Former Northern Echo staff member Tony Marshall and his college friend Trevor Griffiths, both aviation and military vehicle enthusiasts, came to the rescue of a Hollywood blockbuster. Tony tells the tale here:

"Our involvement started with a phone call in 2006, from a friend, who had been contacted by the military props buyer for Plus Films.

The Northern Echo: On set with the big gunsOn set with the big guns

They required 30-plus pre-1941 vehicles and artillery, for a beach scene at Redcar, near Middlesbrough, which was doubling as Dunkirk in a film adaptation of the 2001 novel Atonement by Ian McKewan.

The Northern Echo: Loading up one of the vehicles ready for film actionLoading up one of the vehicles ready for film action

As many will know, Dunkirk was a victorious retreat – we managed to rescue most of the men of the British Expeditionary Force, but not their vehicles and equipment – so finding these is no easy task – luckily, several local members of the North East Military Vehicle Club had them.

We submitted a selection of photographs for approval. Out of the 30 required, 21 were from this area and two of them belonged to Trevor and myself. The rest were trailered up from the South.

The Northern Echo: Getting the vehicles in positionGetting the vehicles in position

The film crew had been on site at Redcar for six weeks and had built buildings, bandstands, false roofs, shutters, canopies etc. erected new lamposts, imported tons of sand and rubble, transforming the Coatham end of the town totally.

When we finally drove on set with our vehicles we were amazed.

The Northern Echo: Sinking some of the vehicles in the sandSinking some of the vehicles in the sand

A Saturday two days prior to the start of filming, was the only day available for transportation. The larger vehicles were unloaded at the Corus steel works at Lackenby, where some of the more dangerous stunts were to be enacted, and another base was set up near an old Leisure Centre on the sea front.

The Northern Echo: Plenty of bicycles and vehicles were brought in for filmingPlenty of bicycles and vehicles were brought in for filming

Unfortunately, the way the set was constructed meant that to gain access, Trevor had to drive his tracked Carrier over a mile through the busy Saturday streets of Redcar.

But despite me driving in front with the hazard lights on the Land Rover, cars were still trying to nip in between us.

The Northern Echo: James McAvoy with Daniel MaysJames McAvoy with Daniel Mays

Once there, we were joined by the rest of the vehicles, as well as a host of film-prop copies which were to be buried in the sand and the sea.

The small Morris Commercial replicas were made on a Land Rover chassis, steered and had very passable bodywork. There were about ten of them and they had cost about £2,000 apiece to produce.

The Northern Echo: Great photo of the military vehicles in line on the seafrontGreat photo of the military vehicles in line on the seafront

The most spectacular piece of kit on the beach was a replica of a Thames sailing barge, it was more than 90 feet long and had arrived on low loaders in four sections. These sections were then joined together and the masts, sails, and rigging erected.

The sails were new and a chap spent all day Saturday shredding them. It had a large hidden door in the side and was used for storage by the set painters.

The Northern Echo: Untidy beachUntidy beach

Once our vehicles were in position, our final task of the day was to scatter old coats, barbed wire, broken furniture, ammo boxes and fish crates about on the beach and let the art department “muddy up” the vehicles.

The Northern Echo: A scene from the day of filmingA scene from the day of filming

We were supposed to stay on set for four days, being put up in a hotel at Stockton. But as it was only seven miles from home, after the first night, we passed on the other three.

The Northern Echo: Moving vehicles into place on the beachMoving vehicles into place on the beach

Two of our friends did the full four days, in order to look after the vehicles and they both ended up appearing in the film. The next day saw us back on set, where we positioned all the artillery along the sea front and placed five of the larger vehicles on the sand, out of the tide-line.

The Northern Echo: A rare Morris A rare Morris

We did a lot of mechanical work and towing as some of the vehicles had become really stubborn to start.

The Northern Echo: Great photo across the beach and temporary film set Great photo across the beach and temporary film set

During the afternoon we noticed the back of a large modern Scania truck being partly covered in sand and then left. We later discovered that it was being used as a sand dune for the close-up dialogue shots involving the main actors.

The Northern Echo: The truck in the sand duneThe truck in the sand dune

It was an interesting few days and the weather was kind. The crew who were mainly from London, were good company and friendly. They couldn’t believe how cheap the food and drink was!

The Northern Echo: Tony Marshall, Richard and Trevor Griffiths take a well earned restTony Marshall, Richard and Trevor Griffiths take a well earned rest

We were told later that the set and filming at Redcar cost about £4.5m and was on the screen for about nine minutes."