Cruel Sea, The

Date: 1953
Director: Charles Frend
Production Company: Ealing Studios, Michael Balcon Productions

Stars: Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, John Stratton, Denholm Elliott, John Warner, Stanley Baker, Bruce Seton, Liam Redmond, Virginia McKenna, Moira Lister, June Thorburn, Megs Jenkins, Meredith Edwards, Glyn Houston, Alec McCowen, Dafydd Havard
Location(s): Devon, London

Region(s): ,


Nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Film, The Cruel Sea stars Jack Hawkins, Sir Donald Sinden and Stanley Baker, and is an unflinching portrayal of life at sea during WWII on a boat tasked with protecting convoys and seeking and destroying U-boats. It provides a gripping insight into the lives of unsung heroes at sea during the war and the agonizing decisions and incredible peril they faced on a daily basis.

Additional Information:

Screen captures and uncredited now shots uploaded by Dave Wilson

Buy this film on Amazon link

Can you help:

If you have any information regarding this film, any of the stills, or even better, some NOW shots please contact us.

Captain Ericson (Jack Hawkins) starts to find his way around his new ship, the Compass Rose, that, in the setting of the film, is being built on the River Clyde in Scotland. But in reality this location is the old HMS NB Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, Devon.

image no 1

The former Plymouth docks area has obviously seen a lot of redevelopment since 1953! This is looking across at what is now called The Mayflower Marina. It's quite hard to work out exactly where the shot in the film was taken, as there is nothing left, but this angle is roughly correct.

Captain Ericson goes to meet his (brand new) shipmates.

image no 2

This is just around the corner from the Mayflower Marina in Plymouth, with a glimpse of the River Tamar. One of the key locators for this shot is the grey shed structure in the background, which is also visible in the original film shot.

The morning march. This is still Plymouth. The houses of Stonehall Flats are in the background.

image no 3

Although difficult to get an exact angle, this is standing on the Mayflower Marina in Plymouth, looking towards the houses of the stonehouse area of the city. The key to the location spot is the houses in the middle of the frame, which still match with the film. The large blue building on the left is Princess Yachts Limited, a British luxury motor yacht manufacturer.

The march continues further along the old quayside at Plymouth, with the properties of Cremyll Street & Durnford Street in the background. The large white structure on the right hand side is in Millbay docks and was Plymouth's grain silo building. It was built in the 1940s but met the wrecking ball in 2008.

image no 4

The redeveloped Mayflower Marina means there are lots of masts that get in the way of the houses. But several are still recognisable from the original film shot.

Before the ship gets underway, they raise the flag. In the background you can see the Cremyll Ferry. This regular Plymouth service still runs today (as of 2018) and is an easy way for people to visit the Mount Edgecumbe attraction, that is a short distance away on the Cornish side of the Tamar River.

image no 5

Some of the houses have changed, but it mostly still looks the same. The Ferry departure point is still used in exactly the same way.

  • 'Now' required

Captain Ericson is involved with getting the ship underway. As they pass some of the other dock workers, various landmarks pass by in the background. This is still Plymouth, although the exact location angle is still unsolved. The church on the right could be St Mary's Church that was on James Street, Devonport. In 1959, along with four other churches in Devonport, St Mary's Church was demolished, making this a harder shot to match. The column in the centre background could possibly be the Devonport Column. Still unidentified.

  • 'Now' required

After some harsh experiences during the second time at sea on the Compass Rose, there is time for more shore leave as the ship gets a refit. These streets (if they are real locations) are currently unidentified.

  • 'Now' required

Given that there was some filming completed at Ealing Studios, this may well be a studio lot. The streets look a little too neat & tidy to be authentic locations. Also the background with the tight terrace and the cranes look like they may be a painted optical effect.

  • 'Now' required

Some of the senior officers meet at an officers club. Piccadilly Circus, London.

  • 'Now' required

Now in command of a new ship, Captain Ericson is having a bit of difficulty mentally processing the events of the previous vessel. Mark Jenkinson provides the location as Portland Harbour, Dorset and points out that the background appears, similarly Capture 10, in 'The Bulldog Breed'. (RL)