Wessex At War - On Screen
Local-Interest Film & TV Productions

This year is the 70th anniversary of the start of WWII in 1939, its long-term impact reflected in its media coverage ever since, from newspaper coverage through memoirs, book-length histories, radio tv docus, and now websites, as well as fictional and dramatic recreations.(We already have a page up on local-interest novels depicting wartime Wessex, here.) “Wessex” was a a key part of what we might call the “home front line,” from the Battle of Britain (covered earlier in our ‘Spitfire’ page) through the launch of the D-Day 'big push' (see Overlord below). Part of its role, which continued through the postwar era [1945-60] of the Cold War, was to provide resources for films which showed the role of the armed services.
During the 1950s, the British war drama was a staple of postwar stiff-upper-lip cinema, before it gave way to 60s satire and US-financed big-budget Technicolor spectacles. There has recently been a renewed interest in what was a rather critically overlooked popular genre.. Also, the older , usually b&w, films have proven a favourite genre for newspaper DVD giveaways, which can now be found in charity shops all over. (Ironically, the quality of these freebies is often better than some regular releases, which like the standard VHS videos get cropped width-wise to fit a 4x3 TV aspect ratio.)
The listing below is not restricted purely to WW2-set films and includes some other films set in earlier wars and contemporary postwar ones such as ‘service comedies’ which were made with military support or cooperation (as a matter of defence policy during the era of 'national service' i.e. conscription, which ended in 1960) in the immediate post-WWII period, 1945-60, when the Cold War included various wars which were East-v-West 'proxy' contests like Korea, and colonial "emergencies," notably the 1956 Suez Canal crisis.
Note: gaps in our information mean this page is necessarily in something of a "notes & queries" format, and we'll be adding details, plus a few more entries when more info is available. Email us if you have any info. The listing is also in A-Z alphabetical format rather than our usual chronological one in these guides.

Above Us The Waves (Rank, 1955)
Directed by Ralph Thomas
This stiff-upper-lip WW2 drama, retelling the grim story of the costly attack on the German battleship Tirpitz in a Norwegian fjord by midget submarines known as X-craft, has some scenes shot at Portland Submarine Base, cf the scene around 35 minutes in where the men are introduced to the new X-craft. (The IMDB lists Portland, but notes Guernsey was also used for dockside scenes.) It's also possible Portland Race appeared in the authentic-looking passage-crew-transfer scene, as it was often used when the script called for rough seas (cf The Cruel Sea and The Key), and in the following scene where the lead has to fend off one of those German horned mines as it rolls alongside past them. (The same setup was reused in The Heroes Of Telemark [qv] for a similar minefield scene shot nearby.)

The African Queen (Romulus Films, 1951)
Directed by John Huston
This WWI-set drama presents our longest-running "notes & queries" mystery. For rumour has long had it that 2nd-unit shots of the boat in the reeds were filmed in the Frome Marshes between Wareham and Poole Harbour [pictured, right].
Alternatively, when the Purbeck Film Festival showed it as a local-interest film in 1999, the programme said it had “a final scene photographed in Poole Harbour,” which seems to refer to the film's finale out on the open lake.
The source of the story seems to be a biography of Bogart (I was told this by a projectionist who said another projectionist said he saw it there). The detail that has appeared in the Echo that Bogey practiced his skills on the tiller on the Avon at Wick above Christchurch are either from this biography, or an elaboration of it. It has to be said the Bogie biography in question has not surfaced, and none of the other books about Bogart, Hepburn and the making of the film checked out so far mention local filming. The only known footage shot in England were a few 'pick-up' shots on the Thames near the studio, all other location work being in Africa or at Lake Van in Turkey. Some 2nd unit insert shots of course may have been filmed and then not used in the final cut.
If you want to form your own opinion, any likely local-interest shots would begin sometime after the 80-minute mark. This is the end of the boat-in-the-reeds sequence, from the leeches scene on through where Rose prays. The scenes with the actors in the water were studio-shot for health and safety reasons. Following this is the rainflood scene, the egress onto the lake, hiding in the reeds from the gunboat Louisa, preparing the torpedoes, and the night-storm scene, mainly studio filmed for practical reasons. (I had the idea for a while perhaps the gunboat “Louisa” was really one of the many small steamers then around, perhaps filmed in Poole Harbour, but haven’t found any evidence of this except to the contrary - officially, a Turkish steamer was converted).

The Battle Of The River Plate (The Archers, 1955) (US title Pursuit Of The Graf Spee)
Directed by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
This re-enactment is included here due to someone (hi Laurie) posting on a BBC Dorset forum that some scale models of the ships were filmed off Poole out in the Bay (“I remember as a child on Sandbanks beaches, watching scale ships in Poole Bay, and being told that it was for "Battle of the River Plate")
Though Michael Powell did other local filming (cf The Small Back Room, qv), having lived in Poole as a boy, I can’t see any evidence of this in writeups about the production, or watching the DVD. All the footage seems either rather obvious studio-tank shot scale models, or simulated-action scenes shot in the Med with official cooperation using 4 real cruisers. (As in many war films, the model shots, together with the obvious soundstage scenes of the actors playing the crew, are visibly distinguishable from the authentic location scenes.) However, the film is frequently seen on FilmFour and BBC2, usually in widescreen, and is cheaply available on DVD in its full Technicolor VistaVision glory, so anyone can check it out themselves.
What may have happened is that scenes were shot and then never used. It is also possible the Poole Bay filming witnessed was for another war film being made around that time. The sea tank at Hamworthy built by the Royal Marines for use in training was also used by film companies (e.g. the 1958 Cy Enfield adventure-drama Sea Fury reportedly used this tank).

Bedknobs And Broomsticks (Disney, 1968/1971)
Directed by Robert Stevenson
This was Disney's delayed (and recut) followup to their hit Mary Poppins, with the same director mixing animated characters into live-action settings, again with songs by the Sherman brothers. The original Mary Norton story, about wartime evacuee children billeted with Miss Price, an eccentric who is an apprentice witch just learning to control her broomstick (and flying bedstead), is not set in Dorset, but London and the village of "Pepperinge Eye" in Bedfordshire - nowhere near the coast.
However the script's finale calls for a deserted area where a ‘ghost’ army of knights-in-armour, museum props brought to life by Angela Lansbury's amateur witch, can line up to oppose a German U-boat landing a raiding party. And the ruined castle seen in these shots (a painted backdrop in the Disney style of the time) is clearly Corfe. Second unit filming seems also to have been done here to obtain the shots of Corfe and the surrounding hills to be integrated into the ‘glass’ process shots the Disney studio used to integrate animation and other optical effects into live-action or real-world scenes. The now-abandoned railway station at West Bay is also said to have been used for one scene.
There are also rumours the story was inspired by local legends of a ‘phantom army’ being sighted on the ridgeway in the 18th C, of ghosts of Roman legionaries marching near Flower’s Barrow hillfort on the same ridgeway. There are also anecdotal claims the Germans tried landing a raiding party near the Purbeck TRE radar site to capture secret equipment, perhaps as a reprisal for the commandos’ 1942 Bruneval raid to capture German radar gear. (There were letters and articles in the local press regarding this.) One of the Sherman brothers who wrote the film’s songs may have heard such rumours while billeted in Bournemouth during the war. Richard Sherman was a scriptwriter (The Way To The Stars) who probably also met another who might be ‘in the know’ – Ian Fleming. Sherman had also worked on a 60s musical film version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, from the novel by Fleming, who was assistant director of Naval Intelligence in WWII and knew the locality well – his boys’ school was right next to the TRE radar establishment.

Blue Remembered Hills
(BBC,1979) Director Brian Gibson
Dennis Potter's WWII-set tragedy was done for BBC's Play For Today slot but was shot entirely on film. Though set in the Forest of Dean, where Potter grew up, it was filmed in Dorset. The physical setting consists of a wood, a field and a barn, and the only characters are a group of children - played by adults. The story has them playing and arguing, eventually turning on one of their own with deadly consequences. The work is famous because it was written to reflect what Potter regarded as the underlying cruelty in human nature, present even in children. It is famous for having the children played by adults, and this has led to many stage versions of the work, and it is studied in schools as a set text. Set in the summer of 1943 (when Potter was 8), the 'shadow of war' hangs unspoken over the drama, and ad-posters often show the children looking up at a Spitfire.

Bright's Boffins (Southern TV, 1970)
This comedy series, apparently aimed at children, set at an obscure R&D scientific establishment called Halfwitt House used Rhinefield House [now a hotel] in the New Forest. However whether it was set in WWII or the Cold War is not known, and, like other productions made by now-defunct Southern TV, is not available for viewing, and is thought to have been lost.

Brown On Resolution (Gaumont, 1935) (aka Forever England; US title Born For Glory)
Directed by Walter Forde
This Michael Balcon production did not have major local filming but is of interest as Portland Harbour was used for filming some aboard-ship scenes at a time when it was a prewar base for the Home Fleet and berthed capital ships. At least a few early scenes aboard a real battleship were shot at Portland for this version, starring John Mills, of C.S. Forester's novel. It concerns a POW British sailor who escapes in WWI from a German battleship sheltering in a remote South Atlantic cove, and uses his marksmanship skills to prevent its crew completing emergency repairs until the British fleet arrives.
Called by Variety "a milestone in British pictures," this was the first of John Mills' many military leading-man roles and the first of many patriotic dramas produced by Michael Balcon, who would soon head Ealing Studios, and one of the first films (perhaps the very first) made with Royal Navy cooperation. No doubt due to the inspirationally patriotic story, the Admiralty actively assisted production. According to Mills's memoirs, the Admiralty in order to portray "Resolution Island" where the climactic action takes place, actually bought a rocky islet off Devon. Although the setting was originally WWI, there was little to date it as such and after WW2 began, it could almost be a contemporary-set film, the film being re-released under a more patriotic title than the novelistic original. The story was in fact remade in 1953 by director Roy Boulting, with Jeffrey Hunter, Michael Rennie, and Wendy Hiller, as Singlehanded aka Sailor Of The King.

