Nine Men (film)

Nine Men

UK release poster
Directed by Harry Watt
Produced by Michael Balcon
Written by Harry Watt (from short story by Gerald Kersh)
Starring Jack Lambert
Gordon Jackson
Frederick Piper
Music by John Greenwood
Cinematography Roy Kellino
Edited by Charles Crichton
Distributed by Ealing Studios
Release dates
  • 22 February 1943 (1943-02-22)
Running time
68 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Nine Men is a 1943 British patriotic war film, set in the North African Campaign during the Second World War.


The film is an Ealing Studios production, which marked the first fiction film assignment for celebrated documentary film director Harry Watt, who had previously worked at the Crown Film Unit.[1] With a budget of only £20,000 the film's exterior desert sequences were shot at Margam Sands, Glamorgan.[2]


In a barrack room at a Battle Training Ground in England, a platoon of conscripts are complaining about blisters and are impatient to get into action with the enemy. Sergeant Jack Watson tells them that they need a little bit ("un petit peu") extra to be successful in combat, which he illustrates with a story from his previous experience in the Western Desert Campaign.[1]

Lieutenant Crawford, Sergeant Watson and the seven men under their command are travelling through the Libyan desert in an Allied convoy, when their lorry becomes stuck in the sand and the convoy moves on without them. As they work to free themselves, they are attacked by German aircraft, injuring Crawford and Johnson and setting fire to the lorry. Setting off on foot and carrying the wounded, they struggle through a sandstorm until they come across a derelict hut. Lieutenant Crawford orders them to hold out there until help arrives, but then dies. They are besieged by Italian troops, with only a limited supply of ammunition and their own wits to help them survive. By various ruses and skillful use of their weapons, they are able to hold out until the Italians make a final assault; the British soldiers use the last of their bullets and finally resort to a bayonet charge, just as reinforcements arrive supported by tanks, forcing the Italians to surrender.

The film finishes back at the barrack room; Watson concludes his story as the bugle sounds for dinner.[3]

The film focuses on the camaraderie and resilience of very ordinary men in adversity. Although the battle scenes are effective and were considered to be particularly graphic at the time,[4] the portrayal of the Italian soldiers was described by the Manchester Guardian as "impossibly instead of credibly cowardly".[1]


In common with many Ealing productions of the time, the film used a largely unknown cast, only a few of whom were full-time professional actors. The film is known to be actor Grant Sutherland's last performance before retiring from acting to pursue a career in business. Before Sutherland featured in such films as Michael Powell's The Edge of the World and The Spy in Black.

  • Jack Lambert as Sergeant Jack Watson
  • Gordon Jackson as Young'un
  • Frederick Piper as 'Badger' Hill
  • Grant Sutherland as Jock Scott
  • Bill Blewett as Bill Parker
  • Eric Micklewood as 'Bookie' Lee
  • John Varley as 'Dusty' Johnstone
  • Jack Horsman as Joe Harvey
  • Richard Wilkinson as Lieutenant Crawford
  • Giulio Finzi as Italian mechanic
  • Fred Griffiths as Base sergeant [5]


  1. 1 2 3 Havardi, Jeremy (2014), Projecting Britain at War: The National Character in British World War II Films McFarland & Company Inc, ISBN 978-0-7864-7483-7 (p. 78)
  2. "Nine Men (1943)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  3. "Nine Men (1943) - Synopsis". British Film Institute. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  4. Chapman, James (2008), War and Film, Reaktion Books, ISBN 978-1-86189-347-5 (pp. 65-66)
  5. "Nine Men (1943) - Cast and Credits". British Film Institute. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
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