The Sandbaggers FAQ

by Micky DuPree

This FAQ list addresses the following questions:


  • What is its broadcast history and current availability?

  • Is/was the series popular?

  • Who was series creator Ian Mackintosh, and what became of him?

  • Were any more episodes planned, and if so, what direction would they have taken?

  • Is there any chance of a revival?

  • Have there been any SB books?

  • What else has Mackintosh done?

  • Are there any professional interviews re SB available?

  • Are there any fan clubs or fanzines available?

  • Are there any newsgroups or mailing lists devoted to SB?

  • Are there any SB conventions?

  • Is there any SB merchandise available?

  • Is the Burnside character on the British series ``The Bill'' any relation?


    THE SANDBAGGERS (abbr. SB) was a taut British spy series comprising twenty 50-minute episodes produced by Yorkshire Television, an ITV franchise (i.e., a commercial regional British television franchise). The stories centered on the elite covert operations section of British Intelligence, nicknamed the Sandbaggers, and their boss, Neil Burnside, himself a former Sandbagger, but now having to battle more with British bureaucracy than enemy agents. It was set contemporaneously with its original broadcast in the late '70s and early '80s when the Cold War still dominated the Western intelligence agenda.

    What is its broadcast history and current availability?

    United Kingdom:

    It ran nationally in Britain on ITV over 1978 and 1980. It was repeated once in Britain during daytime in 1982 [?]. It has not been transmitted in Britain since. Two commercial PAL videotapes, comprising episodes 1, 6, 8, and 12, were released in Britain in 1983 or 1984. They did not stay in print long, however, and are currently unavailable.

    United States:

    Sometime in the late '80s, certain local PBS stations in the U.S. started showing it in typical station-by-station fashion, a practice that continues to the present. As of this writing, the first six episodes have been made available in NTSC home video from The Video Catalog, Inc.

    The Video Catalog
    P.O. Box 64267
    St. Paul, MN 55164-0267 USA

    1-800-733-2232 24-hour domestic order line
    1-800-733-6656 Customer Service
    +1-612-659-4312 international order line
    +1-612-659-4320 fax order line

    Vol. 1: First Principles #34907
    Vol. 2: A Proper Function of Government #34908
    Vol. 3: Is Your Journey Really Necessary? #34909
    Vol. 4: The Most Suitable Person #34910
    Vol. 5: Always Glad to Help #34911
    Vol. 6: A Possible Solution #34912

    Each volume 52 minutes, $24.95
    All six for $129.95 #34005


    It was shown on the CBC in the late '80s. There should be no impediment to purchasing the NTSC commercial tapes, although I don't know the correct procedure for contacting a U.S. 800 number from Canada.

    Other countries:

    [Unknown. Write in with your additions.]

    Is/was the series popular?

    Sorry to be a wet blanket, but the harsh reality is no.

    Most Britons that I met when I lived in London in 1993 (as an ex-pat American) had never even heard of the series. Ray Lonnen has reported that they never made a big splash even during the original run: "I think we made number 20 in the charts one week up in Scotland. That was our big ratings success." Critical response was mixed. The regular TIMES reviewer during the original run devoted only one paragraph to it when it ended, and most of that was just a disparaging remark about Marsden's hairpiece. However, the reviewer for the TIMES weekly entertainment guide in 1982 called it the second best espionage series ever (the best being ``Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'') when it reran during the afternoons in 1982.

    SB popularity in the U.S. has very likely increased in the last couple of years, but that's still only a relative measure. I doubt that even now SB has been shown by a simple majority of PBS stations in the country. I'd be very much surprised if as many as 1 in a 1000 Americans have even heard of it.

    Who was series creator Ian Mackintosh, and what became of him?

    The following is from "Contemporary Authors," 1978, pp.389-390. (Keep the date of the article in mind.)