The Bulldog Breed (Rank, 1960)
Directed by Robert Asher
This is one of many films made in Britain in the 1950s Cold War era with a Naval background, made with official cooperation. It is a Norman Wisdom vehicle whose first half was shot at an undisguised Portland. After being spurned in love, Weymouth-based maritime grocery boy (he delivers from a dinghy) Norman Puckle is prevented by an old Navy man from throwing himself off "Lovers' Leap" on Portland Heights. Instead he is talked into joining the Navy, where he quickly causes chaos aboard HMS Dorsetshire in Portland Harbour. (The studio-bound second half has him being chosen to man the first British rocket, part of the Cold War space race, his antics of course nearly leading to an international incident.)
The title is from a turn-of-century music-hall song, Sons Of The Sea, referring to ‘boys of the bulldog breed.’ There are some early shots of cruisers in line entering Portland Roads, and during Norman’s first suicide try (by tying an anchor to his neck), Poole Park boating lake [being shallow] is also used for waterskiing stunt shots, the scene beginning with footage of Portland Naval docks.

Charlotte: A Royal at War (Grace Prod’ns, 2008)
Léif Lëtzebuerger (English title Charlotte: A Royal At War)
This Luxembourg-UK co-production is a feature-length documentary, filmed in 4 countries and 3 languages, on how Luxembourg’s Grand Duchess Charlotte made influential WW2 BBC radio broadcasts from exile (Léif Lëtzebuerger means "Dear Luxembourgers"). The Ham Hill area portrayed the Luxembourg countryside in dramatised re-enactment scenes showing her 1940 escape, with Yeovil Manor Hotel portraying palace interiors.

Cockleshell Heroes (Warwick/ Columbia, 1955)
Directed by Jose Ferrer
In the 1950s, UK-based US-owned Warwick Films, headed by producers Irving Allen and ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, made a cycle of WWII dramas in colour and widescreen for the international market, using US stars. (In this case, star Jose Ferrer would also direct.) The Warwick scripts were conventional, but in this case the original story, of the Royal Marines’s 1942 Operation Frankton, was dramatic enough the producers had fewer grounds for imposing ‘mission movie’ clichés. The 1942 mission had 10 Marines in 5 kayaks, launched from a sub, paddling 100 km up the Gironde by night for a week, to plant limpet mines on German shipping at Bordeaux.
Apart from the finale with unconvincing model ships being blown up, the film was shot realistically on location with official cooperation. The script by Bryan Forbes and Richard Maibum has the previously by-the-book adjutant (played by Trevor Howard) join the raid at the last moment. Despite the usual larky treatment of Other Ranks (Anthony Newley et al) during the lengthy training scenes, the film retains a basic realism about what was almost a suicide mission, on which 8 of the 10 Marines died – some drowned, some executed by firing squad.
The last survivor of the raid, Marine Sparks (played by Newley), wrote a book before he died in 2002, in which he recounted how, after escaping to Spain with Major Hasler (played by Jose Ferrer), he was arrested by MI5 - because no one believed he could have survived, the raid having been classed as a suicide mission. The two surviving Marines acted as technical advisors, and others acted as stunt doubles. The Pan paperback of the nonfiction book by Brig. C.E. Lucas Philips has an account of its filming, in Portsmouth and Portugal.
Nothing was shot locally for this production, the local-interest aspects lying elsewhere. First, the Marines have long had a base in Poole Harbour at Hamworthy [with a ‘sea tank’ training pool used in other films], where there is an Operation Frankton memorial. The collapsible kayaks known as ‘cockles’ were manufactured in Poole, whose civic emblem includes a cockle-shell. A ‘local’ pub in downtown Poole was named The Cockleshell as a tribute. In 2004, a Poole couple, Roger and Sandra Downton, followed the commandos’ canoe route and wrote a book about it, In War Heroes Wake.

The Cruel Sea (Ealing, 1953)
Directed by Charles Frend
This adaptation of Nicholas Montsarrat's novel is not set locally, but Portland was used to film some scenes. Portland Race was used for its rough waters to portray the "cruel sea" itself, ie the North Atlantic in winter, and the Portland docks were seen in the scene [pictured] where Donald Sinden (who was born at Plymouth, as his father was in the RN) emerges exhausted after being all night watching the radar plot; and later, when Jack Hawkins and Donald Sinden go to inspect their new frigate, and the Harbour in the final shots, when the frigate anchors for the last time.
The scene shown in the colourised publicity still here [above right], from the corvette’s first real brush with an elusive U-boat, appears to have a Portland background at one point.

Dad's Army (BBC, 1967-77)
Set "somewhere on the South Coast of England," the series despite its coastal setting had its exteriors filmed around Thetford in East Anglia, with the 1972 Columbia feature-film version filmed at Maidenhead and Surrey, and using the Thames as the local river. Poole Historical Trust argues the setting was inspired by the wartime experiences of a member of the Poole Home Guard, suggesting that "Walmington-On-Sea" with its pier is based partly on Bournemouth or Swanage. (Note that the sign on the church hall where the Platoon meet indicates the church is dedicated to St. Aldhelm -- patron saint of Dorset.) The series' inspiration is usually put down to co-creator Jimmy Perry, who served in the Home Guard elsewhere, in Hertfordshire, but this is inland and does not fit the series' south-coast seaside-town setting (originally called 'Brightsea-on-Sea').
However co-creator David Croft was born at Sandbanks in Poole in 1922 and lived there until the early 1930s; by WWII he was an army officer, and could easily have observed, or met, local Home Guardsmen via wartime return visits to his family home. (Note: a feature remake has been announced, details not known.)

The Dam Busters (Associated British Pictures Corporation, 1954)
Directed by Michael Anderson
Despite local tourism claims, none of the film's dramatic scenes were shot in Dorset. However "bouncing bomb" inventor Barnes Wallis acted as the film's technical advisor and his own 1942 16mm actuality footage of test-drops of dummy bombs over the Fleet Lagoon was used throughout, including in the final raid scenes. The Fleet Lagoon thus ‘doubled’ for the real German dam-lakes in the final dams attack sequence.
Dorset was very much a centre of the "secret war" of scientific invention, and the first full-scale tests were done in the Fleet Lagoon as it is tidal. This meant the bomb casings could be recovered at low tide for analysis. (One recovered dummy bomb is now in Portland museum.) Some commentators also say you can see footage of Poole Harbour from a different test drop, using a Mosquito rather than a Wellington. As the bomb’s design was still officially secret in 1954, a bouncing-ball shaped blackout image had to be drawn over the bomb on each frame of film.
The 1943 dams raid was one of the great public-relations (if not military) coups for the British war effort. The moment when the inventor (inspired by Nelson's sinking the larger French ships at Trafalgar by skipping cannonballs over water), first shows (via this actuality footage) that a bomb can really bounce across water and hit a target, remains one of the great moments of British cinema.
Some of the personnel involved in the project had personal connections with the area, living in the locality. The source book’s Australian author Paul Brickhill was posted nearby during WWII as a Spitfire pilot and at one point was courtmartialled for ‘beating up’ a Bournemouth pub i.e. flying too low over it. The film’s star Richard Todd had lived in the area just before the war. Barnes Wallis had relatives on Portland and lived on Wight for a time. Scriptwriter RC Sherriff later bought a home in west Dorset just beyond the Fleet.
The long-announced Peter Jackson retelling (possibly in 3D) of the 1943 raid, initially scripted by Stephen Fry, is reportedly still in development. The production base is New Zealand, though the Fleet Lagoon inside Chesil Bank being such a distinctive location, the use of footage filmed here for the test-drop scenes remains likely.)

Doublecross (British Lion, 1956)
Directed by Anthony Squire
A reference in the Echo’s Snapshots Of The Past to a mid-1950s WW2-set drama starring Donald Houston which featured location work at Hamworthy was probably to this little-seen b&w title. (From its short R/T of 71 mins, it must have been a B movie.) The IMDB gives it as directed by Anthony Squire and scripted by Kem [sic] Bennett from his novel The Queer Fish, with one commenter indicating it had a Cornish/ cross-channel setting, with Donald Houston as a fisherman-poacher asked to ferry wanted Nazi Anton Diffring to safety and William Hartnell as the local water bailiff. It may be the “Cornish" coastal scenes were actually Poole Bay area, with the Marines base at Hamworthy once again being used as a resource.

Fair Stood The Wind For France (BBC, 1981)
This was a 4-part drama serial adapted by Julian Mitchell from the H.E. Bates novel [serialised on Radio 4 in 2009], a WWII escape story about a downed RAF bomber crew stranded in Occupied France, and the farmer's daughter who joins the injured pilot in his escape. Harry Ashley's Explore Dorset [p68] mentions, re Hinton St Mary near Sturminster Newton, "the derelict mill which featured as a French mill in the television film serial Fair Stood The Wind For France." In the story, the crew set out to locate the water-mill as a rendezvous point, and ask the local farm family to hide them. It may be that other exteriors were also shot in Dorset, details unknown. Issued on DVD in 2005 for HE Bates's centenary.

