Home Television Drama Sandbaggers, The

Sandbaggers, The

1 9 7 8 – 1 9 8 0 (UK)
20 x 60 minute episodes

From Yorkshire Television came this TV Drama series about the special operations team of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), headed by Neil Burnside.

The SIS agents are known as ‘sandbaggers’ (Willie Caine is Sandbagger #1) and specialise in covert operations around the world.

The series put the spies in grey suits, gave them short haircuts and short tempers, cut out the car chases, sex and swashbuckling and unexpectedly made a pinup of Roy Marsden.

But they upset the Foreign Office by flashing the phone number in the opening titles – a joke by writer Ian Mackintosh, a former Royal Navy officer and once a spy himself.

The meat of The Sandbaggers came from the office-based dialogue. There were deals with CIA ally Jeff Ross (Bob Sherman), confrontations with direct superior Peele (Jerome Willis), and personal attachments to sandbagger Laura Dickens (Diane Keen) – a liaison destined for a brutal end.

L to R: Willie Caine, Neil Burnside and Mike Wallace.

Burnside’s only real friend was Willie Caine (Ray Lonnen), his longest-serving operative.

The end of The Sandbaggers was shrouded in mystery. During production of season three in 1979, the small plane in which Ian Mackintosh was flying went missing over the Pacific Ocean.

Remaining scripts had to be handled by other writers, and arguably of a lower quality, the series was curtailed. The final episode ended with Caine shot on assignment in Malta, his fate unknown.

Neil Burnside 
Roy Marsden (1)
Richard Vernon (2)
Dennis Burgess (3)
Willie Caine 

Ray Lonnen
Sir Geoffrey Wellingham 

Alan MacNaughton
Diane Lawler 

Elizabeth Bennett
‘C’ (Sir James Greenley) 

Richard Vernon
Matthew Peele 

Jerome Willis
Jeff Ross 

Bob Sherman
Mike Wallace 

Michael Cashman
Laura Dickens 

Diane Keen
Marianne Straker 

Sue Holderness
Alan Denson 

Steven Grives