The novel version of Alistair MacLean’s Where Eagles Dare is not all that it seems.
It’s a classic thriller made into an explosion-filled, action-packed film.
Well, not quite.
In fact, the book started out as the film.
Producer Elliott Kastner approached MacLean directly and asked him for an original script.
MacLean wrote the script and then the book to coincide with the movie’s release.
Years later, Kastner remember the moment he first approached the author.
“I rang Alistair MacLean at his home in Surrey, and told him that I would really like to meet with him. He refused; he didn’t wanna meet without my telling him more details. So I told him: I wanted him to consider writing an original story, directly for the screen. There was a moment of silence, followed by ‘Hmm, nobody ever asked me that before…’
“ ‘So’, he said, ‘What is it you want?’ ‘I want a team of five or six guys on a mission in the Second World War, facing enormous obstacles. I want a mystery. I want a sweaty, exciting adventure movie.’ That’s all I told him, just that.”
And in the book and film that is exactly what we got!
A ceremony has been held to remember the heroes of the raid on St Nazaire.
In March 1942, more than 600 men left Falmouth in Cornwall in a flotilla of three destroyers and 16 smaller boats.
The special fleet included HMS Campbeltown, which was packed with explosives and was used to to ram into the gates of the docks in the French port.
St Nazaire was targeted because the loss of its dry dock would force any large German warship in need of repairs, such as the Tirpitz, to return to home waters rather than having a safe haven available on the Atlantic coast.
The raid put the dry dock out of commission until the end of the war – but success came at a cost. Of the 622 men of the Royal Navy and Commandos who took part in the raid, only 228 men returned to England.
One hundred and sixty-nine men were killed and another 215 became prisoners of war. The fallen British raiders were buried at the Escoublac-la-Baule cemetery, near St Nazaire, with military honors.
Five of the raiders escaped overland via Spain.
Eighty-nine awards and medals were bestowed for the raid, including five Victoria Crosses.
The organiser of this weekend’s event in Falmouth, Eric Dawkins, stated: “The destruction of the dock meant those facilities were no longer able to be used. Falmouth played a major part.
“I’ve known these veterans [who took part], including those few who are still remaining, for 30-odd years and know their tales.”