Jim Dale & Phil Silvers at Camber

The Desert on our Doorstep

At the beginning of May, Camber Sands was once again invaded by a film unit. The eighty-strong team came down from Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire to stay in Rye and the surrounding towns for three weeks, while making Peter Rogers’ latest comedy film  FOLLOW THAT CAMEL

The sand dunes, well known as a great beauty spot, have now become the Sahara Desert, complete with a fort, an oasis, a tribe of ferocious Arabs and here and there a Camel!

FOLLOW THAT CAMEL tells the story of a young English nobleman, played by Jim Dale, who, having committed a breach of social conduct, joins the French Foreign Legion. His life in the desert is arduous, adventurous and hilarious – hardly surprising when his comrades in arms are the familiar ‘Carry On’ gang, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Peter Butterworth and Bernard Bresslaw, all aided and abetted by Phil (Sgt. Bilko) Silvers and the lovely, vivacious singer, Anita Harris.


So the search was on for people of similar stature and colouring to the stars, to act as their stand-ins. From the Rye area were found Fred Warrener (for Phil Silvers), George Edwards (for Kenneth Williams), Donald Stokes (for Charles Hawtrey), Michael Goddard (for Jim Dale) and John Trill (for Peter Butterworth). No star-struck, would-be film star these! and most of them found their first taste of film-making not a little disillusioning. Amid howling winds, torrential rain and raging snowstorms there was little glamour to be seen, and the atmosphere was hardly appropriate to the burning sands of the Sahara!

None of these noble volunteers were strangers to uniform, but, for this tour of duty they are not representatives of Her Majesty’s Forces but members of that notorious, cut-throat organisation, the French Foreign Legion. After his first week’s work on FOLLOW THAT CAMEL, Michael Goddard, who spent six years in the Marines and now lives at Rye Harbour, took one look at the threatening, grey clouds and said: “This isn’t a patch on Aden !“


Another stand-in is local art student Lance Tillbury, who lives near Hastings. He took two weeks off to earn some money and is very interested in films. He’s enjoying it very much but gets bored with the waiting around. Of the actors he says Kenneth Williams has them in fits, he’s very funny, and Phil Silvers is always jokingly moaning about the English weather.


Sarah Payne, 21, lives in Winchelsea and when she heard that a film unit was coming to Camber Sands she thought it would be fun to apply for a job as an extra (along with about 150 other local residents !). In fact she’s got more than she bargained for!

Sarah is now organising all the extras that are needed to play Arab tribesmen and French Foreign Legionnaires. Twice she has had to find sixty potential Arabs overnight! Although this is Sarah’s first taste of the film industry, she is now very keen to learn more about it, and after her very conscientious stint on this picture, she will probably be very welcome.

After a week’s work with the film unit, an exhausted Sarah Payne commented, “It’s very hard work but great fun; and everyone is so nice—much more normal than I had imagined !“ Tea Break on the Film set — stars and extras enjoy a few minutes break between shots

From the Rye’s Own Archive Rye’s Own June 1967

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