Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TV Tie-ins: Secret Army

Secret Army was based on true stories of Allied airmen downed over Europe who were aided by local resistance operatives to make their way through France, Holland and Belgium and to escape back to England. John Brason, in his introduction to the first Secret Army novelisation, says, "It is a matter of record that the evasion lines returned over three thousand Allied Air Forces personnel to the UK, there to continue the fight against Nazi Germany."

Although the stories themselves were fictionalised and often combined the stories of two, three or more escapees into one narrative, Brason noted some of the real-life incidents that stories were based on in the third book, which included one story ("Just Light the Blue Touchpaper") in which attacks on a secret V2 site, led by the fictitious Major Bradley, were based on events masterminded by Airey Neave, M.P. and his colleagues. Helping keep the series accurate was technical adviser Group Captain William S. O. Randall, chairman of the RAF Escaping Society.

The BBC1 series was devised by Gerard Glaister and Wilfred Greatorex with John Brason as script editor. The main stars were Ron Pember (Alain), Bernard Hepton (Albert), Michael Culver (Brandt), Christopher Neame (Curtis), Valentine Dyall (Dr Keldermans), Clifford Rose (Kessler), Stephen Yardley (Max), Angela Richards (Monique), Juliet Hammond-Hills (Natalie), Jan Francis (Yvette). IMDB.

In a sense it was a follow-up to Colditz, sharing the same crew and cast, including producer Gerald Glaister, script writers, directors and even cast.

The show ran for three seasons between September 1977 and December 1979 and was followed in November and December 1981 by a spin-off which followed the hunt for Gestapo officer Ludwig Kessler who, as the war ends, escapes to South America. As Brason says, "Kessler is in effect the fourth part of the BBC television series Secret Army. It was not originally part of the concept of the series which properly terminated at the end of the Second World War. However, the character of SS Standartenführer Ludwig Kessler became so popular with viewers and, indeed, entered the mythology of Word War II in such a way as to be possibly more real and memorable than the persons upon which he was based."

The 6-part series once again starred Clifford Rose and was devised by Brason and Gerard Glaister. It was directed by Michael Briant and Tristan de Vere-Cole and introduced a number of new characters, including Alan Dobie as Richard Bauer and Nitza Shaul as Mical Rak. IMDB.

Secret Army by John Brason
BBC 0563-17400-5, 1977, 256pp, 80p. Cover design by Sue Casebourne
Between 1941 and 1945 thousands of Allied aircrew were shot down over Europe. Most were captured: but 3500 got back to their home base.
__They were given refuge and help by ordinary people of occupied Europe who performed acts of spontaneous heroism in order that highly-trained airmen could be smuggled home to continued the fight.
__At first disorganised, those evasion workers cool or lucky enough to survive became a Secret Army. Under the leadership of brave and dedicated men and women, they set up escape lines through Holland, Belgium and France.
__One such organisation was Lifeline, one such leader the pretty young woman whose code name was Yvette.
__This book, based on the BBC1 series, tells of the events leading up to the opening episode.

Secret Army Dossier by John Brason
BBC 0563-17629-6, 1978, 224pp, 90p.
Easter 1943. The Belgian Lifeline team continues its work of returning to Britain as many downed fliers as can be snatched from the Germans. But in this tense war of nerves the Secret Army has setbacks as well as successes, and the German authorities' vigilance can only be frustrated by greater and greater daring. This second book based on the BBC1 series Secret Army brings together two episodes from the first series, three from the second, and a specially-written story to cover the events in between.
__Changing times bring new circumstances: Yvette's death by bombing makes Albert the new leader of the line, and on the death of his invalid wife British money provides a new, grander 'Candide' from which to continue the game of cat and mouse. Sturmbannführer Kessler fights back with new weapons, but the game is taken out of his hands for—unknown to him—D-Day is approaching.

Secret Army: The End of the Line by John Brason
Star 0352-30535-5, 1979, 142pp, 75p. Cover photo by Crispian Woodgate
Although the war in Europe is drawing to a close, the work of Lifeline is as vital and as hazardous as ever.
__The German forces in Belgium are on the brink of uncovering the clandestine escape route that has saved so many Allied troops from capture. Albert Foiret, the lynchpin of the organisation, is in jail on a charge of murder. Both Natalie and Monique are being followed by German spies.
__With each day that passes, the reality of liberation by the Allies seems nearer—but so does the inevitability of discovery by the Nazis.
Kessler by John Brason
BBC 0563-17969-4, 1981,205pp, £1.50. Cover photo by James Elliott
25 years after the war the hunt is on for the Nazi Ludwig Kessler.
__In the post-war years a German industrialist called Manfred Dorf prospered...
__But, in common with other prominent Germans, his name was an alias, changed to hide his wartime role as one of the Nazis' most-feared members of the SS: Standartenführer Ludwig Kessler, scourge of the Low Countries and the Secret Army's escape route in the war.
__His comfortable life is shattered when a journalist unmasks him. A beautiful Israeli girl begins her private vendetta against him, aided by a German official who knows that Kessler holds the key to the vast and powerful web of neo-Nazi organisations.
About the author [1977]
John Brason was born on Tyneside in 1924. After training as a painter at the Royal College of Art, he worked for 27 years in the film industry. In 1962 he began writing for the screen, entering television in 1971. He was principal writer for the BBC television series Colditz (for which he scripted an award-winning episode) and is script editor of Secret Army.

1 comment:

  1. Secret Army was certainly a 'must-see' series. The opening credits were mesmerising & drew one into the drama that was to follow. The follow-up series Kessler seems forgotten now but succeeded at the time due to the realism that Cliffird Rose brought to the role.



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