Original UK poster
|Directed by||Ralph Thomas|
|Produced by||William MacQuitty|
Earl St John
|Screenplay by||Robin Estridge|
|Based on||Above Us the Waves|
by C. E. T. Warren
& James Benson
|Music by||Arthur Benjamin|
|Edited by||Gerald Thomas|
London Independent Producers
|Distributed by||GFD (UK)|
Republic Films (US)
April 1957 (US)
The Royal Navy is concerned about constant attacks on convoys by Germansubmarines and having to keep "half the fleet" watching for the German battleship Tirpitz. The Tirpitz is 60 miles from the sea inside a Norwegian fjord and attempts by the Royal Air Force to sink her have failed. Commander Fraser (Mills) is determined to prove that an attack by human torpedoes is practical, despite scepticism from the higher echelons that such an operation would be feasible.
Fraser assembles and trains a force of British commando frogmen officers and ratings to use the Mk I Human Torpedo manned torpedoes (Chariots) at their Scottish base. After receiving a refusal to allow the operation to go ahead from an admiral, the team use dummy mines to attack the admiral's own ship using the Chariots.
An attack is authorised on the Tirpitz with the initial operation using the Chariots. The attack fails and the crew are forced to abandon ship and land in Norway. They walk to neutral Sweden from where they are returned to Scotland.
For the next operation the crews are trained to use three small X-Craft submarines: X1, X2 and X3. They are initially towed by conventional submarines and are then left to penetrate the area where the Tirpitz is anchored.They manage to approach the ship under their own power to lay their "side-cargoes", each containing 2 tons of amatol, under the ship's hull undetected. Two crews then scuttle the submarines and are picked up by the crew of Tirpitz, to be taken away as prisoners of war. The third (X2) is too badly damaged to re-surface and the crew decide to stay on board to prevent "giving the game away".
The mines explode as planned, badly damaging the Tirpitz. Meanwhile, X2's side cargoes have flooded. The flooding causes them to spontaneously explode, destroying X2 and killing her crew.
The screenplay was based on the book Above Us the Waves by C. E. T. Warren and James Benson, which had been published in 1953. 
Director Ralph Thomas says the film was made because producer William MacQuitty "was very involved with the Navy and he loved submarines." MacQuitty had a production company in partnership with Sydney Box called London Independent Producers, which tended to use the same core creative personnel. They purchased film rights in 1952, before the book had been published. 
The book became a best seller, selling over 350,000 copies and MacQuitty obtained finance from the Rank Organisationunder Earl St. John. The British admiralty provided full co-operation. Thomas was given the job of directing after his tremendous success with Doctor in the House. Several of the cast from that film would appear in Above Us the Waves.
Shooting began on 20 September 1954 in Guernsey. Commander Donald Cameron, who commanded X-6 as a lieutenant and won the Victoria Cross during the operation, was an adviser to the film. 
MacQuitty was an experienced diver, having spent over 500 hours under water. He personally supervised many of the underwater sequences.
Events in the film had minor differences, for example, the boat Arthur that carried the Chariot human torpedoes was namedIngebord in the film, and the X-class submarines used in Operation Source in 1943 were numbered X-5, X-6 and X-7, and X-5 was the craft that was lost.
John Gregson played an Australian. "Australians are husky, types," said producer McQuitty. "Gregson has made his part of Alec Duffy, midget submarine commander, good and husky."
"I am proud to be playing the part of an Australian," said Gregson. "During the war, when I was in the Royal Navy, I met many Australian fighting men. They were good fellows."
Donald Sinden's character was based on the true-life exploits of Sub-Lieutenant Robert Aitken, who died a few weeks after Sinden. In his first autobiography, A Touch of the Memoirs, Sinden said "I had to re-enact a deed originally performed by Commander Donald Cameron. While his X Craft was being towed across the North Sea, the cable picked up a floating mine which then moved along the cable and made straight for his midget. Cameron rushed forward and, lowering himself over the prow of his craft, managed gingerly to push the mine clear with his feet. Donald was our advisor on the film and told me modestly, "I couldn't think of anything else to do." He was awarded the VC. I wasn't because we used a dummy. But Donald could swim!"
The cast also included Anthony Wager, who had played a young Pip in Great Expectations]] (1946). John Mills, who played the older Pip, appeared opposite him.
