Sailors Three

Sailors Three (released in the US as Three Cockeyed Sailors[1]) is a 1940 British war comedy film directed by Walter Forde and starring Tommy Trinder, Claude Hulbert and Carla Lehmann. This was cockney music hall comedian Trinder's debut for Ealing, the studio with which he was to become most closely associated.[2][3] It concerns three British sailors who accidentally find themselves aboard a German ship during the Second World War.

Sailors Three
Australian daybill poster
Directed byWalter Forde
Produced byMichael Balcon
Written byAustin Melford
John Dighton
Angus MacPhail
StarringTommy Trinder
Claude Hulbert
Carla Lehmann
Music byErnest Irving
CinematographyGünther Krampf
Edited byRay Pitt
Distributed byAssociated British
Release date
  • 14 December 1940 (1940-12-14) (UK)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Detailed surveys published in Britain in the early years of the war by the "Mass-Observation" organisation, showed the popularity of comedy with wartime cinema audiences. Films with the war as a subject were particularly well received, especially those movies showing the lighter side of service life, largely because many in the audience would soon be finding themselves in uniform. John Oliver writes in BFI screenonline, " to prepare such potential recruits for their own possible riotous and fun-packed life in the Royal Navy, Sandy Powell had already taken the shilling in All At Sea (dir. Herbert Smith, 1939) before Tommy Trinder did likewise with Sailors Three, following his comic misadventures in the army in Laugh It Off (dir. John Baxter) earlier that same year." [2]

The song "All Over The Place" (words by Frank Eyton; music by Noel Gay), sung by Trinder in the film, became one of the most popular of the war.[4]


During the Second World War, three Royal Navy sailors on a drunken spree in a Brazilian neutral port mistake a German ship for their own and climb aboard. It turns out to be a pocket battleship, the Ludendorff, and to the credit of the Royal Navy, the trio manages to capture the ship and all the Germans on board.[5][6]


Critical response

  • TV Guide called it "a funny comedy from the propagandistic Ealing studios".[6]
  • Britmovie concluded director "Walter Forde’s music-hall training enabled him to see that the gags were well-timed."[5]
  • In the BFI screenonline, John Oliver writes, "Trinder may have made more distinguished films at Ealing, but Sailors Three was not only a promising start at the studio but the film that would remain his most successful outright comedy."[2]


  1. IMDb: Sailors Three - release info Linked 2015-10-30
  2. "BFI Screenonline: Sailors Three (1940)". Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  3. "BFI | Film & TV Database | SAILORS THREE (1940)". 16 April 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  4. Based on sheet music sales.
  5. "Sailors Three 1940 | Britmovie | Home of British Films". Britmovie. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  6. "Three Cockeyed Sailors Review". Retrieved 22 February 2014.
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