This film is part of Free

Sierra Leone Greets the Queen

The Queen and Prince Philip's visit in late 1961, the year Sierra Leone became independent from Britain.

Non-Fiction 1961 21 mins


Watching Sierra Leone Greets the Queen gives one a flavour of the hectic nature of royal tours; in just one week (from the 25th November to the 1st December 1961) the Queen and Prince Philip covered an exhausting array of sights, zooming around the country to take in the capital city Freetown, Bo, the Guma Dam, digging for diamonds (Sierra Leone’s biggest export), Hangha and observing the iron ore works at Marampa. The film, shot in Eastmancolor, was directed by T. Cummins, who made several royal visit films for the COI. The visit was politically significant - Sierra Leona had become independent from Britain in April the same year. However, the film’s bias remains staunchly British - of the many Sierra Leoneans met by the Queen, only Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai is directly named in George Elliott’s clipped commentary, and while a speech given by the Queen praising Margai’s leadership is included, we hear nothing from the Prime Minister or any other local dignitaries. Colonialism’s influence is felt throughout the film, and not just in the place names (Victoria Park, Queen Elizabeth II Quay) - the ‘day in the life of a Bo schoolboy’ seems not radically different from the British equivalent, while the ‘children’s rally’ consists of boys dressed impractically in boaters and blazers, and girls marching in gymslips. Fortunately not all local flavour is diluted - one parade, featuring the Southern Provinces paramount chiefs and striking ‘attendant demons’, is one of the highlights of the film. We also see a military parade of the 1st Battalion Royal Sierra Leone Regiment, glimpse a lavish royal durbar, and visit the Eastern Province agricultural show. The visit is rounded off with two gifts for the visiting royals - a diamond for the Queen and an even more exotic present for the Prince Consort.

Margai, a popular prime minster, died three years after this film was completed. He was succeeded by his half-brother, Albert Margai, a controversial figure whose tenure was marked by accusations of corruption. While the country’s more recent history may be synonymous with bloodshed - not least thanks to Naomi Campbell's much mocked appearance at The Hague, explaining an alleged gift of blood diamonds from Liberian President Charles Taylor, on trial for crimes against humanity in the Sierra Leone Civil War - this film shows an excited, hopeful land predicting a bright future.