Theirs is the Glory

Brian Desmond Hurst's Theirs is the Glory earned some of the highest critical praise ever afforded a British wartime docudrama. This is the film record of one of the most harrowing battles of WWII the Battle of Arnhem. The cast are the actual survivors of the battle and Hurst's experiences on the battlefield of Gallipoli in the First World War undoubtedly helped him get the very best and more out of the veterans replaying their role. Said by actual Airborne survivors to be the most accurate portrayal of the events surrounding Arnhem.

This short film commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem and the part that Theirs is the Glory plays in ‘continuing the lasting tribute’

Theirs is the Glory (AKA Men of Arnhem) is a 1946 film about the Battle of Arnhem, the British Airborne element of the World War II Operation Market Garden. It was the first film to be made about this battle. The later Richard Attenborough film A Bridge Too Far (1977) depicts the operation as a whole and includes the American, British and Polish Airborne but still focuses on Arnhem a great deal.

Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst and produced by Castleton Knight the film includes some original footage from the battle as well as re-enactments shot on location at Oosterbeek and Arnhem just a year after the battle had ravaged the streets. All of the actors portraying the paratroopers were actual Airborne soldiers who fought in the battle and it remains a magnificent testimony to those men. The film also features local people like Father Dyker (a Dutch civilian priest who conducts the service in the movie) and Kate ter Horst (who reads a psalm to the wounded men in the cellar)re-enacting their roles and what they did for the Airborne troops during the battle. This movie is the soldiers' and civilians' legacy which will serve generations to come in a way that no other movie can.

Theirs Is The Glory Magazine Cover

Lt. Hugh Ashmore of the 21st Independent Parachute Company (Pathfinders) one of the stars of the film, who features on the front cover of Gaumont British News and Views

TITG Poster: Canister Retrieval

TITG Poster: Soldier Peter Holt

TITG Poster: Retrieving a supply cannister -Courtesy of the Allan Smith Collection
TITG Poster: Private Peter Holt of the 21st Independent Parachute Company (Pathfinders), who was undoubtedly the star of the film - Courtesy of the Allan Smith Collection

Cinema Advert for Thiers Is The Glory


Copyright © The Victor Wark Collection


From left to right...

Production Manager Victor Wark who was second assistant director in the same year on Brief Encounter (1945) and also worked with Brian on Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) and Trottie True (1949).


Doreen North, continuity

Major Hugh Maguire who worked closely with Brian on the script as during the battle of Arnhem Major Maguire was in GSO2 (Intelligence) 1st Airborne Headquarters and therefore excellently placed to help recount the story.

Major Bernard Wilson was commanding officer of the 21st Independent Parachute Company or 'Pathfinders'.  Major Wilson was awarded the DSO and his citation reads
"At ARNHEM on the 17th September and 18th September the Company commanded by this officer was responsible for marking the Drop Zones and Landing Zones for the landing of the Division. This landing was extremely successful.

On the 20th September, Major Wilson and his company occupied the sector of the divisional perimeter and from that date until the evacuation were subject to intense mortar and shell fire. The defense of their sector was most aggressively carried out by Major Wilson. A very large number of Germans were killed and some self-propelled guns silenced.

During the house to house fighting which followed, the vigorous leadership shown by Major Wilson and the offensiveness of his company were quite outstanding and this particular sector of the perimeter remained firmly held until the end".  Courtesy of http://www.pegasusarchive.org/arnhem/boy_wilson.htm

Person on the far right as yet unidentified

The Pathfinders were a resourceful and tough company and many of their men came to 'star' in the movie- watch out for men like Peter Holt (see Poster above), Tommy Scullion,  George 'Tich' Preston and Geoffrey Van Ryssel who were all pathfinders and selected by Brian to star in the movie in it's famous opening sequence where ten men are profiled in a nissan hut and to which we return after the battle to find only two remain.  This powerfully represents 10,000 men of the 1st Airborne going into Arnhem and only 2,000 getting back across the river.  Maybe Brian was thinking back to losing most of his comrades over those 2 days at Gallipoli (please see the First World War section).



