The Sea Shall Not Have Them

The Sea Shall Not Have Them is a 1954 British war film starring Michael Redgrave, Dirk Bogarde and Anthony Steel. It was directed by Lewis Gilbert and is based on the 1953 novel by John Harris, about a North Sea rescue during the Second World War. The musical soundtrack is by composer Malcolm Arnold.

The Sea Shall Not Have Them
The Sea Shall Not Have Them 1954.jpg
VHS movie cover
Directed byLewis Gilbert
Produced byDaniel M. Angel
Written byLewis Gilbert
Vernon Harris
StarringMichael Redgrave
Dirk Bogarde
Anthony Steel
Nigel Patrick
Music byMalcolm Arnold
CinematographyStephen Dade
Edited byRussell Lloyd
Angel Productions
Distributed byEros Films (UK)
United Artists (USA)
Release date
30 November 1954
Running time
91 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom

The film title is the motto of the Royal Air Force's Air Sea Rescue Service.[1]


It is the autumn of 1944. Allied armies are sweeping through France towards Germany. A British Lockheed Hudson has been damaged in aerial combat with a German Messerschmitt, with both aircraft ditching in the North Sea, twenty miles off the Dutch coast. The four crew from the British aircraft are unable to send a complete mayday alert, although a signal fragment reaches England. Among them is Air Commodore Waltby (Michael Redgrave) who has a briefcase containing secret German plans related to rocketry. Flight Sergeant Mackay (Dirk Bogarde) assumes a leading role in the rescue dinghy, tying everyone together to prevent anyone falling overboard, and sharing his boots with the pilot despite the cold. As the weather closes in and a freezing cold night descends, aircraft suspend their search, leaving the now waterlogged dinghy to face the sea alone. Cryptically, Waltby orders the crew members that if he dies, they must get the briefcase to London or throw it overboard should they face capture.

An RAF Air Sea Rescue sea launch is deployed to the search. Commanded by Flying Officer Treherne (Anthony Steel), Launch 2561, or "Sixty One" in radio signals, struggles against the bad weather, mechanical problems and a fire in the galley. Second in command, Flight Sergeant Singsby (Nigel Patrick) dominates the crew, playing a benevolent but demanding hand with the questionable seamanship of junior ranks. On the second day, updated intelligence about the dinghy's likely location is received from the downed German Messerschmitt pilot, who the RAF has since rescued. RAF Air Sea Rescue is now aware the dinghy has drifted inshore, far from its ditching point. As the weather clears, "Sixty One" sights the dinghy and approaches for rescue, negotiating fire from enemy shore batteries and a mine field. Launch 2561 safely returns to England where the briefcase with secret documents is delivered. An injured Flying Officer Treherne and Flight Sergeant Mackay are applauded by senior officers.



The film was based on a 1953 book by John Harris which became a best seller.[2][3] The book was a best seller.[4]

In August 1953 it was announced both Rank and ABPC were competing for the film rights which were expected to go for $20,000.[5]

Producer Dan Angel arranged one of the strongest male casts of the era.[6] It was one of a number of sea-related themes made in Britain following the success of The Cruel Sea.[7] It was one of a number of war movies Anthony Steel made where he was in support of an older British star.[8]

There were six weeks filming on location at Felixstowe followed by studio work at Riverside.[9]

Referring to the film's title, Noël Coward said of the film's two male stars, "I don't see why not. Everyone else has."[10] Redgrave was reportedly bisexual, while Bogarde was homosexual.[10]

The film was shot in Riverside Studios, and Felixstowe, Suffolk. Filiming finished by June 1954.[11]


Variety said the film "has several basic ingredients of a boxoffice success; tough but believable plot, a cast too big for the average theatre marquee and exciting action sequences in the climax when the missing air crew is picked up with- in range of enemy shore batteries."[12]

The film performed poorly at the US box office, like most British war movies of this era.[13]


  1. ^ "INCIDENT IN THE CHANNEL". The Beaudesert Times. XXXVI (1835). Queensland, Australia. 1 October 1943. p. 1. Retrieved 22 September 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ "BOOKS GEOFFREY HUTTON reviews his pick of this week's new novels". The Argus (Melbourne) (33, 369). Victoria, Australia. 15 August 1953. p. 11 (The Argus Weekender). Retrieved 22 September 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ "The News BOOK REVIEWS". News. 61 (9, 406). South Australia. 2 October 1953. p. 19. Retrieved 22 September 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ All English Letter on Books and Then Authors By V. S. PRITCHETTLONDON. New York Times 13 Sep 1953: BR18.
  5. ^ "London Film Notes". Variety. 5 August 1953. p. 15.
  6. ^ "PRODUCER'S SUCCESS STORY". The Sun (13760). New South Wales, Australia. 18 March 1954. p. 46 (LATE FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved 22 September 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "BRITAIN LAUNCHES MORE SEA FILMS". The Mail (Adelaide). 44 (2, 209). South Australia. 9 October 1954. p. 56. Retrieved 22 September 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ Vagg, Stephen (23 September 2020). "The Emasculation of Anthony Steel: A Cold Streak Saga". Filmink.
  9. ^ "Special Effects Rule the Waves at Riverside". Kine Wekly. 13 May 1954. p. 22.
  10. ^ a b The Guardian: Sexy self-image that revved up Dirk Bogarde
  11. ^ A. H. Weiler (13 June 1954). "By Way of Report: Disney Cameramen to Go to Far Places For New Nature Studies -- Addenda". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Review of film at Variety
  13. ^ "British War Themes Disappoint". Variety. 8 August 1956. p. 7.

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