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Movietone at War: Conscription and reserved occupations

Early July 1939 and the Association of Cine Technicians received notification from the Government about reserved occupations within the film industry.

The A.C.T. published the information as follows:

Members should note the contents of the following letter A.C.T. has received from the Ministry of Labour.

“I am directed by the Ministry of Labour to refer to your letter of the subject of the Provisional Schedule of Reserved Occupations.  A decision was reached to reserve the following occupations at the ages stated.


Still and Cinematograph

Camera Operator (Cinematograph) – 30

Camera Operator (Still) – 30

Camera Operator (Process Work) – 30

Sound Camera Operator – 30

Sound Recordist – 30


Cinematograph Film

Developer – 30

Dryer – 30

Printer – 30

Optical Printer – 30

Sensitometric Control Assistant – 30


Film Editor – 30

Film Commentator – 30

Film Librarian – 30

The letter went on to say that these regulations would not “debar” anyone wishing to volunteer for the Territorial Army, Auxilliary Services or Civil Defence Services.

It then lists those occupations, within the film industry, that were not reserved.  These included Film Director, their assistants, and Associate Producers, Production Managers and boom operators.

Movietone’s Terry Cotter and Derek Stiles, both soundmen, and under thirty were called up and became Lieutenants in the Royal Navy as ASDIC Officers.  ASDIC was the Royal Navy’s submarine detection device.

Later Movietone were to lose Assistant editors Greville Kent and Bob Frost, Secretary Bill Newell and Librarian Newell.

Pat Wyand was Movietone’s only location sound recordist when he received his call-up papers.  However, after protest by Movietone at the loss of their only soundman he was granted exemption.

At a time when Ted Adams, Assistant News Editor, was being considered as a member of the Films Division of the Ministry of Information, on secondment, he, too, received his call-up papers.  But, before he was required to report, it was discovered that the call-up had been due to the fact that he has forgotten to inform the authorities of his change of address.   What his address had to do with it was never divulged.

Greville Kent spent his war on board an ‘armed merchant packet’, the MS Dunnottar Castle. On the outbreak of the war, the MS Dunnottar Castle was converted into an armed merchant packet for the Royal Navy. It was a Union Castle liner that had been converted with he addition of guns.  She departed on her first tour of duty on 14 October 1939.

She was used as a convoy escort vessel on the Murmansk run. Later, in 1942, she served as a troop carrier. Greville Kent served on her until his demobilization in 1946.

Bob Frost went into the Army and was also demobilised in 1946 having spent the previous year stationed in Belgium.

Bill Newell left the Army in 1946 and returned to Movietone.  He had the rank of Captain in the Royal Artillery.  He was being paid 29/6 per day, that is £10. 6s 6d. a week  The Army gave him six weeks to decide whether he wished to remain in the Army.   After a few weeks back at Movietone with no particular job to do, he decided to return to the Royal Artillery.

The rule of the day was that any conscript returning to his former place of work was entitled to get his former job back.  But, Bill Newell had been a secretary and by 1946 male secretaries were going out of fashion.

Librarian Newell found something else to do when he was demobilised and only called back at Movietone to say “Hello.”

Terry Cotter and Derek Stiles came back to Movietone and resumed their careers as sound recordists.

During the war, Movietone was being maintained, mainly, by people who were over thirty years of age.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2013.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For other articles about Movietone click here.

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