TITG Poster: Battle Charge


TITG Poster: Staff Sergeant Johnstone in Dug-Out

TITG Poster: Battle Charge - Courtesy of the Allan Smith Collection
TITG Poster: Staff Segeant Johnstone in Dug-Out - Courtesy of the Allan Smith Collection

The British Film Institute records include the following announcement by British Gaumont the producers of Theirs Is The Glory



The Prime Minister, Clement Atlee at the Premier of TITG - Courtesy of Airborne Assault, Duxford

Brian directing Theirs Is The Glory

The Prime Minister, Clement Atlee at the Premier of TITG - Courtesy of Airborne Assault, Duxford
Brian on location directing TITG - Courtesy of the Robert Voskuil Collection

The opening to the film has the following foreword statement (seen right):

Theirs Is The Glory Has been produced entirley without the use of studio sets or actors. Every Incident was either experienced or witnessed by the people who appear in the film

TITG Foreword
The following is a brochure that accompanies Thiers Is The Glory. Click on any image to cycle through the brochure using the 'Next' and 'Prev' icons that appear on the left and right of the image to see in larger view - Courtesy of Airborne Assult, Duxford

TITG Brochure Front Page TITG Brochure Centre Page One TITG Brochure TITG Brochure Back Page


The following images are screenshots from the film along with a signed photograph from Brian
TITG (1946)- Screen Shot from Film
TITG (1946)-Screen Shot from Film
Two of the stars from Theirs is the Glory at the start of the film preparing for the 'jump' from 500 foot.  Here we have, on the left, Lt Hugh Ashmore of the 21st Independent Parachute Company (aka The Pathfinders) who plays Lt Hanbury a fictional character portrayed as part of 2 Parachute Regt who assaulted the Bridge. Hugh gives the eloquent briefing scene at the start of the film. On the right is Sgt Jack Bateman of 10th Parachute Regt who is the leader of the 10 men we see in the Nissen hut at the start of the film. Courtesy Allan Esler Smith Collection.
Major Freddie Gough (left) with fellow paratroopers recreate the final days of battle in Arnhem for Theirs is the Glory - Courtesy of ITV Studios Global Entertainment


Theirs is the Glory features men who fought at the battle of Arnhem and Oosterbeek but also, in many cases, men that were very key figures during the battle.  The above photograph shows Major Fredrick 'Freddie' Gough and Major Richard 'Dickie' Lonsdale seated together whilst they are briefed on the unfolding battle. 

Much could be written on both of these two men who returned with Brian to the battlefield a year later in September 1945  to recreate the battle so that future generations could start to understand what they and their men went through.  We start to understand the significance of their presence on screen when we realise that Freddie Gough commanded the Reconnaissance Squadron of the 1st Airborne who raced in their jeeps to try and take the bridge at Arnhem.  Gough was subsequently placed in command of the Bridge when Colonel Frost was wounded.  When captured and taken prisoner of war the Airborne archive records that a "German Major asked to see Gough, understanding him to be the commander at the bridge. The officer said "I wish to congratulate you and your men. You are gallant soldiers. I fought at Stalingrad and it is obvious that you British have a great deal of experience in street fighting." To which Gough simply replied, "No. This was our first effort. We'll be much better next time." (source http://www.pegasusarchive.org/arnhem/freddie_gough.htm).  After the war Major Gough went in to become the Member of Parliament for Horsham in 1971.

For his actions at Arnhem and Oosterbeek Dickie Lonsdale was awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Service Order. His citation reads
"At Arnhem on the 20th September, this officer, although wounded in the hand and arm, was given command of the remnants of three Parachute Battalions who had withdrawn from the town. This detachment, about 400 strong, was allotted the task of holding part of the divisional perimeter.

Major Lonsdale so organised and inspired those under him that in spite of repeated attacks by enemy infantry, tanks and self-propelled guns, the positions taken up were subsequently held until the remains of the division withdrew over the River Lek. Throughout this period of six days the positions were continually mortared and shelled.

