In Which We Serve


Based on the true story of Lord Mountbatten's destroyer, the film unfolds in flashback as survivors cling to a dinghy, and interweaves the history of their ship with the onshore lives of her crew. Hope someone uploads a better copy! Noel Coward produced, wrote the screenplay, composed the score, and starred as Captain Edward Kinross. Coward also officially codirected, though he handed the reigns to David Lean (his directorial debut). Also stars: John Mills, Bernard Miles, Celia Johnson, Kay Walsh, and Joyce Carey IMDb Page Wikipedia Page

In Which We Serve is a 1942 Cinema of the United Kingdom patriotic war film directed by Noël Coward. It was made during the Second World War with the assistance of the Ministry of Information (United Kingdom).< name="book"></>
The screenplay by Coward was inspired by the exploits of Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who was in command of the destroyer when it was sunk during the Battle of Crete.
Coward composed the film's music as well as starring in the film as the ship's captain. The film also starred John Mills, Bernard Miles, Celia Johnson and in his first screen role, Richard Attenborough.<!---He was born in 1923--->
In Which We Serve received the full backing of the Ministry of Information< name="book"/> which offered advice on what would make good propaganda and facilitated the release of military personnel. The film remains a classic example of wartime British cinema through its patriotic imagery of national unity and social cohesion within the context of the war.< name="book"/>


The film opens with the narration: "This is the story of a ship" and the images of shipbuilding in a British dockyard. The action then moves forward in time showing the ship, HMS Torrin, engaging German transports in a night-time engagement during the Battle of Crete in 1941. However when dawn breaks, the destroyer comes under aerial attack from German bombers.
Eventually the little ship receives a critical hit following a low-level pass. The crew's company abandon ship as it rapidly capsizes. Some of the Naval officer and Naval rating manage to find a Carley float as the survivors are intermittently strafed by passing German planes. From here, the story is told in flashback using the memories of the men on the float. The first person to reveal his thoughts is Captain Kinross (Coward), who thinks back to the summer of 1939 when the Royal Navy destroyer Her Majesty's Ship Torrin is being rushed into commission as the possibility of war becomes a near certainty.
The ship's company spends a relatively quiet Christmas in the north of Scotland during the Phoney War. But by 1940, the Torrin is taking part in Battle of Narvik off the coast of Norway. However during the action, a young terrified sailor (Attenborough) leaves his station, while another rating (Mills) returns to work his gun after its crew is knocked unconscious by a torpedo strike on the ship. With the Torrin damaged it 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; however one man didn't. But he tells everyone present they may be surprised to know that he let him off with a caution as he feels as Captain he failed to make the young man understand his duty.
The film then returns to the present as the survivors watch the capsized Torrin slowly take on water. It becomes clear that the badly damaged ship will sink. Once again, the raft is Strafing by German planes. Some men are killed, and "Shorty" Blake (Mills) is wounded. This leads to a flashback in which Mills remembers how he met his wife-to-be, Freda, on a train while on leave. It is also revealed, she is related to the Torrin's affable Chief Petty Officer Hardy (Miles). When the men return to sea, Freda moves in with CPO Hardy's wife and mother-in-law.
The Torrin participates in the Operation Dynamo of the British Expeditionary Force (World War II), (portrayed in the film by the 5th Battalion of the Coldstream Guards). Meanwhile the nightly The Blitz is taking its toll on British towns. Blake gets a letter from home to say that Freda has given birth to his son during a raid. However the letter goes onto tell him that Hardy's wife and her mother were killed in the same attack. Stoically he goes up to the Petty Officers' Mess and tells Hardy the bad news.
The flashback ends as the survivors on the life raft watch the capsized Torrin finally sink. Captain Kinross leads a final "three cheers" for the Torrin when suddenly another passing German plane rakes the raft with machine gun fire, killing and wounding more men. Soon after, a British destroyer appears and begins to rescue the men. On board, Captain Kinross talks to the survivors and collects addresses from the dying. He tells the young man who once left his post that he will write and tell the boy's parents that they can be proud that he did his duty; the critically injured young man smiles and dies peacefully.
From here, the stories run concurrently until the end of the film. Telegrams are sent to relatives informing them about the fate of their husbands, sons and fathers.
Captain Kinross and the ninety surviving members of the crew are taken to Alexandria in Egypt. Wearing a mixture of odd clothing and standing in a military depot, Captain Kinross tells them that although they lost their ship and many friends, who now "lie together in fifeen-hundred fathoms", he notes that these losses should inspire them to fight even harder in the battles to come. The ship's company is then told they are to be broken up and sent as replacements to other ships that have lost men. Captain Kinross then shakes hands with all the ratings as they leave the depot. When the last man goes, the emotionally tired captain turns to his remaining officers, silently acknowledges them and walks away.
An epilogue then 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. It fires its massive main guns against the enemy.


