1hr 36mins
Dir: John Dexter
Starring: Nigel Davenport and Lynn Redgrave

Trials of British Army troops on active duty during the Malayan Emergency of 1950

Based on the 1966 comic novel of the same name by Leslie Thomas, this wonderfully ironic war drama was largely shot in Malaya itself, including most of the railway scenes, though the train crash that occurs near the end was filmed on British soil. Using the abandoned Haverhill-Shelford line at Bartlow in Essex, withdrawn ex-LMS Class 5MT ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0 No.44781 was bought by Columbia Pictures and ‘modified’ to look like a Far Eastern locomotive. Equipped with cow-catcher, headlamp, large side tanks (though it retained its tender!) and given the number 531.03, it was ‘derailed’ and positioned in a ditch alongside the wrecked tracks. The Haverhill-Shelford line had closed entirely from 6th March 1967 so Bartlow was already derelict by the time the film crews arrived. Potted palm trees and other foliage were added to make the scene look like a far eastern jungle. The loco meanwhile had merely been placed off-track with great care, as Columbia Pictures thoughtfully believed that the loco could be resold afterwards. It was duly offered for sale by the production team after cessation of filming, and a sale was agreed with a local enthusiast, though the prohibitive costs of removal and transportation eventually saw the loco cut up where it lay. The train was formed of a number of ex LMS Stanier coaches and Derby Lightweight DTCL DMU car E79253, which had its cab end altered to resemble an American open-balcony vehicle painted in an all-over light colour (?), including over some of the windows. It is known to have been taken to Bartlow prior to filming but then it simply disappeared and its fate remains a mystery to this day. Sadly, preservation of early DMU vehicles was of little interest and it would have been seen as an expendable item of little consequence. I have watched the completed version of the movie several times, but I can not identify the vehicle in the wreck scene.

The train wreck that was staged on the Haverhill-Shelford line near Bartlow.
A longer view of the wrecked train. The carriages are likely to have been ‘stage constructions’ made out of plywood judging by their design.
No.44781 sits at an angle in the foreground of this shot
Ex-LMS Class 5MT ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0 No.44781 in its ‘Far East’ guise as No.531.03. Columbia Pictures did a surprisingly good job at making this scene look like the depths of the Malayan jungle. This is in fact the Essex countryside!