    MacKintosh, Ian 1940-

    PERSONAL: Born July 26, 1940, in Inverness, Scotland; son of James (a naval officer) and Annie (a governess; maiden name, Lawrie) MacKintosh; married Sharron Lorelei Carter; children: Zoe Lorelei, Zemma Gail. Education: Attended Britannia Royal Naval College. Religion: Church of Scotland. Home: 3 Kings Rd., Richmond, Surrey TW10 6NN, England. Agent: Christopher Busby Ltd., 44 Great Russell St., London WC1B 3PA, England. Office: Yorkshire Television, 30 Old Burlington St., London W1, England.

    CAREER: Royal Navy, 1958-76, served as lieutenant-commander; British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) Television, London, England, drama editor, 1976-77; Yorkshire Television, London, drama producer, 1977-. Member: Crime Writers Association, Writers Guild, Association of Directors and Producers. Awards, honors: Logie Award from the Australian Television Society for best television series, 1976, for "Warship"; member of Order of British Empire.

    WRITINGS: "A Slaying in September," R. Hale, 1967; "Count Not the Cost," R. Hale, 1967; "A Drug Called Power," R. Hale, 1968; "The Man from Destiny," R. Hale, 1969; "The Brave Cannot Yield," R. Hale, 1970; "Warship," Hutchinson, 1973; "HMS Hero," Arthur Barker, 1976; "Holt, RN," Arthur Barker, 1977; "Wilde Alliance," Severn House, 1978.

    Also author of teleplays and scripts for televisions [sic] series, including "Warship." Editor, "World Airline Colour Schemes."

    WORK IN PROGRESS: Writing and producing an adventure series for Yorkshire Television.

    SIDELIGHTS: MacKintosh told CA: "I believe travel is essential to a writer, and therefore travel extensively all over the world both professionally and privately. I am deeply interested in drama and religion of other countries -- the two are usually inseparable -- and most recently in the study of Balinese culture. I am also fascinated by all aspects of commercial flying, airlines, and airliners."


    On July [7?], 1979, Ian Mackintosh, his girlfriend, Miss Susan Insole, and their pilot sent a distress call while flying over the Gulf of Alaska in a light aircraft, reportedly scouting locations for a new series. The United States Coast Guard searched their last reported location, but no trace was ever found. A few days later they were officially presumed dead.

    A more detailed account plus a photograph of Mackintosh can be obtained from the July 12, 1979 London DAILY TELEGRAPH p.3 obituary for the three people in the plane. (Even if your library claims not to carry back issues of the DAILY TELEGRAPH, this particular issue can often be found at such libraries anyway by asking for the same day's issue of the London TIMES, because the TIMES was suffering from a strike at the time, so microfilm of the TELEGRAPH is routinely supplied in place of the missing issues of the TIMES in order to provide continuity.)

    Mackintosh's obituary does mention that he was divorced at the time of his death, but it doesn't say when the divorced was obtained.

    Were any more episodes planned, and if so, what direction would they have taken?

    The reports were that there was going to be another series. One rumor has it that Willie Caine would have returned, but in a wheelchair. One version even took it so far as to have him switch jobs with Burnside.

    Ray Lonnen has reported that there wasn't a high level of satisfaction with the scripts by the other writers brought in to pad out the last series after Mackintosh's disappearance, though, so the producers didn't pursue the idea of another series.

    Is there any chance of a revival?

        * The following is all hearsay.  Nevertheless, I realize that *
        * fans are always hungry for more hearsay, so I present it    *
        * anyway.  You are advised to take it with a spoonful of salt.*

    Reportedly, Roy Marsden now owns some of the rights to the series and is interested in a revival project, something that Ray Lonnen, Bob Sherman, and Jerome Willis would be interested in participating in as well. Sherman is supposed to have done a spec script for such a project. Despite all this, the word is that Marsden has been singularly unsuccessful in getting any backing for the project.

    Have there been any SB books?

    "The Sandbaggers," a novelization of episodes 4, 5, and 6, by Ian Mackintosh. It appeared originally in paperback, then was later reissued as a hardback. Both editions were only issued in the U.K. and are now out of print. Here are the listings from old editions of ``Whitaker's Books in Print'':

    The Sandbaggers. (Corgi Bk) 157p pa 0.80 pounds 1978
    Transworld ISBN 0-552-10936-3.

