The Silent Enemy (1958 film)

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The Silent Enemy
Original US release film poster by Reynold Brown
Directed by William Fairchild
Produced by Bertram Ostrer
Raymond Anzarut
Screenplay by William Fairchild
Based on Commander Crabb
by Marshall Pugh
Starring Laurence Harvey
Dawn Addams
John Clements
Michael Craig
Sid James
Music by William Alwyn
Cinematography Otto Heller
Edited by Alan Osbiston
Distributed by Universal-International
Release date
March 4, 1958
Running time
112 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Silent Enemy is a 1958 British action film directed by William Fairchild. It stars Laurence Harvey as Lionel "Buster" Crabb and describes his exploits during World War II. Based on Marshall Pugh's book Commander Crabb, it was made following the publicity created by Crabb's mysterious disappearance and likely death during a Cold War incident a year earlier.

The film depicts events in Gibraltar harbour during the World War II Italian frogman and manned torpedo attacks, although the film's depiction of those events is highly fictionalised.


The story begins with a dramatisation of the Italian manned torpedo raid on Alexandria (1941) in which two British battleships were damaged. The British are worried that this new Italian tactic will give the enemy naval supremacy in the Mediterranean. From Spain, an Italian expert on underwater operations is secretly watching the British base in Gibraltar and planning new attacks.

Bomb disposal expert Lionel Crabb is posted to Gibraltar to head the British response. He creates an (initially very small) team of divers to intercept the Italian attacks and defuse the bombs.

The Italians plan a major attack on a British convoy, but Crabb and another diver manage to infiltrate the Spanish docks from which the Italians are planning the attack, identifying the ship (the Olterra) which the Italians attack from.

Crabb leads an unauthorised pre-emptive strike on the ship carrying the torpedoes and destroys it, winning the George Medal.

The British divers are shown as using Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus.


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