|Although records from the 1930’s are difficult to come by I have managed to piece together a possible
outline of Quinnell's service during the filming of The Four Feathers and in early World War II.
Wiliam A. P. Quinnell attested with 1st Battalion of the East Surreys as No. 6141003 on 12 January,
1935 and was stationed in Khartoum with his battalion around 1937-38 when he recorded the The Four
Feathers being filmed. Many other photos from the same album (not shown here) were taken in
Shanghai, China around 1939-40 where the 2nd Battalion of the East Surreys was stationed just before
the outbreak of World War II in Asia. The portrait of Quinnell is his dress tropical white uniform
appears to have been taken in Shanghai based upon the style of the photographic backdrop in the
photo. The dark colored uniform cords he wears in the photo would seem to indicate that he was a
Quinnell was apparently among the 153 officers and other ranks of the 1/East Surreys left at Port
Sudan when their battalion returned to England and who were subsequently picked up by the 2nd
Battalion on the outward bound trip to China and Malaya.
According to regimental histories at least seven officers and an undetermined number of men of the
2nd Battalion found wives while in Shanghai. The 1940 Index of Army Marriages list one William
Quinnell being married in Shanghai to a Miss Ivy E. Baviau.
Curiously the index lists Quinnell's father's surname as "Quinnell or Stonbridge" (the name is also
listed by the alternate spelling of Stonebridge.) After obtaining a certified copy of the marriage
registration it appears that Quinnell's mother remarried sometime after his birth to a member of
London Metropolitan Police named Ernest Stonbridge which helps explain the dual surnames. William
Quinnells's marriage took place on 29 June, 1940 at Christ the King Church in Shanghai. Ivy Enid
Baviau was some 15 years older that her husband with her nationality listed as Eurasian. A telephone
operator she was the daughter of one Joseph Baviau.
The 2/East Surreys arrived in Malaya late 1940 and took part in the defence of the colony in the face
if the Japanese invasion that began in December 1941. Initially deployed in North West Malaya with
the 11th Indian Division the battalion suffered devastating casualties as it was forced southward by a
numerically inferior but better equipped and led Japanese army. In late December the remnants of
the 2/East Surreys were combined with the remaining and equally decimated survivors of the
1/Leicestershire Regiment. This composite unit became known as the British Battalion. Drummer
William Quinnell soldiered on with the British Battalion until the fall of Singapore in February, 1942
Japanese prisoner of war documents show Quinnell being taken prisoner on 15 February, 1942 at
Singapore and being held there at a POW Camp No. 1. At some point prior to the surrender Quinnell
was appointed Lance Corporal although the Japanese mistakenly listed him as a sergeant. Quinnell
was shipped to Hakodate #1 Ashibetsu POW Camp on the Japanese island Hokkaido on 15 May,
According to a diary kept by Dan Brown of RAF 605 Squadron conditions at this camp where far from
good but not as deliberately brutal as those elsewhere. Food, medicine and supplies in general were
short and the men labored in local mines and dockyards. Remarkably Brown related that the prisoners
were actually paid about 10 sens per day for their work which allowed them to buy items like cigarettes
and small food items from the local Japanese population. The cold weather and short supplies caused
a steady loss of men to disease. Brown notes the arrival of 300 men from Singapore on 10 June 1943
and it is quite possible that William Quinnell was amongst this group. Brown makes no mention of
Quinnell in his surviving dairies but documents - both Japanese and British confirm him being there.
How he was employed while a POW is not known but a prisoner of war list shows No. 6141003 William
Alfred Quinnell being liberated on 2 September 1945.
|Above: Drummer William Quinnell of the 1 & 2 /East Surrey Regiment
|Above: William Quinnell in civilian dress
Real Photo Post Card
Signed "Your's Sincerley, Bill."
Unknown (probably British) Photographer
|Note: All of the photographs shown below measure approximatly 4 5/8 inches by 2 7/8 inches (11.8 cm x 7.2 cm) and were printed by A. Kazandjian of the Gordon Studio, Khartoum.
|Above: Members of the 1/East Surrey Regiment arriving in Khartoum. c. 1937
|Above: Two photos showing members of the 1/East Surrey Regiment costumed as extras for the filming pose next to one of the production's breach loading cannon with the production encampment behind.
|Above and below: Additional snapshots of East Surreys uniformed as extras for The Four Feathers in the film's production camp.
|Below: East Surrey "extras" waiting between scenes. To the unsuspecting some of these photographs could easily be mistaken for those of Kitchener's actual troops from 1896.
|Below: Some of the Hadendoa extras between scenes - could these very swords and spears have been carried these men's fathers or grandfathers at Omdurman in 1898?
|Below: Motor transportation on location. Kitchener would have loved to have had a few of these lorries available to him in 1896.
|Below: Various production scenes.
|Below: A senior production staff member (center in fedora - Zoltan Korda?) confers with a white turbaned translator and Hadenoda extras between shots.
|Below: East Surrey extras at ease
|Above: Happy times. One cannot help to wonders what fate would befall these smiling soldiers just a few short years later on the beaches at Dunkirk or in the steaming jungles of Malaya.
|Above and Below: Overviews of the Korda's production camp outside Khartoum.
|Below: Two views of the film's production camp taken by William Quinnell..
|Below: Members of the 1/East Surrey Regiment costumed as members of Captain Jack Durrance's (Ralph Richardson) company of the fictional Royal North Surrey Regiment.
|In his diary Dan Brown relates his homeward bound trip after the war via by ship from Japan to Manila
and San Francisco and then via train to Tacoma, Washington, and then across Canada then on to New
York City where he boarded the RMS Queen Mary and then home to England. While is in not certain
William Quinnell may have followed this same road home. The last mention I have found of William
Quinnell is in the Surrey Regimental Rolls 1914-1947 where is in listed as being discharged to the Class Z
Reserves on 12 January, 1947.
Dan Brown's surviving war time diaries can be found here: http://www.nigelbrown.me.uk/pow-fe.htm
I did come across a ship's passenger manifest from the SS Dominion Monarch that shows one Ivy
Quinnell arriving in Southampton, England on 15 November, 1945 via Sydney and Fremantle, Australia.
Her destination was listed as the residence of a Mrs. Stonebridge at 86 Orne Road, Kingston Hill, Surrey.
The manifest listed all the passengers as Hong Kong and Malayan Internees Embarked at Sydney for the
United Kingdom. This mentioned Mrs. Stonebridge would seem most obviously to be Ivy's mother-in-law.
Zoltan Korda’s 1939 production of A.E.W. Mason’s 1904 novel The Four Feathers was the fourth of
seven films versions of the book made between 1915 and 2002. Korda’s version differs from the novel
and other filmed versions by having its action take place during Kitchener’s Omdurman campaign of 1896
instead of the Nile Campaign of 1884-5. Korda’s version is noted for its historical accuracy and most of
the extras who portrayed British soldiers in the film were actually members of the 2/East Surreys who
were stationed in Khartoum at the time of the filming. This explains the remarkably soldierly appearance
of the British troops as depicted in the film. It is also said the that c. 1896 British uniforms used in the film
were selected from old British military stores left over from Kitchener’s campaign some 40 years before
that the production crew found in a Cairo warehouse. The other extras in the film consisted of real
Hadendoa tribesmen whose fathers and grandfathers had actually fought against Kitchener at Omdurman.
The photographs shown below are only a portion of those taken from Quinnell's album. In some cases the
photographs could easily be mistaken for actual photos of Kitchener's campaign which says much about
Korda's research and on set technical advisors - in this case Captain Donald Anderson and
Lt. Col. Sterling, D.S.O., MC.