The Silver Fleet

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Not to be confused with Spanish silver fleet.
The Silver Fleet
Esmond Knight in a scene from the film
Directed by Vernon Sewell
Gordon Wellesley
Produced by Michael Powell
Emeric Pressburger
Written by Vernon Sewell
Gordon Wellesley
Starring Ralph Richardson
Googie Withers
Esmond Knight
Music by Allan Gray
Cinematography Erwin Hillier
Edited by Michael C. Chorlton
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release date
  • 15 March 1943 (1943-03-15)
Running time
88 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Silver Fleet (1943) is a British war film written and directed by Vernon Sewell and Gordon Wellesley and produced by Powell & Pressburger under the banner of "The Archers".


In the early years of the Second World War, the Nazis have overrun the Netherlands and have taken over the shipyard co-owned and run by Jaap van Leyden (Ralph Richardson). The yard was making submarines for the Royal Dutch Navy. The German 'Protector' Von Schiffer (Esmond Knight) demands that they resume making submarines, but for the Germans. By lowering food rations to starvation point, they induce some of the skilled workers to return to the yard.

This leads to many problems for van Leyden and his wife (Googie Withers) when everyone sees them as collaborators. But van Leyden works out a way to appear to do what the Nazis want, but keep his conscience clear as well. He undertakes a covert campaign of sabotage of his own work, leaving notes and graffiti signed under his nom de guerre Piet Hein (a reference to the Dutch naval hero Piet Hein, whose victory over a Spanish "Silver Fleet" gives the film its title).

One submarine is taken over by the Dutch crew and sailed to England, which leads to greater security. Finally, van Leyden sabotages a submarine during its first sea trial, killing himself and the many Nazi officials on board.


Some scenes were filmed in the town of King's Lynn.

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