For the Ridley Scott movie, Robin Hood, which opened at the Cannes Film Festival, the Dover beaches were recreated at Freshwater West, in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The last 15 minutes of the film is set on the beach with 130 horses doing a full speed gallop charge into 600 actors. Maritime Services International (MSI) was called in to source a suitable vessel that could be converted into a 12th century landing craft for the French invasion fleet. MSI found an old LASH barge in Castleford that seemed to suit the brief. They then liaised with the Merry Men Film Arts Department to prepare structural drawings for the modification and design of the vessel. This was not an easy task as it had to meet the requirements of the Arts Department whilst still being able to achieve certification from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.
Modifications included removing the side decks and fitting a ramp, which meant that the vessel had to be structurally stabilized to compensate for the loss in strength. MSI worked with two marine co-ordinators from Merry Men Film Productions and three surveyors from the MCA in this complicated conversion, not only measuring the vessel’s stability and structural strength for filming but ensuring that compliance and safety were acceptable for the vessels to carry over 200 people in potentially dangerous waters.
Once one vessel was converted, it was a simple matter of cloning to produce the rest of the French invasion fleet of landing craft. Nobody was hurt or injured during these scenes although on occasions the boats suffered damage in the surf.
During the film viewers only see the vessel propelled by oars but this was not practical in the dangerous waters off the Pembrokeshire coast. This meant that outboard engines had to be fitted, which were concealed underneath the barges’ swims.