Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

In Which We Serve (1942)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

In Which We Serve (1942, UK)

In director David Lean's and Noel Coward's morale-boosting war-time drama (Lean's first directorial credit), "the story of a ship", told mostly in flashback:

  • the words of British Captain E.V. Kinross (Noel Coward) to his crew of the British warship the HMS Torrin, as it was quickly commissioned into action in the summer of 1939: ("You all know that it's the custom of the service for the Captain to address the ship's company on Commissioning Day to give them his policy and tell them the ship's programme. Now, my policy's easy. And if there are any here who've served with me before, they'll know what it is....Well, there are enough old shipmates to tell the others what my policy's always been"); he elicited responses about what kind of ship he wanted the Torrin to be, and summarized: "A very happy and a very efficient ship. Some of you might think I'm a bit ambitious wanting both, but in my experience, you can't have one without the other. A ship can't be happy unless she's efficient, and she certainly won't be efficient unless she's happy" - and then he warned about their immediate deployment, not the customary three weeks: "As I see it, that means war next week. So I will give you not three weeks but exactly three days to get this ship ready to sail. None of us will turn in or take our clothes off or sling our hammocks for the next three days and nights till the job's finished. Then we'll send Hitler a telegram saying, 'The Torrin's ready. You can start your war'"
  • the concluding sequence of the stalwart but depleted crew of the sunken warship the HMS Torrin, after they had abandoned ship and were left to die on a life-raft during the Battle of Crete in 1941; the ship's Captain E. V Kinross offered "three cheers for the ship" as it sank; but then many more of the survivors were killed by strafing from passing German planes
  • the triumphant moment of the rescue of 90 remaining survivors by another British battleship
  • the last address - a final, very emotional teary goodbye delivered by the ship's Captain in Alexandria, Egypt, to his crew: ("I have to say goodbye to the few of you who are left. We had so many talks, and this is our last. I've always tried to crack a joke or two before, and you've all been friendly and laughed at them. But today, I'm afraid I've run out of jokes; and I don't suppose any of us feels much like laughing. The Torrin has been in one scrap after another, but even when we've had men killed, the majority survived and brought the old ship back. Now, she lies in 1,500 fathoms. And with her, more than half our shipmates. If they had to die, what a grand way to go! For now they lie all together with the ship we loved and they're in very good company. We've lost her, but they're still with her. There may be less than half the Torrin left. But I feel that we'll all take up the battle with even stronger heart; each of us knows twice as much about fighting, and each of us has twice as good a reason to fight. You will all be sent to replace men who've been killed in other ships. And the next time you're in action, remember the Torrin. I should like to add that there isn't one of you that I wouldn't be proud and honoured to serve with again. Goodbye, good luck. And thank you all from the bottom of my heart..."); then he personally shook the hands of all crew members as they left
Farewell Address and Goodbye by Ship's Captain (Noel Coward)
to Surviving Crew Members
  • the Narrator's (Leslie Howard) final words, in voice-over, ending with a view of the British flag unfurled on another battleship, now commanded by Capt. Kinross who gave the command from the bridge for the firing of massive guns: "Open fire!": ("Here ends the story of a ship, but there will always be other ships, for we are an island race. Through all our centuries, the sea has ruled our destiny. There will always be other ships and men to sail in them. It is these men, in peace or war, to whom we owe so much. Above all victories, beyond all loss, in spite of changing values and a changing world, they give to us, their countrymen, eternal and indomitable pride...God bless our ships and all who sail in them")

1939 Address of Captain to HMS Torrin Crew

Disastrous Battle of Crete: 1941

A Final "Three Cheers for the Ship" - As the Torrin Sank

Rescue of Survivors on Rafts


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