Sky Arts and Baim Films

Floating Fortress

Registered: 15th May 1959
Duration: 29 minutes
Feet: 2653 feet
Board of Trade Certificate number: BR/E24350
Produced for: United Artists Corporation
Production Company: Harold Baim Productions Limited

Aircraft carrier HMS Victorious is the subject of the first film credit for Michael Winner, as Associate Producer. It has a detailed tour of the ship and some marvellous aerial photography as the ship sails the Mediterranean. After seeing the attractions of Gibraltar we learn of all aspects of the ships day to day operation during the passage to Malta, even down to the navy recipe for grog. Watch out for a glimpse of a 24 year old Michael Winner bon deck.

Title Credits:

Floating Fortress

The Producers of this film acknowledge with gratitude the help and co-operation given by the Admiralty in London and the Officers and Men of -
HMS VICTORIOUS
Captain C.P.Coke D.S.O., R.N.

Story told by: Robert Beatty
Directors of Eastmancolor Photography:
First Camera Unit: Eric Owen
Second Camera Unit: Alfred Burger
Musical Arrangements: De Wolfe
Editors: Gerald Levy
Howard Lanning
Dennis Lanning
Recordists: John Cape
Robert Walker
W. Milner
Film Processing: Rank Laboratories, Denham, London, England
Westrex Recording System
Associate Producer: Michael Winner
Produced and Directed by: Harold Baim

Script

Floating Fortress; Britain's latest aircraft carrier, HMS Victorious. With fully angled flight deck, steam catapults for the launching of aircraft, mirror deck landing site and the most highly developed seaborne air defence radar system ever devised by man.

HMS Victorious, the floating home of some two-thousand men. A ship that in its construction needed eight-hundred miles of electric cable, ten thousand lighting points, ten miles of ventilation trunking and having a generating plant capable of supplying the daily needs of some two thousand homes.

Course, speed and the plotting of position are maintained as ordered by the Captain. Instructions are transmitted to 'The Machine Control Room' from which the ship can be steamed by remote control should other nerve centres be put out of action by enemy engagement. Linked by a comprehensive internal communication system of some one thousand telephone lines every corner of the ship can be reached. To drive Victorious through the seas a hundred and eleven thousand horse power is developed by its engines. Control of the electrical power comes from the main switchboard. Consumption in one day is equal to that of an average household in two years. Fire, flooding and general damage is reported to Damage Control Head Quarters; incidents are plotted, immediate action is ordered. Temperatures are almost equatorial in the three boiler rooms where watches of ten men control the motive power of the steam turbines. Steam stored in large receivers is released in a tremendous crescendo of power to the catapults from which the aircraft are launched. A truly magnificent ship and a far cry from the first Victorious of almost one hundred and eighty years ago.

Our first port of call is the bastion off the southern coast of Spain, guarding the Western entry to the Mediterranean, Gibraltar.

And to savour the attractions of Gibraltar two Petty Officers take leave of their ship. In A.D. 711 a Moorish chief captured Gibraltar. His name was Jebel-Tarif and from his name Gibraltar was derived. Under the semi tropical sun our Petty Officers stroll through the crowded streets. Flowers are in profusion. Oriental carpets at double the price, but our boys know how to get them for half that. Apes have had their sanctuary high on the Rock of Gibraltar since no-one seems to know when and with your hands full of peanuts very soon there's a monkey on your back. Apart from carpets, flowers and monkeys there are of course other interesting sites. But all play and no work makes Jack a dull boy; there's much to be done before Malta and this is no pleasure cruise. Amongst the numerous administrative centres the Commanders Office responsible for daily routine; Squadron Office, from which detailed flying programmes originate; The office responsible for electrical maintenance; Guns, bombs, rockets are the concern of the Gunnery. A gigantic task of meal planning is the everyday task of the Catering Department. Getting around in Victorious can literally make your head spin but to the officers and men it's as easy as - getting around in an aircraft carrier. Pipes, electrical conduits and ventilation trunking and notices are everywhere.

Today ships need not return to harbour I order to replenish. They can remain for very long periods at sea. On receipt of a signal, the navigating officers in Victorious and the replenishment ship calculate the courses and speeds necessary to bring them to the meeting place in the middle of the ocean at the time arranged. At sea, the Victorious takes on oil and aircraft fuel and most important those exciting links with home; letters from mothers, fathers and loved ones. A helicopter transfers the precious cargo from the replenishment vessel to our ship. After many hours of work well done, Tideflow leaves for another mid-ocean rendezvous.

It's hard to believe this scene was taken in a war ship miles away from home. The ships bakery employs every modern aid. Each day three hundred four pound loaves of bread are baked. For breakfast fresh rolls are served. Cakes, pastries, pies are all made here. Nothing is ever purchased ashore and there have been times when this magnificent bakery has supplied the needs of escorting destroyers; a testimonial to the excellence to what is almost home cooking. In one hour three times a day twelve hundred and fifty men are fed. You don't have to be a mathematical genius to appreciate it's catering on a grand scale; in short three thousand seven hundred and fifty meals a day. The Ward Room was once known as the Ward-Robe; the 'Booty Store'. In 1750 it became the Officers Mess. Here the days work is sometimes discussed but usually it's 'Close the Hangar Doors'. The conversation turns to leave or girl-friends. Medical examinations are frequently carried out, for the Navy has always been concerned for the health of its men. Well equipped sick bay can handle every mishap from a splinter in the hand to, in an emergency, a serious operation. And a visit to the dental surgeon causes the same pleasurable anticipation as it does ashore. So this is what they call 'Naval Drill'

During the passage to Malta, Victorious engages in manoeuvres with Destroyers and other ships. It's a long way down to the hangars on one of the high speed lifts which also brings the aircraft up to the flight deck. On arrival, one can not believe the huge hangars are but a part of this fantastic ship. Besides holding numerous aircraft Scimitar's, Blenheim's Helicopter's and Sky Raider's the hangars act as a garage for the ships fleet of motor vehicles. The men who work here are amongst the most highly skilled in the Navy. The servicing of the fleets most modern aircraft is an interesting and rewarding occupation for the air artificers and air mechanics. Whatever the field of activity the entire ships company work as a team, striving to make their vessel operational to the highest possible degree. Work in the instrument repair shop is of an absorbing nature. The delicate instruments appeal to those with meticulous engineering minds. Whilst in the metal work shop those who have a mind to, work on equipment of larger dimensions. During break periods the canteen sells everything from chocolate to soap, shoe polish to canned fruit.