    The Sandbaggers. IC8.160 new edition 5.95 pounds Severn
    Ho. Publrs. (pub. April, 1979) 0 7278 0462 6.

    "The Sandbaggers: Think of a Number," a knock-off by William Marshall writing under the pseudonym of Donald Lancaster. It pays scant attention to series continuity and series characterization, but it's OK on its own as a potboiler. It was also a Corgi paperback, and copyright 1980. Also out of print.

    What else has Mackintosh done?


    Other Videography

    Warship (BBC; mid-70s drama about the Royal Navy)

    Wilde Alliance (Yorkshire; 1978 comedy/thriller)

    Thundercloud (Yorkshire; 1979 naval comedy)

    Other Bibliography

    Note: All of Mackintosh's books are out of print. The following listings are composites from the Cumulative Book Index, English language, and the Library of Congress National Union Catalog. I have included Library of Congress numbers (LC) where possible:


    A Slaying in September. 192p 15s 1967 Hale, R.; Can $3.25 Allen, T. LC PZ4.M1118S1

    Count Not the Cost. 192p 15s 1967 Hale, R. LC PZ4.M1586Co

    A Drug Called Power. 191p 16s 1968 Hale, R.

    The Man from Destiny. 191p 18s 1969 Hale, R. SBN 7091-0862-1.

    The Brave Cannot Yield. 189p 21s 1970 Hale, R. SBN 7091-1728-0

    Warship. 192p 1.75 pounds 1973 Hutchinson ISBN 0-09-117800-2 ["from the BBC television series devised by Ian MacKintosh and Anthony Coburn. London, Arrow Books. 0.35 pounds ISBN 0-09-907740-X, LC PZ4.M1580 War." Presumably the paperback.]

    HMS Hero. 158p 3.25 pounds 1976 Barker ISBN 0-213-16588-0.

    Holt RN. 142p 3.65 pounds 1977 Barker ISBN 0-213-16630-5. Based on the BBC TV series, Warship.

    Wilde Alliance. 119p 3.50 pounds 1978 Severn House; for sale by Hutchinson Pub. Group ISBN 0-7278-0359-X (Severn). LC PZ4.M1586Wi. Based on the Yorkshire Television series.

    Wilde Alliance. 127p pa 0.75 pounds 1978 Sphere Bks. ISBN 0-7221-5690-1.


    [I don't have the bibliographic minutia for these.]

    Encyclopedia of Airline Colour Schemes, v.1, North America

    What Plane; Beginner's Guide to Airliners

    Douglas DC-6: Pictorial & Production

    Stratocruiser and C-97

    Are there any professional interviews re SB available?

    [My Anglofile information is old. I understand they've had to regroup as a smaller, less slick publication, so I'm not certain they still make this offer.]

    Anglofile magazine did an interview of Roy Marsden in the December 1991 issue, which is Vol.4 No.1 (although by now it's probably inventoried as back issue #19) for US$2 from:

    Anglofile Back Issues
    P.O. Box 33515
    Decatur, GA 30033

    Among other things and other roles, he discussed THE SANDBAGGERS and Ian Mackintosh.

    TV critic Marvin Kitman has been a Roy Marsden fan for many years, and has done both articles and interviews of Marsden. At one time you could write Kitman in care of Newsday and request photocopies of all his Marsden pieces and his assistant would oblige you for nothing. Again, this information is a few years old now, but for what it's worth:

    The Marvin Kitman Show
    c/o Newsday
    Long Island, NY 11747

    I believe that all one needs to do is write saying you're a Roy Marsden fan, that you understand that Mr. Kitman has done several articles pertaining to Mr. Marsden and his work, and would it be possible to get photocopies of those articles?

    Marsden was in New York during one of the WLIW (PBS Long Island) pledge drives several years ago and supposedly did an on-air spot during one of the SB pledge breaks. Reportedly, he also did a short interview on a local New York commercial station during the same trip, and he was said to have mildly disparaged the fan attitude at that time. No one we've talked to so far has admitted to having tapes of these appearances, though.

