Transport Command

Registered: 30th November 1961
Duration: 24 minutes
Feet: ​2160 feet
Board of Trade Certificate number: ​BR/E27023
Distributed by: United Artists
Production Company: ​​Harold Baim Film Productions (London) Limited

More Film Stills: ​at baimfilms.com (opens in new window)
Stream Online: at vimeo (password required)

This film will grip you from start to finish as we travel to the Middle East with the men of Britain's Transport Command, a division of the Royal Air Force. 

Title and Credits:
Ray Orchard wishes to introduce... TRANSPORT COMMAND

Director of Eastmancolor Photography: Eric R Owen, Marc Bocutt (Royal Navy)
Research: R Scott-Reid, Sq Ldr R Williams
Recordists: T Meyers, W Milner, Y Scarlett
Music: De Wolfe
Editor: Dennis Lanning
Film Processors: Rank Laboratories, Denham, England
Produced by: Harold Baim

With grateful acknowledgement for co-operation to - Air Ministry London, Royal Air Force Transport Command, and British Air Forces Arabian Peninsula, Royal Air Force Far East Command.


Air Ministry, London. Nerve centre of Royal Air Force Transport Command.

From Air Ministry to Upavon, which receives and implements the instructions transmitted to them.

Lyneham, one of the strategic bases from which aircraft of Transport Command leave England on scheduled routes which take in places as far afield as Nairobi, Singapore and Adelaide, Australia.

The station is equipped with Comets and Britannias, has its own customs and excise departments, handles personnel movements whether in transit, arrivals or departures.

Let's act on this invitation and see what makes famous Transport Command tick.

Their preliminary task is to redeploy, at short notice, elements of strategic rescue to any troubled spots, thereafter mounting tactical operations as required. Secondary tasks include routine scheduled flights carrying freight and passengers overseas, VIP flights and training exercises with the Army and other units within the Royal Air Force.

Some of the aircraft have strange hunting names; Sirius, Aldebaran, Polaris, Procyon.

The operations block does the job its name implies: the controlling, among other things, of flight movements. A look inside shows the amount of control necessary in the vast undertaking of this branch of the Royal Air Force.

Without doubt, they must be the largest moving business in the world.

In the operations room itself, the crews can obtain most of the information for their next flight. The schedules are right. The men for the job are right.

24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, Transport Command is on the move. Stores and material handled can range from nuts and bolts to aircraft engines, from army jeeps to fire engines. Nothing is too small. Nothing is too large. In fact, anything will be attempted, the deciding factor is being that the item will go into the aircraft, and that the specified all-up weight is not exceeded.

With overnight accommodation and restaurants. Lyneham provides a service equal to, or even better than, any civilian undertaking. Only service personnel and service sponsored civilians are carried, including, of course, the families of servicemen. And many are the occasions when Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip fly with this arm of the Royal Air Force.

Comets and Britannias have, in one year, flown 8.5 million miles, carrying 72,000 passengers and 9000 tons of freight. Some distance. Some load.

Take off time is near. Final checks are being made down to the last detail. Outside on the apron, the aircraft is awaiting. First port of call Aden at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. And there it is, thousands of feet below us, with stark crags springing suddenly from the desert sands. Aden, a town of 150,000 population.

Our aircraft taxis into Khormaksar, the name of Aden's RAF station, responsible for supplies of all kinds throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The force maintains goodwill with England by transporting freight to almost inaccessible places once served only by camel trains.

A port of call for vessels sailing to all parts of the world, Aden was once a fortress. Here today meet ships of the sea. Ships of the desert. Ships of the air.

The main work at Khormaksar is the receiving of stores from England, and trans shipping of them to the army up country using Beverley aircraft. With a wingspan of 162ft, a length of almost 100ft, powered by four Bristol Centaurus engines, the Beverley aircraft is virtually a ‘maid of all work’. A freight carrier, which can be converted to hold 94 fully armed troops or 70 paratroops. Its maximum payload is £35,000.

But everything does not go right all of the time, and sometimes a forced landing has to be made in the middle of isolated, inhospitable country. To meet contingencies like this placed along the routes overseas at control points is a comprehensive backing of spare parts for almost every type of aircraft. No matter how badly a machine may become unserviceable, no matter how remote the place where it was forced to land, it's usually possible to get all assistance to the point of the trouble within 24 hours.
Years ago, huge stocks of spare parts were necessary. Today, this is no longer so, for the jets have made the world smaller and even major requirements can be flown out with speed and ease.

Lyneham’s round the clock activity still goes on. A helicopter carrying a casualty land so that he may be placed under the doctor's care as soon as possible.

Back in the operations room, the work of getting aircraft into the air, proceeds.

This time, RAF cadets are making the trip to join their unit.

