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Danger U.X.B. (1979)


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!

'Dead Man's Shoes' (ITV, tx. 8/1/1979), written by John Hawksworth, directed by Ferdinand Fairfax

During the London Blitz of 1940, Atkinson is killed while defusing an unexploded bomb. The newly commissioned Lieutenant Brian Ash is sent to replace him. He is initially unable to find his unit, since the road signs have been removed for fear of invasion. He eventually finds the headquarters of the 97 Tunnelling Company of the Royal Engineers, but is met with suspicion as he hasn't been given his officer's identity card yet.

Ash is clearly disturbed when he learns from the Sergeant Major that they have now been switched to bomb disposal, and that there is as yet no training available. Ash is kitted out with Atkinson's uniform. He is introduced to others in the officers' mess and comes into conflict with Captain Francis, who is obsessed with protocol and correct procedure. Ash is billeted with Mrs Baker, in the same room as his predecessor. Adam Pringle gives Ash what little information there is about the various bombs being dropped by the Germans, many of which are now booby-trapped. The Sergeant Major tells Ash that he will be taking over 347 section the next day due to pressure for results, as there are thousands of unexploded bombs in London and a dwindling number of bomb disposal officers.

During an air raid that night, Ash gets to know Mrs Baker's daughter Norma. He is clearly frightened by the bombing, but she is excited by it. She offers to spend the night with him, but Ash turns her down.

Ash inspects his unit, but is interrupted when they are sent to defuse a bomb. His Sergeant can see how inexperienced Ash is and promises to help. The men have no confidence in his abilities at all, however. Ash and the others arrive in a suburban area where the bomb has landed, several feet underground. The sappers dig until a large enough area around it has been cleared. Ash goes to defuse the bomb. His sergeant offers to stay, but Ash insists he leave.

The sappers think he will fail but eventually Ash overcomes his nerves and defuses it, although the mechanism almost falls out of his hands. Afterwards Ash wretches while the men look on. The street's inhabitants come out to congratulate Ash. The unit goes to explode the bomb in a safe area. As they leave, sirens can be heard. Another bombing raid is about to begin.