Major Lonsdale, although again wounded, organised several counter attacks to regain ground temporarily lost and his personal example and supreme contempt of danger was an inspiration to all those with whom he came in contact".  Source: http://www.pegasusarchive.org/arnhem/dickie_lonsdale.htm

Significantly Brian helped Major Lonsdale recreate his role when he appears in the film in the Oosterbeek church with a blood stained head bandage and his arm in a sling from various wounds. He then rallies his remaining troops that are exhausted  and low on ammunition with the speech:
“Well now the form is I have withdrawn you from the open ground by the river. I want you to rest here for two hours in which time get a meal from what you have left, get yourselves clean and be prepared to move out to a new position around the houses on the south side of the perimeter. On this position we must stand or fall and fight to the last round. This edge of the perimeter is being held by a mixed bag consisting of the 1st Battalion, the 3rd Battalion, the 11th Battalion and the South Staffordshire Regiment. This force will be known as Lonsdale Force, my headquarters will be in the church here. The news of the second army is that their armoured reconnaissance patrols have reached the far side of the river. The Polish Parachute brigade has landed on the far side of the river. So far we have had a good battle, against good troops. Troops that are not up to our standard. We have fought them in North Africa, in Sicily and Italy and at times against overwhelming odds. They were not good enough for us then and they are not good enough for us now. Get yourselves damn well dug in and shoot to kill. I’m going off on reconnaissance now and good luck to you all."

Brian recreated the scene (which can be watched below) by having the speech painted on an old door and held up beside the camera as a prompt for Major Lonsdale and that very door remains a key exhibit at the Airborne Museum at Oosterbeek (see www.airbornemuseum.nl) which is well worth a visit.  Also worth a visit is the UK counterpart museum called Airborne Assault located at the Imperial War Museum Duxford (www.duxford.iwm.org.uk).


This clip is provided with the kind permission of ITV Studios Global Entertainment

Trying to retirieve a supply cannister - Courtesy of ITV Studios Global Entertainment
Signed photographs from Brian

Production manager Victor Wark and camera man C.M. Pennington establish a shot - Copyright © The Victor Wark Collection



In the build up to the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem in 2014 there is much interest in Brian Desmond Hurst's Theirs is the Glory.  As part of this build up events in the 68th Commemoration year (2012) the Theirs is the Glory Battlefield Walk on 21st September 2012 shows why Hurst's film is (as it says in the opening credits of the film) an "everlasting tribute to those who gave their lives".  Some of our photographs below give a sense of the commemorations.







The Hartenstein Museum, Oosterbeek



Written by Allan Esler Smith and published by RN Sigmond Publishing this 28 page guide was written to accompany the second Arnhem 1944 Fellowship/Society of Friends of the Airborne Museum battlefield walk held on 21st September 2012 over the Arnhem Commemoration weekend. The booklet explains why Brian Desmond Hurst directed this iconic film which was Hurst's favourite film and, according to Hurst, "one of the best war films ever made".  It goes on to explain more about the actors we see in the film (every soldier is a veteran of the battle) and the locations Hurst selected under the expert guidance of the veterans themselves so that the film became, in Hurst's words' "a true documentary reconstruction of the event".  The booklet draws on Hurst's unpublished memoirs and substantial research undertaken over many years.  The walk was led by Niall Cherry, Allan Esler Smith and Robert Voskuil. 

Further details of the Fellowship and Friends can be found at


Revisiting Theirs is the Glory Booklet Launch and Battlefield Walk 21st September 2012 photo by Bob Gerritsen

Revisiting Theirs is the Glory cover  

First released at www.arnhem1944fellowship.org on 28 January 2013. Niall Cherry, Allan Esler Smith and Dr Robert Voskuil conduct a guided tour of the locations used within the 1946 film Theirs is the Glory.

Filmed and Edited by Adam Jones-Lloyd