The station is not short of glamour either. The boys cannot be blue whilst in the company of the girls in blue.

Our next trip is to an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Gan. The island is almost a speck, and down through the clouds we go to land on the 8700 foot-long runway.

Gan is 600 miles southwest of Ceylon, and 2000 from Singapore. It has the latest navigation aids and can support round the clock operations. Believed to have been inhabited for 700 years, the island is six and a half miles long and ten miles wide. A kingpin, and in times of emergency it could well play its part in the fulfillment of Britain's obligations under the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization.

Night falls on the tropical island of Gan. And when night falls back in England. RAF Lyneham is still going strong. It's as cosmopolitan as any airport anywhere. American officers here on an exchange basis, with British officers flying with the Royal Air Force. And whilst they are planning the next journey for us, it's interesting to note that Transport Command is divided fundamentally into three elements; the strategic force, which uses Comets, and Britannia's; medium range force, with its Beverleys and Hastings, and short range force, using helicopters, single and twin Pioneers.

This is a Varsity plane landing at Lyneham. Called Varsity because the crews are from university and under training.

And here's a Canadian officer who will be with us on our next journey. Let's see where we are going, Nairobi, Kenya. There's a name to conjure with! Nairobi, a staging post for the aircraft of Transport Command. Nairobi, a modern city 327 miles from Mombasa. A colourful, interesting and important city on the vast continent of Africa.

And at the Spread Eagle Hotel, popular with officers who know their way around, the swimming pool, offers fun and relaxation in the brilliant sunshine. And not so relaxing for the losers is the magnificent racecourse where a happy, or not so happy, hour and your money can be spent.

One of Nairobi's claims to fame is her national park, where days can be spent watching another kind of game in natural surroundings, Surroundings which take in many, many miles.

The tropical vegetation is both lush and fascinating. Almost anything can grow here, so fertile is the country.

No, this is not growing here. It's a post marking Eastleigh, which is the name of Nairobi's RAF station, just as Khormaksar was the name of the station at Aden. North, south, east or West, Transport Command takes distance virtually in its stride.

The Governor General of Kenya leaves for the United Kingdom. Just as we will, back to Lyneham to see where next they will take us. It's almost like coming back home, we've grown so used to the place. Let's see what's cooking.

Well, there's obviously another ride we can take with the boys of Transport Command. They certainly do sss life. It used to be ‘join the Navy and see the world’ now it's ‘join the Air Force and see the world, faster’. The next item on the programme is Changi, and hey presto, here we are!

Headquarters of the Far East Air Force, ten miles from Singapore, Changi is known as the RAF Clapham Junction of the East, so much air traffic moves through it.

Changi boasts a wonderful officers club about which I need not say anything, for every picture tells a story.
Singapore's most famous hotel is named the Raffles after a Governor of Singapore.

Whilst in the streets the term ‘East meets West’ really begins to mean something. It's certainly one of the most fascinating and startling places in the world. Home of the Far East film industry, yes, they have one as well, is Shaw House. And scenes like this keep reminding you that the past is ever present.

Thousands of ships tie up in the famous harbour, and old fashioned sampans serve as local conveyances. They say that someone once gave an order to ‘go down to the warehouse’, and that's why these warehouses are called Go-downs. How true, I don't know. But this must be true because it says so: the cure for all ills, whether you rub it in or just eat it.

You could hardly believe this was true either. It certainly makes your eyes widen. It's Tiger Balm Park, a park with a difference. The difference is very obvious with its archways, pagodas, models and lakes. A kaleidoscope of color and interest.

This obelisk perpetuates the fame of the founders of Tiger Balm Park, typifying the east under a sky of the deepest blue.

But sometimes, out of a clear blue sky, comes the unexpected. His parachute is up a tree and he's on the ground with a broken leg. Actually, this is a practice drop to exercise the effectiveness of casualty evacuation. In this kind of terrain, it's an essential part of day-to-day operations.

Accidents happen in the best regulated circles, illness strikes when least expected, and even though doctors, nurses and hospitals are ready, willing and able, one never knows just where the trouble may take place. This, then, is why the casualty evacuation section must always be at the ready.

Extremely successful in jungle operations, helicopters are used to good effect, and because of its ability to hover, land in extremely confined spaces, and lift loads, the helicopter is invaluable in the task of evacuation.

He's down there somewhere. And into the clearing, ready for the pickup.

Exercise almost completed.

Exercise completed.

Well, that's it. We've all heard of Transport Command, but too few of us really know what it means. The tremendous job done by the men who work in what could, I suppose, be called the lifeline of the Royal Air Force.

Just as varied as their cargoes, so is the territory over which they fly. Over snow and sand, over oceans and mountains and dense, dangerous jungle country.

The world is round and round the world fly Transport Command, by day and by night.

[End - Credits]