Walts on Screen and Actors Who Served

We did it I think at least one of Guy Gibsons gunners on the dams raid was commissioned Spafford or Stafford I think

edit I was wrong Stafford wasn’t a gunner but Gibson’s rear gunner was flight lieutenant Trevor-Roper
He was killed in action a year later and was the brother of Hugh Trevor-Roper, the historian. None of Gibson's crew survived the war.
 
He was killed in action a year later and was the brother of Hugh Trevor-Roper, the historian. None of Gibson's crew survived the war.
As an aside grandad did once mention there were very few wounded rear gunners. They either went down with the crew if the A/c was properly hit.
( getting to their clip on chute was notoriously difficult once the airframe was “ upset”). Or were the primary target for a proper brass ing up by a N/f not equipped with Shrage Music.
Or completed the tour obv.
very few sticking plasters required by those brave men.( boys really).
Terrence Rattigen the playwright was one.( as well as being a rear gunner)!
 
The admirable thing about Rattigen was he was already a successful playwright prewar and homosexual to boot at a time when that was illegal and taboo.He could have easily pulled favours and pulled some safe desk or artistic job.
Instead he signed up as an air gunner and did a tour cheek by jowl with the other crews.( who by all accounts he got on well with).
”This is a war to be won by common men and as a common man I will not shirk my part”
Gay as a goose and twice the man of the likes of Trevor Howard.
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
Donald Pleasence was a WoP. I don't know his squadron. I always thought it was 101st Flying from Ludford Magna in Lincs but I could easily be wrong here. His Lancaster was shot down in August 1944 and Sgt. Pleasence fortunately survived to be taken prisoner.
My Grandfather was WOP/AG as a Flight Sgt and was commissioned sadly the day he was Kia
 
I got to thinking about pre-service actors who didn't survive their service, thankfully there weren't
many, the First World War had a number, the most well-known casualty was probably Basil Hallam (see below)
Unusually and interestingly, the only memorial I've so far come across is to actors who died in the FIrst World War is in the form of a Funeral Pall, presented to Westminster Abbey by the Actors' Christian Union.
<<
On 7th May 1920 the Actors' Church Union presented a hearse cloth or funeral pall to Westminster Abbey. This was given in memory of their members who had died during the 1914-1918 war. It was presented by the Bishop of Willesden and Ben Greet was the Union representative. The anthem I was glad by Hubert Parry was sung and the hymn Father of day and night.
Dean Ryle had decided that the colour should be white, modelled on medieval examples, rather than the black or purple which had been in use during Victorian times. It was designed by W.D. Caroe and worked by Minna Hollier of Bristol. The white silk brocade is embroidered and sub-divided by gold and string-coloured woven lace with a cross at either end. The badge of the donors appears with the inscription "The Actors' Church Union. As unknown and yet well known". The larger shields show the Royal Arms and those of the Abbey with rose and portcullis badges all over.
It was used on the grave of the Unknown Warrior in 1920, beneath the Union Flag. It lay on the coffin of Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, at her lying in state in the Abbey in 1925. In Westminster Hall it has been used under the Royal Standard at the lying in state of George V, Queen Mary and Elizabeth, the Queen
Mother.
>>
ActorsPall.png

Link Actors' Memorial Pall

Basil Hallam was a pre-WW1 actor and singer who was killed on the Western Front. He was most known for his rendering of 'Gilbert the Filbert'.
He joined the RFC and became an observation balloon crew member on the Somme. Although there is no doubt about the manner of his death, the report below seems to be embroidered a bit; for example other
accounts state that his parachute mal-functioned.
<<
This was compounded by Hallam’s apparently heroic and public death. The circumstances were horrific and many people left writings about it. When his balloon broke free from its moorings and started to drift towards enemy lines, Hallam threw the camera equipment and maps over the side, gave the balloon’s 2 parachutes to the 2 other men in the basket and then jumped out himself, plunging 6,000 feet – “like a stone”, according to Dundee Courier (“How Basil Hallam Met His Death, 4 September 1916). Philip Zeigler’s Diana Cooper: The Biography of Lady Diana Cooper (1982) quotes Raymond Asquith’s eye-witness letter to Hallam’s erstwhile girlfriend, reporting that Hallam’s body was found “dreadfully foreshortened”; his cigarette case was the only identifying mark. Rudyard Kipling also describes Hallam’s death in The Irish Guards in the Great War (1916), although the details of his version are slightly different
>>
Link Actors and Military Service
 

Themanwho

LE
Book Reviewer
My Grandfather was WOP/AG as a Flight Sgt and was commissioned sadly the day he was Kia
With apologies to Grandarse:

"I wish I was a WOP/AG
I'd fly all over Germanee
And blow the Huns to buggeree
It's foolish but it's fun!"


My Great Uncle was a Sgt Flight Engineer, one tour on Lancs, then one on Liberators in the Pacific (flying from India IIRC?).

