Angels One Five

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Angels One Five
DVD cover
Directed byGeorge More O'Ferrall
Produced byJohn W. Gossage
Derek Twist
Written byPelham Groom (story)
Derek Twist
StarringJack Hawkins
Michael Denison
Dulcie Gray
John Gregson
CinematographyChristopher Challis
Edited byDaniel Birt
Templar Productions
Distributed byAssociated British-Pathé (UK), Stratford Pictures Corporation (US)
Release date
  • 19 March 1952 (1952-03-19)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£258,199 (UK)[1]

Angels One Five is a 1952 British war film directed by George More O'Ferrall and starring Jack Hawkins, Michael Denison, Dulcie Gray, John Gregson, Cyril Raymond and Veronica Hurst. Based on the book What Are Your Angels Now? by Pelham Groom (who was also technical advisor to the film under his full title of W/Cdr. A. J. C. Pelham Groom), the plot centres on a young fighter pilot immediately before and during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War. Some scenes in the film were shot at RAF Uxbridge, home to a wartime operations room.

"Angels One Five" refers to RAF radio procedure words, from the Second World War, indicating the altitude of a radar contact is 15,000 feet. The film was the first British post-war production to deal with the Battle of Britain.[2]


In 1940, a replacement, Pilot Officer T. B. "Septic" Baird (John Gregson), is landing his Hawker Hurricane at "Pimpernel" Squadron's airfield. Just as he touches down, however, a straggler from an earlier mission taxis across his path. Septic's quick reactions allow him to "leapfrog" the other Hurricane, averting a costly disaster. His action, however, causes him to crash his replacement aircraft into the bungalow of Squadron Leader Barry Clinton (Cyril Raymond) at the end of the runway.

This earns Septic the wrath of his new squadron leader, Bill Ponsford (Andrew Osborn), because he damaged his fighter aircraft. The crash also injures the ligaments in Septic's neck, which he is able to self-diagnose, as he had been a medical student before the war. The next morning, Septic is told by Group Captain "Tiger" Small (Jack Hawkins) that he will not be able to fly until his neck is healed, so he will instead serve in the operations room for the time being.

Several days later, with the risk of a bombing attack on the airfield, and all of Pimpernel Squadron's Hurricanes scrambled, Tiger orders all aircraft to take off and fly out of harm's way until the raid is over. With Tiger quickly assembling all available pilots and finding aircraft to fly, Septic wins a foot race with Small to claim the last spare Hurricane for himself. He then proceeds to shoot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110 from the attacking force. His delight is short lived however when he is admonished by Small and Sqn Ldr Peter Moon (Michael Denison) for leaving his radio set to transmit, preventing the returning Hurricanes from being diverted to an undamaged airfield. A crestfallen Septic returns to his ground duties.

Eventually a reinstated Septic joins in Pimpernel's operations, but he is mortally wounded while shooting down another enemy aircraft. His last words are heard over the Sector control room tannoy (public-address system), when he tells Small that their planned return foot race will have to be "postponed indefinitely". Small replies "Your message received and understood. Out." The final shot is of Squadron Leader Clinton's wife Nadine (Dulcie Gray) hanging an oil lamp in the ruins of their bungalow to aid returning pilots.



Angels One Five featured three Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft: Hurricane Mk. Is (p2617 and L1592) on loan from the RAF and Hurricane Mk. IIc (LF363) loaned by Hawker Aircraft. An additional five Hurricane Mk. IIc aircraft (N ° 544, 554, 600, 601, 624) came from the Portuguese Air Force. The aircraft were all painted in the colours of No. 56 Squadron RAF and were based at RAF Kenley during the filming. Other RAF types seen in the background include North American Harvard training aircraft, Avro Anson and Supermarine Spitfire. The enemy aircraft were represented by a captured Messerschmitt Bf 110 G4 from the "German Force Aircraft Equipment Centre", Stanmore Park. It was scrapped after filming in 1952. Other enemy aircraft were depicted by models.[3]

Ronald Adam who plays the part of a Group Controller was the Fighter Group Controller at RAF Hornchurch during the Battle of Britain.[4] Squadron Leader Adam was a veteran of both the First and Second World War.[5]


The opening titles feature the Royal Air Force March Past.


Box office[edit]

Angels One Five was the ninth most popular at the British box office in 1952.[6][7]


Film critic Bosley Crowther, in his review for The New York Times, wrote that "there's something about any picture that recollects the R.A.F. and the triumphant Battle of Britain that this reviewer finds hard to resist. Maybe it's all those brave young pilots; maybe it's the climate of the operations rooms; maybe it's those Hurricanes and Spitfires barreling down the runways and clawing into the sky. The symbols of that kind of warfare and that phase of World War II are so heroically connected that they invariably stir a thrill. And one must say that this picture has a cast to do it proud."[8]

Aviation film historian Stephen Pendo remarked, ""Septic" Baird (John Gregson) and "Tiger" Small (Jack Hawkins)... play their roles with a reasonable degree of expertise."[2]



  1. ^ Porter, Vincent. "The Robert Clark Account." Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 20, No 4, 2000.
  2. ^ a b Pendo 1985, p. 175.
  3. ^ Santoir, Christian. "Review: 'Angels One Five'." Aeromovies. Retrieved: 8 December 2015.
  4. ^ Quill 1998, p. 190.
  5. ^ "Trivia: 'Angels One Five' (1952)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: 8 December 2015.
  6. ^ " Comedian tops film poll." The Sunday Herald, via National Library of Australia, 28 December 1952. p. 4. Retrieved: 8 December 2015.
  7. ^ Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32 no. 3. p. 259.
  8. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Movie review: 'Angels One Five (1952)." The New York Times, 30 April 1954.


  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.
  • Quill, Jeffrey, Spitfire: A Test Pilot's Story. London: Crécy Publishing Ltd, 1998. ISBN 978-0-9475-5472-9.

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