Nisha Rathode (Editor)

One of Our Aircraft Is Missing

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5/5 Amazon

Genre  Action, Drama, War
Budget  70,000 GBP
Country  United Kingdom
7.1/10 IMDb

Initial DVD release  October 28, 2008
Language  English
One of Our Aircraft Is Missing movie poster
Director  Michael Powell Emeric Pressburger
Release date  27 June 1942 (1942-06-27)
Writer  Emeric Pressburger (by), Michael Powell (written by: for The Archers), Emeric Pressburger (written by: for The Archers)
Directors  Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Cast  Godfrey Tearle (Sir George Corbett, Rear Gunner in B for Bertie), Eric Portman (Tom Earnshaw, Copilot in B for Bertie), Hugh Williams (Frank Shelley, Observer / Navigator in B for Bertie), Bernard Miles (Geoff Hickman, Front Gunner in B for Bertie), Hugh Burden (John Glyn Haggard, Pilot in B for Bertie), Emrys Jones (Bob Ashley, Radio Operator in B for Bertie)
Similar movies  Dark Blue World, Airport 1975, Battle of Britain, Fly Away Home, Flight of the Intruder, Gold
Tagline  1942s first blast of screen dynamite

One of Our Aircraft is Missing is a 1942 British war film, mainly set in the German-occupied Netherlands. It was the fourth collaboration between the British writer-director-producer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and the first film they made under the banner of The Archers. Although considered a wartime propaganda film and made under the authority of the Ministry of Information as part of a series of film productions specifically aimed at morale in the United Kingdom, it is elevated by the story and production values above the usual jingoistic fare. Today, One of Our Aircraft is Missing is considered one of the "best of British films of the era."


One of Our Aircraft Is Missing movie scenes

A reversal of the plot of Powell and Pressburger's previous film, 49th Parallel (1941), One of Our Aircraft is Missing has the British trying to escape with the help of various local people. In the 49th Parallel, the Germans stranded in Canada argued and fought amongst themselves, while the British fliers in this film work well together as a team.

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One of Our Aircraft is Missing finishes with the coat of arms of the Netherlands on screen, with the caption, "The Netherlands will rise again!", while the Wilhelmus (the Dutch national anthem) is played.

One of our aircraft is missing


"B for Bertie" is an RAF Vickers Wellington bomber whose crew was forced to bail out over the Netherlands near the Zuider Zee after one of their engines was damaged during a nighttime raid on Stuttgart. Five of the six airmen find each other; the sixth goes missing. The first Dutch citizens they encounter, led by English-speaking school teacher Else Meertens (Pamela Brown), are suspicious at first as no aircraft is reported to have crashed in the Netherlands (the abandoned bomber actually reaches England before hitting a pylon). After much debate and some questioning, the Dutch agree to help, despite their fear of German reprisals.

Accompanied by many of the Dutch, the disguised airmen, led by the pilots (Hugh Burden and Eric Portman), bicycle through the countryside to a football match where they are passed along to the local burgomaster (Burgemeester in Dutch, Hay Petrie). To their astonishment, they discover their missing crewman playing on one of the teams. Reunited, they hide in a truck carrying supplies to Jo de Vries (Googie Withers).

De Vries pretends to be pro-German, blaming the British for killing her husband in a bombing raid (whereas he is actually in England working as a radio announcer). She hides them in her mansion, despite the Germans being garrisoned there. Under cover of an air raid, she leads them to a rowing boat. The men row undetected to the sea, but a bridge sentry finally spots them and a shot seriously wounds the oldest man, Sir George Corbett (Godfrey Tearle). Nevertheless, they reach the North Sea. They take shelter in a German rescue buoy, where they take two shot-down enemy aviators prisoner, but not before one sends a radio message. By chance, two British boats arrive first. Because Corbett cannot be moved, they simply tow the buoy back to England. Three months later, he is fully recovered, and the crew board their new four-engine heavy bomber, a Short Stirling.

The attitude of the Dutch people towards the Nazi occupation is exemplified by two Dutch women who help the airmen at great personal risk to themselves and these explain why the Dutch were willing to help Allied airmen even though those same airmen were sometimes dropping bombs on the Netherlands and killing Dutch people:

Else Meertens: Do you think that we Hollanders who threw the sea out of our country will let the Germans have it? Better the sea.

Jo de Vries: [Speaking to the downed aircrew as RAF bombers approach]
You see. That's what you're doing for us. Can you hear them running for shelter? Can you understand what that means to all the occupied countries? To enslaved people, having it drummed into their ears that the Germans are masters of the Earth. Seeing those masters running for shelter. Seeing them crouching under tables. And hearing that steady hum night after night. That noise which is oil for the burning fire in our hearts.