After the war he worked for the Milk Marketing Board maintaining milking machines, which he told my Dad were a damn sight more temperamental than heavy bombers...
 

syrup

LE
You forgot the other side, from IMDb:

Several cast members were actual POWs during World War II. Donald Pleasence was held in the German camp Stalag Luft I, Hannes Messemer in a Russian camp, and Til Kiwe and Hans Reiser were prisoners of the Americans. Pleasence said the set was a very accurate representation of a POW camp.

Donald Pleasance was made a Technical advisor on set after pointing out a few inaccuracies with the hut's
The director initially gave him a dressing down and told him he was there to act and to mind his own business about everything else.
One of the other actors overheard and pointed out to the director Donald's war service and the fact he had been in a Stalag.

The director apologised and made him a technical advisor

Peter Butterworth of Carry on Fame was shot down and escaped a couple of times and was re-captured
He was turned down for a part in the film The Wooden Horse because he didn't look military enough.
He had actually helped dig the tunnel in real life
 
My Grandfather was WOP/AG as a Flight Sgt and was commissioned sadly the day he was Kia
I am sorry to hear that and I want you to know that I have the greatest respect for your Grandfather and his brethren. I always recall one of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster pilots observing that when he was doing displays, 56,000 other blokes were flying along with him. What a matchless generation they were.
 
Last edited:

Joshua Slocum

LE
Book Reviewer
Basil Rathbone M.C. who was probably the greatest ever Sherlock Holmes joined up in 1915 ( A Saffer) fought through the Great War , was the British Army Fencing Champion twice !! and mad as a box of frogs, used to go out in a camouflage suit and spy on the German lines, he lost his Brother John on the Western Front he is buried in BERLES NEW MILITARY CEMETERY


He also served alongside Claude Rains a South London lad like meself, who was badly wounded and unfit for further service, but continued to serve with the Bedfordshire regiment

Herbert Marshall another fine English actor Lost a leg at the second Battle of Arras, later fitted with a prosthetic leg her returned to acting

Ronald Coleman ( the famous Tasche) had joined the London Scottish as a territorial in 1909, called up in 1914 he joined his regiment in France he was badly wounded in the Battle of Messines and invalided out in 1915
he tried to hide his limp for the rest of his career


Sir Cedric Webster Hardwicke, enlisted on the outbreak of war, he served from 1914 until 1921 in the judges advocate branch of the army, being one of the last members of the B.E.F. to leave France in 1934 !
He was also one of the Officers who escorted the body of the Unknown Warrior from France !

Nigel Bruce ( Dr Watson) came from a distinguished family his Father being a Baronet , He enlisted as a Territorial with the H.A.C. and served in France until 195 when he was received a burst from a machine gun through his legs,while fighting in Kemmel in Belgium, after much surgery he was discharged, but re enlisted as an officer cadet with the Somerset Light infantry where he served as a training officer on the him front ( his injuries precluded active service)
 

syrup

LE
I am sorry to hear that and I want you to know that I have the greatest respect for your Grandfather. I always recall one of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster pilots observing that when he was doing displays, 56,000 other blokes were flying along with him. What a matchless generation they were.


Slightly off topic

The BBMF had problem s landing the Lancaster they always went for a three point perfect landing
They asked a couple of the old boys the best way to do.

Get it over the runway and slam it down was the answer
If you walk away it's a good one and you go again.
 

syrup

LE
Nigel Bruce ( Dr Watson) came from a distinguished family his Father being a Baronet , He enlisted as a Territorial with the H.A.C. and served in France until 195 when he was received a burst from a machine gun through his legs,while fighting in Kemmel in Belgium, after much surgery he was discharged, but re enlisted as an officer cadet with the Somerset Light infantry where he served as a training officer on the him front ( his injuries precluded active service)

Bruce was partially disabled due to his war wounds
Which is why until the later versions Watson was always played in that style as an older gentleman with Homes doing all the action

In the Books IIRC Watson was a nails Afghan War veteran
 
Slightly off topic

The BBMF had problem s landing the Lancaster they always went for a three point perfect landing
They asked a couple of the old boys the best way to do.

Get it over the runway and slam it down was the answer
If you walk away it's a good one and you go again.
I used to visit Croft racing circuit, a former bomber base. A significant depression in some adjacent ground was pointed out to me by staff. It was a crater caused by a damaged wimpey returning from a raid with a hung up.bomb. No survivors sadly.
 
Last edited:
On a B-17, The Navigator and Bombardier (Officers) would both be manning the "Cheek Gun" positions as well as their main respective roles
Once the B-17G came into service, the Bombardier operated the remote control Bendix chin turret.

1623579225545.png


Cheek guns were then sometimes removed, but where they were still fitted, the navigator would nip from side to side to operate them, as fighter attack patterns required.
 