The First Of The Few (British Aviation Pictures, 1943) (shorter US version titled Spitfire)
Directed by Leslie Howard
Howard got official cooperation to shoot on a front-line airfield and use RAF fighter pilots as extras, RAF Ibsley near Fordingbridge north of Christchurch portraying the fictional Battle-of-Britain airfield RAF 'Seafield' in Sussex as well as Eastleigh Airfield, Southampton in the test-flight scene. (For more details, see our separate feature page on the film's production. I’ve updated this, which was originally published onsite for the 60th anniversary of the Spitfire’s 1937-8 debut, with info from test-pilot Jeffrey Quill’s daughter and Spitfire-memorial flight organiser Dilip Sarkar MBE; I still suspect there’s more to the local filming than we’ve accounted for. ‘Spitfire’ feature page here.)

From Time To Time (pr. 2008/distr. 2010, Ealing Studios)
Directed by Julian Fellowes
Adapted from one of the popular 1950s 'Green Knowe' novels by Lucy Boston, and starring Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall, and local resident Harriet Walter, this had a framework setting of a WWII-evacuee lad who goes to stay at an aunt's manor house, which he discovers to be a timewarp portal to a past age. "Green Knowe" is played by Athelhampton House plus the writer-director's own stately Dorset home, West Stafford House, with nearby Puddletown used for church and village square scenes, plus the stables at Came House nearby.

Full Metal Jacket (WB, 1987)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick, who was domiciled in Britain and had a fear of flying, often used England to double other story settings, and there are rumours that he shot footage in Dorset [as well as Norfolk], in the film’s glimpses of rural Vietnam. (The rumour is he filmed a scene at Compton Acres ornamental gardens in Poole, where he had earlier shot a scene for Barry Lyndon, and was rumoured to have shot FX footage for 2001.) Given how secretive he was, it remains difficult to obtain details.

The Gift Horse (1952) (US title Glory At Sea)
Directed by Compton Bennett
This is a rather low-budget production (with cheap model-work) of a story vaguely based on that of HMS Campbelltown. She was one of 50 obsolete 4-stack US destroyers, given to Britain as part of the “Lend-Lease” deal, which was considered expendable and ended up in 1942 as a floating timebomb sent up the Loire to ram the St Nazaire dock – Germany’s only major drydock facility on the Atlantic coast (the only one ships like Tirpitz could have used). This was part of an enormous raid called Operation Chariot (in which commandos from Poole were also involved), some consider the most daring of the war (including Jeremy Clarkson, who made a programme about it). The story focuses on the trials and tribulations of ‘HMS Ballantrae’ (the former USS Whittier), with a cast familiar in their roles: Trevor Howard as the luckless captain, James Donald as the quiet but steady ‘No 1’, Bernard Lee as an old stalwart, Richard Attenborough as a “sea lawyer” troublemaker, etc. Exteriors seem to be shot at Portsmouth, but the sequence involving an encounter with a U-Boat was shot in Weymouth Bay according to Ralph Batteson, who was in the Campbeltown raid and later became a film extra [he was also in The Cruel Sea, qv]. In his 1997 memoir From St Nazaire To Shepperton, he says [p163] the submarine encounter was shot 'off Weymouth.'

Goodbye, Mr Chips (MGM, 1969)
Directed by Herbert Ross
Scriptwriter Terence Rattigan updated this classic school story to end with two WWII-era scenes, set in 1939-40 and 1944. Sherborne's famous boys prep school plays a major supporting role in this musical version of the James Hilton novel, starring Peter O'Toole, shot by Dorset-resident Oswald Morris in 70mm Panavision. Here, Sherborne is the solid embodiment of the legendary English public school, shown carrying on despite the war. This updating of the story so that Mrs Chips falls victim to a flying bomb instead of dying in childbirth is quite credible in the Sherborne setting -- in fact it may have been a script change inspired by the fact the town was in reality badly bombed.

Guns At Batasi (20C Fox,1964)
Directed by John Guillermin
This postwar regimental drama is set at a British Army camp in a Commonwealth state during a late-1950s “wind of change” moment. On the eve of independence for a dusty African state, a military coup takes place, and an incident caused by a stiff-necked RSM (played by Richard Attenborough) during the handover of power causes a diplomatic incident. It was shot according to the IMDB in Salisbury, Wilts., which must mean one of the nearby Army camps (dressed with a few palm trees and a liberal supply of dust and sand), but which camp is not officially identified, this being MOD policy then and now.

Hearts Of The World (War Office, 1918)
Directed by DW Griffith
The project was commissioned by Lord Beaverbrook to help the war effort, the War Office arranging for thousands of troops to be deployed for the cameras on Salisbury Plain in1917, this footage being integrated with scenes Griffith shot at in the trenches at the Front in France, where the story is set.

Help! (UA, 1966)
Directed by Richard Lester
This is not a war film but a Goon-show style live-action cartoon sendup of certain action-film and comic-book conventions which influenced the genre, taking an Absurdist view in which the military mind-set and war itself were the ultimate 'theatre of the absurd.' Scripted by Charles Wood (who had a military background and wrote several antiwar films), it anticipated Wood's and director Richard Lester’s next projects How I Won The War [also co-starring John Lennon], and the surrealist SF satire The Bed-Sitting Room [partly shot at Weymouth and Portland]. Here, the musical number performed under Army protection, with the Beatles surrounded by Army tanks and snipers, and ending with them being attacked by what appears to be a colonial Indian field-artillery unit, was shot in the Army’s main training area on Salisbury Plain, in this case just across the road from Stonehenge. According to the 2007 BBC docu ‘The Beatles In Help!’ the Fab 4 mixed with the soldiers and adopted wearing bits of Army uniform, and within months millions of youngsters were wearing Army-surplus safari-type jackets - usually with peace symbols or flowers on them.

The Heroes Of Telemark (Rank/TCF 1965)
Directed by Anthony Mann
This widescreen Technicolor WWII epic directed by Anthony Mann (veteran of many westerns and epics such as El Cid and The Fall Of The Roman Empire) is regarded as largely Hollywood hokum. (Outdoorsman Ray Meares got annoyed enough to do his own BBC documentary series and book on the Norwegian commandoes’ real achievements.) It was nonetheless based on real events. This was the Allied-Resistance campaign to prevent the Germans from developing the atomic bomb by sabotaging their heavy water manufacturing plants in Norway, and much of the film was shot there in winter, near the actual wartime locations. However various town, dockside, and ferryboat scenes were filmed first, at Poole and Weymouth.
The local connection may or may not have been due to Bournemouth-resident author Frederick E Smith having written, for Wide World Magazine in 1956, a 2-part article based on an interview with one of the saboteurs, evidently a spin-off from research for his popular war adventure novel 633 Squadron, which was being filmed in 1964 at the same time as this production, and which led to a series of followup novels on squadron attacks on priority targets like Nazi heavy water plants. (Another former Bournemouth resident may have been responsible for the hokey romantic-triangle two-males-in-competition aspect of the script: Harold Pinter, who lived and worked here while an unknown actor, and worked on this project as an uncredited script ‘doctor’ to introduce some character drama - by having the leads bicker and row in the midst of the struggle to stop the Nazis.)
In 1995, a reader's-letter query in the Echo led to an exchange of correspondence which provided additional details re the filming. Poole's New Quay, Hamworthy, had doubled, covered in salt, as a Norwegian coastal-steamer's dock, with German uniformed troops and vehicles, sentry-boxes etc placed along the waterfront. As the ship first departs, Poole waterfront convincingly represents a Norwegian ferry port in a point-of-view shot not possible today due to modern additions to the skyline. (Even at the time, residents had to be paid to take down TV aerials.) The lead character (Kirk Douglas) then hijacks the ship to cross the North Sea so he can obtain British help, with the sea crossing / minefield scene filmed in Weymouth Bay. (Though the scripted dialogue reportedly makes a nonsense of the geography, the exploit itself was fact-based: in March 1942, the coastal ferry steamer Galtesund was highjacked by the Resistance and successfully reached Aberdeen.) In a clever cinematic juxtaposition, the British dockside the boat then arrives at is portrayed by the Old Quay, in reality only a stone's throw from the New Quay opposite. (A familiar local landmark, the RNLI boathouse, can be seen.) At the finale where the rail-car fiord-ferry is sunk, the Norwegians and German soldiers seen jumping overboard were actually Royal Marines from Hamworthy base. Weymouth Quay with its rail-line to the waterfront, was also used, similarly bedecked with German uniformed troops and vehicles.
The Special Edition DVD has a complete, restored print of the film together with an hour of making-of documentary interview footage.

In Which We Serve (Two Cities, 1942)
Directed by Noel Coward and David Lean
This patriotic drama was written and directed by Noel Coward, with the effects scenes and postproduction supervised by David Lean (his first major credit in an illustrious career). Inspired by the sinking of Mountbatten’s destroyer HMS Kelly off Crete, it was considered so downbeat the MOI was reportedly unhappy it was to be shown in the USA. The drama is structured as flashbacks representing the shore-based memories of men from 3 different classes and ranks as their cling to a liferaft, their destroyer sunk by bombers in the battle for Crete. This being a wartime production, filming was mainly done on soundstages. The film incorporates documentary footage in its montages, and there are a few brief scenes shot on location, listed as Plymouth and Portland, but which show Portland or ships at sea nearby is not clear. The film was a major influence on The Cruel Sea [qv].

Into The Storm (BBC Films/HBO, 2008/9)
Directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan
This was a delayed followup (its UK TV premiere was delayed until autumn 2009), scripted again by Hugh Whitemore, starring Brendan Gleeson, to the 2006 coproduction The Gathering Storm starring Albert Finney, which ended at the start of WWII as Churchill took up a Cabinet post in 1940. This is set during the active war years, its working title being 'Churchill At War.' Here, Breamore House interiors double for rooms in the PM's house "Chequers", and nearby Woodgreen village on the western edge of the New Forest was also used.

