We Dive at Dawn

Last updated

We Dive at Dawn
We Dive at Dawn title.jpg
Title card
Directed by Anthony Asquith
Written byStory and screenplay:
Val Valentine
J. B. Williams
Frank Launder
Produced by Edward Black
Starring John Mills
Eric Portman
Cinematography Jack E. Cox
Edited by R. E. Dearing
Music by Louis Levy
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release date
  • 15 April 1943 (1943-04-15)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

We Dive at Dawn is a 1943 war film directed by Anthony Asquith and starring John Mills and Eric Portman as Royal Navy submariners in the Second World War. It was written by Val Valentine and J. B. Williams with uncredited assistance from Frank Launder. It was produced by Edward Black. The film's sets were designed by Walter Murton.



It is April, 1942. Lieutenant Freddie Taylor and some crew of the submarine Sea Tiger are given a week's leave after an unsuccessful patrol. Leading Seaman Hobson goes home to save his marriage, while a reluctant Torpedo Gunner's Mate Corrigan departs for his wedding in London. When the crew are recalled early Corrigan is relieved, though later regrets not completing his marriage. Sea Tiger has been assigned the top secret mission to sink Nazi Germany's new battleship, the Brandenburg, before she transits the Kiel Canal for sea trials in the Baltic Sea. Sea Tiger must put to sea immediately.

Crossing the North Sea, the submarine picks up three shot-down Luftwaffe pilots from a rescue buoy, and prevents their radio alert to German forces. When the submarine enters a minefield, an airman panics and reveals the Brandenburg is further ahead than thought. The airman is attacked by a countryman and subsequently dies. Taylor decides on a desperate gamble to pursue the Brandenburg into the German-controlled Baltic Sea.

When the Brandenburg is spotted, Sea Tiger fires all its torpedoes, but dives before assessing their impact due to German destroyers dropping depth charges. By expelling oil and other debris including the body of the German airman, Taylor deceives the Germans into believing that the submarine has sunk. Although successfully escaped, Sea Tiger no longer has enough oil to reach Britain. The Germans, convinced that the Sea Tiger has been sunk, have Lord Haw Haw broadcast to Britain announcing the destruction of the Sea Tiger.

Taylor decides to have his crew abandon ship on the Danish island of Hågø (which is in fact the island of Bågø). Hobson, a former merchant seaman who speaks German and knows the port on the island, persuades Taylor to let him go ashore and search for oil. He succeeds, and Sea Tiger enters the harbour under cover of darkness, using Hobson's intelligence about the harbour depth. Aided by friendly Danish sailors, they refuel while Hobson and other crewmen hold off the German garrison. Although Pincher (the cook) is killed and Oxford and Lieutenant Johnson are wounded, they get back to the re-fuelled submarine and start to leave the port. While they leave though, the tanker they were able to refuel from is hit by German shells and catches fire. Taylor, not wanting to risk the Sea Tiger any longer, continues to leave the port and makes it out to the open sea.

While returning to Britain, the crew are met by an escorting trawler and learn from them that they sank the Brandenburg. The Sea Tiger returns to base, flying the Jolly Roger for the first time.



We Dive at Dawn was filmed at Gaumont-British Studios in London, [1] with the co-operation of the British Admiralty. John Mills prepared for his role as the captain of Sea Tiger by sailing in a submarine on a training mission down the Clyde. He recalled a crash dive:

The ship then seemed to stand on her nose and I felt her speeding like an arrow towards the sea bed; charts and crockery went flying in all directions; I hung on to a rail near the periscope trying to look heroic and totally unconcerned; the only thing that concerned me was that I was sure that my face had turned a pale shade of pea-green. [2]

Exterior shots of the submarines P614 and P615 were used for Sea Tiger (with the final number painted over to make "P61"). [3] The vessels were a Turkish S-class submarine that had been part of a consignment ordered by the Turkish Navy from the British company Vickers in 1939. But with the outbreak of World War II, the four boats were requisitioned by the Royal Navy and designated the P611 class in the British Fleet. They were similar in design but slightly smaller than the British S class, although with a higher conning tower. [3] The S-class boat HMS Safari also appears in the film.

Home media

The film has been issued on VHS by Madacy Records and Timeless Multimedia among others, and on DVD by ITV DVD and Carlton.

