SKC projectors – photographs courtesy of David Longstaff  – ex RAF  Projectionist.
David served with the Royal Air Force for 22 years, during this time David became Chief Projectionist at RAF Lindholme {1957 – 1959} and then RAF Eastleigh {1959 – 1961}.

On arriving at RAF Eastleigh {Kenya}, David fondly recalls that the cinema was equipped with 16mm projectors. Shortly after David’s arrival at RAF Eastleigh SKC decided to upgrade the venue to 35mm projectors.

David installed two BTH SUPA 2 projectors in the box at RAF Eastleigh and ran them for the duration of his posting which finished in 1961, when David was posted back to the UK.
Bauer B12  Projectors - Globe cinema 
- RAF Rheindahlen.
Bauer B12  at  RAF Rheindahlen.
  BTH SUPA2 at RAF Eastleigh 1961.
BTH SUPA2 at RAF Eastleigh 1961.
BTH SUPA2 at RAF Eastleigh 1961.
  David looking at the BTH SUPA2 at RAF Eastleigh 1961.
Kalee12 at RAF Lindholme 1958.

I started as a trainee projectionist early in 1957, and after about six months became the chief, until I was posted to RAF Eastleigh in Kenya in 1959.

The access to the box was up a vertical metal ladder, and carrying the metal film transit cases up and down was a real pain!

My main memory is that we had to show a nitrate copy of Charles Laughton in the 1939 version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and it had hundreds of dry joints, and I spent all afternoon repairing them. And all for just one showing in the evening!

“Giant” was the longest film I showed there, and it came in a vast number of 1000ft tins, and the film ran for 201 minutes.


When I arrived at Eastleigh in 1959, I took over the showing of feature films with a pair of Debrie 16mm projectors.

The existing cinema was a purpose built singe storey building, with about a 90 feet throw, and the Debrie projectors managed to do quite a good job, but the biggest drawback was the screen illumination.

I remember showing “Cat on a hot Tin Roof” on the same night as it was showing at the main cinema in Nairobi.

When the cinema converted in late 1959 to an RAFCC Astra with 35mm, Sgt “Doc” Holliday was appointed manager, we agreed that I would be the Chief projectionist, and that I would assemble and install the BTH SUPA2 projectors, with a local electrical firm looking after the wiring. Unfortunately, they did not wire up the curtain controller up to the box, and my assistant projectionist always had the job of opening and closing the tabs from the corner of the stage.

A few weeks before the grand opening, I received a message from the stores that a delivery of films had arrived by air.

When I went to collect them, I found more than a month’s worth of film boxes waiting for me! I had been used to the FTS (Film Transport Service) calling twice a week at Lindholme.

The opening night was a showing of the 1959 film “Never So Few” starring Frank Sinatra and Gina Lollobrigida, and was very well attended.

I had my first taste of having to de-gauss the projectors and spools in order to run mag/optical films that arrived on fibre spools.

We did a show each night at 8pm, and I think we usually showed the same film for Monday and Tuesday, then a one nighter on Wednesday, and another one for Thursday and Friday. I can’t remember opening at the weekends.

“Around The World in 80 Days” was the first time I had ever run a film which had an intermission break.

A visit to the cinema when serving overseas was equally enjoyable as a visit to the cinema back home in the UK. Just as it was at home the popular pictures of the day were a big draw, showroad features were screened at the bases overseas, often lengthy epic big screen experiences, those on bases and camps overseas received the full experience in terms of sound, picture and spectacle combined with exceptional showmanship and presentation from professionlly trained projection crews.


David Longstaff served at Royal Air Force Eastleigh, the primary RAF base in East Africa.

RAF Eastleigh was home to a significant number of Airmen and their families, the base also offered facilities for the nearby Embakasi civilian airport, which was also used for military operations from 1960 because the runways at RAF Eastleigh were too short for the new breed of jet fighter aircraft like Hunters.

As with many overseas British Forces bases RAF Eastleigh offered servicemen and their families the home comforts of the day, in the fifties and sixties one of the most popular pastimes was a visit to the cinema in all British towns and cities, this form of leisure was also popular within the British military community, no matter where in the world they were based. A visit to the cinema on base was a good reminder of being back home.


RAF Eastleigh was mostly recognised as a bomber and ground attack base, during the Mau Mau campaign of the early 1950s. A decade later the base performed an important role during the struggle for Kenya’s independence.

Today the base continues to be used by the military by the Kenyan Air Force.
Lorna, Davids wife at a RAF Cinema Box Office, 1961.
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2013
The memories of the RAF Projectionist, David Longstaff.
UPDATED - 2013
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