Target for Tonight
|Target for Tonight|
Original theatrical poster
|Directed by||Harry Watt|
|Produced by||Harry Watt|
|Starring||Royal Air Force personnel|
|Music by||Royal Air Force Central Band|
|Distributed by||British Ministry of Information
Target for Tonight is a 1941 British documentary film billed as filmed and acted by the Royal Air Force, all while under fire. It was directed by Harry Watt. The film is about the crew of a Wellington bomber partaking in a mission over Germany. The film won an honorary Academy Award in 1942 as 'Best Documentary' by the National Board of Review.
Before the film, several text cards explain the aircraft and Royal Air Force chain of command. The film proper begins with an observation aircraft flying over an RAF base and dropping a box of undeveloped film. Bomber Command develops the film and analyses the resulting photographs, which are presented for the audience to see. Over the past few months there has been a build-up of German forces in the area of interest. The planning of a mission to attack the area is depicted, detailing how munitions for the task are selected. The weather forecast is expected to be good, and the aircrews are briefed. Among the pilots is P. C. Pickard, a real life RAF officer and holder of the DSO, who will pilot the Wellington "'F' for Freddie". Once the briefing is completed the crew suit up, are taken to the bomber and take off. Over Germany the target is bombed, but the aircraft is hit by flak. The radio operator suffers a wound to his leg. The aircraft looses altitude and is unable to regain it. Pickard's is the last aircraft to return. Mist covers the water, prompting worry at the Command. Tension builds in the film until finally the aircraft touches down. No aircraft are lost from the mission, and it is considered a complete success.
The film was shot at RAF Mildenhall and at actual RAF Bomber Command headquarters in High Wycombe, with the head of Bomber Command Sir Richard Peirse and Senior Air Staff Officer Sir Robert Saundby appearing in the film. In order to avoid giving information to the enemy, RAF Mildenhall took the fictitious name of "Millerton Aerodrome", and several other aspects day-to-day operations of the command were altered. Squadron Leader Dickson who skippered 'F for Freddie' was played by P. C. Pickard, who went on to lead Operation Biting and Operation Jericho, a raid to release prisoners from the Amiens Prison. During this mission Pickard lost his life, as did his navigator, Flight Lieutenant J. A. "Bill" Broadley. The second pilot in the film was played by Gordon Woollatt. Also appearing (and uncredited) is Constance Babington Smith, who was a serving WAAF officer at the time and was responsible for photographic interpretation of aerial reconnaissance pictures. Appearing in the control room scene is race car driver John Cobb, then a serving RAF officer.
Herman Wouk, in his novel The Winds of War, included a Wellington bomber christened "F for Freddie" in an episode of the story. The lead character, American naval captain Victor Henry, flies onboard "F for Freddie" as an observer during a bombing mission over Berlin. Wouk's fictional narrative evokes portions of the real "F for Freddie's" mission log: one of their bombs hits their target squarely and flak damages the plane and injures one of their crewmembers in the leg (in the novel, the rear gunner rather than the radio operator). They have trouble holding altitude but make it back after a long, tense flight over hostile territory.
Scenes from the film were included in the British World War II documentary The World at War, in the episode "Whirlwind".
- "Australia's film future lies in documentaries". The Argus. Melbourne, Victoria: National Library of Australia. 14 August 1944. p. 6. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
- Johnston & Carter (2002), p. 141.
- Babington Smith, Constance (1957). Evidence in Camera: The story of Photographic Intelligence in World War II. London: Chatto & Windus. OCLC 7366816.
- "John Cobb". Flight. LXII (2280): 439. 3 October 1952. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
- "Bomber Command No.149 Squadron". Royal Air Force. 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
- "Vickers Wellingtons of 149 Squadron, 1940". The Air Tactical Assault Group. 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2015.