Naval Instructional Films Box

The British Armed forces were early adopters of moving films as training aids. The Army had the Army Kinematograph Service, set up in 1941 and the RN had the Royal Naval Instructional Film Unit. Copies of the films were printed onto 35mm film reels and then shipped out to ships and bases around the world to be shown to sailors as part of their training regime, titles included “Duties of the Helmsman”, “Ship Safety: A Story of Seven Sailors” and “Smoke Screens at Sea”. These films were relatively fragile and so special shipping boxes were supplied to allow them to posted around the fleet. These were square fibre boxes, approximately 12″x12″x8″:

The box has a shallow, removable lid:

The sides of the box are secured with metal rivets:

All the corners have metal reinforcing to help protect them from knocks and damage in transit:

The inside of both the box and lid have instructions on where to return the box and contents to once the films have been watched, or if they were to go astray in transit:

This box has clearly seen some use as there are a number of postage stamps stuck to the lid:

And the remains of an official shipping label:

The films were not always treated with much respect by those watching them, George Melly remembered watching instructional films during training at HMS Royal Arthur:

We…were shown a film about the effects of VD- “You’re off to the pictures to learn how to whip it in, whip it out and wipe it!” Due to the size of the screen designed for a full holiday-camp at the height of the season this proved rather an unnerving experience and several ratings fainted. I wasn’t among them, but I did become hysterical with suppressed laughter while watching a silent documentary on the correct way to brush your teeth. The enormous lips opened to reveal teeth the size of important Victorian tombstones while a huge brush moved up and down them, and a little later a King-Kong sized finger with a surprisingly dirty nail massaged the gigantic gums.

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