🎥 In Which We Serve – 1942

The Story …

The film opens with the narration: “This is the story of a ship”. In 1941 HMS Torrin engages German transports in a night-time action during the Battle of Crete but at dawn the destroyer comes under attack from German bombers.

A critical hit forces the crew to abandon ship as it rapidly capsizes. Some of the officers and ratings manage to find a Carley float while being intermittently strafed by German planes.

The story of the ship is told in flashback, using their memories. The first person to reveal his thoughts is Captain Kinross, who recalls the summer of 1939 when the Torrin is being rushed into commission as the possibility of war becomes a near certainty …

The Torrin spends a quiet Christmas in the north of Scotland during the Phoney War but in 1940 it fights its first engagement during the Battle of Narvik. During the action the ship is struck by a torpedo. The damaged Torrin is towed back to port, all the time being harried by dive bombers.

Safely back in harbour, Captain Kinross tells the assembled ship’s company that during the battle nearly all the crew performed as he would expect but one man did not. However he surprises everyone when he says that he let him off with a caution as he feels that, as captain, he failed to make him understand his duty.

Returning to the present, the float survivors watch the capsized Torrin take on water and slowly sink. The raft is again strafed by German planes and some men are killed or wounded. Shorty Blake recalls in flashback how he met his wife-to-be, Freda, on a train while on leave. She is related to the Torrin’s affable Chief Petty Officer Hardy. When both men return to sea, Freda moves in with Hardy’s wife and mother-in-law.

The Torrin participates in the Dunkirk evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (portrayed in the film by the 5th Battalion of the Coldstream Guards). Blake gets a letter to say that Freda has given birth to his son during the Plymouth Blitz but that Hardy’s wife and mother-in-law were killed. He has to tell Hardy, who is writing a letter home, the bitter news.

The survivors on the life raft watch the Torrin finally sink. Captain Kinross leads a final “three cheers” for the Torrin. A British destroyer soon begins rescuing the men. Captain Kinross talks to the survivors and collects addresses from the dying.

Telegrams are sent to the crew’s loved ones. Kinross addresses the ship’s survivors in a military depot in Alexandria in Egypt. He tells them that although they lost their ship and many friends, who now “lie together in fifteen hundred fathoms”, he notes that these losses should inspire them to fight even harder in the battles to come.

Captain Kinross then shakes hands with all the ratings as they leave the depot. When the last man goes, the emotionally tired captain silently acknowledges his surviving officers before walking away.

An epilogue concludes : bigger and stronger ships are being launched to avenge the Torrin; Britain is an island nation with a proud, indefatigable people; Captain Kinross is now in command of a battleship. Its massive main guns fire at the enemy.

Credits :

  • Directed by Noël Coward and David Lean (action scenes)
  • Written by Noël Coward
  • Produced by Noël Coward
  • Narrated by Leslie Howard
  • Cinematography : Ronald Neame
  • Edited by Thelma Connell and David Lean
  • Music by Noël Coward and Clifton Parker
  • Distributed by British Lion Films
  • Release Date : 17 September 1942

Cast :

  • Noël Coward as Captain E. V. Kinross
  • Bernard Miles as Chief Petty Officer Walter Hardy
  • John Mills as Ordinary Seaman Shorty Blake
  • Celia Johnson as Alix Kinross
  • Joyce Carey as Kath Hardy
  • Kay Walsh as Freda Lewis
  • Michael Wilding as Flags
  • Derek Elphinstone as No 1
  • Leslie Dwyer as Parkinson
  • James Donald as Doc
  • Philip Friend as Torps
  • Frederick Piper as Edgecombe
  • Richard Attenborough as Young Stoker (originally uncredited)
  • Kathleen Harrison as Mrs Blake
  • George Carney as Mr Blake
  • Daniel Massey as Bobby Kinross
  • Ann Stephens as Lavinia Kinross
  • Walter Fitzgerald as Colonel Lumsden
  • Hubert Gregg as Pilot
  • Penelope Dudley-Ward as Maureen
  • Juliet Mills as Shorty Blake’s baby

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