    Are there any fan clubs or fanzines available?

    Two fiction fanzines are known to have been published, ``First Principles'' (three issues) and ``It Couldn't Happen Then, It Couldn't Happen Now'' (one issue). ``First Principles'' still sells back issues and is looking for material for a fourth issue. ICHT,ICHN is no longer publishing, but back issues are available. One fan club is known to exist, the Sandbagger Information Society (S.I.S.), which has put out at least three newsletters so far. The first newsletter contained interviews of Ray Lonnen and William Marshall. [Information would be appreciated as to the contents of the other issues.]

    Both ``First Principles'' and the S.I.S. newsletters are available from:

    Michael Macomber
    #223 Linden Hill Apts.
    Lindenwold, NJ 08021

    Back issues of ``It Couldn't Happen Then, It Couldn't Happen Now'' are $20 U.S. mailed out first class and are available from:

    Sherri Fillingham
    418 Girard St. #301
    Gaithersburg, MD 20877.

    A group discussion newsletter called ``A Sense of Occasion'' was run for a while, first in what is known as ``apa'' format, then later in ``letterzine'' format. It is now defunct. Inquiries are now being made as to back issue or (hopefully) electronic availability.

    A fan club specifically for Roy Marsden (i.e., not more generally for THE SANDBAGGERS) called The Vested Interests is known to have been based in New York City. Be advised that some members have been less than satisfied with this group. That said, the last known contact address was:

    The Vested Interests
    c/o Byrne Balton, D-Ops
    Murray Hill Station
    P.O. Box 1389
    New York, NY 10156

    The yearly dues as of a few years ago were $6 U.S. for an unspecified number of newsletters when Ms. Balton deemed it appropriate. You have been warned.

    Are there any newsgroups or mailing lists devoted to SB?

    There are no USENET newsgroups specifically devoted to SB. Generally, is considered the most appropriate newsgroup for SB discussion. There is now a mailing list devoted to SB.

    Otherwise, you can send mail to subscribe. Send a message to

    with "subscribe" in the body of the message. You should get back a Welcome message and some basic administrative information.

    To send articles to the list at large, mail them to:

    If you need to contact a human about list administration, send e-mail to:

    Are there any SB conventions?

    Sandbagger One, presumed to be the first and so far the only SANDBAGGERS convention, was held in Bellmawr, New Jersey on August 8 and 9, 1992.

    It was organized by Michael Macomber and Caryn Dunkel. The guest of honor was Ray Lonnen. William Marshall was invited but had a schedule conflict and did not show. Attendance was light by the standards of SF media conventions [roughly 60?], but Mr. Lonnen expressed amazement that there was even that level of interest in the series so long after it first aired, and professed to have enjoyed himself immensely.

    A second convention, Sandbagger Two, was once planned by the same people, but it is rumored that they have since had personal problems to deal with, and that plans for a second convention have either been suspended or dropped altogether.

    Is there any SB merchandise available?

    No professional merchandise is known to have existed, apart from the two SB books. Fan Jeanne DeVore sells SB logo t-shirts and sweatshirts and at least used to sell a SB music video tape. Her email address is:

    Is the Burnside character on the British series ``The Bill'' any relation?

    None. The similarity in names is pure coincidence.

    Click here to see the Sandbaggers Episode Guide
    Click here to see the Sandbaggers Actor's Addresses page
    Click here to return to the Sandbaggers main page
    Click here to go to the Skylee Press home page

    THE SANDBAGGERS is copyright (c) 1978 and 1980 by Yorkshire Television.

    The original material in this article is copyright (c) 1994 by Micky DuPree. Permission to reproduce it is hereby granted so long as it is always reproduced in its entirety and never reproduced for profit.

    This FAQ is maintained by Micky DuPree <>

    This Page is maintained by Arthur C. Kyle <>

    Last modified: Thu Sep 7 12:50:45 PDT 1995