Gift Horse (film)
UK DVD cover
|Directed by||Compton Bennett|
|Produced by||George Pitcher|
|Music by||Clifton Parker|
|Distributed by||IFD (UK)|
The film follows the story of the fictional ship HMS Ballantrae and her crew from the time they come together in 1940 until they go on a one-way mission to destroy a German-held dry dock in France. The title is a reference to the old proverb "Never look a gift horse in the mouth."
A disgraced former commander re-enlists in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He forms the crew of his run-down ship, "HMS Ballantrae", ex "USS Whittier", one of the Town-class destroyers from the Destroyers for Bases Agreement, into an efficient fighting force, before being sent on Operation Boadicea, a suicide mission.
The first half of the film depicts an overview of the ex-American Town-class destroyers, from their handing over to the Royal Navy, their working-up into fighting units despite their old age and limitations, and their dangerous work as convoy escorts during the Battle of the Atlantic. The latter part of the film is clearly based on HMS Campbeltown and the St Nazaire Raid.
- Trevor Howard as Lieutenant Commander Hugh Algernon Fraser
- Richard Attenborough as 'Dripper' Daniels
- James Donald as Lieutenant Richard Jennings
- Sonny Tufts as Yank Flanagan
- Bernard Lee as Able Seaman 'Stripey' Wood
- Dora Bryan as Gladys Flanagan
- Hugh Williams as Captain David G. Wilson, Division Commander
- Meredith Edwards as Jones, Chief Engineer
- Glyn Houston as Morgan, Engine Room Artificer [uncredited]
- Robin Bailey as Lieutenant Michael Grant, ship's pilot
- Anthony Oliver as the Gunnery Officer
- Patric Doonan as Petty Officer Martin
- Sid James as Ned Hardy, owner of Golden Bull public house
- James Kenney as John A. Fraser, Hugh's son
- Charles Lloyd-Pack as Member of Board of Inquiry
- William Russell as bridge lookout [uncredited]
- Joan Rice as June Mallory, WRNS cypher officer
- Harold Siddons as unnamed officer on the ship
The real-life ship used in the film was HMS Leamington. Built in 1919 as the USS Twiggs, a Wickes-class destroyer, she was one of the very last post-war survivors of the 50 elderly four-funnelled destroyers provided in 1940 by the USA as part of the "Destroyers for Bases Agreement": (also known as "The Fifty Ships that Saved the World"). She served on convoy duties, including as an escort for the ill-fated Convoy PQ 17. In 1943 she was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Leamington. After a short period in reserve in 1944, she was one of seven sisters transferred to the Soviet Navy, and there became the Zguchij ("Firebrand"). Returned to the Royal Navy in 1950, the ship was listed for disposal in 1951, but before being broken up she was hired for the Gift Horse film. For the final scenes of the film, based on her sister-ship Campbeltown's daring St Nazaire Raid, her four funnels were reduced to two, and cut down at an angle to resemble the funnels of a German torpedo boat, just as Campbeltown's had been. She was finally broken up in December 1951.
- "HMS Leamington (G 19)". uboat.net. Retrieved 2011-01-13.