Although They Were Not Divided is ostensibly a study of the training and action on the Western Front of a British Guards Armoured Division during World War II, much of it involves a broad hands-across-the-sea gesture to the Americans.
Not only does it bring the Guards, in the end, into the American sector of the line, but it couples an Englishman and an American in the leading roles.
American David Morgan (Broadway stage actor Ralph Clanton) has come over to Britain to enlist, before Pearl Harbour. The Englishman, Philip Hamilton (Edward Underdown), joins the Guards on the same day.
Their friendship is strengthened by leave spent at the Englishman’s home, confirmed by experiences shared at Falaise, at Nijmegen, on the triumphal entry into Brussels and sealed by their deaths together in the snow, during Rundstedt’s Christmas break-through in the Ardennes.
The film ends, in fact, with the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes drooping together over their graves, and a clear hint that Anglo-American unity is the implication of the title.
But the best parts of They Were Not Divided are those that stick to the Guards as a body; their training, their manoeuvres, and their corporate share in the invasion. The early scenes of square-bashing and camp duties conducted under roaring and rigid discipline, are tremendously effective, and the later action scenes give a strong sense of the pounding, inhuman excitement of armoured battle.
Much less satisfactory are the sentiment and domestic chit-chat that break the middle section of the story, and the amatory interludes – between Hamilton and his wife, and Morgan and a girl whom he meets bathing in the nude – are generally foolish and occasionally embarrassing.
David Niven’s ex-Army buddy Michael Trubshawe, as the Commanding Officer, manages to carry off a sensational moustache and a casual, almost amateur manner, without making the one seem laughable or the other inadequate.
Major Bushey Noble
Earl of Bentham
Regimental Sergeant Major