Redcar – The world war two invasion

It was the 20th August 2006. Redcar had been invaded. The anti-aircraft guns had fallen silent and there was significant damage to buildings on the sea-front. The people didn’t quite know what to make of it.

Thankfully, the invaders were from the film industry and working on the film “Attonement”.

Attonement Redcar sea front with burnt out buildingThe beach and seafront at Redcar were transformed into war-torn Dunkirk on the northern coast of France.

I was very strange to see this northeast coastal town transformed into 1940 France and the set designers had done an amazing job, creating a burnt out building effect.

The beach itself was littered with vehicles that feature in one of the longest single-take tracking shots I have ever seen.

Attonement Lackenby Steel Works in the background

Attonement Lackenby Steel Works in the background

The steelworks in the background were cleverly masked out by the Ferris wheel and smoke effects to remove the last vestige of the 21st Century from the scene.

On days when filming was not taking place, part of the beach area was open to the public. The main parts of the set were taped off, presumably to stop the public climbing on the WW2 era vehicles or disrupting any continuity. It was quite strange to see such a familiar place transformed. It was perhaps even a little eery to see anti-aircraft gun emplacements on the seafront.

Was this what it was like on the northeast coast during WW2? I couldn’t help but wonder.

Attonement AA Guns and sandbagsOf course, as they were still setting up for filming, it was even more confusing to the mind to see 21st Century Landrovers mixed in with 1940s Jeeps. The photograph of the anti-aircraft guns shows a bright orange raisable platform. Even when working in the 1940s it seems modern day health & safety still applies.

I am pleased to be able to report that the bandstand which was depicted as badly damaged, yet still used for community singing to keep morale up in the film is still there and in good condition.Attonement Bombed BandstandThe Regent Cinema, which is located right on the sea front was given a paint job declaring itself “Ouvert” in the film.

Redcar has returned to being a normal coastal town and over a decade later some people have forgotten all about that invasion.

A new ‘vertical pier‘ has been built a little further south along the seafront and the view out to sea has been destroyed by the erection of a large number of wind turbines.

Could Redcar have capitalised further as being a film location? There is undoubtedly rich history in the area, but we will probably never know.

So lets go back to the glory of that beach scene. That little bit of Dunkirk on the coast of northeast England and take a look at the finished product.