One of Our Aircraft Is Missing


`One of Our Aircraft is Missing' begins dramatically with the crash of an RAF Vickers Wellington bomber designated `B-For Bertie', and then flashes back to the events leading thereto. The viewer is introduced to the six members of crew, and learns that they had actually bailed out of their crippled aircraft prior to the crash, landing in Nazi-occupied Holland. The remainder of the story describes their escape back to Britain.

One of Our Aircraft is Missing is a 1942 British war film, the fourth collaboration between the Cinema of the United Kingdom writer-director-producer team of Powell and Pressburger and the first film they made under the banner of Powell and Pressburger. Although considered a wartime propaganda film, and made under the authority of the Ministry of Information (United Kingdom) as part of a series of film productions specifically aimed at morale in the United Kingdom, the story and production values elevated it from the usual jingoistic fare. Today, One of Our Aircraft is Missing is considered one of the "best of British films of the era."
A reversal of the plot of Powell and Pressburger's previous film, 49th Parallel (film) (1941), One of Our Aircraft is Missing has the British trying to escape with the help of various local people. In the 49th Parallel, the Nazi Germany stranded in Canada argued and fought amongst themselves, while the British fliers in this film work well together as a team.


"B for Bertie" is a Royal Air Force Vickers Wellington bomber whose crew was forced to bail out over the Netherlands near the Zuider Zee after one of their engines was damaged during a nighttime raid on Stuttgart. Five of the six airmen find each other; the sixth goes missing. The first Dutch citizens they encounter, led by English-speaking schoolteacher Else Meertens (Pamela Brown), are suspicious at first as no aircraft is reported to have crashed in the Netherlands (the abandoned bomber actually reaches England before hitting a pylon). After much debate and some questioning, the Dutch agree to help, despite their fear of German reprisals.
Accompanied by many of the Dutch, the disguised airmen, led by the pilots (Hugh Burden and Eric Portman), bicycle through the countryside to a football match where they are passed along to the local burgomeister (Hay Petrie). To their bemusement, they discover their missing crewman playing on one of the teams. Reunited, they hide in a truck carrying supplies to Jo de Vries (Googie Withers).
De Vries pretends to be pro-German, blaming the British for killing her husband in a bombing raid (whereas he is actually in England working as a radio announcer). She hides them in her mansion, despite the Germans being garrisoned there. Under cover of an air raid, she leads them to a rowing boat. The men row undetected to the sea, but a bridge sentry finally spots them and a shot seriously wounds the oldest man, Sir George Corbett (Godfrey Tearle). Nevertheless, they reach the North Sea. They take shelter in a German Rescue buoy#World War II rescue buoy, where they take two shot-down enemy aviators prisoner, but not before one sends a radio message. By chance, two British boats arrive first. Because Corbett cannot be moved, they simply tow the buoy back to England. Three months later, he is fully recovered, and the crew board their new four-engine heavy bomber.
The attitude of the Dutch people towards the Nazi occupation is exemplified by two Dutch women who help the airmen at great personal risk to themselves and these explain why the Dutch were willing to help Allied airmen even though those same airmen were sometimes dropping bombs on the Netherlands and killing Dutch people:
<blockquote>Else Meertens: Do you think that we Hollanders who threw the sea out of our country will let the Germans have it? Better the sea.</blockquote>

<blockquote>Jo de Vries: [Speaking to the downed aircrew as RAF bombers approach]<br />You see. That's what you're doing for us. Can you hear them running for shelter? Can you understand what that means to all the occupied countries? To enslaved people, having it drummed into their ears that the Germans are masters of the Earth. Seeing those masters running for shelter. Seeing them crouching under tables. And hearing that steady hum night after night. That noise which is oil for the burning fire in our hearts.
{| class="wikitable" width="65%"
|- bgcolor="#CCCCCC"
! Actor !! Role
|Hugh Burden || John Glyn Haggard, pilot of B for Bertie
|Eric Portman || Tom Earnshaw, second pilot
|Hugh Williams || Frank Shelley, observer/navigator
|Emrys Jones (actor) || Bob Ashley, wireless operator
|Bernard Miles || Geoff Hickman, front gunner
| Godfrey Tearle || Sir George Corbett, rear gunner
|Googie Withers || Jo de Vries
|Joyce Redman || Jet van Dieren
|Pamela Brown (actress) || Else Meertens
|Peter Ustinov || Priest
|Alec Clunes || Organist
|Hay Petrie || Burgomaster
|Roland Culver || Naval Officer
|David Ward || First German Airman
|Robert Duncan || Second German Airman
|Selma Vaz Dias || Burgomaster's wife (as Selma Van Dias)
|Arnold Marlé || Pieter Sluys
|Robert Helpmann || De Jong
|Hector Abbas || Driver
|James B. Carson || Louis
|Willem Akkerman || Willem
|Joan Akkerman || Maartje
|Peter Schenke || Hendrik
|Valerie Moon || Jannie
|John Salew || German Sentry
|William D'Arcy || German Officer
|Robert Beatty || Sgt. Hopkins
|Michael Powell<br>(taking a turn as an actor) || Despatching Officer
|Stewart Rome || Cmdr. Reynold