It Happened Here (Rath Films, 1956-65/1966)
Directed by Kevin Brownlow & Andrew Mollo
This bleak "alternative history" pseudo-documentary, shot in grainy 16mm by two then-unknown teenagers over a 9-year period, depicts British collaborationism and futile resistance to a German occupation. Though famous for its shots of uniformed Wermacht against London landmarks, part of it is set and filmed in Wiltshire. The early sequences are set near Salisbury, with village scenes shot at Berwick St John near the north Dorset boundary.
Set 1994-5 in alternative Britain, where Germans did invade in 1940. Now the US Army, based in Ireland, is trying to invade, but Germans are everywhere. On the road to Salisbury, a group of evacuees struggles along through conditions akin to those in 1940 France. Only one woman out of the group makes it to London, an Irish district nurse, who declines to help the British partisans and is indoctrinated into the Nazi Party’s machine.
Kevin Brownlow’s gritty b&w semi-amateur production was filmed over a ten year period - lots of postwar rubble is still visible. (Brownlow was 19 years old and Andrew Mollo, 16 when they began filming.) It was an exercise in imagining the unimaginable, akin to Peter Watkins’s nuclear-war docudrama The War Game (which the BBC refused to show for many years). This work also received limited release, and controversial parts where a Nazi stooge makes a pro-fascist speech were ordered cut by UA from both the UK and US releases, only being restored recently for the home video and DVD editions.

K19: The Widowmaker (Working Title, 2002)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
The SWScreen website says “the old naval base on the Isle of Portland offered an ideal location for filming model sequences on K19: The Widowmaker.” The IMDB gives the locations for this fact-based Soviet nuclear-sub-in-distress realist drama (starring Harrison Ford) only as Canada, Iceland, and Moscow. However, Anwar Brett's Dorset In Film says shots of the sub on the surface were filmed just off Portland, using a 50 ft long model.

The Key (Columbia, 1958)
Directed by Carol Reed
This wartime romantic drama was inspired by the war experience of author Jan de Hartog, who lived on the Isle of Wight after the war. He had escaped from Occupied Holland in 1943 to do his bit as skipper of one of the unarmed Merchant Navy tugboats sent out to rescue the torpedoed "lame ducks" left behind in "U Boat Alley" by Channel convoys, an experience he characterized as a study in the nature of fear. This inspired his 1951 two-parter novel The Distant Shore, the first book of which, called "Stella," was the basis of the film. This was adapted by novelist Eric Ambler (who had scripted The Cruel Sea) and produced by American Carol Foreman (of High Noon fame), with Sir Carol Reed (The Third Man) directing, filmed in b&w with a 2 hr-plus running time.
All of this suggested it would be a realist statement about the nature of war. The psychological realism was certainly there in its depiction of the fear and stress of wartime operations, for which the author had drawn on his own personal experience. However this was in fact a less straightforward story, combining WWII naval drama and a doomed, fatalistic onshore affair. It was set in the south-coast seaport of "Westport," portrayed here by Portland and Weymouth (some larger-scale interiors like the dance hall were evidently filmed in Liverpool). It focused on the affair between a Merchant Navy rescue tug skipper and a young foreign refugee (played by William Holden and Sophia Loren) whom he inherits (via her flat key) as a legacy which is a sort of wartime comrade’s pact. Director Sir Carol Reed’s DNB entry says the film, “an intriguing Second World War melodrama, made in England but with American money and an international cast …. confused both critics and audiences and fared badly.” The international casting has the story's Dutch protagonist becoming another of William Holden's war-is-crazy Americans, while English waif Stella turns into Sophia Loren's buxom Italian-Swiss refugee.
It's even been suggested this is really something of an occult story in disguise, with the ethereal girl as a sort of phantom waif who is part of an ongoing ‘Jonah’ death pact - he must pass the key on in turn, against the day he too will fail to return. The novel has the girl driven away in terror when he unexpectedly returns, blood-covered, after being reported killed to find his successor already in place. The novel tells the story in the first person as a psychological study of the mindsets war can produce. However the film evidently could not stick with this concept for commercial reasons, and was shot with alternate train-station endings, one inevitably ‘happy’, for the European market (which also saw a longer version of the film), the other 'unhappy' to satisfy the US censors that living in sin must always be punished. (For US prints, 9 minutes of intimate domestic scenes were also cut from the original 134-minute running time. The film's various DVD releases and tv showings may have one ending or another; neither is strictly definitive in "director's-cut" terms, but the 'unhappy' ending accords with that of the novel, and accompanies the longer version of the film.)
The background story, of the unarmed Merchant Navy tugboats sent out to rescue torpedoed ships left behind by Channel convoys, was filmed largely in the rough waters off Portland. Supporting player Bryan Forbes recalls in his memoirs: "we were required to head for the Portland Race every morning where our small tug stood on its end in the roughest seas we could find. Carl was determined to make this film as authentic as possible, and ... much of the action was spectacular and highly dangerous."

The Land Girls (FilmFour, 1998)
Directed by David Leland
This adaptation of Angela Huth’s 1994 novel Land Girls was filmed in Somerset and Devon, but is set in Dorset. According to the Times Diary, the director claimed nothing in Dorset looked 'in period' - though a viewing of the film shows that there is nothing that could not have been shot in West Dorset. (In fact, some of the Exmoor etc locations used anachronistically show postwar Forestry Commission woodlots in the background, while the muddy flat shore of Southampton Water is represented by a west-country shingle beach with hills behind.) The director also declined to read the novel until after he filmed it, writing his own script based on someone else’s treatment, which he had earlier rejected. Although Huth is herself a dramatist, none of her dialogue was used in the film, and the plot is changed to avoid the 50-year long tail to the story, whereby the two protagonists separated by circumstance finally get together in old age.
The story concentrates on how each of the 3 girls find a relationship in the midst of war, whose outcome reflects the associated problems. The war effort is secondary, with no Hardyesque drama about getting the harvest in. (The novel itself had been written by Huth without much research, though she later made 2 documentaries about the real WLA.) The dialogue is precocious, as modern as possible. The appeal for the director is evidently cheeky women (he is known for his film about one famous such 1950s character, Wish You Were Here, which ends with here causing a scene in a Bournemouth teashop). Here, we get 3 different types, the inner-city hairdresser who's never seen a cow, the barrister's posh daughter who calls people old chap or old girl, and the only-slightly-posh middle-class protagonist, Stella. We also get comic roll-in-the-hay encounters. All 3 promiscuously chase the farmer's son, with no apparent worry about unwanted pregnancy.
The film is also modern in that it tries to push the nostalgia buttons from earlier films, TV dramas, and even commercials. We've got the Spitfire zooming over the downs, Doing The Lambeth Walk at the dance (and on the road), the old steam train and station, walking to church to the accompaniment of a choir, a Spitfire-fundraiser parade, characters perched atop fences Railway Children style, the family Xmas dinner complete with the standup loyal toast, and so on.
Tragedy looms around the corner for each girl. One is widowed only five minutes of screen time after she's married. Another sees her fiance mutilated. There's even a Lawrence Of Arabia style life-threatening fast motorbike ride down a country road. A German fighter crash-lands on the farm at a significant moment and it's made to seem as if it will hit the protagonist. She promises she will break it off with her RN fiance whom she has never loved, and marry the farmer's son (they have now fallen in love), but of course she at once discovers he is badly crippled and, being English, has to stay with him for the rest of her life. Then we cut to "After The War" with all three almost unrecognizably glamorous, with perms, pearls, and 1950s-film-star dresses [?]. We get characters gazing significantly into the far distance over the green remembered hills, trying to recapture the moment, and nostalgic music and voice-over.
The final reunion between the two ex-lovers has, literally, a touching moment. The DVD out-takes section shows that Leland cut out some of the more interesting scenes (such as the one used for the poster, pictured, of the 3 giving a mock-salute), as well as an unused alternative ending which reveals how thin Leland’s conception was, a 'larky' finale in which all three drive tractors wearing their fashion-model haute-couture frocks.

Lawrence Of Arabia (Columbia 1962)
Directed by David Lean
The opening scene, showing TE Lawrence's fatal 1935 motorbike crash, is actually set in Dorset. Despite being a national hero for his WWI exploits, TEL had enlisted in the ranks and been posted to Bovington Camp tank depot, with a cottage nearby at Clouds Hill [now a visitable National Trust site]. He had just retired from the military but reportedly was contemplating an offer from Churchill of an intelligence post to help prepare for the coming war. There is a conspiracy theory this led to the accident being deliberately caused by a mysterious black car (not shown in the film). However there is an implication that TEL, burnt-out by war, is reckless with his life. The scene was not filmed locally - see stills opposite showing the film version and the actual location today.

The Lost [British Phoenix Films, 2006]
Directed by Neil Jones
This improvisational graphic war-as-the-real-horror drama was reportedly shot in 48 hours in a dense forest outside Winchester portraying an Ardennes-type WWII situation where the 3 soldier protagonists lose their way, and then their minds. Further details not known.

Man Hunt (20C Fox, 1941)
Directed by Fritz Lang
Geoffrey Household's magazine serial and novel Rogue Male became the "publishing sensation" of 1939, retitled Man Hunt for its US publication. It came closest to achieving what John Buchan had done in 1915 with The 39 Steps. In the story, West Dorset -- with real geography, and action that can be followed on a map -- takes the place of the Highlands as the central setting, an arena for a relentless manhunt by German agents operating brazenly on British soil, in both town and country (London and Dorset). This first screen version was directed by the great Fritz Lang in Hollywood in the Germanic Expressionist style he helped develop into the American Forties film noir, and shot entirely on soundstages and Hollywood-backlot studio sets. ('…hilariously inaccurate English backgrounds' -Halliwell's Film Guide) The film is of local interest for the finale: unlike the novel, only the climactic final reel is set in Dorset, on Lyme Regis Undercliff, where cornered rogue-gentleman Walter Pidgeon cleverly dispatches smooth-talking Nazi agent George Sanders. A more authentic period remake was produced in the 1970s: see under Rogue Male.

