Cockleshell Heroes

Date: 1955
Director: José Ferrer
Production Company: Warwick Film Productions

Stars: José Ferrer, Dora Bryan, Trevor Howard, Victor Maddern, Anthony Newley, Sydney Tafler, Gladys Henson, Christopher Lee, Sam Kydd
Location(s): Hampshire, London, Surrey

Region(s): , ,

Storyline:

A Royal Marine Reserve Major must work with a veteran Captain and a group of incorrigible recruits to attempt what is generally regarded as a suicide mission: the covert destruction of an entire German shipyard in occupied France.

Additional Information:

Screen captures uploaded by Phil Wilkinson

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At a critical stage of the war, fast Merchant ships operating from Bordeaux were seriously endangering the British blockade. This is the former staff quarters building at the Royal Marine Artillery Barracks in Eastney, Hampshire.

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For political reasons saturation bombing was rejected: the Navy was unable to penetrate the defences without air cover. The Royal Marines were given the job. Through the archway can be seen the barracks’ Clock Tower.

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Captain Hugh Thompson RM (Trevor Howard) is greeted warmly when he arrives in Portsmouth. Clocktower Drive now runs through the archway at the former Eastney Barracks.

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The Captain is told about Major Stringer whilst viewing the base. The parade ground at Eastney Barracks.

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A car arrives at the guardhouse. Through the gateway stands The Royal Marine Artillery Tavern at the corner of Cromwell Road and Tokar Street in Eastney, Southsea, Hampshire.

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Having been arrested for canoeing in a restricted area, Major Geoffrey Stringer RM (José Ferrer) reports for duty. Inside the Main Gate of the Royal Marines’ Eastney Barracks on Cromwell Road, Southsea.

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The Corporal of the Guard takes Major Stringer to his offices where Captain Thompson is waiting.

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Sergeant Craig RM (Victor Maddern) introduces himself to the men who have volunteered for hazardous service.

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The marines respond to their names. Corporal Stevens (Peter Arne), Marine Bradley (John Van Eyssen), Marine Wilby, Marine Clarke (Anthony Newley), Marine Newville, Marine Steadman, Marine Vanner, Marine Hodgson, Marine Todd (Robert Desmond) . . .

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Major Stringer's car approaches the parade.

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After being interviewed by the Major, Marine George Ruddock (David Lodge) and Marine Lomas (Percy Herbert) listen as Clarke jokingly questions his own motives.

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During an exercise in which the men are dropped almost 400 miles from the barracks dressed as enemy soldiers, Major Stringer enters a darkened garden in search of transport.

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In an outhouse, the Major finds and takes a bicycle.

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Waiting for an approaching goods train, Marine Booth (Graham Stewart) climbs onto a bridge parapet. Facing north on Chertsey Road to the north of Addlestone in Surrey.

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As the train passes, Booth jumps into an open wagon. The railway line running beneath Chertsey and Addlestone passes beneath the bridge carrying Chertsey Road.

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Having removed the enemy uniform, Ruddock runs through the streets in his underclothes. Looking south towards the junction of Charlton Road and Marion Avenue, Shepperton in Surrey.

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Marine Cooney (John Fabian) thumbs a lift from a truck.

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Ruddock approaches a Milkman making deliveries.

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The marine steals a pint of milk as he passes the float.

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Taking time out from the initiative test, Clarke pays a visit to Myrtle, an old flame who is not pleased to see him.

Elsewhere, level crossing gates swing against the roadway. Located by James Churcher, this looking north from the level crossing at Fort Brockhurst station on Military Road, Gosport in Hampshire. The station closed in 1953.

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James Churcher's modern view shows the railway's route as a cycle-way.

On his cycle, Major Stringer stops alongside the truck in which Cooney is sitting. Military Road from Fort Brockhurst station crossing identified by James Churcher.

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Military Road looking north captured by James.

The Truck Driver (Sam Kydd) watches as the two marines glance at each other in silence. James Churcher recognised Station Road at the junction with Military Road in Gosport.

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James took a similar shot without foreground interest but the houses are just visible behind the trees and bushes and the sign reads Station Road.

A locomotive pulling a parcel van passes over the crossing. James Churcher tells us that this is a Drummond class T9 passing through Fort Brockhurst.

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Fortunately the station building and the platform remain as can be seen in this picture by James.

The gates open and the truck pulls away, with Major Stringer concealed in the load. Turning on to Military Road from Station Road, Gosport, Hampshire with Fort Brockhurst station to the left. Location found by James Churcher.

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The station building survived the lines closure but the track did not. James provides this image of the location now.

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Walking past a sign calling for blood donors, Lomas has an idea.

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Ruddock jogs over a footbridge alongside a ford. The River Ash crossing Charlton Road by ford in Shepperton, Surrey.

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The marine curses after being drenched when a car speeds through the ford. Charlton Road was truncated when the M3 was built and renamed Nutty Lane.

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The truck conveying Major Stringer and Cooney slows down when nearing a pub. The Four Horse Shoes public house at Burrow Hill Green, Chobham in Surrey with Burrow Hill House to the right.

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Cooney and the Driver get out of the cab and enter the pub. Outside the Four Horse Shoes, Burrow Hill Green.

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While the two are having a drink, Stringer takes the truck. The Four Horse Shoes in Chobham near Woking.

Getting tired, Ruddock struggles on. Looking onto Chertsey station from Railway Approach bridge in Chertsey, Surrey. The bridge was replaced in 1994 and the road diverted.

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And this is the view from Bell Bridge which takes Bell Bridge Road over the railway. (PW)

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The Major arrives at the station just as the Portsmouth train is about to leave. Shepperton station on Station Approach off Green Lane in Shepperton.

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Ruddock runs into a gentleman’s convenience. This is opposite Docklands Street on Albert Road in London E16.

