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Where was the Battle of the V1 filmed?

These two pictures are screen shots from a 1958 film called Battle of the V1, which was filmed partly at Brighton Studios in St Nicholas Road and on location at Shoreham beach.

Was it in Portslade?
The film starred Michael Rennie and was directed by Vernon Sewell for Eros Films. The street could be almost anywhere in the area, although Portslade is likely. It is possible that the street no longer exists as there is a scene of a burning house that looks as though it could be one of the same properties.

What about the cinema?
However, the cinema ought to be more recognisable. One suggestion is the Pavilion in Portslade, although it doesn’t look like the only photo I can find of it. The advertising post on the left of the shot is part of the set dressing to make the Sussex location look like wartime Poland!

Portslade or Brighton?
From the private collection of David Fisher
Obviously a cinema, but which?
From the private collection of David Fisher

Comments about this page

  • Looks like the Rothbury cinema in Franklin Road, Portslade.

    By Julia (11/04/2009)
  • Could be the old Rothbury cinema in Franklin Road, Portslade, now Southern FM Radio.

    By Teresa Burgess (12/04/2009)
  • I also think it’s The Rothbury. Does anyone remember the perfumey smell in there?

    By Maggie (13/04/2009)
  • Thanks for the suggestions. I remember it from only about 20 years ago, by which time it was Southern Sound. It doesn’t look much like that now however I’m trying to find a photo of when it was a cinema.

    By David Fisher (15/04/2009)
  • Yes that’s definitely The Rothbury. I have a family picture taken in 1956 right outside of the cinema.  It was taken on the day of my brother’s wedding. The movie, Battle of the V1 was filmed at Shoreham airport, I was one of the ‘extras’. I met Michael Rennie. I was only about 8 or 9. He seemed like a giant to me as he was so tall!!

    By Christine Mepham (19/04/2009)
  • Thanks, Christine. What a great memory! I’d wondered where the rather utilitarian factory buildings were. Now I know. Have you ever seen yourself in the film?

    By David Fisher (26/04/2009)
  • Didn’t they shoot some scenes in the old gas works for that film? Oh yes Maggie, I remember the girl going round with the spray in the Rothbury and sitting outside waiting for an adult to take us in if it was an ‘A’ film. I always seemed to come out with a headache as I remember.

    By Den King (13/05/2009)
  • Yes indeed, a large chunk of the film was shot in the gasworks. The whole team were there: the cameras, the sound van, the ‘props dept’, the canteen and of course the actors and actresses. I well remember Michael Rennie, in full Nazi uniform, standing, all six foot six of him, on the set. This is odd because I don’t recall him playing a Nazi part in the film. Maybe he was just wearing it for fun. Most of the filming was done in the old No.2 Retort House which was out of use and was just an empty shell. After the team had left we went and had a look to see what they had been up to. Among odds and ends we found a massive concrete beam which had fallen during the ‘bombing’. It must have weighed at least two pounds and was made of polystyrene. It looked real though. Some more of the shooting was done at the ‘A’ power station. A couple of extras were actually Seaboard workers who were obliged to join Equity in order to take part. The film was first issued as V1. Only later was “the battle of the” added.

    By Ron Charlton (19/07/2009)
  • Re: Battle of the V1. The Polish cinema depicted is actually the Pavilion in North St. Portslade. Not only did they film the outside but filmed inside too in early November 1957. The cinema closed for good in February 1958.

    By John Nihill (05/08/2009)
  • I work at Heart (Was Southern FM). I have been looking for a photo of the old Rothbury cinema for a long time. Christine, You say you have a photo taken outside on your brothers wedding day. Is it possible to have a copy of this photo please, even if just to confirm that the photo above is the same building. Above the ceilings there are some old fittings from the cinema/nightclub days.

    By Gary Hornbuckle (30/12/2009)
  • The street is most definitely Sussex Terrace, now known as John Street, Brighton. In 1958 when the film was made, the houses in the photo were empty and awaiting demolition. For confirmation see “The James Gray Collection”, photographic archives – volume 27, image 43.

