Danger UXB

Danger UXB

Danger UXB is a 1979 British ITV television series developed by John Hawkesworth and starring Anthony Andrews as Lieutenant Brian Ash, a new direct commission officer in World War II.

Ash's first posting is to 347 Section of 97 Tunnelling Company, a bomb disposal unit of the Royal Engineers, which is assigned the duty of defusing unexploded bombs ("UXBs") in London during the Blitz, a job he must learn with the most rudimentary of training. The series primarily featured military storylines, with a romantic thread featuring an inventor's married daughter, Susan Mount (Judy Geeson), with whom Ash falls in love, and other human interest vignettes.

The programme was titled and partly based on the memoirs of Major A. B. Hartley, M.B.E, RE, Unexploded Bomb.[1] The series was filmed in 1978 in and around the Clapham, Streatham, and Tooting areas of south London.

The programme appeared on the U.S. PBS as a segment of Masterpiece Theatre from 1980 to 1981. It was also screened in Australia on the public broadcaster ABC Television.



  • Anthony Andrews as Brian Ash
  • Maurice Roëves as Sergeant James
  • George Innes as Sapper Wilkins, a conniving petty crook who avoids as much work as he can
  • Gordon Kane as Sapper Mulley, Ash's batman. He moves in with the Bakers to be close to Ash, and falls in love with Norma.
  • Robert Pugh as Sapper Powell
  • Ken Kitson as Corporal Horrocks
  • Jeremy Sinden as Ivor Rodgers, one of Ash's fellow officers and a good friend. He is later promoted to major and given command of the company.
  • Judy Geeson as Susan
  • Kenneth Cranham as Sapper Salt, a married man who worries about his wife and children
  • Osmund Bullock as Lieutenant Pringle
  • Deborah Watling as Norma, Mrs. Baker's promiscuous daughter
  • Peter Cartwright as Major Luckhurst, the respected commanding officer
  • Iain Cuthbertson as Doctor Gillespie
  • Marjie Lawrence as Mrs. Baker, Ash's landlady
  • Royston Tickner as Lieutenant Leckie, a Scottish veteran of the First World War who handles the administrative duties
  • David Shaughnessy as Lieutenant Carter-Brown
  • David Auker as Sapper Baines
  • Robert Longden as Sapper Copping
  • Kenneth Farrington as Captain Francis
  • John Bowler as Sapper Scott
  • Norman Chappell as Corporal Mould, the orderly in charge of the officers' mess


