Sea Of Sand (1958, Richard Attenborough, John Gregson)
Said the Manchester Guardian of Sea Of Sand, an authoritative tribute to the Second World War’s Long Range Desert Group, it is: “a fine, small British film… neat, exciting and sensible – an example which other makers of war films should emulate.”
Just before the battle of El Alamein in 1943, the Long Range Desert Group is established to operate as saboteurs behind German lines in North Africa. Captain Williams (John Gregson), an expert on mines, joins the group for a mission to destroy one of Rommel’s largest petrol dumps. The group is commanded by Captain Cotton (Michael Craig) and, at the start of the 400-mile journey, the two officers clash, having little in common. Williams is a punctilious regular, Cotton an unorthodox amateur.
When the group reach the petrol dump, they discover that it conceals massed squadrons of new tanks. Realising that the Germans will pursue them after they achieve their objective, they destroy the fuel and, their numbers reduced to seven men and one truck, struggle towards their base through sandstorms, minefields and many other hazards. Eventually, the survivors get back to safety… Wrote CEA Film Report : “The portrayal is a notable instance of sterling team-work rather than individual distinction and the honours are equally shared by Richard Attenborough, John Gregson and Michael Craig.” But it is the ensemble acting by the whole cast that is one of the film’s most impressive features, with players that include Vincent Ball, Percy Herbert, Andrew Faulds (later to become a Labour MP), George Murcell and Ray McAnally.