The title "One of Our Aircraft Is Missing" is taken from a phrase that was often heard in contemporary news reports in the UK after a bombing raid, "one [or often more] of our aircraft failed to return", which originally served as the working title of the screenplay but was then altered to a less-downbeat form.
To maintain an aura of authenticity, actual RAF bombers on "ops" (operations) were filmed but the key aerial scenes of the bombing of Stuttgart, Germany was created using a large-scale model at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith. The giant Wellington replica actually covered the entire studio floor and was rigged with lights and fitted for effects shots including explosions. On screen, the effect was striking and realistically duplicated the flight and bombing raid carried out at the start of the film.
The film was cut by 20 minutes for its original American release.< name=Britmovie />


The film received two Academy Award nominations, Powell and Pressburger for Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay, and Ronald Neame (photography) and C. C. Stevens (sound) for Academy Award for Visual Effects.
In 2014 the film was included in a set of war film packaged together and sold to raise
funds for The Royal British Legion veterans organization.<></>

In popular culture

The film is mentioned in the Dad's Army episode "The Lion Has Phones." When Lance-Corporal Jones tries to ring up Headquarters#Military, he mistakenly gets the cinema, whose operator tells him the film is on. There is a mention of Eric Portman and Googie Withers. A poster for the film is on display at the cinema.
A title in the form of "One of Our X Is Missing" has been used in film and other media as homage, parody, or to invoke a mood. Many of the times it is used, it isn't clear if it's a erence to the film or to the well known wartime phrase. Examples include: Jasper Fforde's 2011 novel One of our Thursdays is Missing; a Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "One of Our Planets Is Missing"; the final episode of the US television series Maverick (TV series), titled "One of Our Trains Is Missing"; the episode "One of Our Assemblymen is Missing" from the US sitcom Green Acres; the episode "Two of Our Weirdos Are Missing" from the US sitcom Laverne & Shirley; a 1991 text adventure game by Zenobi called One of Our Wombats is Missing; Hogan's Heroes episode "Some of Their Planes Are Missing" (and the phrase was often used in some form as a joke on the show); and a 1975 British comedy film titled One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing, which included Peter Ustinov and Hugh Burden in the cast. They were also both in One of Our Aircraft Is Missing.
Image:One of our aircraft.JPG



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  • Barr, Charles, ed. All Our Yesterdays: 90 Years of British Cinema. London: British Film Institute, 1986. ISBN 0-85170-179-5.
  • Clarke, James. War Films (Virgin Film Series). London: Virgin Books Ltd., 2006. ISBN 978-0-753510-940.
  • Dolan, Edward F. Jr. Hollywood Goes to War. London: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-86124-229-7.
  • Hardwick, Jack and Ed Schnepf. "A Viewer's Guide to Aviation Movies". The Making of the Great Aviation Films, General Aviation Series, Volume 2, 1989.
  • Macnab, Geoffrey. J. Arthur Rank and the British Film Industry. London: Routledge, 1993. ISBN 978-0-41507-272-4.
  • Murphy, Robert. British Cinema and the Second World War. London: Continuum, 2000. ISBN 0-8264-5139-X.
  • Powell, Michael. A Life in Movies: An Autobiography. London: Heinemann, 1986. ISBN 0-434-59945-X.

Category:1942 films
Category:1940s war films
Category:Black-and-white films
Category:British films
Category:British war films
Category:British aviation films
Category:British World War II propaganda films
Category:World War II films made in wartime
Category:Denham Film Studios films
Category:Directorial debut films
Category:Films about shot-down aviators
Category:Films set in the Netherlands
Category:Films by Powell and Pressburger
John Corfield, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

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