Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Secret Army

The other day, I finished watching Secret Army, it only took Mum and I a year of finding time when we had an hour to watch something at the same time!

I highly recommend that anyone with even the remotest interest in the Second World War watch this show. Or anyone who wants a gripping drama, or likes classic shows.

So, what is Secret Army?

Secret Army is/was a BBC Drama that was made in the late 70s, about the incredibly brave work that the Belgian evasion lines did. They weren't 'resistance' with guns and spying (though they do do some!) and they didn't help Jews escape. They did collect wounded or fallen airmen from the Allied side, hide them, nurse them back to health and help them escape detection by the Germans (who occupied Belgium during the war) and get back home to England, so that they'd be able to pass on useful information about the things they saw behind German lines, and also, hopefully come back and blow up some more Germans, and of course, to save their lives.

The front to their Evasion Line, named 'Lifeline' is the cafe (then in series 2 and 3, Restaurant) Candide. Much of the work is done by female characters, in fact the woman who started it off, Lisa, was a very young woman. She is aided by another young woman Natalie, the man who owns the Candide, Albert, and Albert's mistress, Monique. When the story begins Albert has an invalid wife who never leaves her bedroom that they must hide everything from. They have helpers such as a farmer who does the radio work, and a doctor, who helps the wounded and also gives a Front for Lisa's travelling around at night by letting her work for him.

There are two Germans who are 'after them' (as well as other people of course) part of the occupying force in Germany. This is Kessler, the head of the Belgian Gestapo, and Brandt, then later Reinhart, the leader of the Luftwaffe in Belgium. They become extremely interesting characters.

There is a great turnover of other characters- be warned, much of it is through death, and the show is very dramatic, tense, and tragic, though also incredibly interesting and wonderful.

The iconic opening (and ending) titles.

The story of Lifeline is based on a true group of people in Belgium. And many of the details in individual stories and the fates of many different characters is based on other true stories.

The show was obviously filmed and made with much love, a lot of research and great actors who put their heart and soul into being these characters. It is filmed partially in studio in England, partially on location in England, and partially on location in Belgium.

Though it does have a very 1970s feel, and isn't all cut all over the place like a modern wartime drama would be, it certainly stands up on its own even now, and is just as sad and great as it was then. It was also one of the first wartime dramas that showed the friendship between the women.

Does this storyline sound familiar to you? Perhaps you were or are a fan of 'Allo Allo', a seventies Britcom that was actually... based on Secret Army! Though they set themselves in France rather than Belgium, 'Albert' has more than one girlfriend, and of course it's a comedy. Never in Secret Army are the words 'Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once' uttered.

Albert from Secret Army

Rene from Allo Allo. Notice a resemblance?

I highly recommend that people go out and get this series (available in ABC shops, on Amazon, and probably many other shops that I just don't pay attention to/know about), and enjoy it- you'll learn a lot, and come away with the same question that my mother and I did. If we lived in those times- could we do that sort of thing? We agreed that it was braver than what soldiers did, and that it must have been incredibly strange when the war ended.

Part 1 of the first episode.


  1. My hubby would ADORE this!! I hope you have a wonderful New Year!! namaste, elsie

  2. I remember watching Secret Army when I was a kid. It is well worth a watch.

    I also used to watch Allo Allo when it was on in the UK. That is an excellent parody of Secret Army.



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