years later on the beaches at Dunkirk or in the
jungles of Malaya.