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Summary: Four-reel edited film the Royal Air Force Film Production Unit, depicting the crew of a Short Stirling heavy bomber preparing for and participating in a raid on Duisburg, a German industrial city in the Ruhr.
Description: Reel 1: Titles: Royal Air Force Film Production Unit presents: Night Flight: A film about night mapreading technique. Scrolling text introduces the challenge of navigation and refers to the range of aids now available; "a good Navigator uses a combination of all the aids" but states that map reading is fundamental to the use of such aids. The text continues: "Here is a story that was told to us by a navigation officer at... [fade to airfield] PRANGMERE". Interior Ops Rooms; briefing officer addresses the crew of P for Peter, due to make an incendiary attack. P for Peter not flying with its usual crew, instead the pilot, named Halls, is to fly with the wing commander's crew; Flight Sergeant Bergin (navigator), Sergeant Cody (bomb aimer) Sergeant Holborough (wireless operator) Sergeant Stocks (engineer) and air gunners sergeants Aspen and Porteus. Dusky shots of a Short Stirling being prepared by ground crew. Interior crew room; after a bit of banter between the crew the skipper checks the route with the navigator "Peterborough, Harwich, Duisburg and back the same way". "Bags of moonlight" is expected by the weather officer. Navigational discussions; the crew have a variety of Commonwealth accents (Canadian and New Zealand). The navigator carefully folds his map; a lesson learnt after having a map trampled by the rear gunner. Blackout curtains are drawn. Discussing pinpoints along the route; the conversation shows how different features can be identified from the air. The crew are told to gather their gear; "come on, get cracking!" "Get stuffed!". The crew emplane and the engines are started. Taxiing out. Take offs. Pilot opening his throttle. Close-up speedometer rising.
Reel 2: Aircraft interiors with crew at their stations. Instrument close-ups. Captain on intercom to navigator with course, speed etc. Nav makes a note. Moon through clouds. Passing first pinpoint; Bourne at 2217. Skipper adjusts airspeed. Approaching Peterborough with rail junction pinpoint and change of course. Estimated time to Harwich 2243:30. Passing canal junction; aircraft slightly north of track and course adjustment. Passing over Ely. Course change and passing over pinpoint at Harwich headland. ETA enemy coast.
Reel 3: Cloud thickens; presents problem for mapreading. Instrument inserts. Banter on intercom. Increasing altitude prompts the crew to don oxygen masks. Superimposed faces of the crew over cloudscapes. The aircraft reaches the Dutch coast, but obscured by cloud. As the aircraft approaches the target, the air bomber takes over. Searchlight beams. Footage of a city on fire. On bomb run; bomb aimer gives corrections. "Bombs gone!" The aircraft is hit by flak; radio equipment is knocked out. The navigator gives a course for home. The Rhine is sighted below.
Reel 4: ETA for the coast 0100. They cross the Meuse at an unknown point. They cross the mouth of the Rhine and navigator gives a change of course. The crew appears to tire and they wait to regain the English coast. The coastline below. The crew reach their base and debrief after landing, with the usual banter. Discussion of the route back, and final emphasis on how any water course or body of water can usually ("if you're lucky with conditions") be seen at night, and used as a pinpoint. The crew heads off for bacon and eggs; "I think I can find the mess without a navigator" and the New Zealander calls "wakey wakey" at the sleepy air gunner. THE END.
Production Details: Air Ministry (Production sponsor)
Royal Air Force Film Production Unit (Production company)
Baylis, Peter (Production individual)
Friese-Green (Aircraftman Second Class) (Production individual)
Till (Leading Aircraftman) (Production individual)
Personalities, Units and Organisations: Royal Air Force, Bomber Command (regiment/service)
Keywords: Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, England, UK (geography)
Ely, Cambridgeshire, England, UK (geography)
Harwich, Essex, England, UK (geography)
Duisburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany (geography)
Rhine (River), France (geography)
Meuse (River), France (geography)
Allied Air Offensive 1942-1945, Germany, Second World War (event)
Aerial Warfare (theme)
Royal Air Force 1939-1945 (theme)
Physical Characteristics: Colour format: B&W
Sound format: Sound
Soundtrack language: English
Title language: English
Technical Details: Format: 35mm
Number of items/reels/tapes: 4
Footage: 3067 ft; Running time: 34 mins
Notes: Duisburg was a centre for chemical and metal production and was consequently repeatedly bombed. Located at the confluence of the Rhine and the Ruhr, the city offers a good study in the use of water to pinpoint locations. Later developments such as the H2S ground-scanning radar (which was entering service by the time this film was made) would enable water pinpoints to be taken with greater accuracy.
Production documentation also held. Quite an effective film, illustrating the films subject well, though probably underestimating the difficulty of navigation this method. The banter between the crew and the deliberate use of a variety of national and regional accents is fairly typical of the genre.
Camera aircraft include Avro Anson, Bristol Beaufort and Short Stirling. Named pilots for aerial footage include Warrant Officer Brown, Flying Officer Wough and Flight-Lieutenants Hagger and Wilkie, flying from RAF Benson and RAF Mildenhall. Crew room, aircraft interiors and instrument close-ups shot in a studio. Aerial shooting locations include Northolt, Lea Valley, Peterborough, Bourne, Ely and Chatteris, Ipswich, Harwich and near Felixstowe.
The production documentation refers to a 'short version' of this film, running to 2000 feet. However, this shorter version does not appear to have survived.