The first essential of any form of operation is communication; to enable constant touch to be kept with the shore and other ships all over the world. Without wireless telegraphy and radio tele-type command could not be exercised. Precision, speed and security are the constant care of the Communication Branch. From this gigantic aerial comes the information which makes Victorious tick. It's a masterpiece of electronic ingenuity.

For confined harbours like Malta the anchor is lowered to the waterline ready for letting-go. On the Bridge the Captain calms the ship and personally brings her into her berth. No mean feat when you consider the narrowness of the channel and the fact that the Victorious is all of thirty-thousand tons. For her entry into the grand harbour of Valetta hands are fallen-in; the manning of a ship, apart of the obvious appearance of smartness traditionally indicates that all men are on deck, no one is at the guns, and there fore the ship is friendly. Slowly she enters; the cable runs out. HMS Victorious at Malta makes an unforgettable picture of majestic perfection.

In port leave is, for some, the order of the day and at this time money assumes an importance almost forgotten during the weeks at sea. Nearly twenty-thousand pounds is paid out when pay muster comes around and foreign currency is also on tap when required. Even barbers sometimes go to sea and Jack has his hair cut before going ashore. Leave is looked forward to with great anticipation and the senior service leaves no stone unturned to create the right impression. The Navy rum ration was introduced in 1687; in those days the sailors drank it neat, then in 1740 for better of worse, along came Admiral Vernon who watered it down and the mixture became known as 'Grog'. A good sailor is supposed to be able to knock it back in one go; hmm, he needs more practise. He'll get it, never fear. Ha-ah there you are. The Maltese version of the Gondolier, the Dicer, awaits the boys going ashore. The boatmen ply for hire between ship and shore and when the fleet's in do a roaring trade, though with the very modest charges none of them could retire very early. Malta's Grand Harbour is reminiscent of Venice; it has sheltered the British Fleet since the days of Nelson. Sixty miles south of Sicily the island is seventeen and half miles long and eight and a half miles wide. Whilst Jack goes on a tour of the island those remaining on board fill their leisure hours at the library, or listening to the record request programmes transmitted over the ships own radio station. Requests are sent in by relatives ashore but plenty of jokes are played by mess-mates on each other unbeknown to the naval disc-jockey who in his normal sphere of activity is an instructor officer.

In the Petty Officers mess leisure time is spent in many ways, each man free to pursue his own hobbies and interests, but even in port work and training must proceed according to plan. There's standard diving instruction. Qualified divers do monthly practice as required by regulations. This usually takes the form of a search. The diver communicated with the surface by life-line signals or by telephone. The Divers are required in large ships of the fleet to carry out underwater inspections and repairs which may be essential when dockyard facilities are not available. What goes down must come up. These two may say 'I'm all right Jack' as they think of their friends back in the ship. There is always between one quarter and one third of the ships company on board at any time and in the evening in the officers anti-room those remaining on board enjoy the comradeship which plays an integral part of naval life. Tomorrow evening it will be their turn to go ashore. Even amongst all the conviviality Commanders discuss and indeed take decisions of great importance.

The next day is Sunday, a day when, before divine service, divisions are held. The ships company is divided by trade or duties into sections known as divisions. Each division is in the charge of an officer who is responsible for the welfare appearance and conduct of the men in his division and broadly speaking their employment. The band of the Royal Marines plays for divisions. The solitary figure of the Captain appears. What a tremendous responsibility he has for smooth working of Britain's most modern aircraft carrier.

Divine Service. Where men can set their thoughts on the higher things in life and where they can gain comfort and strength in the problems which beset them so far away from home and loved ones.

In warm climates the Men spend their leisure time on the enormous flight deck, and they are certainly not short of room. Here in the sunshine the naval men hold their own 'tattoo', many and varied are the designs.

For the planning of modern air operations detailed weather forecasts of winds and temperatures to all heights as essential. In conjunction with shore establishments and through the medium of tele-printer type machines the vital information is gathered. The crews in the briefing room are given meteorological information, call signs and frequencies; briefing down to the smallest detail for the safe carrying-out of the supersonic flights in which they are soon to be engaged.

Meanwhile in the aircraft maintenance control room work proceeds in the planning or aircraft availability. A Scimitar is brought up to the flight deck. Hangar control receives orders for a second which is sent up and slotted in position. Back in the briefing room information is still recorded by the crews until the call comes. Search and rescue helicopter takes off in case of emergency.

Now watch the launching of a Scimitar through all its phases; from tensioning to its final take off from the catapult.

Between flying operations the aircrews patronise their refreshment bar. Cooking is done on infra-red-grills; meals are served at very short notice indeed.

This is a pilot's view as he comes into the flight deck. Imagine having to land on this at tremendous speed. There is nothing but ocean all around.

The flag showing that flying is in progress is hauled down. Flying is completed for the day.

[End Credit]

The EndangarH