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Suitably relieved, Ruddock carries on running. The footbridge crosses the railway from Albert Road to Store Road just west of North Woolwich station. The railway closed in December 2006 and the area has been redeveloped with a road taking the bridge’s place.

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Clarke nears a costume hire shop where he spots a uniform in the window.

A staff car brings Ruddock into London. Facing Parliament Square from Great George Street SW1 with the Houses of Parliament in the background.

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Peter captured the now busier location.

Impressed by Ruddock's apparent stamina the WVS Driver (Judith Furse) says farewell. Great George Street with Little George Street to the right. The location was seen in ‘The Odd Job’, ‘On the Double’ and ‘High Treason’.

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This is Peter's shot of the same location.

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Major Stringer is the first to arrive at the barracks. Eastney Barracks on Portsea Island, Portsmouth. The barracks closed in 1995.

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After giving four pints of blood before passing out, Lomas is brought back by ambulance. The former barracks has now been given over to private housing.

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Arriving at the guardhouse by taxi, 10934 Marine Bradley reports to Sergeant Craig.

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Effecting a continental accent, Clarke arrives wearing a foreign uniform. To the right is Eastney Esplanade and beach.

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The Sergeant orders Bradley to get changed into full marching kit. To the left runs The Colonnade at Eastney Barracks.

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Ruddock stumbles onward. In the background is the parade ground at Eastney Barracks.

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Of all the volunteers that return, eight marines are selected to carry out the operation. Eastney Barracks’ parade ground.

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Captain Thompson watches as the squad attempt to handle canoes. In the background stands one of the Fraser Gunnery Ranges at Eastney.

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On the orders of Thompson, the men are given an hour's close order drill. Eastney Barracks in Eastney, Portsmouth.

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The next exercise sees the squad canoeing up the Thames to their objective at Deptford.

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While Combined Operations Headquarters monitor progress, one by one the canoeists are caught. This appears to be near Gallions Point on the north bank of the River Thames as indicated by the distinctive arrangement of the three chimneys of Woolwich Power Station in the distance.

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Another two men are challenged as they come ashore. The north bank of the Thames with Woolwich in the distance.

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"Halt! Who goes there?" Looking towards Barking Reach on the north bank of the Thames.

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Accepting that Captain Thompson has different ideas about discipline, Major Stringer restarts training.

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After more exercises, two man canoes are handled correctly. The beach at Eastney in Hampshire.

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The canoeists negotiate the harbour.

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The squad run through a column of marines as they dash from the swimming pool carrying a live limpet mine. To the left is Eastney Barracks Officers Mess and on the right is Eastney Fort, or Battery, East.

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The men have just twelve minutes to dispose of the mine at sea.

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Time ticks away as the squad reach the beach. To the right stand the targets of Eastney Rifle Range.

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Clarke and the other watch as the mine detonates off shore. In front of one of the still extant Fraser Gunnery Ranges at Eastney.

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After receiving a date for Operation Cockleshell, Major Stringer and Captain Thompson have a drink together in the mess. This is the old Officer's Mess in Eastney Barracks which now serves as the Royal Marines Museum.

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When Ruddock goes AWOL, Captain Thompson drives to the marine's home.

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At the house, Thompson discovers that Ruddock's Wife is having an affair with the Lodger.

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Having found Ruddock in a nearby pub, the Captain takes him to the house.

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Thompson allows 15 minutes for Ruddock to make a good job of it.

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A few minutes later, Ruddock reappears from the house after knocking out Morris the lodger during the brief fight.

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The Captain drives Ruddock back to barracks.

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The squad are driven to Portsmouth to board a submarine. Main Road in Portsmouth, Hampshire with HMS Victory in the background.

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Submarine Commander Dick Raikes (Christopher Lee) and Lieutenant McClory greet the Major and Captain Thompson. This is HMS Dolphin in Gosport in Hampshire and left of centre is the 100ft Submarine Escape Training Tank (SETT) which was also seen in ‘Above Us the Waves’.

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The canoes are loaded before the submarine sets sail for the three night journey to Bordeaux. Facing northward alongside No. 1 Jetty in Haslar Lake at Gosport with Fort Blockhouse to the right.

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Enemy troops discover Stevens and Bradley on a French beach as they sleep after losing their canoe during the 75 mile row from the submarine.

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Major Stringer and his men hide themselves as fishing boats head inland.

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As the catch is unloaded and prepared for sale, the fishermen and their families look up when a dog barks after finding the concealed men.

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Major Stringer stands up.

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The next evening, the squad prepare for the journey along the Gironde.

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The canoes are paddled beneath jetty's and quays.

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The following morning, enemy soldiers saturate the area as they begin the search for more saboteurs.

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Two nights later, the Cockleshell Heroes row the final miles towards Bordeaux. The River Thames with Woolwich Power Station penetrating the skyline. The plant was closed and demolished in the late 1970s.

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The remaining canoeists enter the harbour to complete their mission. Wikipedia advises that King George V Docks in North Woolwich E16 were used in the harbour scenes.

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Alerted to the possible nature of the mission, enemy troops are sent to the harbour.

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After limpet mines have been attached to ships, soldiers scan the water as the canoeists attempt to escape.

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Searchlights sweep the harbour.

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Captain Thompson and Marine Ruddock row through a lock that's opened to allow a cargo ship through.

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As the firing squad waits, the Gestapo Commandant (Walter Fitzgerald) gives Captain Thomas, Corporal Stevens and Marines Ruddock and Bradley one last chance to cooperate. Shepperton Studios with Littleton Park House in the background. The building has appeared in many films including ‘The Great St. Trinians Train Robbery’, ‘Allez France’, ‘The Earth Dies Screaming’ and ‘Nothing Barred’.

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