2 men went to war?

Ad: This forum contains affiliate links to products on Amazon and eBay. More information in Terms and rules


Senior Airman
Jan 18, 2007
Caught this film half way through and also missed the end. Can anyone tell me what happened to both Seargent King and Private Cuthbutson?

Two Men Went To War : A true story : Kenneth Cranham : Leo Bill : Derek Jacobi : James Fleet


Based on a true story, Sergeant Peter King (Kenneth Cranham) of the Army Dental Corps, too old to fight, and Private Leslie Cuthbertson (Leo Bill), a trainee dental mechanic in the Corps, are thrown together by their passionate desire to see active service. Armed with just two revolvers and a dozen grenades, King persuades Cuthbertson to join him on a mission to occupied France.

In a letter to Winston Churchill, King explains their intention to invade France and fight the Germans. After a number of failed attempts, they finally arrive by boat and stumble across a German radar station. They succeed in blowing-up what they believe to be the main Operations Room, but are soon forced to make their escape as the entire compound unexpectedly erupts with gunfire and explosions. After narrow escapes from the Germans and a stray mine in the Channel, the two men are picked up at sea and interrogated as spies.

Identified as deserters, they are returned to their barracks to be court martialled. At the eleventh hour King and Cuthbertson are saved by the arrival of Major Merton (Derek Jacobi), Churchill's Chief Intelligence Advisor. Their letter has been received in Whitehall and Merton corroborates their heroic story. Exonerated of lying, King and Cuthbertson are nevertheless reprimanded by the Court for their behaviour, but receive an invitation to tea with the Prime Minister should they ever be in Whitehall.
They were court martialled --> King demoted to Corporal and Cuthbutson got 28 days in jail. The never met again. King went into active service and won the MC (and a DSO in Korea), moved to New Zealand and died in a car accident in 1962. Cuthbutson was posted to the Durham Light Infantry and survived the war dying in 1995. At least I think that is what it said at the end (just going off the top of my head here it is pretty much correct though).
Full story

Set in 1942 against the backdrop of World War II, this eccentric but true tale (based on the book 'Amateur Commandos' by Raymond Foxall) begins in England at a backwater barracks, where Sergeant Peter King and Private Leslie Cuthbertson, our two protagonists, practice the art of dentistry. King, a Sergeant in the Army Dental Corps, has received one rejection too many of his request for frontline duty, and is fed-up with being a passive participant in the war. Similarly, Private Cuthbertson, a trainee dental mechanic, is bored by classes on dental hygiene and desperate to see action. This is a story about two men trapped in dead-end jobs, desperate to live out their dreams.

Cuthbertson comes to King's attention when he finds him playing with a grenade in the Armoury. Later that night after yet another rejection, Sergeant King wakes Cuthbertson and the two set off, on what Cuthbertson believes is a routine army exercise. It is only when King asks for his paybook to enclose with a letter to Churchill that Cuthbertson begins to understand King's plan. Cuthbertson has been enlisted by King to travel to France and fight the Germans. They are going to see some action and reek havoc. But first, they must travel to a small fishing port in Cornwall, steal a boat and sail across the Channel to France.

After a train and bus journey the men, laden with a rucksack full of grenades and dentistry equipment, eventually arrive at a small fishing port and are met by the local darling Emma Fraser. Smitten by Cuthbertson she persuades the men to stay overnight at her mother's pub. Reluctantly King accepts the offer, but is really only interested in getting a boat to cross the Channel and becomes annoyed at the flirtation between the young people. Cuthbertson reveals to Emma that he is on a secret mission.

A few failed attempts later, the men finally set sail. After a long and difficult journey they arrive on land, but quickly come to believe that they are back in Cornwall, when they hear two women chatting in English about cookery. But it turns out to be a radio transmission being monitored by a German Signals Officer. Although relived that they have actually arrived in France, the two men soon become disappointed at the lack of action and Cuthbertson is quick to criticise King and his promise of finding adventure. Nonetheless, King is on a mission and with Cuthbertson in tow proceeds with his haphazard plan. Eventually they come across a railway track and on King's instruction they follow the track. When they reach an empty station signal box, King enters, leaving Cuthbertson on guard. A German Signalman manages to slip past Cuthbertson and into the box, where King is forced to hit him over the head. Before they can work out what to do next, a train full of German soldiers approaches. They only just manage to operate the signals to let the train pass through the station without alerting suspicion. Relieved and exhausted the two men once again set off in search of some action, neither one of them knowing what the future holds.

King, desperate to maintain his hard exterior and rank, constantly belittles
Cuthbertson until the young man retaliates and the pair come to verbal blows. Gradually, both men begin to soften and we begin to understand why Cuthbertson looks up to King and why King is so insecure.

When the men finally come across a German radar base King produces a plan, which has Cuthbertson standing guard, while King goes under the fence to plant the grenades. Unhappy with his passive role, Cuthbertson challenges King, saying that he hasn't come all this way to watch someone else's action. King's response is that he believes that whoever goes in there will die. Cuthbertson eventually persuades King to involve him in the blowing up of what they believe is the main Operations Room. They set the bombs and soon the base erupts with gunfire and explosions, much more than either expected from their supply of weapons. For a moment King thinks that Cuthbertson has been caught in the gunfire but within minutes Cuthbertson appears on a motorcycle with sidecar and they make a rapid and narrow escape back to the coast.

The men eventually locate their boat and prepare to set sail once again. But their journey back to England is not destined to be easy. The boat is out of fuel and they have to start rowing. After losing an argument with a stray mine in the Channel, the two men are picked up at sea and taken back to England where they are interrogated as spies. Their identity is eventually established and they are labelled as deserters and taken to Aldershot Barracks to be court martialed.

In the meantime, King's letter to Churchill has found its way into the hands of Churchill's Chief Intelligence Officer, Major Merton, who tells Churchill about the proposed antics of our protagonists. It is believed that Churchill admired the tenacity of the men and instructed Major Merton to track the men's progress.

Luckily, just as the court is about to pass its verdict Major Merton intervenes and asks the men a series of questions, which prove that they were at the German Radar Station. He also tells the court that Sergeant King and Private Cuthbertson managed to create a useful diversion with their explosions, because on that very same night the Parachute Regiment were attempting to steal portions of the German radar equipment and bring it back to England for analysis. Major Merton also reports that the two men blew up the cookhouse and not the Operations Room as they had thought.

Exonerated of lying, King and Cuthbertson are reprimanded by the Court for their behaviour, but invited to tea with the Prime Minister should they ever be in Whitehall.

The two men never met again. Both achieved their aim of seeing active service. Sergeant King was decorated for bravery, ending his army career as a major and retiring to New Zealand. Private Cuthbertson transferred to the Durham Light Infantry and eventually became Deputy Mayor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Users who are viewing this thread