1 9 6 7 (UK)
3 x 90 minute episodes
Premiering on Monday 2 January 1967, and aired as part of the Theatre 625 programme, BBC2 presented this Evelyn Waugh trilogy – acclaimed as one of the finest works of fiction to come out of World War II – starring Edward Woodward as Guy Crouchback, an introverted Catholic gentleman with fine ideals who thinks he will find honour and chivalry in war but is soon disillusioned.
Guy trains as an officer and joins the (fictitious) Royal Corps of Halberdiers, an old but unfashionable regiment. Suffering the characteristic fate of Waugh’s heroes, Guy is disgraced through no fault of his own in an abortive English expedition to Dakar and has to seek new military employment.
Through his friend Tommy Blackhouse (Trader Faulkner), Guy wangles a posting to an embryonic commando unit which is undergoing rigorous training on a remote Scottish island, and at the heart of the confusion reigning there, he re-encounters Trimmer (Tim Preece).
This egregious officer, who had been slung out of the Royal Corps of Halberdiers, was firmly back in business again. and his complicated affairs featured prominently in the second episode, ‘Officers and Gentlemen’.
Guy and his unit are sent by devious means to Alexandria, where they hang about waiting for orders.
While Trimmer accidentally becomes a national hero after a raid on the Channel Islands, Guy suddenly finds himself in Crete at a moment when British forces are collapsing and in total disorder.
After being parachuted into Yugoslavia to join the partisans, Guy’s adventures end with the war, and he returns to the business of being an English gentleman, resigned and wiser than when he went gallantly into war.
Ronald Fraser gives a studied and hilarious performance as Apthorpe, a classic officers’ mess bore – in search of respect and dignity and superiority but only looking silly and sad in his specially-made porpoise-skin boots. Freddie Jones is brilliant as the nutty Corporal-Major Ludovic.
The stories – dramatised by Giles Cooper – are rich in humour. Sadly, Cooper died before the stories aired after falling from a train as it passed through Surbiton, Surrey, in December 1966. He was only 48. The trilogy was directed by Donald McWhinnie.
Frank de Souza
Colonel/Brigadier Tommy Blackhouse
Brigadier Ben Ritchie-Hook
Men At Arms | Officers and Gentlemen | Unconditional Surrender