One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942)

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220px-One_of_Our_Aircraft_posterBritse propaganda film uit 1942.

One of Our Aircraft is Missing is a 1942 British war film, the fourth collaboration between the British writer-director-producer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and the first film they made under the banner of The Archers. Although considered a wartime propaganda film, and made under the authority of the Ministry of Information as part of a series of film productions specifically aimed at morale in the United Kingdom, the story and production values elevated it from the usual jingoistic fare. Today, One of Our Aircraft is Missing is considered one of the “best of British films of the era.”

A reversal of the plot of Powell and Pressburger’s previous film, 49th Parallel (1941), One of Our Aircraft is Missing has the British trying to escape with the help of various local people. In the49th Parallel, the Germans stranded in Canada argued and fought amongst themselves, while the British fliers in this film work well together as a team.

“B for Bertie” is a RAF Vickers Wellington bomber whose crew was forced to bail out over the Netherlands near the Zuider Zee after one of their engines was damaged during a nighttime raid on Stuttgart. Five of the six airmen find each other; the sixth goes missing. The first Dutch citizens they encounter, led by English-speaking schoolteacher Else Meertens (Pamela Brown), are suspicious at first as no aircraft is reported to have crashed in the Netherlands (the bomber actually reaches England before hitting a tower). After much debate and some questioning, the Dutch agree to help, despite their fear of German reprisals.

The disguised airmen led by the pilots (Hugh Burden) and (Eric Portman) bicycle through the countryside to a football match, accompanied by many of the Dutch, where they are passed along to the local burgomeister (Hay Petrie). To their bemusement, they discover their missing crewman playing on one of the teams. Reunited, they hide in a truck carrying supplies to Jo de Vries (Googie Withers).

De Vries pretends to be pro-German, blaming the British for killing her husband in a bombing raid (whereas he is actually in England working as a radio announcer). She hides them in her mansion, despite the Germans being garrisoned there. Under cover of an air raid, she leads them to a rowboat. The men row undetected to the sea, but a bridge sentry finally spots them and a shot seriously wounds the oldest man, Sir George Corbett (Godfrey Tearle). Nevertheless, they reach the North Sea. They take shelter in a German rescue buoy, where they take two shot-down enemy aviators prisoner, but not before one sends a radio message. By chance, two British boats arrive first. Because Corbett cannot be moved, they simply tow the buoy back to England. Three months later, he is fully recovered, and the crew board their new four-engine heavy bomber.

The attitude of the Dutch people towards the Nazi occupation is exemplified by two Dutch women who help the airmen at great personal risk to themselves and these explain why the Dutch were willing to help Allied airmen even though those same airmen were sometimes dropping bombs on the Netherlands and killing Dutch people:
Else Meertens: Do you think that we Hollanders who threw the sea out of our country will let the Germans have it? Better the sea.

Jo de Vries: [Speaking to the downed aircrew as RAF bombers approach]

You see. That’s what you’re doing for us. Can you hear them running for shelter? Can you understand what that means to all the occupied countries? To enslaved people, having it drummed into their ears that the Germans are masters of the Earth.

Seeing those masters running for shelter. Seeing them crouching under tables. And hearing that steady hum night after night. That noise which is oil for the burning fire in our hearts.