A small Norfolk village is outraged when it is discovered that the Air Ministry proposes to acquire and use the nearby Island of Children, a bird sanctuary, as an "air firing range". A struggle of wills begins between the military and the villagers, who resort to a variety of ways to prevent damage to the historic island. Harry Tilney is all for taking on the Government, but Sally has a boyfriend stationed at the nearby Royal Air Force base, Corporal Bill Morris, so she goes to see him first.
Meanwhile, Squadron Leader Parsons is informed that his unit's mission is being changed to ground attack. The de Havilland Vampire jets have to be modified to mount rockets. Parsons is informed he will have three weeks for the conversion, then four weeks to get his men trained. His commanding officer is not at liberty to inform him that the unit will then be sent overseas, but he takes the hint.
The land acquisition is assigned to bureaucrat Mr. Wentworth, which is rather awkward for him, as he is a prominent member of a bird watching society. He comes to meet with Harry, but Harry is drunk and drives him away. The civilians then learn that fishing rights to the area were granted to the people by Henry VIII. Soapy, the professional eel catcher, can squat on the land and use those rights to block the acquisition. However, Soapy receives a letter from the Government stating that there is no evidence that such rights exist.
Bookie then discovers that the land was given to the Church by Henry VIII for assistance in quelling a rebellion. The villagers present this information to Parsons. He agrees to pass it along to the Government, but in the meantime he insists on continuing with the training. In desperation, the local people take to their boats and form a human shield around the island just before the first bombing run. However, there is cloud cover and the onsite RAF controller cannot get a message through to have the flight cancelled. Fortunately, the civilians are spotted just in time to avoid a disaster. The official inquiry will take months or a year, by which time the unit will have been sent to Malaya.John Gregson as Cpl. Bill Morris
Muriel Pavlow as Sally
Kieron Moore as Sqn. Ldr. Parsons
Niall MacGinnis as Harry Tilney
Harry Fowler as L.A.C. 'Buster'
Guy Middleton as The Adjutant
Sheila Sweet as Fanny Bates
Campbell Singer as Flt. Sgt. Campbell
Frederick Piper as Joe Bates
Russell Napier as Wg. Cdr. Rogers
Bartlett Mullins as 'Soapy'
Edwin Richfield as 'Smother' Brooks
Margaret Withers as Mrs. Tilney
Howard Connell as F/O Flying Control
Beryl Cooke as Miss Nelson
Tony Doonan as Range Cpl.
John Gale as Range L.A.C.
Brian Harding as 1st Pilot
Barbara Hicks as Mrs. Thompson
Humphrey Lestocq as Sqn. Ldr. Davidson
Charles Lloyd-Pack as 'Bookie'
William Mervyn as Mr. Wentworth / Col. Wentworth
Brian Moorehead as 3rd Pilot
Hugh Moxey as Mr. Ruddle
Dorothea Rundle as Mrs. Trotter
Harold Siddons as Flt. Lt. Edwards
David Spenser as Cpl. Flying Control
Peter Swanwick Sgt. Working Party
Guy Verney as 2nd Pilot
Gwenda Wilson as Miss Flew
George Woodbridge as 'Old Circular' (Man in charge of Pumping-Station)
It was based on the first novel by Don Sharp. A reviewer from the Sydney Morning Herald described it as follows:
This reviewer's guess is that the story began as a film scenario, which could explain the precise, illustrative, uninspired style of the novel. Tasmanian-born Don Sharp has been in turn actor, broadcaster and film producer; and a background of that kind rarely favours the novel form. One sees its influence in sentences such as: "The villagers greeted Sally conventionally"-a playwright's note of guidance to a producer, rather than a novelist's picture of a scene... Behind the quietly amusing account of this controversy [the storyline] is the larger question whether English tradition must bow before the needs of national security, and Don Sharp debates it with intelligent sympathy. But the novel suffers because his characters are wooden and shaped to convenient patterns. It is as if they require to be brought to life by good actors in one of those rural settings which English film producers contrive so well.
The Brisbane Telegraph thought the novel "deserves to be welcomed with banners and trumpets. "Conflict of Wings" is innocent of fancy technique, and its simple prose seems to capture the cool, wind swept quality of the Norfolk marshes beloved by the author."
It was originally called The Norfolk Story.
The film was made at Beaconsfield Film Studios, on location in Norfolkand in East Yorkshire at RAF Leconfield. The film sets were designed by art director Ray Simm.
The film was re-titled for the American market as Fuss Over Feathers.