In 1943, the German merchant ship Ehrenfels was sunk in the neutral harbor of Goa, a Portuguese colonial outpost on the coast of India, by British saboteurs. The members of the raiding party received no official recognition for their efforts and details of "Operation Creek" remained top secret until 1978. James Leasor brought the unknown mission to light in his non-fiction book Boarding Party, which revealed the heroic efforts of the Calcutta Light Horse, a civilian regiment of middle-aged British men in colonial India, in stopping a Gestapo spy ring.
Producer Euan Lloyd optioned the book as a follow-up to his 1978 film The Wild Geese and had hoped to reunite the film's three stars. Richard Burton and Richard Harris declined so Gregory Peck and David Niven, who had previously teamed up for a daring and dangerous World War II mission in The Guns of Navarone (1961), joined Roger Moore in the lead roles. The sole American in the cast, Peck adopts a soft British lilt, "But not with pukka Sandhurst accent because if I did nobody would understand me," he explained in an interview. Most of the production team from The Wild Geese also returned, including director Andrew V. McLaglen, screenwriter Reginald Rose, production designer Syd Cain, editor John Glen and title designer Maurice Binder. The latter three were, like Roger Moore, also veterans of the James Bond films.
The real-life Major-General Lewis Pugh (the character played by Peck) served as a technical advisor on the film, which admittedly took some liberties with history. It drew some details from other clandestine operations, notably "Operation Postmaster," and created the fictional Mrs. Cromwell (played by Barbara Kellerman) as a romantic interest for Moore's character. But much of the film was shot on location in India and Goa, and the age of its male cast (most over 60 years of age) speaks to the unusual nature of the real-life mission.
by Sean Axmaker
AFI Catalog of Feature Films <br>
Boarding Party, James Leasor. 1978, Houghton Mifflin. <br>
"Operation Creek: Going to War on a River Barge," Dwight Jon Zimmerman. Defense Media Network, August 12, 2013.
"The Day the Weekly was invited to go on location with Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Roger Moore," Bunty Turner. The Australian Women's Weekly, May 14, 1980.