Australian actor Bill Kerr, a sprightly 86 years old, recently recalled his part playing Flt Lt ‘Mick’ Martin in The Dam Busters. Sitting in the restored Lancaster in the Aviation Heritage Museum in Bull Creek, near Perth, WA, he told a reporter from the West Australian that it had been an honour to play the Australian Dambuster:
“But it took two hours of make up, a wig and a moustache before I really looked like Micky Martin,” he said.
A sprightly Kerr, who calls Perth home, took a trip down memory lane this week sitting in the pilot’s seat of the Avro Lancaster housed at the Aviation Heritage Museum in Bull Creek.
“You know the attention to detail in this Lancaster is incredible — they have done a marvellous job restoring her,” he said. “And the attention to detail in the original film was extraordinary. They even put chocks behind my ears so they stood out to look just like Micky Martin’s.”
Kerr also told the paper that he got the job straight off the boat from Australia when his agent drove him directly to Pinewood Studios for a casting session. However, this might be a slight exaggeration since by 1954 he had already been in a number of films, including the only film about Bomber Command to predate The Dam Busters, the under-rated Appointment in London. This was released in 1952 and starred a young Dirk Bogarde. It was written by John Woolridge, who had served as a flight commander in 106 Squadron when Guy Gibson was its commanding officer. Some commentators think that the Bogarde character is based on Gibson.
Bill Kerr’s role in Appointment in London, according to IMDB, was Flt Lt Bill Brown. The cast included other actors on the cusp of a successful career, including Bryan Forbes, Sam Kydd and Richard Wattis, with the female lead played by the well-established Dinah Sheridan.
John Woolridge not only wrote the script for this film but also, in an unusual combination, its musical score. He was to write more film music over the next few years, before his death in a car crash in 1958. His daughter is the actress Susan Woolridge, well known (in Britain at least) for many TV and film roles.