War Office officials tried to sabotage 1957 movie Bridge on the River Kwai

The War Office wrote a letter to the producers behind 1957 movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, criticising its 'inauthentic' portrayal of British PoWs.

The department warned that the film 'would not go down well with the public', after  producer Sam Spiegel wrote to it hoping to obtain the co-operation of the RAF in filming.

The film is based on the novel by Pierre Boulle and centres on a British Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson, and Colonel Saito, the commandant of the Japanese prison camp in Burma, modern day Myanmar, where Nicholson and his men are held. Saito insists that all the men, including the officers, should work on building a bridge to connect Bangkok and Rangoon. 

Nicholson refuses to allow his officers to perform manual labour and they are all detained in punishment huts. The other men under his command are made to work on the bridge, although they sabotage progress wherever they can.

Pressure on Saito to complete the bridge leads to a compromise and Nicholson decides that if the men are going to be forced to work on the bridge then they will design and build it properly. He believed that it would bolster British prestige and demoralise their Japanese captors.

However, he eventually realises the enormity of his actions at the film's conclusion and breaks down. 

Now, newly-released letters in the National Archives have now revealed the full extent of the War Office's misgivings over the movie, with officials warning that the film's storyline was 'quite untrue'.

The 1957 film is based on the novel by Pierre Boulle and centres on a British Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson, and Colonel Saito, the commandant of the Japanese prison camp in Burma, modern day Myanmar, where Nicholson and his men are held

 The 1957 film is based on the novel by Pierre Boulle and centres on a British Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson, and Colonel Saito, the commandant of the Japanese prison camp in Burma, modern day Myanmar, where Nicholson and his men are held

The War Office wrote to the film 'would not go down well with the public', after Hollywood producer Sam Spiegel wrote to it hoping to obtain the co-operation of the RAF in filming

The War Office wrote to the film 'would not go down well with the public', after producer Sam Spiegel wrote to it hoping to obtain the co-operation of the RAF in filming

The War Office felt the film, which went on to win seven Oscars, unfairly portrayed British PoWs, especially officers

The War Office felt the film, which went on to win seven Oscars, unfairly portrayed British PoWs, especially officers

The War Office felt the film, which went on to win seven Oscars, unfairly portrayed British PoWs, especially officers, and suggested they had colluded with their Japanese captors.   

The Bridge on the River Kwai: An American World War II classic that won seven Oscars for its depiction of PoWs

The 1957 film is based on the novel written by Pierre Boulle and set in a Japanese POW camp.

It centres on a British Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson, and Colonel Saito, the commandant of the Japanese prison camp in Burma, modern day Myanmar, where Nicholson and his men are held. 

Saito insists that all the men, including the officers, should work on building a bridge to connect Bangkok and Rangoon. 

Nicholson refuses to allow his officers to perform manual labour (as per the Geneva Convention) and they are all detained in punishment huts. 

The other men under his command are made to work on the bridge, although they sabotage progress wherever they can.

Pressure on Saito to complete the bridge leads to a compromise and Nicholson decides that if the men are going to be forced to work on the bridge then they will design and build it properly. 

This will not only demonstrate their superior professionalism and skill to their captors, but also maintain the men's morale as they will be able to take pride in their work, he believes.

In the film's explosive ending, he eventually realises the truth of his actions, commenting: 'What have I done?'. 

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Sarah Castagnetti, visual collections team manager, wrote at the time: 'POWs were duty-bound to attempt to escape and to sabotage the enemy's war efforts whenever they could. The idea that they would

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