Dir: Andrew Stone
Starring: Dirk Bogarde and Alfred Lynch
In occupied Europe, a British prisoner of war constantly sabotages the Nazis
This drama is based on John Castle’s 1954 Second World War memoir of the same name and is a light-hearted take on the true story of Sergeant-Major Charles Coward. The film has raised much debate over the years but does contain some excellent railway scenes, elaborate and spectacular for their day. The entire film is set in Nazi-occupied Europe yet was filmed in England. The first railway sequence has Bogarde and his comrades being taken to a POW camp in a train of cattle trucks. As they pass a munitions train, they throw lit straw into the wagons causing a number of spectacular explosions. A number of wooden open plank wagons were destroyed in this scene which was filmed at Scratchwood Sidings, Mill Hill. The POW train is hauled by a BR Fairburn Class 4MT 2-6-4T whilst the munitions train is hauled by a BR Fowler Class 4MT 2-6-4T (almost certainly No.42325 which is used later in the film). In addition to this, the brake van on the rear of the POW train is a Midland design with a ‘German Cross’ on the side. Bogarde is then sent to work in a railway works and repair yard, which is actually Cricklewood Depot, North London. A large number of ex-LMS locomotives are present in these scenes but actual numbers are impossible to discern. Some Fairburn Class 4MT 2-6-4Ts, a Fowler Class 4MT 2-6-4T, a 4F Class 0-6-0, a Class 5MT ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0 and an Ivatt Class 4MT 2-6-0 are all visible. Wagons that can be seen include four-wheeled vans, an ex-LMS brake van, an SR parcels van and some anachronistic BR container vehicles. After this, Bogarde sabotages a goods train, which results in one of the most astonishingly destructive crash scenes ever to involve railway stock in film. The locomotive is BR Fowler Class 4MT 2-6-4T No.42325, withdrawn from service by the time of filming but in steam, fitted with smoke deflectors and with ‘German Cross’ insignia on its side tanks. Hauling a trainload of wagons, it is driven over an embankment at speed with the wagons piling up, around and behind it. The final cut shows that, once the dust has settled, the wagons towards the rear keep ‘pushing forward’, suggesting therefore that a banker on the rear was used to help push the train over the edge. This scene was again filmed at Scratchwood Sidings, Mill Hill, and after the clear up operation was completed, No.42325 was buried where it lay, with urban legend suggesting it remains deep beneath the hard shoulder of the southbound M1 at Scratchwood services! The final railway scene features Bogarde attempting an escape by taking a train journey across Europe. This involves him boarding a train at Radlett station on the Midland Main Line which is hauled by an ex-LMS Class 5MT ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0 and arriving at Brighton station on a train hauled by BR Standard Class 4MT 4-6-0 No.75075. A couple of Southern Region EMU’s are just visible in the background of the scenes filmed at Brighton. All in all, this is a film that provides enjoyment for the railway enthusiast, though the whole remains rather tongue in cheek. The password used incidentally was ‘cleaning cloths’ and not ‘courage’.