A Matter of Life and Death, 1946

I wonder how many people caught up with the Powell and Pressburger film “A Matter of Life and Death” which was screened on the BBC last Sunday afternoon. Released in 1946, it tells the story of a Pathfinder pilot, Squadron Leader Peter Carter, and the American girl, June, he falls in love with.

carter with pff badge

The film starts on the night of 2 May 1945, in other words at the very end of the war in Europe. Carter’s Lancaster has been critically damaged. He has ordered the rest of the crew to bale out except for the dead wireless operator, Bob. Carter has no parachute and jumps into the unknown, preferring to be killed that way rather than be incinerated. But he has a miraculous escape from death. Much of the film is taken up with whether he should really have died and gone to Heaven, like Bob. Heaven is depicted in silvery monochrome, and multitudes of other aircrew turn up there with Bob on that night, including a whole American Flying Fortress crew.

But here’s the slightly annoying pedantic point – both Carter and Bob are wearing their Pathfinder badges on the bombing operation which ended in disaster. It was strictly forbidden to wear the Pathfinder eagle on ops, so either this is dramatic licence on the part of the film-makers who wanted Carter’s crew to look top notch, or else the ban had been relaxed by the end of the war. Just wondering …

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