[Mr] Midshipman Easy (ATP, 1935)
Directed by Carol Reed
This may have been the first major use of Portland as a location for naval drama, though in this case a period piece set in the 1790s, from the boys' naval adventure story by Captain Marryat (author of Children Of The New Forest), who had served in the Navy patrolling the Dorset coast in 1821. Its landbound scenes are said to have been shot at Weymouth and on Portland Bill. Harry Ashley's The Dorset Coast adds: "On the Chesil Bank below us, a youthful Hughie Green enacted Midshipman Easy with the famous music hall comedian Harry Tate." Carol Reed would return to the vicinity to film another naval drama, The Key, qv.

Mine Camp (Poole Cine Club, 1939-1945)
Directed [and filmed] by D H Sheppard
A wartime curio, a silent 20-minute 'home movie' of life in Poole and area, made by a local chemist who was a keen amateur film-maker. (Parts of it use animation.) It shows life on the home front, with the family cheerfully carrying on. (The title is of course a pun on Hitler's Mein Kampf, 'my struggle'). There is an info-page on the film as part of the U of Brighton's 'Films From The Home front' archive, with a murky clip [.wmv or .mp4 formats] showing the kids putting on gasmasks, here.

Morning Departure (1950) (US title Operation Disaster)
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
This submarine drama is set post-war: a British sub sets out from Portland and is sunk by a WW2 mine. This was inspired by a real-life tragedy (actually more than one) where subs crippled by a collision or explosion lay on the bottom with the crew slowly suffocating as rescue attempts to locate and then extract the survivors failed. It’s based on a stage play and you don’t see much in the way of exteriors, but there is a still published online showing a crew departure scene being filmed in a Portland street. This would be reverse angle to the house belonging to the sub's captain (John Mills), and is the same view seen behind of the opening titles. The first 15 minutes are set locally, though the only other location material is a few shots of the Harbour and the sub clearing the breakwater. Mills’s bio says he stayed nearby, at the Moonfleet Hotel on the Fleet Lagoon (where they tested the dambusting bomb, pictured at page bottom). Interiors were shot aboard HMS Alliance (built 1945), now a museum exhibit on Portsmouth harbour.

Mosquito Squadron (MGM-UA, 1969 )
Directed by Boris Sagal
The one point of interest in this last gasp of the post Great Escape/633 Squadron war-adventure cycle is the fact, as reported on aviation websites, that it contains some actuality test footage shot at Ashley Walk bombing range in the New Forest of the Highball, the smaller version of Barnes Wallis’s bouncing bomb meant to be carried by Mosquitos rather than Lancasters. The story is otherwise conventionally fictional.

The Navy Lark (Herbert Wilcox Prodns, 1959)
Directed by Gordon Parry
This rarely-seen b&w Cinemascope production is a postwar ‘service comedy,’ a spinoff from radio’s longest-running sitcom, about an RN crew plainly unfit to fight any kind of war. (It was originally inspired by cast member Jon Pertwee's experiences as an RN officer in WWII, playing in the wartime radio comedy show HMS Waterlogged.)
Probably due to replacing the radio series cast (Leslie Phillips being the only carryover) with established film comedy players like Cecil Parker, Ronald Shiner, and Hattie Jacques, the ship here is not frigate HMS ‘Troutbridge,’ but minesweeper HMS ‘Compton.’ The focus is on the crew of a minesweeping craft stationed off the south coast to detonate leftover WW2 mines in its sector. (This was a major undertaking performed by the Navy postwar in the seas all around Britain, and the fictional crew do encounter a real mine, which is as close as the film gets to real danger.)
The main setting of the first radio series and the film is an island somewhere off the south coast. (The crew are referred to as “the island draft.”) The radio series scripts suggest this unnamed island is a quiet backwater somewhere round the back of the Isle of Wight, round the corner from ‘Pompey,’ i.e. Naval HQ at Portsmouth. The film names the island ‘Boonzey’, and puts it 55 miles from Portsmouth. The name here suggests the Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey etc), as does the plot’s ‘Home Rule’ aspect and some French elements. (The story, cowritten by series creator Laurie Wyman, has the crew try to create a phoney local revolution to justify their continuing presence in this cushy berth, where they can pursue their own interests away from official oversight.)
The Dorset Weather Book carries a a photo of a quayside scene from the film (as the summer they filmed it was unusually sunny), indicating the main location was West Bay, by Bridport in W Dorset, and the harbour is still recognisable. Some adjacent chalk-cliff coastline was also used for swimming and smuggling scenes.


Above Us The Waves

The African Queen
Above: A still from The African Queen. Scenes with the stars were shot in the studio, as above; but a few insert shots are rumoured to have been filmed in the Frome Marshes , pictured below, on the west edge of Poole Harbour, in the estuary of the River Frome below Wareham.
Frome Marshes



Brown On Resolution (1935) retitled Forever England for its wartime re-release.




The Bulldog Breed, 1960
The Bulldog Breed, 1960 (mouse over to see 2nd image)

The Cruel Sea
Above: Publicity still of Donald Sinden and Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea. This scene and others seem to have been filmed off Portland.

Above: Portland's harbour, right, once one of two ports where the Home Fleet was based. In the distance, upper left, is Chesil Bank enclosing Fleet Lagoon, where the bouncing bomb was tested [see Dam Busters entry]

RM base, Hamworthy, in Poole Harbour
Above: HMS Turtle, not the landing craft but the shore station behind, belonging to the Royal Marines, at Hamworthy, on the west side of Poole. The main base is inland but the Marines and SBS have a boat house, dock and 'sea tank' for simulated training in water survival skills; the latter has been reportedly used for various scenes where actors have to be in the water. The Marines have also appeared as stunt extras in various films shot over the years at Portland or Poole Harbour (The Heroes Of Telemark, below, is one reported example.).






Dad's Army
Above: A still from BBC's Dad's Army, chosen not only as it represents a famous comic moment ("Don't tell him, Pike!") but as it is set in the series' most common location. St Aldhelm's Church hall. St Aldhelm was patron saint of Dorset, with various places dedicated to him in the Poole-Purbeck area, where one of the series' co-creators was in the Home Guard. As the local Home Guard drill hall, it was the series's most familiar setting, right from the first episode, shown below.
Dad's Army












The Dam Busters: actuality test-drop footage shot at Chesil Bank.

Above: Restored DVD of The First Of The Few. (The US release was cut by 40 minutes and retitled Spitfire, and some UK prints were also cut down.)


Guns At Batasi finale: sabotaging the Bofors gun (20C Fox,1964)



Help! The Beatles are shelled by field artillery of a foreign 'ring' cult while performing on Salisbury Plain, despite being surrounded by a British armoured unit.


The Heroes Of Telemark

The Heroes Of Telemark, 1965: Above, Poole's new industrial dock represents Occupied Norway, while the old quay (mouse over to see 2nd image) portrays a British quayside across the North Sea - in fact it is just a few hundred yards away.
Below, the coastal steamer departs its Norwegian harbour - in fact Poole Harbour, with Poole Old Town visible in the background (mouse over to see 2nd image).
The Heroes Of Telemark



It Happened Here
Above and below: scenes shot on the Dorset-Wilts border for It Happened Here, released in 1965.

It Happened Here
It Happened Here: (Mouse over to see 2nd image.)

It Happened Here
It Happened Here: (Mouse over to see 2nd image.)


Above: the duel-to-the-death finale of The Key as the burning tug rams the U-boat.
Below: Sophia Loren and William Holden in a tender 'orphans of the storm' moment largely cut from US prints of The Key.

The Key



DVD of The Land Girls
Above: The DVD of The Land Girls (1998), which includes cut scenes and an alternate ending. Note the use of that classic WW2 motif, the Spitfire-zooming-over-the-downs.

Lawrence motorbike scene
Above: On the last day of his life, Lawrence went into Wool and had his motorbike serviced at the local garage, then sped north homeward again towards his cottage on the Bovington Camp road, where the fatal accident occurred. (Mouse over to see 2nd image).
Below: for logistical reasons, the film's opening scene was not shot locally; below is the actual road as it is today, with a memorial where the accident happened. He is buried nearby at Moreton. (Mouse over to see 2nd image.)
Lawrence death sites


Morning Departure
Morning Departure, 1950: The sub captained by John Mills leaves Portland en route for a fateful encounter with a WW2 mine.

Mosquito Squadron

Mosquito Squadron (1969): early on, the squadron leader is shown actuality footage of the new lighter Highball bouncing bomb to be carried by Mosquitos, rather than Lancasters. It was shot at Ashley Walk bombing range in the New Forest. (Mouse over image to see 2nd screenshot.)

The Navy Lark, 1959: West Bay harbour as a fictitious small Channel isle. The Admiral's launch arrives for a surprise inspection of local minesweeper HMS 'Compton'.