Related Research Articles

<i>U-571</i> (film) 2000 film by Jonathan Mostow

U-571 is a 2000 submarine film directed by Jonathan Mostow from a screenplay he co-wrote with Sam Montgomery and David Ayer. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Harvey Keitel, Bill Paxton, Jon Bon Jovi, Jake Weber and Matthew Settle. The film follows a World War II German submarine boarded by American submariners to capture her Enigma cipher machine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Submarine films</span> Subgenre of war film

The submarine film is a subgenre of war film in which the majority of the plot revolves around a submarine below the ocean's surface. Films of this subgenre typically focus on a small but determined crew of submariners battling against enemy submarines or submarine-hunter ships, or against other problems ranging from disputes amongst the crew, threats of mutiny, life-threatening mechanical breakdowns, or the daily difficulties of living on a submarine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Midget submarine</span> Submarine under 150 tons

A midget submarine is any submarine under 150 tons, typically operated by a crew of one or two but sometimes up to six or nine, with little or no on-board living accommodation. They normally work with mother ships, from which they are launched and recovered and which provide living accommodation for the crew and support staff.

HMS <i>Sceptre</i> (P215) UK submarine

HMS Sceptre (P215) was a third-batch S-class submarine built for the Royal Navy during World War II. Completed in April 1943, she spent the majority of her career in the North Sea, off Norway. After an uneventful patrol, the submarine participated in Operation Source, an attack on German battleships in Norway using small midget submarines to penetrate their anchorages and place explosive charges. However, the midget submarine that she was assigned to tow experienced technical difficulties and the mission was aborted. During her next four patrols, Sceptre attacked several ships, but only succeeded in severely damaging one. She was then ordered to tow the submarine X24, which was to attack a floating dry dock in Bergen. The operation, codenamed Guidance, encountered difficulties with the attacking submarine's charts, and the explosives were laid on a merchant ship close to the dock instead. The dock was damaged and the ship sunk, and X24 was towed back to England. Sceptre then conducted a patrol in the Bay of Biscay, sinking two German merchant ships, before being reassigned to tow X24 to Bergen again. The operation was a success, and the dry dock was sunk.

<i>Down Periscope</i> 1996 American film

Down Periscope is a 1996 American military comedy submarine film directed by David S. Ward, produced by Robert Lawrence, and starring Kelsey Grammer, Lauren Holly, and Rob Schneider along with Bruce Dern, Harry Dean Stanton, William H. Macy, and Rip Torn in supporting roles. Released by 20th Century Fox on March 1, 1996, the film focuses on Lieutenant Commander Thomas Dodge, a capable U.S. Navy officer who fights to save his career after being saddled with a group of misfit seamen who have been brought together as the crew of his first command, USS Stingray, a rusty, obsolete World War II-era diesel submarine that is the focus of a special naval war game, supervised by a bitter rival who is fighting to bury Dodge's career by any means necessary.

<i>Operation Petticoat</i> 1959 film by Blake Edwards

Operation Petticoat is a 1959 American World War II submarine comedy film in Eastmancolor from Universal-International, produced by Robert Arthur, directed by Blake Edwards, that stars Cary Grant and Tony Curtis.

X-class submarine Midget submarine class built for the Royal Navy during 1943–44

The X class was a World War II midget submarine class built for the Royal Navy during 1943–44. It was substantially larger than the original Chariot manned torpedo.

HMS <i>E11</i> Submarine of the Royal Navy

HMS E11 was an E-class submarine of the Royal Navy launched on 23 April 1914. E11 was one of the most successful submarines in action during the 1915 naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign, sinking over 80 vessels of all sizes in three tours of the Sea of Marmara.

British B-class submarine British submarine class

The B class was a class of 11 submarines, built by Vickers in Barrow-in-Furness for the Royal Navy, and launched in 1904–06. One boat was sunk by a collision in 1912, but the remainder served in World War I. Three boats protected the transfer of the British Expeditionary Force to France in 1914, but were soon relegated to local defence and training duties. Six submarines were in the Mediterranean when the war began and were quickly sent to the Dardanelles to prevent a breakout by the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben and the light cruiser SMS Breslau into the Eastern Mediterranean. B11 ventured into the Dardanelles in December 1914 and sank the elderly Turkish ironclad Mesudiye.

HMS <i>Graph</i> German World War II submarine captured by the Royal Navy

HMS Graph was a German Type VIIC U-boat that the British Royal Navy captured during World War II. Commissioned as U-570 in Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine in mid-1941, she was attacked and captured on her first patrol.

