Original UK cinema poster
|Directed by||John Boulting|
|Produced by||Roy Boulting|
|Screenplay by||John Boulting|
|Based on||Private's Progress|
by Alan Hackney
|Music by||John Addison|
|Edited by||Anthony Harvey|
|Distributed by||British Lion Films (UK)|
|Box office||£310,870 (UK)|
During the Second World War, the young undergraduate Stanley Windrush (Ian Carmichael), is conscripted into the British Army. Unlike his friend Egan (Peter Jones), Windrush is a most reluctant soldier and struggles through basic training at Gravestone Barracks (Author Hackney spent the first year of his National Service at Maidstone Barracks). Failing his officer selection board, he is posted to a holding unit, under the command of Major Hitchcock (Terry-Thomas). Most of the soldiers there are malingerers and drop-outs.
Windrush is finally posted to train as a Japanese interpreter, where he becomes the prize pupil. He is then contacted by his uncle, Brigadier Tracepurcel (Dennis Price), now a senior officer in the War Office, to join a secret operation known only as Hatrack. He is quickly commissioned and the operation is launched, Windrush becoming an unwitting participant in a scheme ostensibly to recover looted artworks from the Germans but really to steal them and sell them to two crooked art dealers.
Windrush survives the operation, despite being briefly arrested by British forces whilst in German uniform and is discharged from the army. Tracepurcel and his associate Private Cox (Richard Attenborough) fake their deaths. Windrush returns to university after the war and is surprised to receive a visit from Cox, who brings him an attaché case. Cox is arrested as he leaves, he and Tracepurcel having been tracked as the source of a counterfeit copy of one of the artworks. Windrush innocently reveals to the military police the contents of the case--a large sum of money--and is also arrested, assumed to be complicit in the fraud.
The film was primarily filmed at Shepperton Studios but some scenes were filmed at Wantage Hall, a hall of residence for the University of Reading. It was the first in a series of successful satirical comedies made by the Boulting brothers for their production company Charter Films. Their 1959 comedy, I'm All Right Jack, featured many of the same actors and characters. A number of references are made to the events of Private's Progress.