In Belgium in October 1917, young British soldier Private Arthur James Hamp (Tom Courtenay) is accused of desertion and accepts that a court martial will free him because he did not desert.
The plaintive faith of the simple-minded soldier – the last surviving member of his platoon – inspires a tragedy.
Hamp did indeed walk away from the front line – and intended to walk home to England until he was stopped and challenged in Calais by the Military Police.
He insists he left only because the noise of the guns grew unbearable after three years on the frontline.
Hargreaves (Dirk Bogarde), a captain detailed to defend him, submits that Hamp is suffering from shell shock, inspiring a clash with an earthy Medical Officer.
At first undertaking the assignment solely in the line of duty, Hargreaves is drawn emotionally into Private Hamp’s piteous case, touched by the lad’s utter sincerity and naivete and determined to save him from a firing squad.
The shocking and powerful film is sprinkled throughout with actual photos of dead bodies from the Imperial War Museum in London. Made in just eighteen days for less than £100,000, it never made its money back despite winning awards and rave reviews.
Captain Charles Hargreaves
Private Arthur James Hamp
Corporal of Guard