    By Suzie (21/05/2010)
  • Re: Battle of the V1. Although the front of the building has been totally reclad you can still make out the outline of the 4 distinctive vertical columns on the front at 100 North Street Portslade. It is clearly the Pavilion and not the Rothbury. Probaby no longer suitable for wedding photos though! The woman in the photo is opposite the southern end of Albion Street. The camera is looking NW.

    By John Nihill (01/06/2010)
  • My Grandmother worked at the Rothbury as an usherette when Mr Gordan owned it and Mr Hayes was the manager. Her name was Maud; does anyone remember her ?

    By Marie pullen (01/08/2010)
  • Battle of the V1 was shown at the Brighton Fringe Film Festival last year and the review notice states that the cinema used in the film was The Rothbury in Franklin Road, Portslade.

    By Robert Taylor (30/01/2011)
  • I was an extra in the film playing a French (?) partisan. The parts I was in were filmed at the entrance to Bramber Castle and on the Adur river bank about a half mile up stream from the Bramber Bridge.

    By David Harris (01/02/2011)
  • The picture of the unknown cinema is definitely not the Rothbury. I don’t remember that advert pillar and I used to go to the Rothbury three times a week if there were good films on. Not only that, but my mother was an usherette at said cinema along with Mrs Betty Rogers and her two sisters.

    By Barrie Lawson (06/02/2011)
  • In addition to my last comment, that cinema sure looks like the Pavillion, or the Bug Hutch as we used to call it.

    By Barrie Lawson (06/02/2011)
  • My brother-law worked as a bingo caller at The Rothbury when it changed to a bingo club in the early 1960s and he said it is The Rothbury, and that “advert pillar” is just a film prop placed there by the film company.

    By Teresa Burgess (08/02/2011)
  • Re the great Rothbury v Pavilion debate: It’s interesting that most people with personal memories believe it is the Rothbury. Maybe this is because it was the more popular and classier of the two. The Pavilion went into a steep decline when people were moved from South Portslade to Mile Oak during the mid-50s’ slum clearance, which is why it closed in February 1958. North Street used to be full of shops, and there were lots of houses in the vicinity but the whole area became full of industrial units. Coming back to the debate, I can say categorically that filming for Battle of the V1 took place at the Pavilion Cinema, 100 North Street, during the week ending 9th November 1957. The film crew arrived early one morning and stayed until the afternoon matinee had begun. Arc lamps were used for interior shots to enhance the lighting. The cinema was made to look like a Polish cinema with Polish ads replacing posters and stills from British films and the ticket kiosk showed prices in Polish currency. As Teresa Burgess’s brother-in-law said, the advert pillar on the left was put there by the film company. Most of the shooting at Old Salts Farm in Lancing, at Shoreham Harbour, Portslade gas works and Upper Beeding had already taken place by this stage.

    By John Nihill (09/02/2011)
  • Having read all the various comments it would be nice to finally clear up the debate as to exactly what cinema was used, with some real evidence (photos etc). John Nihill seems quite specific on many points, I’m interested to know on what basis, did you watch the actual filming? Or do you have any photos of it? P.S. A coloured version of Battle of the V1 was recently shown on True Movies.

    By Robert Taylor (10/02/2011)
  • The information is easily verifiable. It was reported in the local press at the time i.e. Nov 1957. You can check if you go to the Local History Centre in Brighton, or the Worthing Library. If you can’t get down there and still doubt it, look at a photo of the Pavilion building now and compare it. There is a small photo of the same view of 100 North Street on the London & Brighton Plating Company website. Look at the 4 vertical columns beneath the cladding and the building’s width. You might also like to consider how wide the pavement outside the Rothbury is. The pavement in North Street is pretty narrow. Interesting to hear of the colour version. Re Ron Charlton’s Rennie in Nazi uniform comment, perhaps it was Christopher Lee Ron saw. Mr Lee did wear a Nazi uniform during filming, appered in a Shoreham scene and is also way above six feet in height and he wouldn’t have been famous enough to recognise in 57. Interesting to hear of the colour version.

