Naval Warfare Movies

Western Approaches

Director: Pat Jackson
Starring: Eric Fullerton, Capt. Duncan MacKenzie, Capt. W. Kerr, Eric Baskeyfield

Published: 1944
Country: UK
Length: 83 min.
Keywords: WWII, Feature

This is the VHS release (see more).


The action in this feature centers on merchant seamen stranded in a lifeboat in the Atlantic after their straggled ship has been torpedoed by a U-boat. After more than two weeks adrift, the seamen are approached by another merchantman from one direction, and by a U-boat from the other. The U-boat captain, spotting the lifeboat, decides to lie in wait for the rescue ship which is sure to arrive. The U-boat torpedoes the rescue ship, but is in turn fatally holed by gunfire.


Great effort was made to incorporate realism into this film. Real seamen and officers played the parts of various characters, and the lifeboat scenes were convincingly filmed in rough weather in the Irish Sea off Holyhead. The film crew shipped out with a convoy in order to get live action footage, including film of a crew abandoning ship. In a pioneering move, the director showed the action from point of view of the enemy; studio sets were used to replicate the U-boat's interior, while a British submarine was employed for a surface shot. When the U-boat sinks, we see the trapped crew fighting against the rising water - a rare glimpse into the struggles of the enemy. In another innovation, the U-boat crew were represented by Dutch actors speaking German, with subtitles in English provided (in general, German characters in English-language films of this period either spoke in English, or spoke in German with no subtitles given). Also unusual for this time period was its filming in Technicolor. This is another film which perpetuates the myth of U-boats machine gunning survivors in the water. Also called The Raider.