Overlord (EMI/ Imperial War Museum, 1975)
Directed by Stuart Cooper
In 1975, the UK’s notorious “30 Year Rule” whereby official documents are kept under wraps until their authors are safely dead, allowed key WWII records to be released, the end of the war having been 30 years before. The result was a series of more realistic treatments in print and on screen, both documentary and dramatised (such as A Bridge Too Far). One lesser known film, which won awards on its release (Silver Bear, Special Jury Prize, Berlin Film Fest, plus an Interfilm award) was Overlord, directed by Stuart Cooper and co-produced by the Imperial War Museum. For many years it was seen only on rare TV showings. Then, following a showing of some clips in a US cable channel documentary by John Cassavetes' daughter Xan, it was screened in 2004 in a restored print, at the 2004 Telluride Film Festival, where critic Roger Ebert praised the 20-year old film as the most remarkable discovery of the festival. In 2008 it was issued on DVD, first in the US (the director is American) in 2007 as part of the Criterion DVD Collection, complete with commentary and extras, and then in the UK in 2008, with a new R2 release announced for August.
Anyone expecting a conventional war film will be disappointed in this bleak, ultra-realist effort. The original idea was to provide a counterpoint to the conventional more heroic and spectacular view of war. The production approach was an ultra low budget one of using the Imperial War Museum’s vast store of archival footage, and shooting the connecting scenes of a young man’s training in matching style. (Cinematographer John Alcott, who worked with Kubrick, used 1940s lenses and the film stock was processed to match.)
The director spent 3 years trawling through war museum archive footage, and reportedly this makes up 27% of the 83 minute total. The criticism given in the Radio Times film guide blurb [possibly written by Barry Norman, whose father directed Ealing's 1958 Dunkirk] is that Cooper spent too much time looking at newsreel footage and not enough on the script, which is credited to the director and Christopher Hudson, who also created a novelisation of the script. (Having worked on the odd documentary where archival footage has to be integrated with newly-filmed material, I have to add this criticism is a bit glib - such an undertaking requires a carefully researched approach; it’s a bit like building a bridge, where both ends have to meet in the middle.) Cooper described in a 2008 Guardian article how the project developed:

I spent approximately 3,000 hours in that dark cell between 1971 and 1975, briefly interrupted by a couple of other projects. It was during the archival research that I developed the idea of a dramatised feature film about an English soldier who sees his first action on D-Day, interweaving the archive footage to expand and tell the story. More research in the museum's document section - reading letters and unpublished diaries of ordinary soldiers who saw action in the first wave of D-Day - refined the concept. ....
A writer, Christopher Hudson, then came aboard to continue the research and co-write the screenplay. What became apparent about the writing process was that until we knew what the film archive would support in narrative form, we could not write the screenplay. In other words, the film archive controlled what historical events our soldier's story would encompass. Once that was established, Hudson was able to dramatise some wonderful and totally original scenes extracted from diaries and letters of real servicemen. .... Overlord is not about military heroics; on the contrary, it is about the bleakness of sacrifice.

The film is a low-key documentary drama of the call-up [induction] and training of a young Everyman-figure soldier in 1944, ending with his embarkation for Operation Overlord - D-Day. (His name is Tom – I suppose ‘Tommy’ would’ve made the reference to ‘Tommy Atkins’ as the proverbial everyman British soldier too obvious.) The film covers his pre-embarkation training, from when he says goodbye to mum and dad and dog in London, taking a book (David Copperfield) to read on the train, arrives late after missing his train connection, gets told off by the senior soldier in charge of his barracks hut, and undergoes similar indignities in the months ahead. (There’s no tough drill-sergeant character here – Tom is simply too low in the hierarchy.)
The dialogue is minimalist – I think the idea is the young man cannot really articulate his mixed feelings of resignation and disappointment at what he anticipates will happen to him.
We see only his worm’s-eye view of the war, which is as confined as can be. The tiny cast necessitated by a budget of under £100K accentuates the feeling of isolation - no sense of masses of young men who were all in the same situation. Some of the actuality footage intercut stretches the concept somewhat: arguably it represents scenes he would've seen in the cinema as newsreel footage; in fact what Cooper and the IWM wanted to show is the sort of footage the newsreel editors would've discarded as 'routine.' Instead, the archive footage does double duty to show the wider perspective. The film opens (after a minute of wait-for-it blank screen) with German aerial souvenir-style footage of captured capital cities Paris and Rome, with Hitler beaming down - an opening perhaps inspired by Riefenstahl's Nazi-propaganda documentary work, but not that effective here. Newly shot aerial footage from the last surviving Lanc [pictured at page top] of English countryside rolls on without any apparent rationale. Apparently this is on its way over to bomb Occupied Europe, but this is not given a narrative context .
However the intercutting generally introduces a poetic quality most documentaries and dramas miss, aided by a score by Paul Glass. That the young man has somehow acquired a premonition he will die soon is the basis of the film’s poignant lyrical quality. I’m not really giving away any plot secret here – Tom senses he will die, and accepts this, and the film is full of foreshadowing as he repeatedly sees in his mind’s eye himself falling on the beach. (This motif was also used in the poster, pictured right.) This starts early on, when the platoon are on their landing craft approaching the Normandy beach (a classic war-film setup, going back to Lewis Milestone's A Walk In The Sun, 1945).
There are few flashbacks representing the protagonist’s memories of his home life, in the style of Losey's King & Country or Malick's The Thin Red Line. The juxtaposition of imagery is at times reminiscent of a scene in Menzel's 1967 WW2 Czech-resistance tragicomedy Closely Watched Trains, when the young protagonist is being taken away on a train by the SS to be shot as a hostage and his glimpses of passing trackside villages take on a 'last look' poignancy. We also get fantasy flash-forward sequences to do with his anticipated death, and that of a German soldier he imagines he encounters.
There's also a fantasy followup to his meeting a girl at a dance, which provides the film's most original scene, where sex and death are surreally combined. The film is ultimately a tragedy, that of the many who never got to write their memoirs or reminisce about the war for years after, who saw next to nothing of actual combat, and didn't get to live a normal life either, being among the thousands of new recruits who fell on D-Day itself.
The local-interest aspect is that the new scenes were mainly shot in Dorset, with Poole and the Kingston Lacy-Corfe estate credited. Most of these locations are deliberately anonymous, but Corfe Castle is quite recognizable in its own right, with the protagonist ascending to the top of the ruin at the end of act one [around 25 mins in], a scene revisited at the end for its obvious symbolic potential. The camp he trains at, which the script only identifies as somewhere on the South Coast, is thus presumably meant to be one of the many then in the vicinity (though the IMDB lists Aldershot barracks). The Normandy beach is portrayed by Studland, which is part of the same National Trust estate credited. Studland Beach was similar enough to Normandy ones that it was used in real-life training exercises watched by Churchill, Monty and Ike from an ad hoc blockhouse, Ft Henry [pictured at page bottom].
The film's US trailer is now on YouTube, here.

This award-winning b&w docudrama of the last months of a WW2 conscript is built around actuality footage, but new scenes were shot locally, with Poole and the Kingston Lacy-Corfe estate credited, Studland beach being the standin for Normandy, though only Corfe Castle is recognizable, other locations being deliberately anonymous in keeping with the concept of the luckless conscript protagonist as a young Everyman figure.




Brian Stirner, Overlord



Pearl Harbor (Buena Vista, 2001)
Directed by Michael Bay
Dorset is credited as a location in the end credits, as it is on the Famous Locations website, but no details are given in either. One possibility is a scene, at 38 minutes in, of the Japanese naval staff planning their attack with model battleships, using a pool in a semi-circular naval fort overlooking the sea. Could this be one of the Portland defences, such as Portland Castle or Nothe Fort?

Petticoat Pirates (Associated British Pictures Corp., 1961)
Directed by David Macdonald
Exteriors for this corny postwar Naval comedy, starring Charlie Drake, about WRENs getting tired of being ogled at etc, and hijacking a frigate to make a political point, appear to include Portland (as well as Portsmouth). Some storm-scene footage looks as if it was tinted and cropped (this being a widescreen colour film) from The Cruel Sea scenes shot on Portland Race.

Private Schulz (BBC, 1981)
Directed by Robert Chetwyn
The Dorset Shire County Guide 1985 says Portland and other villages in SW Dorset (plus Weymouth) were used in this fact-based 6-part satiric drama serial set in WWII Germany. This grim satire written by 'I Claudius' scriptwriter (and former tax inspector) Jack Pulman, about the Nazis' 'Operation Bernhard' plan to flood Britain with counterfeit £5 notes won the scriptwriter a posthumous prize. As was standard practice, the interiors which dominate the story were shot in the BBC studios, with linking exterior scenes shot on film.
Update: its recent DVD issue makes a 2nd look possible. Major exteriors were shot in Scotland (as Austria etc), but the sequence where Schulz parachutes into England appears shot in Dorset. The scene where he is to rendezvous with his contact at the Crown Inn hotel looks like Beaminster in SW Dorset; the scene where he evades pursuit looks like the Purbeck Hills and coast, and the beach in the Dunkirk scene looks like Studland.

The Relief Of Belsen (Wellcome Trust /C-42007)
Directed by Justin Hardy
For this grim docudrama co-scripted by Peter Guinness and the director, the MOD facility at Holton Heath outside Poole, which in wartime had been a cordite factory, and hadrecently appeared in Bad Lads Army, portrayed the notorious German extermination camp as British medical units found it in 1945, and deals with their limited ability to cope with an ongoing tragedy.

Remembrance (Channel 4, 1983 )
Directed by Colin Gregg
The info on this film is unclear. The Time Out Film Guide describes this as an unsuccessful drama set on the eve of the protagonists' departure for the Falklands War in 1982, as a group of sailors search for someone during their last hours in port. An IMDB synopsis sets it in Devonport and Plymouth, just before the ship sails for the US on a NATO exercise. The BFI's British Films 1971-81, based on the locations listing printed by Screen International, gives it as filmed in and around Portsmouth, but the Internet listing for Dorset says it was filmed in Weymouth and Portland.

