The Cruel Sea

Synopsis: At the start of World War II, Cmdr. Ericson is assigned to convoy escort HMS Compass Rose with inexperienced officers and men just out of training. The winter seas make life miserable enough, but the men must also harden themselves to rescuing survivors of U-Boat attacks, while seldom able to strike back. Traumatic events afloat and ashore create a warm bond between the skipper and his first officer. Atmospheric sea footage.
Genre: Drama, War
Director(s): Charles Frend
Production: Eric Ambler
  Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 nominations.
126 min

'This is a story

of the Battle of the Atlantic.

'A story of an ocean,

two ships and a handful of men.

'The men are the heroes.

'The heroines are the ships.

'The only villain is the sea,

the cruel sea,

'that man has made more cruel.

'When the war came in 1939,

'the Navy took me out

of the Merchant Service, where I belong,

'and put me in command of one

of the new convoy escort vessels

'that were being built on the Clyde.

'She was a Flower-class Corvette.

'Her name was Compass Rose.

'lt was all very strange at first.

'But it wasn't the ship herself

I was worrying about,

'so much as the men

who were going to sail in her.

'Most of them had never

been to sea before.

'As for the officers, I was the only

professional seaman among them.

'The rest were amateurs. '

Reporting for Compass Rose, sir.

- Which are you?

- Lockhart, sir.

- So you're Ferraby?

- Yes, sir.

First ship?

Yes, sir.

We've come up from King Alfred.

- How long were you training there?

- Five weeks, sir.

Five weeks? Oh.

- What was your job in peace time?

- Freelance journalist, sir.

Well, what's the connection?

I've done a bit of sailing, sir.

What about you?

I was working in a bank, sir.

Ever been to sea?

Only across to France, sir.

- Either of you married?

- Yes. I am, sir.


Well, you'd better have a look

around the ship to begin with.

The main crew hasn't joined yet,

but there'll be plenty for you to do.

- Where's all your gear?

- At the station, sir.

You can pick that up later.

By the way, don't salute me indoors

when I haven't got a cap on.

I can't return it. You tak e

your cap off when you come in.

Sorry, sir.

It's all right. It's not vital,

but you may as well get it right.

When you've had a look around,

report to the first lieutenant.

Coxswain! Coxswain!

- Sir.

- This man is smoking during working.

- We're not working a routine yet.

- Who says not?

I was going to leave it

till we had full ship's company aboard.

No smoking except during stand-easy.


Aye-aye, sir.

I say, it's going to be

pretty crowded here.

You and I share a cabin, I suppose?


- Hello there!

- Yes?

- What are you hiding down there for?

- I'm not hiding.

- Weren't you told to report to me?

- After looking round the ship, yes.

- Sir!

- Sir.

Well, come up here! And double up!

It's your job to find out where I am.


- Lockhart.

- Ferraby.

So you've been round the ship?

How many fire-hose points are there?

Very smart.

What sort of gun have we got?

- Four inch.

- Four inch what?

Breech-loading, quick-firing,

mark IV, mark VI, fixed ammunition?

Four inch...

- I-I don't know.

- Find out!

I'll ask you the next time I see you.

Get to the dock office, and start

mustering the confidential books!

Yes... sir.

I've the first lieutenant

around here.

And don't you forget it!

Bosun's mate!

We're going to get on beautifully

How did you know

about the fire points?

I didn't, but I guessed

he didn't know either.

Well, never mind.

We volunteered for it.

I didn't expect the Navy

to be that chap.

Perhaps the Navy

didn't expect it either.

March to attention!

Left, right, left, right,

left, right, left.

Ship's company!


Left turn!

- What's this?

- Cor blimey! This is lovely, this is!

Talk about

the Black Hole of Calcutta!

Wrong shop, mate.

This is the seamen's mess.

No, it ain't.

We're all together in this gash boat.

Seamen and stok ers messing together?

The stok ers don't lik e it

any more than you do!

And there's no canteen!

Oh, this is gonna be lovely.

I'd sooner be in the cooler.

Why don't you ask the skipper?

He'll fix it for you!

Here! That corner's mine!

Compass Rose, 'shun!

Pipe the still!

Hands to stations

for leaving harbour!

Special sea-duty men close up!

Bridge, depth charge,

can you hear me?

Ferraby! Why aren't you aft

where you belong?

I-I was just going aft, sir.

Just going.

Now, listen.

I've been watching you, sub.

You've been marking time

since I stopped you sleeping ashore

when your wife was up here.

Well, from now on

you're going to jump!

And don't you forget it!

- If I ever catch you skulking about...

- 'Bridge? '

- 'Bridge, sir. '

- Is the first lieutenant there?

- 'Yes, sir. '

- Ask him to come down to my cabin.

- Engine's ready, sir.

- Very good, Chief.

- About the revs, sir.

- Yes.

The builders say slow ahead, 35,

half a head, 100.

- Try that to start with.

- Aye-aye, sir.

If I ring "full astern" twice,

it means only you can save me.

I'll remember that, sir.

I wonder if we'll ever see

action in her.

My paper says

it'll be all over by Easter.

- You wanted me, sir?

- Yes.

- Are we ready to move, Number One?

- Yes, sir. Any time you lik e.

It's your job to come and tell me.

I can't guess at it.

- Are all the hands aboard?

- Er... I think so, sir.

Well, are they or aren't they?

I'll detail Ferraby to check up.

You won't detail anyone. Unless

you want to change jobs with them.

Report to me on the bridge

when ready for sea.

Aye-aye, sir.

Let go, aft!

Let go!

K49, hoist!

All clear, aft!

- Slow ahead.

- Slow ahead.

Slow ahead, sir.

Good luck to you, Compass Rose!

'At Greenock,

we ammunitioned and stored.

'Compass Rose passed her sea trials,

'and I took her over

from the builders.

'Then we went north

for our working-up exercises.

'The three weeks of training,

Rate this script:3.0 / 2 votes

Eric Ambler

Eric Clifford Ambler OBE (28 June 1909 – 22 October 1998) was an influential British author of thrillers, in particular spy novels, who introduced a new realism to the genre. He also worked as a screenwriter. Ambler used the pseudonym Eliot Reed for books co-written with Charles Rodda. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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