    By John Nihill (11/02/2011)
  • Yes, There is a badly coloured copy of Battle of the V1, it was on TV last week, the B/W version is often shown in the afternoons, on Movies4Men2 Channel 325, checkout their listing site.

    By Teresa Burgess (12/02/2011)
  • The first photo is, as Suzie said in May 2010, Sussex Terrace, now known as John Street, Brighton. The James Gray Collection photo (vol 27 image 43) was taken at the same period as the film was shot. Well spotted Suzie.

    By Michael Brittain (07/11/2011)
  • Just been catching up after a long absence. I can confirm that the cinema used in the film was the Pavilion, North Street, Portslade. My late aunt recounted her experience as an extra in the film, I believe that she was a member of the audience.

    By Dave Phillips (13/11/2011)
  • Talking about cinemas, I used to live at 5 St Georges Place, just opposite St Peter’s church, but sadly we moved from Brighton in 1952 . Does anyone remember a cinema which was just a few doors down from Gloucester Road (Place or Street). I can remember them having a big cage in the foyer which had several monkeys in it. I think it was something to do with a film they were showing at the time. I can also remember a huge wurlitzer organ would rise up just in front of the stage with the organist on a seat and he would play popular music until the film started. Is the cinema still there and does anyone remember the organist or the monkeys and why they were there?

    By Sandra Waite (14/11/2011)
  • When I was younger I must have gone to the Rothbury cinema in Franklin Road at least a couple of hundred times (every Saturday morning as a child just for starters). The cinema in the photo is not the Rothbury. It is the Pavilion in North Street. As John Nihill quite rightly states, the area outside the Rothbury was much wider and was more of a forecourt than a pavement.

    By Alan Phillips (14/11/2011)
  • Delighted to come across this discussion on the internet. Bernard Newman (author of ‘They Saved London’, which led to the film) was my grandfather. I’ve been to a little research into my grandfather and bought the DVD for the film. Me and my 81year old Dad watched it yesterday. My parents went to the premier at Leicester Square all those years ago. There might be more info in his autobiography that I am re-reading at the moment.

    By Simon Hipkin (16/11/2011)
  • John Nihill is right about the cinema picture, before reading any comments it looked just like the North St Pavillion. Although living in upper Portslade as a child I would visit the cinema especially on Saturday mornings. In 1955 we held our wedding reception in the hall above the Rothbury cinema- ham salad twelve and six a head, so I would recognise the exterior of this location as well. Happy days. I have lived in Yorkshire now for 53 years but still visit Portslade quite often.

    By Ann Singleton nee Hawkins (17/11/2011)
  • Jack Carr and my dad were friends in the merchant navy together and they were both in this film together one of my family has a photo of them both together in german uniform. My father died in August this year and it is great to see the stories about the making of this film.

    By Sara George (25/12/2011)
  • Great to read all these first hand reminiscences of Battle of the V1. Anyone interested in the shooting of another fifties film ‘The Tall Headlines’ in Portslade should look at the comments under Alan Phillips’s amazingly detailed article on Belgrave Square slum clearance.

    By John Nihill (06/01/2012)
  • Hi Sara, George Jack Carr celebrates his 80th birthday on March 8th 2012. We are having a celebration. Is it possible to have a copy or perhaps I can get a copy made of the picture of Jack and your father dressed up a German soldiers please?

    By John Weaver (01/03/2012)
  • I would like to add my condolences to Sara George after the death of her father Ray George. As a kid I lived in the same street as Ray and his family in Bennett Road. Ray was a decent bloke who always had time to speak to the younger kids in the street.

