Port of Destiny

Archive: Wessex Film & Sound Archive
ID No.: AV45/8
Title: Port of Destiny
Date: 1946
Film-maker: Carlyle Pictures
Colour: Black & White
Sound: Sound
Duration of complete item: 35 min.
Themes: Civil Defence - Civilian Services; Industry in War-time


A Strand film by Carlyle Pictures about Southampton Docks made in 1946, concerning their history, enlargement in 1923-33, and especially their role in the Second World War, with footage of Dunkirk evacuation, air raid damage and D-Day preparations, and footage of reconstruction after the war, also showing newly-built liners.


[20 min. Extract from film, concerning World War Two period and post War]
The film's commentary explains the role of the Docks in the Second World War. Footage of tanks and troops shows them embarking at the docks as part of the British Expeditionary Force. There are shots of the military supplies in a warehouses. This is followed by footage of Southern Railway ships such as the "Maid of Kent", used as a hospital ship, the Isle of Wight paddle steamer "Sandown" converted for use as a minesweeper, and the "Dinard" after being mined while serving as a hospital ship. The film then shows ships arriving from Dunkirk with returning civilians and troops.

Footage of air raid damage at the docks, shows the remains of the Cold Storage warehouse. The film then shows the construction of Mulberry Harbours for the D-Day landings. The landing and assault craft are then shown being constructed in Southern Railway workshops. American troops arrive in Southampton on the "Queen Elizabeth". This is followed by military vehicles being loaded and the embarkation of troops for Operation Overlord. German prisoners of war are also seen arriving in Southampton.

The commentary then turns to describing the peacetime reconstruction, with footage of contemporary British-built ships including the "Caronia" and the "Presidente Peron". The film shows the reconstruction of lock gates, a new luxury terminal for North Atlantic liners, the "Falaise" passenger ship, and the "Durban Castle" departing with assistance of a tugboat. The tugboat "Calshot" assists the arrival of the "Queen Mary". There are scenes of the arrival of a BOAC flying-boat from Hong Kong, showing the BOAC terminal buildings and a close-up of the docking procedure. This is followed by footage of the "John Biscoe" polar vessel and of the "Queen Mary" entering dry dock, showing the operation of a cassoon (dock gate) and the emptying of the dock. Final footage shows the "Caronia", and a group of boys in a small boat admiring her.

A transcript of the commentary from the clip used on this site is available.


This is one of a comparatively small number of films deposited by the Port of Southampton’s Training Department, concerning the development of Southampton Docks. ‘Port of Destiny’ was commissioned by Southern Railways, owner of the Docks in 1946, to show publicly how well they had managed the Port, just prior to Nationalisation. The film deposited was a well worn 16mm reduction print which seems to be the only surviving copy of the original film (which has itself not surfaced yet). It incorporated a good deal of footage made by Southern Railway’s own film unit, particularly during the War, and it is worth noting that a film based exclusively on this wartime material, called ‘Port of Achievement’, is held by the Imperial War Museum Film and Video Archive.

Another clip from 'Port of Destiny', illustrating further aspects of the docks and their history, can be viewed at the main 'Moving History' website.

Port of Destiny (1946)

Port of Destiny (1946)

Port of Destiny (1946)

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