🎥 The Cruel Sea – 1953
The Story …
A voice-over by Lieutenant-Commander George Ericson (Jack Hawkins), a British Merchant Navy officer in the Royal Naval Reserve, declares :
“This is a story of the Battle of the Atlantic, the story of an ocean, two ships, and a handful of men. The men are the heroes; the heroines are the ships. The only villain is the sea, the cruel sea, that man has made more cruel …”
In late 1939, just as war breaks out, Ericson is recalled to the Royal Navy and given command of HMS Compass Rose, a newly built Flower-class corvette intended for convoy escort duties. His sub-lieutenants, Lockhart and Ferraby, are both newly commissioned and without experience at sea.
The new first lieutenant, James Bennett (Stanley Baker), is an abusive martinet …
Despite these initial disadvantages, the ship’s company gains hard experience and becomes an effective fighting unit.
At first their worst enemy is the weather, since German submarines lack the range to attack shipping far into the Atlantic.
With the Fall of France, French ports become available to the Germans and U-boats can attack convoys anywhere in the Atlantic – making bad weather the convoys’ greatest advantage.
Germany is joined in the war by Italy, while the Spanish dictator Franco allows Axis U-boats to use Spanish harbours. The first lieutenant is put ashore due to illness, the junior officers mature and the ship crosses the Atlantic many times escorting convoys, often in brutal weather.
They witness the sinking of many merchant vessels they are charged with protecting and the tragic deaths of merchant navy crewmen. A key scene involves Ericson’s decision to carry out a depth charge attack even though the blast will kill merchant seamen floating in the water.
After close to three years of service, including one U-boat sunk, Compass Rose is herself torpedoed and her crew forced to abandon ship. Most of the crew are lost.
Taking to a couple of liferafts, Ericson survives this ordeal along with his first lieutenant, Lockhart (Donald Sinden), and with the few crew left (including Ferraby) they are picked up the next day.
Ericson is promoted commander, and together with Lockhart, his now-promoted “Number One”, takes command of a new Castle-class frigate, HMS Saltash Castle.
With Ericson leading an anti-submarine escort group they continue the monotonous but vital duty of convoy escort. Late in the war, while serving with the Arctic convoys, they doggedly pursue and sink another U-boat, marked as U-53, Saltash Castle’s only “kill”.
As the war ends the ship is shown returning to port, as guard to a number of German submarines that have surrendered …
- Directed by Charles Frend
- Written by Eric Ambler
- Based on The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat
- Produced by Leslie Norman, Norman Priggen & Michael Balcon (executive producer)
- Cinematography : Gordon Dines
- Edited by Peter Tanner
- Music by Alan Rawsthorne
- Production Company : Ealing Studios
- Distributed by GDF (UK) and Universal-International (US)
- Release Dates : 24 March 1953
- Jack Hawkins as Lieutenant Commander (later Commander) George Ericson, RNR
- Donald Sinden as Sub-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant-Commander) Keith Lockhart, RNVR
- John Stratton as Sub-Lieutenant Gordon Ferraby, RNVR
- Denholm Elliott as Sub-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant) John Morell, RNVR
- John Warner as Sub-Lieutenant Baker, RNVR
- Stanley Baker as Lieutenant James Bennett, RANVR
- Bruce Seton as Petty Officer (later Chief Petty Officer) Bob Tallow (Coxswain)
- Liam Redmond as Chief Engine Room Artificer Jim Watts
- Virginia McKenna as Second Officer Julie Hallam, WRNS
- Moira Lister as Mrs Elaine Morell
- June Thorburn as Mrs Doris Ferraby
- Megs Jenkins as Mrs Gladys Bell (Tallow’s sister)
- Meredith Edwards as Yeoman of Signals Wells
- Glyn Houston as Leading Seaman Phillips
- Alec McCowen as Leading Seaman Tonbridge
- Leo Phillips as Leading Torpedoman Wainwright
- Dafydd Havard as Signalman Rose
- Fred Griffiths as Leading Stoker Gracey
- Laurence Hardy as Leading Radar Mechanic Sellars
- Sam Kydd as Leading Steward Carslake
- John Singer as Stoker Grey
- Barry Steele as Engine Room Artificer Broughton
- Gerard Heinz as Polish Captain
- Gerik Schjelderup as Norwegian Captain
- Gaston Richer as French Captain
- Andrew Cruickshank as Scott-Brown
- Barry Letts as Raikes
- Kenn Kennedy as Allingham
- Harold Goodwin as ASDIC Operator
- George Curzon as Admiral at party
- Anthony Snell as RN Lieutenant
- Ronald Simpson as RN Captain
- Don Sharp as Lieutenant Commander
- Herbert C. Walton as the Waiter
- Jack Howard as a Survivor
- Russell Waters as ARP Warden
- Harold Jamieson as ARP Warden
- Warwick Ashton as Petty Officer Instructor
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