HMS <i>B11</i> Submarine of the Royal Navy

HMS B11 was the last of 11 B-class submarines built for the Royal Navy in the first decade of the 20th century. Completed in 1906, it is best known for carrying out a successful attack on the Ottoman battleship Mesûdiye in the Dardanelles, an action for which her captain received the Victoria Cross. It spent the remainder of its active life serving in the Mediterranean, being converted into a surface patrol boat late in the war. B11 was sold for scrap in 1919.

HMS <i>Salmon</i> (N65) Submarine

HMS Salmon was a second-batch S-class submarine built during the 1930s for the Royal Navy. Completed in 1935, the boat fought in the Second World War. Salmon is one of twelve boats named in the song "Twelve Little S-Boats".

<i>Oruç Reis</i>-class submarine Submarine class

The Oruç Reis-class submarines were ordered by the Turkish Navy from the British company Vickers in 1939. They were similar to the British S-class submarines, but slightly smaller. They had the S-class machinery but only four bow torpedo tubes. The four boats were requisitioned by the Royal Navy on the outbreak of World War II and fought in the British fleet as the P611 class. Two submarines were delivered to the Turks in 1942 in order to bolster Turkish strength against the threat from Nazi Germany and the remaining surviving submarine was delivered to the Turkish Navy after the end of the war in 1945. P615 had been sunk in 1943. The three Turkish boats were scrapped in 1957.

HMS <i>Syrtis</i> WWII submarine of the Royal Navy

HMS Syrtis was a third-batch S-class submarine built for the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Completed in 1943, Syrtis spent most of her career in the Arctic, off Norway, other than a single patrol in the Bay of Biscay,

HMS <i>Sea Nymph</i> (P223) S-class Submarine of the Royal Navy

HMS Sea Nymph was a S-class submarine of the third batch built for the Royal Navy during World War II. Completed in July 1942, she spent the majority of her career patrolling the waters off Norway in the North Sea, then was sent to the Pacific but was forced back due to technical problems.

HMS <i>Spearfish</i> Submarine of the Royal Navy

HMS Spearfish was a second-batch S-class submarine built during the 1930s for the Royal Navy. Completed in 1936, the boat participated in the Second World War. The submarine was one of the 12 boats named in the song "Twelve Little S-Boats". So far she has been the only ship of the Royal Navy to be named Spearfish.

HMS <i>Sealion</i> (72S) Submarine of the Royal Navy

HMS Sealion was a second-batch S-class submarine built during the 1930s for the Royal Navy. Completed in 1934, the boat fought in the Second World War.

SM <i>U-21</i> (Germany) U-boat built for the Imperial German Navy (1913)

SM U-21 was a U-boat built for the Imperial German Navy shortly before World War I. The third of four Type U-19-class submarines, these were the first U-boats in German service to be equipped with diesel engines. U-21 was built between 1911 and October 1913 at the Kaiserliche Werft in Danzig. She was armed with four torpedo tubes and a single deck gun; a second gun was added during her career.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bågø</span>

Bågø is a small Danish island located in the Little Belt 5 km north-west of Assens on the island of Funen belonging to Assens Municipality. With an area of 6.2 km2 (2.4 sq mi), as of 1 January 2015 it has a population of 25. The island is divided into three low slopes reaching a maximum height of 8 meters above sea level. Essentially an agricultural community, the island's population has decreased drastically since 1950. The village, Bågø By, with its large farm houses lies at the centre of the island. There is a ferry connection with Assens.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chariot manned torpedo</span> British WWII manned torpedo

The Chariot was a British manned torpedo used in World War II. The Chariot was inspired by the operations of Italian naval commandos, in particular the raid on 19 December 1941 by members of the Decima Flottiglia MAS who rode "Maiali" manned torpedoes into the port of Alexandria and there placed limpet mines on or near the battleships HMS Valiant and HMS Queen Elizabeth as well as an 8,000-ton tanker, causing serious damage which put both battleships out of operational use until 1943.


  1. IMDB Filming locations
  2. Steinberg, Jay "We Dive at Dawn" (TCM article)
  3. 1 2 Mackenzie, S. P. (2001). British War Films 1939 - 45. A&C Black. p.  84. ISBN   9781852852580.

While this is a WWII plot featuring a fictional German battleship named Brandenburg (and based heavily on the 'pocket battleships' of the Deutschland-class), the last German battleship to bear this name had been the pre-dreadnought SMS Brandenburg, which was in reserve status throughout WW1 and was broken up for scrap in 1919-1920. The name was used simply because it was, at the time of filming, an unused name appropriate for the fictional warship.