    By Mick Peirson (05/03/2012)
  • At 15, during the ’60s, I was the money collector and sometime bingo caller at the Rothbury, not in the main hall, but in the cafe bit, doing the quick games. One night a woman shouted House and her teeth fell out onto the filthy floor, but she shoved them back in, fluff and all. There was a club upstairs. Anyone remember those days? Judy

    By Judy Barrow (20/03/2012)
  • I can confirm that the cinema is certainly Portslade not Brighton. before and after photos can be seen on a similar thread at history forum. The street scene is in fact Brighton. After a lot of searching I can confirm it is Sussex Terrace (now John Street) looking North. These houses were cleared soon after shooting. The rest of the locations are as discussed: New Salts farm, the Bowspring bridge in Upeer Beeding, The Shoreham harbour arm and searchlight post, Brighton B power station.

    By Paul Osborne (20/06/2012)
  • Re: The Battle of the V1. Any ideas on the dilapidated windmill’s location – was it Surrey or Sussex?

    By John Nihill (06/02/2013)
  • I don’t remember the cinema, but I do know that at the time the film was made, my grandfather (John Ephram Greaves) owned it, along with two other cinemas in that area. One called The New Kinema.

    By Blaine Greaves (05/04/2014)
  • Major Fanshawe Carruthers Whyte was in charge of the German armoured trucks used in the scenes near Shoreham Harbour. One night Jack Carr, still dressed as A German soldier film extra, stole and drove one of the armoured trucks from the parking lot all the way home at night after missing the last bus. The Major went wild and crazy early next morning after discovering the missing truck and had to be restrained and held back from horse whipping Jack Carr when he finally returned the truck shortly before midday. The Major finally wrestled free, and withdrawing his pistol actually fired a couple of rounds of live ammunition before Jack running for his life managed to escape heading for Brighton. He survived and never returned the German uniform. This incident would have made a much better film than Battle of the V1 which was so appallingly bad.

    By John Weaver (20/08/2014)
  • Jack Carr, I recall, used to wear that same German soldiers uniform for years in and around Hove, where he lived often, asking shocked day trippers along Hove seafront to ‘STOP. Show me your papers!’ All done for his general amusement. He appears a number of times as a film extra in the film the Battle of the V1, a number of times in the cinema scenes in the background. When asked a few years ago, which was the cinema was used in the filming of the Battle of the V1. Jack replied in true cinematic style. ‘Frankly my dear, I do not give a damn!.

    By Bellamy Lafontaine (21/08/2014)
  • When the filming of The Battle of the V1 was over they held a party at the cinema to celebrate for the actors, film crew and film extras. Dolly Carr, a local girl played a few film extras parts in the film, she was a very popular girl who was loved by all. The film extras were all dressed up as the parts they played in the film, and as the beer flowed tempers broke out between the German and British soldiers over who could dance with Dolly Carr and the resulting food fight soon turned into a fist fights and a full scale brawl. Paddy Carstairs the delicate film director of Battle of the V1 fainted in horror, Micheal Rennie the star of the film exited stage door left in disgust, and it was left to the production manager Major Fanshawe Carruthers Whyte to bring order to the proceedings by turning all the lights out in the cinema and firing his pistol full of blanks into the air. 

    Editor’s note: OK chaps – everyone has had a laugh – now it is time to stop this silliness. Please do not contribute any further nonsense because it will not be published.

    By John Weaver (21/08/2014)
  • The street that Suzie said is Sussex Terrace is right. The house that is facing you as you look at it was where my friend lived there, surname was Coats. They lived there around 1950 and I lived in George Street we went to St Johns school in Carlton Hill.

    By Kathleen Catt nee Cornford (29/09/2014)
  • The dilapidated mill seen in the film is in Capel just off the A24. It burnt down in 1970’s.  The camp scenes were split between the Old Fort buildings and a set built south of the coast rail line but opposite the Shoreham Airport terminal building.

    By P Osborne (05/10/2018)
  • Some of the filming in Upper Beeding took place at my Grandfather’s home, The Priory, next to St Peter’s Church where was the vicar.

    By Sarah Streete (27/12/2019)

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