Above: Drummer Willian Alfred Philips Quinnell of the 1st and 2nd East Surrey Regiment photographed in Shanghai, China, sometime around 1939. He had recently been garrisoned in Khartoum, Sudan where he recorded the location filming Zoltan Khorda's 1939 classic version of The Four Feathers.
Above: William Quinnell in civilian dress
Real Photo Post Card
Signed "Your's Sincerely, Bill."
Unknown (probably British) Photographer
...of the British troops as depicted in the film. It is also said that c. 1896 British uniforms used in the film were selected from old British military stores leftover from Kitchener’s campaign some 40 years before that the production crew found in a Cairo warehouse. The other extras in the film consisted of real Hadendoa tribesmen whose fathers and grandfathers had actually fought against Kitchener at Omdurman.
William Alfred Philip Quinnell was born at Aldershot on 14 November 1918 being the son of Philip Jess Quinnell an army pensioner and grocery bar assistant and Margaret Mildred Parkes.
Although records from the 1930s 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.
Wiliam A. P. Quinnell attested with 1st Battalion of the East Surreys as No. 6141003 on 12 January 1935 and was stationed in Khartoum with his battalion around 1937-38 when he recorded The Four Feathers being filmed. 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 drummer/bugler.
Quinnell was apparently 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.
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 lists William Quinnell being married in Shanghai to a Miss Ivy E. Baviau. Quinnell's marriage took place on 29 June 1940 at Christ the King Church in Shanghai. Ivy Enid
Baviau was some 15 years older than her husband with her nationality listed as Eurasian. A telephone operator, she was the daughter of one Joseph Baviau.
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All of the photographs shown below measure approximately 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 Studio, Khartoum.
These photographs 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.
Above: British troops (possibly members of the 2/East Surreys) arrive in Khartoum in 1939.
Above & below: Members of the 2/East Surreys uniformed as British troops from Kitchener's 1898 Omdurman Campaign and serving as extras in the filming of The Four Feathers.
Below: The production camp outside of Khartoum.
Below: Transport during the production was provided by British Army Morris-Commercial PU8 lorries. One cannot help but wonder what Kitchener would have thought had such vehicles been available to him 40 years earlier.
Below: Sudanese troops on the march during filming.
Below: More costumed members of the 2/East Surrey Regiment.
Below: A camera platform used during filming.
Below: Direction being given to 2/East Surrey extras.
Below: Hadendoa "extras" between shots. It has been said that some of these men claimed to be carrying the same swords that their grandfathers had while fighting the British in 1898.
Below: Filming in progress.
Below: More 2/East Surrey extras. Is the tall drummer at center William Quinnell?
Below: Hadendoa extras receive direction via an interpreter.
Below: The production camp.
The 2/East Surreys arrived in Malaya in late 1940 and took part in the defense of the colony in the face of the Japanese invasion that began in December 1941. Initially deployed in North West Malaya with the 11th Indian Division the battalion suffered devastating casualties as it was forced southward by a numerically inferior but better equipped and led Japanese army. In late December the remnants of the 2/East Surreys were combined with the remaining and equally decimated survivors of the 1/Leicestershire Regiment. This composite unit became known as the British Battalion. Drummer William Quinnell soldiered on with the British Battalion until the fall of Singapore in February 1942
Japanese prisoner of war documents show Quinnell being taken prisoner on 15 February 1942 in Singapore and being held there at a POW Camp No. 1. At some point, prior to the surrender, Quinnell was appointed Lance Corporal although the Japanese mistakenly listed him as a sergeant. Quinnell was shipped to Hakodate #1 Ashibetsu POW Camp on the Japanese island Hokkaido on 15 May 1943.
According to a diary kept by Dan Brown of RAF 605 Squadron conditions at this camp were far from good but not as deliberately brutal as those elsewhere. Food, medicine, and supplies, in general, were short and the men labored in local mines and dockyards. Remarkably Brown related that the prisoners were actually paid about 10 sens per day for their work which allowed them to buy items like cigarettes and small food items from the local Japanese population. The cold weather and short supplies caused a steady loss of men to disease. Brown notes the arrival of 300 men from Singapore on 10 June 1943 and it is quite possible that William Quinnell was amongst this group. Brown makes no mention of Quinnell in his surviving diaries but documents - both Japanese and British confirm him being there. How he was employed while a POW is not known but a prisoner of war list shows No. 6141003, William Alfred Quinnell was liberated on 2 September 1945.
In his diary, Dan Brown relates his homeward bound trip after the war via by ship from Japan to Manila and San Francisco and then via train to Tacoma, Washington, and then across Canada then on to New York City where he boarded the RMS Queen Mary and then home to England. While it is not certain William Quinnell may have followed this same road home. The last mention I have found of William Quinnell is in the Surrey Regimental Rolls 1914-1947 where he is listed as being discharged to the Class Z
Reserves on 12 January 1947.
Dan Brown's surviving wartime diaries can be found here: http://www.nigelbrown.me.uk/pow-fe.htm
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 Mrs. Stonebridge at 86 Orne Road, Kingston Hill, Surrey. The manifest listed all the passengers as Hong Kong and Malayan Internees Embarked at Sydney for the United Kingdom. This mentioned Mrs. Stonebridge would seem most obviously to be Ivy's mother-in-law.