Rogue Male (BBC / TCF 1976)
Directed by Clive Donner
Unlike the 1940 Hollywood-studio adaptation called Man Hunt [qv], this version of the famous Geoffrey Household spy novel with an eve-of-WWII setting was filmed in the west Dorset locales (around Cattistock etc.) where much of the story takes place. This remake, scripted by Frederic Raphael, was the pilot for a planned BBC telefilm series on Clubland heroes (Buchan's Hannay, Sapper's Bullldog Drummond etc). We know from Peter O'Toole's childhood memoir that he was fascinated with the idea of confronting Hitler, and even went to Vienna in pursuit of his obsession, which he wrote about it in his memoir Loitering With Intent. And supposedly he played the part as the novel was a favourite of his wife's.
But he still seems miscast as a 1930s stiff-upper-lip Clubland hero, albeit a [literally] tortured one. (Perhaps his casting was to hedge bets dramatically by giving the lead character an hysterical edge so that the film could be considered satire by the more cynical modern viewer.) The early sequences are authentically shot in Europe. The hero flees London for Dorchester, attracted by a poster for the Cattistock Hunt, with subsequent filming (in 16mm) in the area.

Saving Private Ryan (Dreamworks, 1998)
Directed by Stephen Spielberg
The Ryan family farmhouse, where the mother collapses when the Army car with the chaplain arrives with the bad news, was built for the production, in wheatfields south of Avebury.

School For Secrets (Two Cities/Rank, 1946) (US title Secret Flight)
Directed by Peter Ustinov
This rarely-seen film has been the object of curiosity because of its subject matter and the later reputation of its writer-director. (It was long unavailable on DVD itself, at first only in a Ralph Richardson box set, and by itself only a year ago.) The story was inspired by local events, Dr RV Jones's pioneering radar research conducted in the Purbecks, at the TRE, the Telecommmunications Research Establishment based above Swanage near Worth Matravers, one of the great war-winning stories. Unfortunately this 1946 film is an odd disappointment.
This may have been the first of all those how-we-won the war dramas, on the race to develop aerial radar coverage in time for the Luftwaffe’s summer-long prelude to invasion in 1940 – the Battle of Britain. But the script by co-producer-director Peter Ustinov is whimsical, focusing on a handful of slightly eccentric ‘boffins.’ This offers Ralph Richardson, Raymond Huntley, John Laurie, et al some cliche-free but rather literary character dialogue. (Representing the younger generation are David Tomlinson and Richard Attenborough, who plays the young pilot on their test flights.) But in the end, the drama says almost nothing about the actual process of developing radar, probably because this was then still almost totally secret. (The real story is detailed in Dr RV Jones's memoir Most Secret War, which typically was not published until 1978, after the “30 year rule” of Cabinet secrecy re wartime documents had ended.)
Commissioned by the Ministry of Information as the war was ending, it was presumably meant to give the boffins their Buggins’s turn on the silver screen (as every other service unit was getting one). But almost none of the fascinating details of what Dr Jones called “the battle of the beams” are here, no doubt due to the hand of the official censor hovering over the production. The 24-year old Ustinov was in fact only an army private, and had no authority on his own. His assistant director, Cpl Michael Anderson – later director of The Dam Busters – arranged a visit to the secret establishment in the Malvern Hills, where Churchill had ordered the radar unit for fear of a German reprisal raid after the Bruneval raid on German radar kit (a version of this raid is shown).
The drama however moves the locale inland at the very start of war, from a coastal manor house [represented only by soundstage scenes], where they are learning [presumably at an unseen TRE] about already-developed RDF and 12-metre radar (we see a crude CRT image). From there they move inland to an inland suburban town Ustinov facetiously names ‘Kippenhampton.’ They set up in a girls school that appears to be the same location used in the St Trinian's films, and town exteriors seem to be Denham, where the studio was. They are billeted at a B&B where the landlady's son is, conveniently, a young pilot officer [Richard Attenborough] who is drafted in to help aerial tests.The boffins are an uninspiring lot, and their appointed leader, played by Ralph Richardson, is not even a physicist but an absent-minded zoologist! The story has this lot of amateurs somehow (we never really learn how) developing airborne "AI" with a CRT in a Beaufighter for German night-fighter interception, and then during an airborne test noticing a side effect which allows the development of radar as an onboard bombing aid.
Penguin Film Review #3 [1946] has a description of its use of ‘trick’ photography. To depict a cathode-ray monitor, they hired the TRE’s own training-film photographer, while to depict the radar-mast ‘arrays’, models were taken down to the coast for filming. PFR also comments, “It is hard to understand why, with consultants, the film is such a travesty of the real scientific story ... Is this not a piece of gross irresponsibility on the part of the producers of this film?” adding that the lengthy struggle by thousands of British scientists is reduced to “half a dozen eccentrics in a nondescript set.” One of the WWII TRE officers who helped with the filming also reviewed the film online: “The DVD is factually incorrect,the acting dreadful and the plot frequently chronologically incorrect. Life at TRE was nothing like that portrayed.” It's possible Ustinov was influenced by his work on the successful war film The Way Ahead [qv], which began as an official training film called 'The New Lot,' and showed how even the most unlikely mismatched group can pull together in wartime and become an effective team. That however dealt with an ordinary infantry squad and showed how the army's training managed it. Here the inter-team bickering etc never develops into anything. One critic called Ustinov's whimsical approach "eupeptic," presumably meaning the opposite of dyspeptic; here it simply makes real achievements seem unconvincing and trivial.
Though some scenes showing the radar masts seem to represent the Purbeck headland around the TRE, the only identifiable local filming is in the finale, which opens with a documentary shot of a VE-Day parade of girl pipers on Poole Quay, followed by 2-3 shots of a large flying boat departing Poole Harbour as two of the boffins head overseas "to blow up Japan."

The Ship That Died Of Shame (Ealing Studios, 1955) (US title Sea Raiders, with 78-minute version retitled PT Raiders)
Directed by Basil Dearden
Set during WW2 and the decade after, this adaptation of a Nicholas Montsarrat story starring George Baker and Richard Attenborough uses Weymouth Quay, Poole Quay [Customs House], plus Poole Harbour to represent various cross-Channel locales.
This adaptation of a short story by ‘Cruel Sea’ author Nicholas Monsarrat is another of those it is difficult to see in a complete [95 mins] version. It’s set initially in WW2, but most of the film is set postwar, including all the location work. (The Richard Attenborough Collection DVD boxset issued by Optimum in July 2008 for £45 included the “UK DVD Premiere” of the film, but this is reportedly an incomplete version in 4:3 ratio.) We see Weymouth Quay; Poole Quay including its Customs House, and the West side of Poole Harbour. Picture Show Annual 1954 gives it as currently being filmed "at Weymouth, Poole, Portsmouth and Gosport." Gosport was home of the MGBs used in the film, and Portsmouth is where the protagonists rediscover "1087." Locally, the film has scenes shot in Poole Harbour (with Brownsea Castle behind), on Weymouth Quay with sightseeing crowds, at Poole Customs House (where Bernard Lee first gets on their trail), and a deserted rendezvous spot evidently on the west side of Poole Harbour. The identity of some locations like the boat scrapyard, and the long jetty where they pick up the murderer in the fog, remain unconfirmed [probably a private jetty on one of the smaller islands where the water is extremely shallow].

The Small Back Room (The Archers, 1949) (US title: Hour Of Glory)
Directed by Emeric Pressburger & Michael Powell
This is a psychological drama famous for its rather downbeat look at the war effort, and for its bomb-defusing finale, where the hero breaks out of his bureaucratic routine, alcoholic stupor and self-pity to tackle a deadly new type of German 'booby trap' bomb. Michael Powell says he made the film specifically to use Chesil Bank as both a location and a story setting. (Although he grew up in Wiltshire, Nigel Balchin uses a fictional locale in his novel.) Stonehenge also appears [in an anti-tank gun trial scene at the start], as does Dorset's now-vanished Abbotsbury Station, and St Catherine's Chapel overlooking Portland and Chesil beach itself, where the bomb-defusing scene takes place.
The title is based on Lord Beaverbrook's nickname "the back room boys" for the boffins who developed special weapons. Nigel Balchin's novel concerns a bad-tempered research scientist [he has a tin foot which hurts] played by David Farrar. He becomes involved in helping a young RE officer tackle a new type of German anti-personnel bomb, as a way of getting directly involved again with the war effort, escaping the endless internecine politics of his semi-official outfit and his own private battle with the bottle, and in general recovering his own confidence and self-respect.
The novel seems set in the London area, with its finale at the fictitious unlocated "Luganporth." Director Michael Powell had grown up in the Bournemouth area and really wanted to make the film for its now-famous bomb-defusing climactic sequence, in which he could exploit the Dorset location he describes in his memoirs as "one of the wonders of the world." The finale was "one of those cinematic pieces de resistance ... [and] I brushed away at once the author's suggestion of a sandy beach. I saw, at once, the great curve of Chesil Beach..."
The 17-minute climactic sequence shows Abbotsbury station, plus the hilltop chapel viewpoint with its vista of Chesil and Portland Bill. Powell concludes, "... I saw in one composite picture eternal England, with the sea never sleeping, the little group in khaki of the Bomb Disposal Squad ... against the beautiful lines of St Catherine's chapel."

The Somme (1927)
Directed by M.A. Wetherell
Another use of troops doing battle drills and other training manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain to depict WWI action, in this case a costly double battle in 1916. (Note: not to be confused with the 1916 documentary The Battle Of The Somme, from which this production may reuse some footage for authenticity.)

