1hr 51mins
Dir: Frances-Anne Solomon
Starring: Nickolai Salcedo and Fraser James

The story of a young man from Trinidad whose lifes journey gave him a place on the world stage

Philip Louis Ulric Cross emerged from World War II as possibly the RAF’s most decorated West Indian. After the war he qualified for the Bar in just 14 months but was unable to get a job as a lawyer in the UK. His life then took a dramatically different course when he followed the call of history, and joined the independence movements sweeping Africa in the 50s and 60s. This feature film combines archive footage of the time with dramatizations inspired by events in Ulric Cross’ life, and was filmed over three years on location in Ghana, Great Britain and Canada, as well as in Trinidad & Tobago. It is perhaps for this reason that such a mis-match of railway footage appears, yet even by the carefree attitudes towards continuity this film is extraordinary in its blatant use of stock footage. It would seem that quite simply ‘anything went’ for the production team, without any rhyme or reason, and this nonchalant and relaxed view makes for a very complex set of proceedings. There are some scenes filmed on the Bluebell Railway with Maunsell S15 Class 4-6-0 No.847 but even these are not straightforward. The archive footage includes many wartime images, yet apart from the scenes filmed at London Waterloo, recognisable locations are rather thin on the ground. There are also several old drivers’ eye views filmed from trains leaving tunnels on the third-rail electrified Southern Railway but these have not been replicated below. One wonders if the stock images have come from the depths of Canada’s film archive. If so, what other treats await discovery? The film is often referred to simply as Hero, but its full title is that above and it was also released as Hero: The Extraordinary Life of Mr. Ulric Cross.

This is the opening shot of the wartime railway journey. A colour drivers’ eye view from the 1960s! I don’t know which station this shows, but the image is stock footage taken from the Look at Life episode Playing Trains (1967). What looks to be a very rare glimpse of a Class 15 is creeping into shot on the left, which will at least narrow it down to the Eastern Region.
In this second view of the station a little further down the platform, a Class 08 shunter is just about visible in the yard on the right
Nickolai Salcedo leans out of a window of a green-liveried BR Mk.1. This is probably the Bluebell Railway but the bridge will help give an exact location.
His view looking the other way is, however, made up of this stock shot. I do not know what this portrays but it is reversed, hence the odd right hand running.
This is Maunsell S15 Class 4-6-0 No.847 on the Bluebell Railway. However, there are three very odd things here. One, all identity from the loco has been removed, whilst secondly the image is sped up in reverse so that the loco rushes past the camera propelling, i.e. ‘pushing’ its train. Do people in Canada really think this is how we run our railways? The third thing about this shot is that it appears on the trailer for the film the right way round!
Here’s the proof. This shot of No.847 running tender first appears in the trailer for the film but not in the actual film itself. Why?
They really did scrap the barrel for this film. This ‘over-the-camera’ shot shows a train passing through a small country station (note the platform on the right). The two yellow squares in the centre of the shot tell us that this is a diesel-hauled train, the yellow squares are part of the locomotive’s miniature snowploughs.
This shot meanwhile shows former Southern Railway ‘Merchant Navy’ light pacific No.35018 British India Line working a main line charter. The film was released in 2018, and the loco has only been main line certified since it undertook a loaded test run in June 2017. Could this be a shot of that inaugural working? Whichever train it represents, this shot appears twice in the film.
And so we make a start on the random stock footage. This shows a GWR express, probably in the 1930’s judging by the coaching stock.
Whilst this shot shows a 2 BIL EMU entering Balcombe Tunnel under the watchful gaze of a member of the Southern Railway Home Guard. The unit is not running wrong line. When the image is blown up it shows that the writing chalked on the telegraph pole is in fact backwards, so again this is a reversed image. Meanwhile, I have been reliably informed from members of the Southern Railway e-mail group that the lack of insignia on the guard’s uniform suggests this is late 1940 to early 1941.
This isn’t reversed! It shows what appears to be a Southern Railway branch train approaching a very tall distant signal in the hands of an M7 0-4-4T.
Now we are at Waterloo, where a train is pulling out of the station with a ‘King Arthur’ Class N15 on the back. Although dark and grainy enough of the number can be made out, and it looks like it could be No.456 Sir Galahad.
In this image from a signal box (?) a 3 SUB EMU is passing an M7 0-4-4 tank engine on the approach to London Waterloo.
In an obscure switch to modern-day, we see Jimmy Akingbola sitting inside the compartment of a BR Mark1, presumably courtesy of the Bluebell Railway. The Donkey Stripe seat moquette would have been familiar to so many, but it really was not an attrractive combination.
Back at Waterloo again, and a porter awaits the arrival of the inbound train as a Southern Railway tender locomotive creeps into shot on the left. Some more electric units are visible above the porter’s head.
An extreme close up image of a 4 SUB EMU running into Waterloo
This is one of two overall views of Waterloo station, and a tank loco is pulling out
This is the second view of the comings and goings at Waterloo. Judging by the rolling stock and the taxi cabs present in these two images, they appear to both be from the period between wars.
An augmented ‘bull-nosed’ 4 SUB arrives into Waterloo. Assuming the headcode stencil just displays an ‘H’ (with no additional bars or dots), then this is coming in from either Hampton Court, Weybridge, or Chertsey. At this point I must digress slightly, and mention without being to pedantic that the Southern never used SUB as a designation for these early units even though it’s a convenient term that we all know and use. The units were referred to simply as ‘3’s in internal railway publications. The 3 Car Motor Units were subsequently augmented to ‘4’s, eventually being referred to as 4 SUB’s when the ‘Bulleid’ 4 SUB units started to appear from 1941. However, even these new 4 SUB units were often referred to as ‘4’s in internal railway publications!
This is a wonderful shot. Jimmy Akingbola and Fraser James meet at ‘Waterloo’, which is really the locomotive sheds at Sheffield Park on the Bluebell Railway! The identites of the locomotives which are framing the two gentlemen are revealed in the final capture.
As the pair walk off they have three locomotives for company: LSWR B4 Class 0-4-0T No.96 Normandy in black, Adams Radial 0415 Class 4-4-2T No.488 in pale green, and former South Eastern & Chatham O1 Class 0-6-0 No.65 at the end.