  1. "Dead Man's Shoes" - Ash joins his new company and learns its mission. He is quickly given command of a section whose previous officer was blown to bits. Under the tutelage of his sergeant, he defuses his first bomb.
  2. "Unsung Heroes" - Ash is reprimanded, first by Captain Francis for a newspaper story about the section, then by Major Luckhurst for his reckless behaviour defusing a low-priority bomb. Ash becomes acquainted with a new officer, Ken Machin, who is billeted with him, and meets his wife.
  3. "Just Like a Woman" - Charged with showing Machin what to do, Ash gives in to Machin's pleadings and allows him to finish disarming what seems to be a straightforward bomb alone while Ash goes to deal with a more urgent situation. While he is gone, it explodes, killing Machin. He later learns that the dead man had only just got engaged to his "wife" and that she is pregnant.
  4. "Cast Iron Killer" - Ash's guilt over Machin's death is eased when it is learned that the Germans have begun boobytrapping the bomb fuses so they cannot be safely removed. A skeptical Ash delivers a disarmed bomb to Dr. Gillespie, an inventor who has come up with a novel solution: drilling a hole in the side and piping in steam to melt the explosive out. Ash meets Gillespie's married daughter Susan. During its first trial, the new method works, but Sapper Copping is killed.
  5. "The Silver Lining" - The section digs for a bomb in a risqué nightclub. When Susan comes up to London, Ash takes her out for a night of dining and dancing. This episode takes place in September of 1940.
  6. "The Quiet Weekend" - Ash and Susan's relationship turns serious, and they spend a weekend together at a hotel. However, Ash is called back to work, cutting short their tryst. Susan grows impatient waiting for him and returns home to find an unexpected visitor - her husband, Stephen.
  7. "Digging Out" - While the section works on a bomb at an abandoned factory, Corporal Salt wanders off and finds a young woman trapped beside a second bomb with a time fuse. Without Ash's knowledge or permission, Salt and several other men take a great risk and manhandle the bomb into the nearby river just before it explodes. Later, unable to get a leave, Salt goes AWOL to try to persuade his wife to leave Manchester with their children, but a German bomb kills her and injures him. When Salt recovers, he is demoted to sapper. Major Luckhurst informs Captain Francis that he will shortly take command of the company, as Luckhurst has been promoted.
  8. "Bad Company" - Francis's heavy-handed measures to instill more discipline cause widespread resentment. He is particularly harsh with Ash for a more personal reason; Ash's affair with a married woman reminds him of his own wife's infidelity. When Francis is seen secretly burning papers commending Ash, Susan gets her father to use his influence, and Francis is posted to a construction unit in Scotland. Ash's men misbehave. One pawns his "best boots" to pay off a debt without knowing how he will redeem them, while another gets involved in a bar-room fight, bringing him to the attention of the military police.
  9. "Seventeen Seconds to Glory" - Ash helps a Royal Navy officer defuse a mine that gives a man just seventeen seconds to get clear once the clock mechanism starts. Susan's husband, working on code-breaking at Bletchley Park, has a nervous breakdown. She is advised to look after him, prompting her to break off her relationship with Ash without explaining the reason, just after he has proposed and she has accepted.
  10. "Butterfly Winter" - The Germans attempt to sow confusion and fear in the British countryside by dropping large numbers of food can-sized butterfly bombs from bombers. Some have impact fuses, while others are time-delayed or set off by movement. The bombs have a way of finding themselves into all manner of places, and their sheer numbers make it impossible for Ash to deal with them on his own; his entire unit down to the lowest rank must now be directly involved in securing and blowing up these bombs. Salt is killed as a result.
  11. "Dead Letter" - 14 months have passed since Ash and Susan broke up, but they have an awkward reunion when her father, Dr Gillespie, asks for Ash to be assigned to help him figure out how to defuse the new German Y fuse. The new design uses a mercury tilt switch to detect movement of the bomb after it lands; thus, the fuse cannot be touched. Ash is the first to try out Gillespie's solution: freezing it to neutralise its battery. Ash has a liaison with a woman who has lost the man she loves.
  12. "The Pier" - Susan and Ash get engaged once again following her husband's suicide. Ash's unit is relocated to Brighton. He is assigned a seaside pleasure pier that had been mined heavily in anticipation of the German invasion that never came in 1940. Ivor Rogers, now in overall command, tells Ash to delegate the work, but when a promising new officer under his command is killed by an unmarked mine, Ash goes back to work. While attempting to defuse one device, it explodes and badly injures him.
  13. "With Love, From Adolf" - When Norma finds out she is pregnant, she finally agrees to marry Mulley. Ash has a difficult recovery, both physically and mentally, and his relationship with Susan is strained nearly to the breaking point. He worries about being useless and discarded. When he sees Ivor about going back to work, he is sent to deal with a routine older-model bomb. Dismantling the fuse, however, Ash finds a note inside that says "With Love, from Adolf". Ivor, it seems, was testing him.

The series was first broadcast between 8 January and 2 April 1979 on Monday nights at 21:00.


Hartley's book provided many of the plot details. Danger UXB, a novel based on the series and written by Michael Booker, was published by Pan Books in 1978, and an annual was published by World Distributors in 1980.


Many of the bomb-disposal scenes were filmed in what appeared to be deep, freshly dug holes lined with wooden shoring (the way real bomb disposal often happened). In fact, these scenes were shot using two different physical sets interlaced:

  • a short above-ground wooden fence that appeared to be the top of the shaft down to the bomb (but was not in fact excavated), and
  • a 30-foot above-ground hollow wooden tower with a muddy area inside at the bottom (often shot from above, looking down). (A side of the bottom was also removable to facilitate "bottom-of-shaft" close-ups.)


  1. ^ Hartley, A.B. (1958). Unexploded bomb, a history of bomb disposal. London: Cassell. p. 272. http://lccn.loc.gov/59027373. 

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