Fortunes Of War

When a covert raid in Normandy goes wrong, a small team of British commandos are cut off from their comrades. Holed up in a barn and surrounded by Wehrmacht forces, their chances of survival appear bleak, until an unexpected discovery provides an opportunity to escape.

Needing somewhere to lie low, they approach, surprising French labourers busily loading clay roof tiles into an old truck. The French are shocked to see them and reach for weapons, but the British reassure them they mean no harm. An old man, the potter, appears and defuses the situation. The British are welcome to food and shelter, but they cannot stay long. The area is crawling with Germans.

The potter takes them in, hiding them and tending their wounds. He draws them a map of the area, guiding them to a possible escape route.
However, the following morning as they prepare to leave, they suddenly find themselves under attack. The Wehrmacht have found them. The old potter panics and makes a run for the truck, but the Germans shoot him.

The British mount a hasty defence. They are surrounded but there are not many Germans, so they have a chance. They need to chase off the Germans before they can call in reinforcements. The British fight hard, but just as they seem to get the upper hand, more Germans arrive. Their hopes of escape are dashed.
But the Germans don’t attack at once. Something seems to be going on. The commandos find a vantage point and learn that an SS General has arrived.
While the Germans regroup, the British tend there wounded and look for a way out. They find a hidden basement. They are amazed to find a great deal of stolen gold and silver jewellery which is in the process of being melted down into ingots.

But before they can investigate further, the General whips the Wehrmacht troops into action and they attack again. The British are nearly overwhelmed, but they push the Germans back using improvised weapons from around the old pottery.

The Germans pull back to lick their wounds. While the furious General harangues his troops, the British take stock. They are tired, wounded, and low on ammunition. There seems to be no hope. As they gather supplies, they recover the body of the dead French potter. They are surprised to discover papers on him that reveal him to be a German SS officer.

Their scout warns them that the Germans are preparing to attack again but the British officer has an idea. He calls for a truce, inviting the SS General and the Wehrmacht leader to talk. They agree.
The General sees the sorry condition of the British soldiers and gloats. They must surrender. But out of ear shot of Wehrmacht officers, the British officer whispers to him. The British have worked out that the General is using the pottery to run a secret operation, melting down and stealing looted spoils of war. Unless he agrees to release the British soldiers, he will reveal the General’s secret to the Wehrmacht.

Furious but outmanoeuvred, the General agrees. The Wehrmacht officers are surprised but the General outranks them. The British load up their gear and climb into the back of the old French truck. The General watches as they drive away then orders the Wehrmacht to withdraw. Once alone, he enters the old house. He goes into the basement and is relieved to find the stack of gold ingots is untouched. He picks one up, but he is surprised that it is lighter than he expected. Confused, he scores it with a knife and is enraged to discover it is painted clay, not gold.

Several miles away the British commandos speed along a small country road, the coast is in sight. The back of the French truck is half loaded with clay roof tiles. One of them scrapes against the side of the truck, wearing away the terracotta surface to reveal a bright metallic sheen...

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Sophie Craig, James Oliver Wheatley


Bill Thomas




85 mins