I got to thinking about pre-service actors who didn't survive their service, thankfully there weren't
many, the First World War had a number, the most well-known casualty was probably Basil Hallam (see below)
Unusually and interestingly, the only memorial I've so far come across is to actors who died in the FIrst World War is in the form of a Funeral Pall, presented to Westminster Abbey by the Actors' Christian Union.
<<
On 7th May 1920 the Actors' Church Union presented a hearse cloth or funeral pall to Westminster Abbey. This was given in memory of their members who had died during the 1914-1918 war. It was presented by the Bishop of Willesden and Ben Greet was the Union representative. The anthem I was glad by Hubert Parry was sung and the hymn Father of day and night.
Dean Ryle had decided that the colour should be white, modelled on medieval examples, rather than the black or purple which had been in use during Victorian times. It was designed by W.D. Caroe and worked by Minna Hollier of Bristol. The white silk brocade is embroidered and sub-divided by gold and string-coloured woven lace with a cross at either end. The badge of the donors appears with the inscription "The Actors' Church Union. As unknown and yet well known". The larger shields show the Royal Arms and those of the Abbey with rose and portcullis badges all over.
It was used on the grave of the Unknown Warrior in 1920, beneath the Union Flag. It lay on the coffin of Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, at her lying in state in the Abbey in 1925. In Westminster Hall it has been used under the Royal Standard at the lying in state of George V, Queen Mary and Elizabeth, the Queen
Mother.
>>
View attachment 581005
Link Actors' Memorial Pall

Basil Hallam was a pre-WW1 actor and singer who was killed on the Western Front. He was most known for his rendering of 'Gilbert the Filbert'.
He joined the RFC and became an observation balloon crew member on the Somme. Although there is no doubt about the manner of his death, the report below seems to be embroidered a bit; for example other
accounts state that his parachute mal-functioned.
<<
This was compounded by Hallam’s apparently heroic and public death. The circumstances were horrific and many people left writings about it. When his balloon broke free from its moorings and started to drift towards enemy lines, Hallam threw the camera equipment and maps over the side, gave the balloon’s 2 parachutes to the 2 other men in the basket and then jumped out himself, plunging 6,000 feet – “like a stone”, according to Dundee Courier (“How Basil Hallam Met His Death, 4 September 1916). Philip Zeigler’s Diana Cooper: The Biography of Lady Diana Cooper (1982) quotes Raymond Asquith’s eye-witness letter to Hallam’s erstwhile girlfriend, reporting that Hallam’s body was found “dreadfully foreshortened”; his cigarette case was the only identifying mark. Rudyard Kipling also describes Hallam’s death in The Irish Guards in the Great War (1916), although the details of his version are slightly different
>>
Link Actors and Military Service
Poor Basil Hallam's grave is in Couin. It's not on the main Somme circuit and the two cemeteries on either side of a road do not get that many visitors. Raymond Asquith (son of the PM Herbert Asquith) was a rival of Hallam's for the hand of socialite Diana Cooper. That is one reason why he delighted in describing the condition of Hallam's body. His own days were numbered however. He was clobbered in the attack made by the Guards along the Ginchy Road on 15 September. He is buried at Guillemont Road Cemy, close to my signature man William Stanhope Forbes, son of the famous painter.
 
Last edited:
Not forgetting the Senior Service, actor Esmond Knight, star of several Powell and Pressburger films in the late 1940s, served as a gunnery officer on board HMS Prince of Wales. He was onboard Prince of Wales when, in company with HMS Hood, the two ships intercepted the Bismarck. A salvo from Bismarck exploded near Knight's gun position. The shrapnel blinded him. Prince of Wales withdrew and Esmond Knight survived. After two years his sight improved, hence his association with Powell and Pressburger and Olivier. In 1960 Esmond Knight secured the role of Captain Jack Leach, who commanded HMS Prince of Wales in the Bismarck encounter in the Sink the Bismarck film.
 
Last edited:

Awol

LE

My Grandfather was WOP/AG as a Flight Sgt and was commissioned sadly the day he was Kia
Sympathies Ugs, obviously a granddad to be proud of. Tell me please, what was a WOP (google just says it’s a pejorative for an Italian). But I knew that already :)
 
Wireless Operator/Air Gunner. My father was one.

Actually, I think you'll find that was a WAG. Early in the war there were Air Gunners (brevet badge: AG), who quickly morphed into Wireless Operator/Air Gunners (brevet badge: WAG), and later on came Wireless Operators (brevet badge: S (signaller)).

batemanrafaerialgunnersmallfrtlg.jpg


gowanrafwagfrtlg.jpg


gowanrafsignaller2frtlg.jpg


And just to cloud issues a bit further - 'Observer, Radio' introduced on 29th May 1941, although it was usually known as Radio Operator. They were in fact radar operators, although the badge was quickly replaced by the navigator's 'N' wing and the trade redesignated Navigator (Radio).

batemanrafradiooperatorfrtlg.jpg
 
Last edited:
Top