This film is part of Free

Oil Tanker Wellfield; HMS Bulldog Torpedo Boat Destroyer

The casual heroes of the shipyards – workers and the ships they build on Tyneside are captured in beautiful monochrome by an early cine club.

Amateur film 1931 16 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


Cine club filmmakers craft a realistic portrait of workers repairing the oil tanker Wellfield at Smith’s dry docks in North Shields. And in the same year, the Swan Hunters-built Royal Navy destroyer HMS Bulldog powers through stormy seas on its sea trial long before its heroic role in World War Two. Cameramen bravely set up their equipment on a rolling and pitching tugboat to record the ship’s passage from the foggy Tyne.

The founder of Newcastle and District Amateur Cinematographers’ Association, James Cameron, and crew produced these films at a time when British documentary pioneers such as John Grierson, and later Paul Rotha with ‘Shipyard’, were starting to highlight the role of workers in striking films on the British maritime industries. HMS Bulldog crew were involved in one of the most significant intelligence breakthroughs of the Second World War. On 10 May 1941, after an attack on a German U-Boat, a boarding party captured a complete Enigma machine with all its code settings. This enabled cryptographers at Bletchley Park to crack the notoriously impenetrable German naval codes.