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In Which We Serve (1942)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

HMS Torrin, a Royal Navy destroyer, is dive-bombed during the Battle of Crete and sinks. The surviving crew members, including the Captain, Chief Petty Officer Walter Hardy and Ordinary Seaman Shorty Blake, manage to reach a Carley float. As they await rescue - or death - each of them remembers the events leading up to that moment, and the homes and families they have left behind.

Captain Kinross is a caring man, who takes his crew's welfare to heart. He is also a happy family man, with a young son and daughter, living a comfortable, middle-class country life when not at sea. Walter Hardy lives with his wife, Kath - and her mother - in Bristol, while Shorty Blake lives with his mother in London. Each of the men remembers his last Christmas at home. The Captain's is rather grand. His wife, Alix, toasts his ship, her 'rival' for his affections.

While clinging to the float, Shorty is hit when machine guns open fire on the survivors. He remembers meeting his wife-to-be, Frida, on a train. She is Hardy's niece.

A young stoker recalls his fear when the ship prepared to launch a torpedo attack, and how he deserted his post. Although his Captain pardoned him, he remained apart from the other men, seeking solace in drink when ashore.

HMS Torrin was involved in the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk, bringing the injured and exhausted soldiers home.

Walter's house is bombed and Kath and her mother are killed. Frida and her baby had been staying with them, while Shorty was at sea, but they survive. Shorty has to give Walter the bad news.

The Carley float suffers another machine gun attack, and more of the crew are killed. The survivors are eventually picked up by another ship, but the young stoker dies, knowing that his Captain is proud of him.

When the Battle of Crete is reported in the newspapers, Frida is certain that Shorty must be dead, but she and his mother receive a telegram to tell them he is safe. In her big house, Alix also receives a telegram - her husband is alive. The sailors are taken to Alexandria. They will all serve in different ships. Captain Kinross takes his leave of them and makes a farewell speech.