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In Which We Serve (1942)

Not Rated | | Drama, War | 23 December 1942 (USA)
This "story of a ship", the British destroyer H.M.S. Torrin, is told in flashbacks by survivors as they cling to a life raft.


Noël Coward (as Noel Coward), David Lean


Noël Coward (by) (as Noel Coward)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Noël Coward ... Capt. E.V. Kinross R.N. - Captain 'D' (as Noel Coward)
John Mills ... Ordinary Seaman Shorty Blake
Bernard Miles ... Chief Petty Officer Walter Hardy
Celia Johnson ... Mrs. Alix Kinross
Kay Walsh ... Freda Lewis
Joyce Carey ... Mrs. Kath Hardy
Derek Elphinstone Derek Elphinstone ... No. 1
Michael Wilding ... Flags
Robert Sansom Robert Sansom ... Guns
Philip Friend ... Torps
Chimmo Branson Chimmo Branson ... Midshipman
Ballard Berkeley ... Engineer Commander
Hubert Gregg ... Pilot
James Donald ... Doc
Michael Whittaker Michael Whittaker ... Sub


This is the story of a British Naval ship, H.M.S. Torrin, from its construction to its sinking in the Mediterranean during action in World War II. The ship's first and only commanding officer is the experienced Captain E.V. Kinross, who trains his men not only to be loyal to him, but to the country, and most importantly, to themselves. They face challenges at sea, and also at home. They lose some of their shipmates in action, and some of their loved ones in the devastation that is the blitz. Throughout it all, the men of the Torrin serve valiantly and heroically. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


You'll Never Forget...In Which We Serve [UK Theatrical] See more »


Drama | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Sir John Mills claimed that Noël Coward wrote the part of Shorty Blake specifically for him in order "to give him a job". See more »


During the scene in which two Army officers returning from Dunkirk join Kinross on the bridge of his ship, the way the cigarette smoke rises betrays the fact this scene was shot indoors. See more »


[first lines]
Narrator: [voiceover] This is the story of a ship...
[long sequence of ship-building and launch]
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Crazy Credits

This film is dedicated to the Royal Navy "whereon under the good providence of God, the wealth, safety and strength of the kingdom chiefly depend". See more »


Featured in Richard Attenborough: A Life in Film (2014) See more »


Good King Wenceslas
Lyrics by John M. Neale
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User Reviews

graphic and moving and a reminder of what war is like from the inside
29 April 2013 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

In Which We Serve (1942)

A curiously different and really moving film about World War II, directed by two top British talents, Noel Coward and David Lean. It's filmed in the thick of the actual naval war and so might be unofficially called a propaganda film. (Though not made by the government, there was a lot of influence and assistance.). It clearly has a sense of presenting the British war effort at its best. But it's also complicated, filled with sadness alongside heroism and, perhaps most of all, selflessness. Both by soldiers and by their women left behind. The war in 1942 was not looking great for the Brits.

Coward co-directs but also is the leading man, and he's an established actor from both film and stage at this point. Lean, whose huge career as a director is all ahead of him, is in charge of the action sequences and this is his first attempt at directing--for which he won awards. If there is a sentimental side to some of the Coward directed scenes it's partly because of when it was shot. Try to imagine the audience suffering from bombings and having their loved ones in battle. We see it now with very different eyes.

In fact, it is hard to imagine how a wife or mother could watch this at all. The basic structure is that the ship goes out to sea with a bunch of men and then disaster strikes, and the rest of the movie is a series of flashbacks to the home lives of the men, and to the women who are dreading seeing their men go off to sea. It's actually about the very sadness of the people sitting in the audience.

The filming is rather different between the two directors. Coward understands a traditional kind of culture well, with conversation and interpersonal nuance. Lean captures a more direct emotional energy, and lots of vivid action. Normally two directors means problems, but here it's divided naturally.

Eventually the movie wears its formula, back and forth with flashbacks, pretty hard. But it's so well done you don't much mind. An emotional, finely seen movie, and surprisingly valid even now.

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Release Date:

23 December 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

In Which We Serve See more »


Box Office


GBP240,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Sound System)


Black and White (archive footage)| Black and White

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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