As appearing in screen credits (main roles identified):


The title "One of Our Aircraft is Missing" is taken from a phrase that was often heard in contemporary news reports in the UK after a bombing raid, "one [or often more] of our aircraft failed to return", which originally served as the working title of the screenplay but was then altered to a less-downbeat form. Although the screenplay was not completely developed by the time of production, Powell considered it "half-finished ... it remained (that way) for most of the production." One of the reasons for continual revisions to the screenplay were the constant advances in wartime technology that were occurring. The Admiralty informed the producers and directors of the use of "lobster pots," floating steel platforms, hitherto unknown to the public, that had been anchored in the North Sea to facilitate rescue of downed airmen. When Powell learned of this innovation, he pointedly rewrote the screenplay to include this refuge as the means to deliver the crew to safety. With help from the Ministry of Information, permission to use these platforms was obtained.

The actors that were gathered for the film included recognised stage and screen talents such as Eric Portman, Hugh Williams and Godfrey Tearle as well as newcomers such as Peter Ustinov making his film debut. Although mainly centred on male roles, Powell encouraged Pressburger to create a number of significant female characters. The result were strong, credible roles for both Pamela Brown and Googie Withers as female Dutch Resistance leaders. The main leads, Hugh Burden, Eric Portman, Hugh Williams, Emrys Jones, Bernard Miles, and Godfrey Tearle, formed the crew of "B for Bertie" and introduced themselves and their characters' positions on board the bomber in a progressive sequence that was filmed, like most of the aircraft interiors, in a Vickers Wellington "shell" supplied by the RAF, that nonetheless had working features such as lighting and electrically powered turrets.

To maintain an aura of authenticity, actual RAF bombers on "ops" (operations) were filmed but the key aerial scenes of the bombing of Stuttgart, Germany was created using a large-scale model at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith. The giant Wellington replica actually covered the entire studio floor and was rigged with lights and fitted for effects shots including explosions. On screen, the effect was striking and realistically duplicated the flight and bombing raid carried out at the start of the film.

Much of the outdoor sequences set in the Netherlands were shot at Boston in Lincolnshire, with many of the town's landmarks visible, for example, Shodfriars Quay and the railway swing bridge.

Notably, there is no scored music, Powell deliberately strove for "naturalism" relying on natural sounds that would be heard by the characters.

One of Our Aircraft is Missing was cut by 20 minutes for its original American release.


One of Our Aircraft is Missing received two Academy Award nominations, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger for Best Writing, Original Screenplay, and Ronald Neame (photography) and C. C. Stevens (sound) for Best Effects, Special Effects. Powell's nomination was the only Academy Award nomination he ever received in his career – Pressburger won an Academy Award for 49th Parallel and was nominated for The Red Shoes as well.

One of Our Aircraft Is Missing joins other British war films as one of the most "well-remembered, accomplished and enjoyed" realist films of the period.

In 2014, One of Our Aircraft is Missing was included in a set of war film packaged together and sold to raise funds for The Royal British Legion veterans organization.

One of Our Aircraft is Missing is mentioned in the Dad's Army episode "The Lion Has Phones." When Lance-Corporal Jones tries to ring up GHQ, he mistakenly gets the cinema, whose operator tells him the film is on. There is a mention of Eric Portman and Googie Withers. A poster for the film is on display at the cinema. Correspondingly, in the episode of Dad's Army, "Time on My Hands," Pike knows how to open a parachute because, he says, he's seen it done in One of Our Aircraft is Missing.

Snowclones in the form of "One of Our X Is Missing" have been used in film and other media as homage, parody, or to invoke a mood. Examples include: Jasper Fforde's 2011 novel One of our Thursdays is Missing; the Thomas Dolby song One Of Our Submarines; a Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "One of Our Planets Is Missing"; the final episode of the US television series Maverick, titled "One of Our Trains Is Missing"; the episode "One of Our Dogs is Missing" from the US television series Lost in Space; the episode "One of Our Assemblymen is Missing" from the US sitcom Green Acres; the episode "Two of Our Weirdos Are Missing" from the US sitcom Laverne & Shirley; the episode "One of Our Stately Homes is Missing" from the British spy-spoof cartoon series Danger Mouse; a 1991 text adventure game by Zenobi called One of Our Wombats is Missing; The Hogan's Heroes episode "Some of Their Planes Are Missing" (and the phrase was often used in some form as a joke on the show); I Dream of Jeannie episode "One Of Our Bottles Is Missing"; The Get Smart episode "One of our olives is missing", and a 1975 British comedy film titled One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing, which included Peter Ustinov and Hugh Burden in the cast, who were both also in One of Our Aircraft Is Missing.


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