Showbiz giants are given a pre-war taste of navy

Douglas Fairbanks Jnr and Noel Coward are welcomed aboard HMS Malaya
Douglas Fairbanks Jnr and Noel Coward are welcomed aboard HMS Malaya

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The ship’s company of battleship HMS Malaya must have pushed the boat out, literally, to welcome these two members of showbiz royalty on board.

First up the starboard gangway was Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, one of cinema’s first icons.

Noted for such swashbuckling adventure films as The Mark of Zorro, Robin Hood and The Thief of Baghdad, he was highly decorated in the Second World War having served with Lord Mountbatten’s naval staff in Britain and rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy.

Behind him in this picture, taken in Venice in 1938, is Noel Coward.

He went on to work for British intelligence when war broke out a year after this picture was taken, running the British propaganda office in Paris.

He won an Academy Honorary Award in 1943 for his naval film In Which We Serve.