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Index Theirs Is the Glory (1946)

"They have written in letters of fire an immortal page of history. Their manner of passing shall be carried like a banner borne high by all those who shall come after. Their story will be told wherever men cherish deeds of good report. The story of those filthy, grimy, wonderful gentlemen who drop from the clouds and fight where they stand. Just Ordinary Men."

The film Theirs Is the Glory, produced in 1946, was the first significant effort to chronicle the gallant stand of the British 1st Airborne Division, including 2 Wings of the Glider Pilot Regiment and the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade Group in the Battle of Arnhem (Operation Market Garden) which lasted from 17 September to 25 September 1944. It preceded the epic film A Bridge Too Far by 31 years.

Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, the film was a unique production in many respects. It was filmed on the war-torn site of the battle, using only actual participants in the battle as actors in the film, and was jointly produced by the J Arthur Rank Organization and the British Army’s Film and Photographic Unit (APFU). Some of the cast members had been only recently released from POW camps at the time of filming.

Among the persons appearing in the movie were, Lt Hugh Ashmore, Maj CFH 'Freddie' Gough, Maj Richard 'Dickie' Lonsdale, Mrs Kate ter Horst, Pte Tommy Scullion of County Antrim, Pte Peter Holt from Middlesex, Pte David Parker from Scotland, Cpl Pearce from Wales, Pte George ‘Titch’ Preston from Grimsby, Pte Frank ‘Butch’ Dixon (proven lethal with a PIAT), Sgt John Daley of Waterford, and war correspondents Stanley Maxted and Alan Wood. In addition, the total cast included other paratroopers, gunners, sappers, RAMC, RASC, reconnaissance squadron and glider pilots - all veterans of the battle. Each member was paid £3.0s.0d. per day by the Rank Organisation.

The movie had simultaneous premieres in Ottawa, Arnhem and the Gaumont Theatre in the Haymarket London on the second anniversary of the start of the battle, 17 September 1946.

A remastered high definition version was shown in the Astra Cinema on the Imperial War Museum Duxford site on 10 September 2014 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the battle, organised by Gil Boyd and Jon Baker of The Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces Museum with the assistance of Allan Esler Smith, the nephew of Brian Desmond Hurst. Attendees at the screening included three Arnhem veterans and the Colonel Commandant of The Parachute Regiment.

A detailed article on the making of the film is contained in After the Battle Magazine, Issue Number 58.

With thanks to Jim Gordon for assistance in compilation of this article.

by Harvey Grenville

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