  • 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
  • Michael Wilding (actor) as Flags
  • Leslie Dwyer as Parkinson
  • James Donald as Doc
  • Philip Friend as Torps
  • Richard Attenborough as Young Stoker
  • Joyce Carey as Kath Hardy
  • Kay Walsh as Freda Lewis
  • Kathleen Harrison as Mrs. Blake
  • Daniel Massey (actor) as Bobby Kinross
  • Juliet Mills as Shorty Blake's baby


Shortly after his play Blithe Spirit (play) opened in the West End in July 1941, Noël Coward was approached by Anthony Havelock-Allan, who was working with the production company Two Cities Films. Its founder, Filippo Del Giudice, was interested in making a propaganda film and wanted someone well known to write the screenplay.

=Screenplay development=

Coward agreed to work on the project as long as the subject was the Royal Navy and he was given complete control.
As the sinking of on 23 May 1941 was still on Coward's mind, he decided to use the ship's demise as the basis for his script. Mountbatten, aware that there was some public antipathy to his political ambitions, agreed to support the project as long as it was not a conspicuous biography of his own experiences. In order to do research, Coward visited the HMNB Devonport in Plymouth, where Michael Redgrave, with whom he was involved in a relationship at the time, was stationed. He also visited Portsmouth and the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, where he sailed on .</>

=Pre-production roles=

Coward was determined to portray Captain Kinross in the film, despite the studio's concern that his public "dressing gown and cigarette-holder" persona might make it difficult for audiences to accept him in the role of a tough navy man. Havelock-Allan supported him, although he later called his performance "always interesting, if not quite convincing." Coward also needed to convince the censors that the sinking of the ship was a crucial scene and not the threat to public morale they perceived it to be. At one point he invited the royal family to the set and newsreel footage of their visit proved to be good publicity for the film.
During the filming, the character of Albert Fosdike, "Shorty" Blake's brother-in-law, was recast after actor William Hartnell turned up late for his first day of shooting. Coward berated Hartnell in front of cast and crew for his unprofessionalism. He then made him personally apologise to everyone before firing him. Michael Anderson (director), the film's First Assistant Director took over the part (credited as "Mickey Anderson").< name=h326/>
Coward was anxious that it succeed, not only because it was his first film project, but because he felt it was his contribution to the war effort and he wanted it to be perceived as such by the public. The première was a gala event held as a benefit for several naval charities and Coward was pleased to see a large presence of military personnel.< name=h326/>


Interiors were filmed at Denham Studios, in Denham, Buckinghamshire. The Kinross family picnic scene, set during the Battle of Britain in 1940, was filmed on location on the Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire.
Although the film makers took great care to conceal locations, some of the final scenes were shot at Plymouth's HMNB Devonport in Devon and the naval station on the Isle of Portland. Likewise, although never mentioned, Smeaton's Tower on the seafront at Plymouth Hoe, was used for the leave ashore scenes between "Shorty" Blake (Mills) and his wife Freda (Kay Walsh).
The destroyer was used to represent HMS Torrin.<></>



Bosley Crowther of The New York Times observed, "There have been other pictures which have vividly and movingly conveyed in terms of human emotion the cruel realities of this present war. None has yet done it so sharply and so truly as In Which We Serve...&nbsp;For the great thing which Mr. Coward has accomplished in this film is a full and complete expression of national fortitude&nbsp;... Yes, this is truly a picture in which the British may take a wholesome pride and we may regard as an excellent expression of British strength."

=Naval response=

Despite largely positive reviews by audiences and critics alike, the film was not well received by some within the Admiralty who dubbed it "In Which We Sink".< name="Mountbatten"></>

=Awards and nominations=

On Christmas Eve 1942 in New York, the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures honoured the film as the National Board of Review Awards 1942 citing Bernard Miles and John Mills for their performances.
The film was nominated in the 1943 Academy Awards for Academy Award for Best Picture and Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay (losing out to Casablanca (film) and Princess O'Rourke respectively). However Coward was presented with an Academy Honorary Award for "his outstanding production achievement."
In Which We Serve also won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film (beating Casablanca (film)) and the Argentine Film Critics Association Awards in 1943.

=Home media=

A DVD region code DVD with a running time of 96 minutes was released by Carlton Communications on 11 October 1999. A Region 1 DVD was released as part of the David Lean Collection by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on 7 September 2004. It features subtitles in English, Spanish and French and an English audio track in Dolby Digital 1.0. In March 2012, The Criterion Collection released "In Which We Serve" on Blu-ray and DVD as part of the "David Lean Directs Noel Coward" Box Set, which includes a short documentary on the making of In Which We Serve.<></>

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    Category:1942 films
    Category:British films
    Category:British drama films
    Category:1940s drama films
    Category:1940s war films
    Category:Black-and-white films
    Category:World War II films made in wartime
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    Category:Royal Navy in World War II films
    Category:Films directed by David Lean
    Category:Films directed by Noël Coward
    Category:Directorial debut films
    Category:Two Cities Films films
    Category:British Lion Films films
    Category:United Artists films
    Category:Battle of Crete
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    Noel Coward, Anthony Havelock-Allan, and Herbert Smith

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