A Royal Marine Reserve Major must work with a veteran Captain and a group of incorrigible recruits to attempt what is generally regarded as a suicide mission: the covert destruction of an entire German shipyard in occupied France.Written by
Anthony Hughes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is one of my all time favorite war movies, first saw it in the 1950s. During what I call the "afterglow" of WWII we kids always played "Army" (any kid who didn't was probably considered a "pinko"), anyone who had served in WWII was 10 feet tall in our eyes. I grew up in an Anglophile family, so I was aware of Britain's war effort, and the fact that for nearly a year they carried the Allied war effort by themselves. Naturally when I reached adulthood and read the actual history I found this "Hollywierd" version hoked things up, unnecessarily in my opinion. The actual unit involved was called the RMBPD-Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment, that being a cover name of course. The actual commander was Major H.G. Hasler, nicknamed "Blondie" for his golden tresses (though at age 28, when the action occurs, he was prematurely bald.). Why Hispanic looking ( as he actually was ) Jose Ferrer was cast as Major Hasler-? Though Major Hasler served as a technical adviser to the film and he and Jose Ferrer hit it off, I have seen pictures of them together. The actual raid was called "Operation Frankton", Major Hasler had organized and trained his unit for such deep penetration raids both to inflict material damage on the Germans and to show them there were no safe havens for them. Why the names of the actual men were not used, I don't know, since only Hasler and his canoe mate Marine Sparks made it back to England, the others deserve to be memorialized. The scenes where the prospective members are required to land in German uniforms and then make their way back to the base is pure fiction, as is the Trevor Howard character of the embittered regular officer forced to play second fiddle to what the British call a "Territorial" (Reserve) or HO-Hostilities Only officer. Major Hasler was a career Royal Marine officer, had been on active duty since 1934 or so. I suppose a convention in WWII movies you have the hardened but Wise Old Regular and the Eager But Inexperienced Newcomer. Likewise the scene were one of the officers stand guard while one of the men beats up his cheating wife's paramour-another cliché.
That said, it is a great action movie, see it for that alone, then read the history, the movie will let you visualize the action better and appreciate the bravery of "Our Boys".
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