Spearhead (Southern TV, 1979-81)
This drama series (described by Halliwell’s TV handbook as “Excellently done”), about a platoon of the fictitious ‘Royal Wessex Rangers’ regiment based at Tidworth in south-east Wiltshire and serving in Hong Kong, Ulster etc, included some ‘home’ scenes set in Wessex, as well as using Wilts to double as Ulster and probably other countries, details unknown. (The series was cancelled when Southern TV lost its franchise, and is not on DVD.)

Spitfire, 1943 - see under The First Of The Few above, plus dedicated page, here.

The Survivors (BBC, 1975)
Several military sites in the area were used in this recently-remade Terry Nation post-catastrophe SF drama where the characters travel around in a Land Rover and the surviving population exist in armed enclaves. In the 3rd and final series, the episode 'Sparks' was shot at the expropriated village of Imber on Salisbury Plain [also seen in John Boorman's 1965 Catch Us If You Can], while 'Long Live the King' used the (abandoned) Piddlehinton Army Camp in central Dorset.

Tenko (BBC/ABC, 1981-4)
The 3 series used different English locations to represent the compound and surrounding area of the women’s Malayan POW camp. (Interiors were shot on video in the studio). To supplement authentic overseas filming in Malaya, the series filmed camp exteriors at an overgrown quarried area near Moreton (a similar area in Surrey was also used), in central Dorset, on the grounds of Warmwell Sand & Gravel's disused quarry. An online commenter has said two camp compounds were actually built here, one at the west end of the quarry and the other at the east end by the Moreton railway bridge, this one being later blown up.

The Triple Echo (Hemdale, 1972) (US title Soldier in Skirts)
Directed by Michael Apted
This tragic story, adapted from an HE Bates novel and starring Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed, set in 1942 on a farm near an army camp, was shot in the Wiltshire Downs. In this antiwar drama of a deserter who disguises himself as a woman to escape the military, the farm which is almost the only setting was (according to a production acccount) in the Wylye Valley [SW of Salisbury], with other scenes shot nearby, along the Wilts-Dorset boundary. The post office may have been the local one in Berwick St James, but the largest interior, the dance hall, is said to have been in Devizes in north Wilts.

Victory (Ministry Of Information, 1942)
Directed by ???
An official MOI propaganda film, made during the dark days of WWII, using the Bovington Tank Range and its collection of vintage tanks (now the basis of the Tank Museum) to demonstrate the use of the tank going back to WWI. The film is not in circulation but is described by local historian Rodney Legg in one of his books: vintage tanks kept at Bovington Tank Museum are put through their paces on the adjacent gunnery ranges to re-enact an early WWI victory showing how the British invention of the tank shortened the First World War. Legg: "It has realistic scenes, shot on the Dorsetshire heaths at Turners Puddle and Gallows Hill." His Dorset At War reproduces a photo, with the caption: "British light tanks are seen advancing under heavy artillery bombardments from the enemy in the war of 1914-18."

The Volunteer (MOI, 1943)
Directed by Michael Powell / Emeric Pressburger
Another official film no longer in circulation, this war-propaganda 45-minute featurette showing classical actor Ralph Richardson joining the Fleet Air Arm reportedly includes footage of the Fleet Air Arm base in The Solent, off Lymington.

Warship (BBC/ABC, 1973-8)
This was a contemporary (ie Cold War era) 39-hour serial, created by ex-RN officer Ian Mackintosh (later creator of The Sandbaggers series). It was about the men of HMS Hero on patrol around the world. Mackintosh convinced the Admiralty to help back the series to show the important work the RN was doing for NATO. The fictitious HMS Hero was portrayed in part by HMS Phoebe, RN frigate F-42 [sold for scrap in 1992], which had been officially "adopted" by Bournemouth. Rodney Legg's Exploring The Heartland Of Purbeck mentions that the series used Studland beach, dressed up with palm trees, to represent a North African beach, and other scenes were reportedly shot nearby, at Portland etc. (e.g. as an unfriendly North-African port in the episode 'A Standing and Jumping War').

The Way Ahead (Two Cities, 1942)
(US: The Immortal Battalion)
Directed by Carol Reed
According to the most recent bio of David Niven, this was filmed on Salisbury Plain, Algeria, and Tunisia [G. Lord, Niv p120], but which scenes are local is not clear. In this tale of the training of an Army platoon, Salisbury Plain portrays itself in a scene of large-scale battle manoeuvres. However it is not clear from viewing the film to where they actually filmed the North Africa battle finale, i.e. if parts of these scenes were also filmed on Salisbury Plain.

You Know What Sailors Are! (GFD, 1953)
Directed by Ken Annakin
In this Cold War service comedy–cum-political-satire, drunken sailors steal part of a pawnbroker's sign and put it on their ship's mast as a trophy, where it is taken as a new secret weapon on a mid-East cruise. Produced by Peter Rogers of Carry-On fame, and directed by Ken Annakin [Those Magnificent Men etc], this is an attempt at treating the Cold War arms race as farce. Though the story sounds like an episode of The Navy Lark, it is from a from a novel called Sylvester, by Edward Hyams, with Donald Sinden here playing Sylvester; there is a brief account of the filming in Sinden’s memoirs. Its local interest is in an early scene showing, in colour, a Portland village street (with its Lord Nelson tavern) and the Naval dockyard. The adjacent Dorset Coast Downs E of Weymouth also appear in the finale showing the new device’s airborne test.

Screenshot from Pearl Harbour, 2001: Dorset is credited as a location. Was it this scene perhaps shot at one of the Portland sea-forts?

Private Schulz
Above: BBC's fact-based satirical drama Private Schulz, which had some exteriors filmed in and around Portland as wartime Germany, and on the Dorset shore as both sides of the Channel coast. (Mouse over image to see 2nd screenshot.)

The Relief Of Belsen


DVD cover for Rogue Male
Above: DVD cover for Rogue Male,1976, shot partly in west Dorset, where the final part of the story takes place. This version makes it clear Hitler was the intended target of the protagonist's unsuccessful assassination attempt, which earlier versions did not.

Saving Private Ryan in Wiltshire
Above: Wheatfield near Avebury, Wiltshire. For Saving Private Ryan, in order to depict the Ryan family farm in the American midwest 'grain belt,' Spielberg had a farmhouse built, somewhere south of Devizes. (Mouse over to see 2nd image)

School For Secrets
Above: publicity still from Peter Ustinov's film School For Secrets, 1946, showing early 'airborne' radar plotting of planes somewhere off the Purbeck coast, a process developed out of research done at the TRE in the Purbeck hills.

Below: Weymouth dock in The Ship That Died Of Shame The Ship That Died Of Shame

Above: The Small Back Room (1949) - testing an anti-tank gun on Salisbury Plain, at Stonehenge.
Below: The Small Back Room - the bomb-defusing final sequence at Chesil Bank. (Mouse over to see 2nd image).

Above: The Small Back Room - Chesil Bank, with some WW2 anti-tank emplacements still visible in the background. (Mouse over to see 2nd image).


Above: It is not clear whether this famous 'Tommies going over the top' shot is genuine Western-front footage, but given the difficulty of getting (amidst machine gun fire) actuality footage with the cumbersome cameras of the day, most commentators suggest it is a simulation filmed on Salisbury Plain - then a common practice. It was used in the 1916 documentary The Battle Of The Somme [at 31 mins in], from which M.A. Wetherell's 1927 documentary-drama hybrid The Somme [qv] likely reuses footage for authenticity.
Below: Bovington tank range on the heathland of central Dorset has been a popular location for film reenactments since at least 1942, when the government made a war-propaganda film called Victory [qv] on the role of the tank. The screen capture below is from a documentary shown at the Bovington Tank Museum and may derive from the 1942 film, which re-enacted scenes of WWI tank action.



The Survivors (BBC 1975): the former Piddlehinton Army Camp in central Dorset was used in the S3 ep 'Long Live the King' as the group's post-catastrophe stronghold. (Mouse over to see 2nd image).

Above: BBC's Tenko had some of its camp exteriors shot locally, with quarries in central Dorset doubling as Malayan scrub jungle.
(Mouse over to see 2nd image)

The Triple Echo
The Triple Echo:
the farmhouse in the Wiltshire Downs; to establish the wartime setting, a pair of Spitfires fly over as Glenda Jackson sets off to shoot rabbits (mouse over to see 2nd image)

Above: HMS Phoebe played 'HMS Hero' in Ian Mackintosh's NATO-Navy 1970s BBC series Warship. The locally adopted frigate Phoebe appeared in exterior shots, with some action scenes filmed off local harbours and beaches, doubling as remote shores.
Below: A screengrab from the 'A Standing And Jumping War' episode showing a near-collision with a hostile gunboat [likely played by a local Coastguard cutter] blockading a North African harbour [played by Portland Harbour].



The Way Ahead
The Way Ahead: Army exercises on Salisbury Plain.


You Know What Sailors Are: the mystery 'weapon'.

Below, foreground right: Fleet Lagoon inside Chesil Bank, where Barnes Wallis filmed his bouncing bomb tests [footage re-used throughout The Dam Busters]. In the haze Portland is just visible in the distance. This overall vista features in The Small Back Room, directed by Michael Powell, who described it as one of the natural wonders of the world. (Mouse over image to see closer shot.)
Fleet Lagoon, bounded by Chesil Bank, where the 'dam busters' bouncing bomb was tested.
Below: the view from the 30-meter long Fort Henry bunker above Studland beach, where in 1944 Ike, Monty, Churchill, and the King watched Exercise Smash, WW2's largest live-firing exercise, part of the preparations for D-Day. Studland was chosen as it resembled the main D-Day beaches.

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