A Bridge Too Far

The Museum has received a collection of pictures that captured the filming of ‘A Bridge Too Far’, the award winning 1977 war epic that depicted Operation Market Garden.

The photographs were taken by military film advisor ‘Scouse’ – a tankie from 3rd RTR who took his camera on set and was able to take behind the scenes footage of the XXX Corps and the Hollywood stars.

To people of a certain age if someone mentions the iconic film ‘A Bridge Too Far’, most of them would be able to list a “Who’s Who” of contemporary acting legends who featured in the film.

Sean Connery, tick. Michael Caine, tick. Anthony Hopkins, tick. Robert Redford, tick. Gene Hackman, tick. Sir Laurence Olivier, tick and the director, Sir Richard Attenborough, tick.

Colour photograph of Michael Caine in a Humber Scout car, beside a Sherman tank, with white buses on the heathland behind.

It’s not just your acting knights and Hollywood legends who make films; productions on this scale require scores of unsung, largely uncredited, individuals to assist in myriad ways to make the film realistic. ‘Scouse’ and his fellow tankie ‘Ringo’ were part of the British Army’s khaki dozen who were seconded to the film for six weeks, to crew the nine running Shermans of XXX Corps that the filmmakers had acquired.

Colour photograph of Michael Caine sitting on the ground beside a wheeled armoured vehicle, being filmed.

The Shermans used in the film were mainly sourced from the Royal Netherlands Army; a 105mm which was modified into a Firefly and a Sherman Dozer which had a plastic turret added.

The Belgian Army really came up trumps supplying two Fireflies, two 76mm Shermans and a 105mm as well as two towable hulks.

Wooden mock-ups and plastic Sherman replicas on long-wheeled based Land Rovers were also used.

Fortunately for us, `Scouse’ took his camera and was able to capture a few behind the scenes images of the XXX Corps filming sequences which he faithfully kept in a photograph album, now in the Museum’s Collection, and which allows us to look back at the making of this iconic film.

To the right, a very busy behind the scenes photo which shows the logistics required to produce a film like ‘A Bridge Too Far’.

Dickie Attenborough stands front and centre, in hat, coat and red jumper. The lady seated on the left of the photo is Connie Willis, the film’s Script and Continuity coordinator.

In addition to the film crew and extras, all the paraphernalia required to film a scene, lights, ladders, tripods and the inevitable transport vehicles are visible.

Colour photograph of film set, including ladders, lights and cameras.

Picture below, is one of the PaK 40 7.5cm anti-tank guns from the PaK battery sited at the edge of a wood ready for its ambush role against XXX Corps (0.57.50 sec mark) as it advances to contact along the road. Two camouflage nets can be seen hanging from the trees and can be seen in the film sequence where a battery of (RNA) 25-pounders walk an artillery barrage onto the German’s positions.

Click the dots to see all the pictures.

Colour photograph of PaK 40 7.5 anti-tank gun, in woodland with gun poking from behind netting
PaK 40 7.5 anti-tank gun.
Colour photograph of aircraft flying over big explosion.
A very atmospheric shot of a ‘Typhoon’ flying off whilst high explosive detonations explode in the foreground at the German PaK positions. This `Typhoon’ was actually one of the Royal Netherlands Airforce Havard’s which were used throughout the filming.
Colour photograph of soldiers walking across field towards trees.
This photo is directly behind the camera and follows the barrage, and air strikes, which leave the German forces in the wood dazed and surrendering to the mopping up British infantry (1.01.52sec mark). These will be some of the 500 Dutch extras who not only needed to be authentically clothed but also armed. The Armourer on set, Sgt. Bill Aylmore, supplied weapons from Bapty & Co. From a furniture van used as a mobile armoury which had its own police escort. Reputedly, not one firearm was lost on set and Aylmore was the hotshot with PIAT during the Arnhem Bridge scenes.
The colour of the photographs has yellowed over time but is a feature of the colour photographs of this period. The photos used in this article have been edited for clarity.
Northern Ireland during 3rd RTRs Op Banner stint in 1973. Ken `Scouse’ Lindores pictured leaning on a rather beaten-up Saracen Armoured Car, clad in DPM, flak jacket and RTR beret, and holding an SLR rather than his usual Sterling SMG.
Northern Ireland during 3rd RTRs Op Banner stint in 1973. Ken `Scouse’ Lindores pictured leaning on a rather beaten-up Saracen Armoured Car, clad in DPM, flak jacket and RTR beret, and holding an SLR rather than his usual Sterling SMG.
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