Appointment in London

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Appointment in London
Appointment (film).jpg
Original cinema poster
Directed by Philip Leacock
Screenplay by John Wooldridge
Robert Westerby
Story by John Wooldridge
Produced by Aubrey Baring
Maxwell Setton
Starring Dirk Bogarde
Ian Hunter
Dinah Sheridan
Cinematography Stephen Dade
Edited byV. Sagovsky
Music by John Wooldridge
Distributed by British Lion Films (UK)
Release date
  • 17 February 1953 (1953-02-17)(UK)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Appointment in London (known as Raiders in the Sky in the U.S.) is a 1953 British war film set during the Second World War and starring Dirk Bogarde. The film was directed by Philip Leacock and based on a story by John Wooldridge, who as an RAF bomber pilot flew 108 operational sorties over Europe. [1] Wooldridge, who after the war established himself as a successful film composer before his untimely death in a car accident, also wrote the film score and participated in writing the screenplay for 'Appointment in London'.


Appointment in London is set in an RAF Bomber Command squadron during 1943 and tells of a wing commander's attempt to finish his third and final tour of 30 operations. A sub-plot involves his relationship with a widowed Wren in whom an American observer attached to his airfield is also interested.


Wing Commander Tim Mason (Dirk Bogarde) commands a squadron of Avro Lancasters based in England. He is nearing the end of his third tour of operations, meaning that he has flown nearly 90 missions over Germany. Having twice volunteered to continue operational flying, Mason is keen to make it a round 90 "ops", but just as he is nearing the end of his tour he receives orders banning him from further flying. Meanwhile, losses are mounting and several raids are being seen as failures, so that some of the members of his crews, Brown (Bill Kerr) and "The Brat" Greeno (Bryan Forbes) among them, are thinking that there must be a "jinx" at work. Soon afterwards, "The Brat" is caught sending unauthorised telegrams off the station. These turn out to be written to his wife, Pam (Anne Leon), rather than anything more sinister; however, Mason reprimands Greeno for the lapse in security. A few days later, Greeno's aircraft fails to return from a raid and Mason agrees to meet Pam, who has asked to see him.

With only one more flight to go, he accepts that the decision to ground him was for his own good, and he visits Brown's aircraft as Brown and his crew prepare to take off on a mission. As the crew board the Lancaster the large 4,000 lb "cookie" bomb that is part of the bomber's load, slips from the bomb shackles and injures one of the crew. With no time to obtain a replacement crew member, US observer Mac Baker (William Sylvester) takes his place. Mason decides to go as well, to reassure the crew's worries about the jinx, and the bomber takes off.

During the attack on the target, the Pathfinder plane directing the raid is shot down, causing the remaining bombers to begin bombing inaccurately. Hearing and seeing this, Mason takes the Pathfinder's place on the radio, broadcasting corrections and accurate instructions, and the bombing becomes accurate again. Listening-in to the Pathfinder's broadcast back in Britain, Mason's commanding officer, Group Captain Logan (Ian Hunter) hears Mason's voice and realises that he's disobeyed orders and flown on the operation. However, Mason's intervention turns the raid from a probable failure to a success, so on Mason's return Logan greets him at his aircraft.

At the end of the mission, Mason, along with Eve Canyon, Brown and Greeno's wife Pam, take a taxi to Buckingham Palace to receive an award from King George VI. [N 1]

Main cast


Appointment in London was produced by Aubrey Baring and Maxwell Setton and shot at British Lion's Shepperton Studios and at RAF Upwood. [2] Three of the Lancaster B VII bombers, serial numbers NX673, NX679 and NX782, used in the film, also appeared in The Dam Busters two years later. In some ground shots, several of the "Lancasters" in the background are the later Avro Lincoln bombers, still in service at the time. [3]

The film was made with the co-operation of Bomber Harris. [4]

The music was also written by Wooldridge and performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra under his conduction. [1]

Australian actor Peter Finch was originally to play an Australian character, "Bill Brown". When Finch had to withdraw, due to other commitments, he recommended fellow Australian Bill Kerr, who received the part. [5] Kerr also later played a real, celebrated Australian Lancaster pilot, H. B. "Micky" Martin, in The Dambusters.

Another Australian, Don Sharp, had a small role. [6]


Featuring the use of the wartime Avro Lancaster bomber, because of the aerial scenes, Appointment in London was considered a "realistic, well-done story of RAF Bomber Command in the dark days of 1943." [7] Other contemporary reviews in 1953, focused on the action; The Spectator noted, "sequences rock the heart with glory the terror of it all" and the Daily Mail enthused, "The Lancaster bomber raid which climaxes the film is just about the best treatment of this subject I have seen." [2] The fairly staid plot, nonetheless, was also described as a "run-of-the-mill" story. [8] Despite the British interest during the postwar period in films that chronicled the Second World War, the box office was not strong, and Wooldridge considered it a "dud". [9]

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  1. This is the "appointment" that the film title refers to.


  1. 1 2 Coldstream 2005, p. 181.
  2. 1 2 "Appointment in London." Filmed at RAF Upwood. Retrieved: 24 March 2012.
  3. Garbettt and Goulding 1971, pp. 142–143.
  4. Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (2003). British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference. Oxford University Press. pp. 178–180. ISBN   9780198159346.
  5. "Bill Kerr in R.A.F. film." The Australian Women's Weekly , via National Library of Australia, 1 October 1952, p. 61. Retrieved: 3 May 2012.
  6. Vagg, Stephen (27 July 2019). "Unsung Aussie Filmmakers: Don Sharp – A Top 25". Filmink.
  7. Harwick and Schnepf 1983, p. 51.
  8. Evans 2000, p. 31.
  9. Coldstream 2005, p. 182.


  • Coldstream, John. Dirk Bogarde: The Authorised Biography. London: Phoenix, 2005. ISBN   978-0753819852.
  • Evans, Alun. Brassey's Guide to War Films. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2000. ISBN   1-57488-263-5.
  • Garbett, Mike and Brian Goulding. The Lancaster at War. Toronto: Musson Book Company, 1971. ISBN   0-7737-0005-6.
  • Harwick, Jack and Ed Schnepf. "A Buff's Guide to Aviation Movies". Air Progress Aviation, Volume 7, No. 1, Spring 1983.