- John Mills as Commander Fraser
- John Gregson as Lieutenant Alec Duffy
- Donald Sinden as Lieutenant Tom Corbett
- James Robertson Justice as Admiral Ryder
- Michael Medwin as Steward Smart
- James Kenney as Abercrombie
- O. E. Hasse as Captain of the Tirpitz
- Lee Patterson as Cox
- William Russell as Ramsey
- Theodore Bikel as German officer
- Harry Towb as McCleery
- Cyril Chamberlain as Chief Petty Officer Chubb
- Anthony Wager as George
- Leslie Weston as Winley
- Lyndon Brook as Diver navigator, X2
- Thomas Heathcote as Hutchins
- Anthony Newley as Engineer, X2
- John Horsley as Lieutenant Anderson
- William Franklyn as No. 1, X2
- Guido Lorraine as Officer interpreter
- Raymond Francis as Officer on towing submarine
- Walter Gotell as German officer on Tirpitz (uncredited)
Above Us the Waves is a 1955 British war film directed by Ralph Thomas, about human torpedo and midget submarine attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz. It is based on two true-life attacks on the Tirpitz by British commando frogmen, first using Chariot manned torpedoes in Operation Title in 1942, and then X-Craft midget submarines in Operation Source in 1943. Some of the original equipment was used in the film.
Ralph Philip Thomas MC (10 August 1915 – 17 March 2001) was an English film director, born in Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire. He is perhaps best known for directing the Doctor series of films.
Post War Career
Born in Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, Thomas studied law at Middlesex University College. He entered the film business as aclapper boy at Shepperton Studios in 1932 during his summer vacation while at college. Following graduation, instead of becoming a lawyer he decided to enter the film industry, and became an apprentice at Shepperton Studios, working as a clapper boy and then in the editing room, the sound department and art department. From 1932-34 Thomas worked predominantly on "quota quickies". He discovered he loved editing the most and worked predominantly as an editor for the next few years, including a stint working alongside David Lean. When his employer, Premiere Stafford, went broke he worked for a while as a journalist at the Bristol Evening Post for over a year. He returned to editing before joining the army in 1939.
Thomas left the army in 1945 and re-entered the industry, although he could only get work as an assistant editor. He assisted editing Odd Man Out then began making film trailers for the Rank Organisation. He worked his way up to becoming head of Rank's trailer department as well as writing films. Thomas later said making trailers was "enormously useful" because he "learned a lot of the technique of how the varying directors whose pictures I had worked on operated. Also, it teachers one a great deal of discipline about brevity in story telling."
- Second Bureau (1936) - editor
- Return of a Stranger (1937) - editor
- Once Upon a Dream (1949) - director
- Traveller's Joy (1949) - director
- Helter Skelter (1949) - director
- The Clouded Yellow (1951) - director
- Appointment with Venus (1951) - director
- Venetian Bird (1952) - director
- A Day to Remember (1953) - director
- The Dog and the Diamonds (1953) - director
- Mad About Men (1954) - director
- Doctor in the House (1954) - director
- Above Us the Waves (1955) - director
- Doctor at Sea (1955) - director
- Checkpoint (1956) - director
- The Iron Petticoat (1956) - director
- Doctor at Large (1957) - director
- Campbell's Kingdom (1957) - director
- A Tale of Two Cities (1958) - director
- The Wind Cannot Read (1958) - director
- The 39 Steps (1959) - director
- Upstairs and Downstairs (1959) - director
- Conspiracy of Hearts (1960) - director
- Doctor in Love (1960) - director
- No Love for Johnnie (1961) - director
- No My Darling Daughter (1961) - director
- A Pair of Briefs (1962) - director
- The Wild and the Willing (1962) - director
- Doctor in Distress (1963) - director
- Hot Enough for June (1964) - director
- The High Bright Sun (1964) (US: McGuire, Go Home) - director
- Doctor in Clover (1966) - director
- Deadlier Than the Male (1966) - director
- Nobody Runs Forever (1968) - director
- Some Girls Do (1969) - director
- Doctor in Trouble (1970) - director
- Percy (1971) - director
- Quest for Love (1971) - director
- The Love Ban (1973) - director
- Anyone for Sex? (1973) - producer, director
- Percy's Progress (1974) - director
- The Insurance Man from Ingersoll (1975) (TV movie) - producer
- A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (1979) - director
- Doctor's Daughters (1981) (TV series) - writer
- Pop Pirates (1984) - producer