Tuesday 29 October 2019

Film Review: The Sea Shall Not Have Them, 1954

Having recently read Coastal Convoys, 1939-45 (my review of that book here), by Nick Hewitt, I wanted to watch this again, as it's based on exactly the same subject. It does a pretty good of showing the awful conditions that the naval and airborne arms had to endure whilst operating on, above, and sometimes in the cold cruel seas.

To those familiar with this era of movie-making there will be a number of recognisable faces, like Michael Redgrave and Dirk Bogarde [1] and several others (Victor Madeern, Joan Sims, etc.). Some of the faces I didn't recognise, such as the Yank pretending to be a Canadian, Bonar Colleano (what a name!), turn out to have been reasonably big names in their day. But all acquit themselves pretty well, albeit in familiar postwar war-film cliché type moulds.

The plot boils down to four men in a downed plane (a Lockheed Hudson bomber, perhaps?) winding up in a dinghy, drifting through E-boat Alley and minefields towards the occupied European coast. Three are the crew of the plane, the fourth is brass with a vital dossier of info on 'Jerry's' latest wunderwaffen missiles. Coastal Command seeks to recover the men and their prized intelligence, their efforts hampered by poor weather, and simultaneously seeking to calm worried ladies left back home.

It's fascinating to see life/operations aboard an RAF Coastal Command rescue plane (is it a Walrus I, or a Sunderland?) and what I believe is probably at Type II boat, the aerial and seaborne mainstays of naval rescue. It's also interesting to see how a downed Luftwaffe pilot is treated. Whilst this is certainly not the best WWII movie, or even the best 'wet WWII' film, it is a moving and stirring tribute to all concerned, and shines a welcome light on what Hewitt in his aforementioned book justly describes as an overlooked aspect of WWII at sea. 

The book on which the film is based.

[1] An amusing bit of trivia: Noel Coward reputedly said, referring to the film's title in relation to the two main male leads - Redgrave said to be bisexual, and Bogarde homosexual - 'I don't see why not; everybody else has'!

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