For Those in Peril (1944 film)

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For Those in Peril
UK release poster
Directed by Charles Crichton
Written by Harry Watt
J. O. C. Orton
T. E. B. Clarke
Based onshort story by Richard Hillary
Produced by Michael Balcon
Starring David Farrar
Ralph Michael
Cinematography Douglas Slocombe
Edited by Sidney Cole
Music by Gordon Jacob
Release date
  • June 1944 (1944-06)
Running time
77 min. (66 min. and 64 min. edited for home media release [1] )
CountryUnited Kingdom
Language English

For Those in Peril is a 1944 British war film produced by Ealing Studios that marked the directorial debut of Charles Crichton. The film was developed from a short story by Richard Hillary, an RAF pilot killed in action in January 1943. The basic and relatively slight storyline of For Those in Peril was an end to produce a film with a documentary feel and an element of wartime propaganda. The film stars Ralph Michael and David Farrar.


The title is taken from the maritime hymn Eternal Father, Strong to Save: Oh hear us when we pray to thee, for those in peril on the sea.

The film is cut with many sections of true life footage of the motor launches in action.


During the Second World War a fighter pilot bails-out over the English Channel. Lost in the vast sea he floats but is unaided. Observers on the coast at the White Cliffs of Dover assess that it is too late. He is dead.

We are then introduced to various characters on a coastal air sea rescue base on the Sussex coast.

Aspiring RAF pilot Pilot Officer Rawlings (Ralph Michael) has failed to make the grade in training as a mainstream pilot and grudgingly accepts the alternative of joining the crew of Launch 183 (which the crew call Sally), an air-sea rescue craft skippered by Flight Lieutenant Murray (David Farrar). Rawlings is initially resentful and bored by the apparent mundane and un-exciting life, until the vessel is called on to rescue the three man crew of an RAF bomber shot down in mid-Channel, in a small rubber dinghy in the fog. The three survivors encounter a German trawler, Konigin, in the fog and are keen not to be seen. The fog clears and the three men send up a kite. They are spotted by a Supermarine Walrus seaplane. They try to warn it not to land as here are mines in the water, but they are too late. The men paddle themselves out of the minefield.

At the point where the two launches (134 and 183) spot the men the German trawler reappears. It has a mounted gun on the front and a battle commences. HSL 134 is hit. The larger naval vessel RML 529[ clarification needed ] arrives and provides enough fire power to scare the Germans off. 183 rescues the men and takes 134 on tow.

Having accomplished the rescue, the boat runs into an enemy minefield and is also then attacked by German fighters. When Murray is killed, Rawlings has to take charge and bring the vessel back. 134 is in trouble had everyone transfers to 183. RML 518[ clarification needed ] escorts them home.



Crash rescue boat of the Air Sea Rescue Service HSL 164 with RAF Hurricane off Colombo c1943.jpg
Crash rescue boat of the Air Sea Rescue Service

For Those in Peril was designed to publicise a little-known unit of the Royal Air Force, the Air Sea Rescue Unit, which was set up in 1941 to save those in distress at sea, particularly airmen who had been shot down or forced to ditch in the water. In common with a number of other war-related films made by Ealing at this time, the plot was subservient to the propaganda message; name actors were generally not used and genuine sailors featured in the action scenes.

Location filming took place mainly in the area around the port of Newhaven in Sussex, with the English Channel sequences being shot off the Sussex coast. Crichton later recalled: "(My) first picture ... was a propaganda picture called For Those in Peril where we rushed around the Channel in high speed motorboats, boats which were used for picking up crashed airmen and so on. It's a horrifying thing to say, but it was very exciting". [2]

Principal photography took place in mid-1943 at the Ealing studios and on location, with the participation of the Admiralty and Royal Navy in filming. Royal Navy Patrol Service (RNPS) armed trawlers and other auxiliary craft, together with Royal Navy coastal craft (motor launches and torpedo boats) from HMS Aggressive, Shoreham, were made available. A Royal Air Force Supermarine Walrus air-sea rescue aircraft of No. 28 Air Sea Rescue unit and a Douglas DB-7 Boston bomber were also featured. [3]


For Those in Peril was one of the few British productions that appeared in 1944–1945. Its semi-documentary style suited its role as a propaganda film. [4] Film historian George Perry considered this film to be the closest Charles Crichton ever got to "documentary realism during his long Ealing career". [5]

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  1. For Those in Peril was the first screen appearance for James Robertson Justice.


  1. Johnston, Keith. "The Great Ealing Film Challenge 59: For Those in Peril (1944)." Dr. Keith M. Johnston, 6 April 2012. Retrieved: 22 September 2014.
  2. Cole, Sid. "Charles Crichton: BECTU interview." BFI Screen Online, 1987. Retrieved: 23 September 2014.
  3. "For Those In Peril - Ealing Studios 1944." The Aviation Forum, 10 November 2010. Retrieved: 22 September 2014.
  4. Evans 2000, p. 83.
  5. Perry 1991, p. 76.


  • Evans, Alun. Brassey's Guide to War Films. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2000. ISBN   1-57488-263-5.
  • Perry, George. Forever Ealing: A Celebration of the Great British Film Studio. London: Pavilion Books, 1991. ISBN   978-0-90751-660-6.