It is 1942 and Britain is clinging to the island of Malta, located south of Sicily and critical to keeping Allied supply lines open. Unsurprisingly, the Axis also want it for their own supply lines.
Flight Lieutenant Peter Ross (Alec Guinness) is an archaeologist who has qualified as a pilot in order to photograph archaeological sites from the air.
He becomes an RAF pilot and is stranded in Malta en route to a posting in Egypt and drafted into carrying out perilous photo-reconnaissance missions over Italian ports.
When not fighting the enemy of exploring the island’s archaeological sites, Ross romances local girl, Maria (Muriel Pavlow).
Maria’s brother Giuseppe is arrested as an Italian spy and, even though he knows he faces execution as a traitor, he does not attempt to deny that he is working for Italian intelligence or that he was attempting to obtain information which, had he succeeded, would have been of great assistance to the Axis forces.
The original script had a happy ending, with Peter surviving and marrying Maria but producer J. Arthur Rank brought in Nigel Balchin to rewrite the script so that Peter dies heroically while on a mission to locate an Italian convoy taking vital supplies to Libya.
Flight Lt. Peter Ross
Air CO Frank
Wing Cmdr Bartlett
Giuseppe Gonzar (Ricardi)
Vice Admiral Payne
Vice Admiral Willie Banks
Melita Gonzar (Maria’s mother)
Brian Desmond Hurst