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Carrie’s War

1 9 7 4 (UK)
5 x 30 minute episodes

WWII evacuees Carrie Willow (Juliet Waley) and her younger brother Nick (Andrew Tinney) are billeted in a small village in South Wales with the strict and austere Samuel Evans (Aubrey Richards) and his timid younger sister Lou (Avril Elgar) who keep a cold, inhospitable household in the local general store.

The children find comfort in the old farmhouse at Druid’s Bottom, where fellow evacuee Albert Sandwich (Tim Coward) is billeted. Evan’s elderly sister Dilys (Patsy Smart) lives there with her housekeeper, Hepzibah Green (Rosalie Crutchley) – who some say is a “white witch” – and distant cousin, the simple and near-mute Mr Johnny (Matthew Guinness).

Relations between Evans and his sister are strained to say the least – Dilys married the mine owner’s son while their father was “still warm” after being killed in a mine disaster.

A full life of socialising later, Dilys is now dying but still, neither sibling will contact the other. Thus the sympathetic Carrie becomes something of an unwilling go-between – a message carrier for Dilys and a spy for Mr Evans.

Despite its accurate period setting, neither Nina Bawden’s novel nor this television adaptation says much about World War II – the title describes an emotional war fought by the 12-year-old Carrie, her attempts to reconcile various parties without taking sides and her battle to make her voice heard in a world run by adults.

It’s very much a character-driven story, with interaction, emotion and internalised thoughts stressed over actions. Full of small incidents but with very little plot, the story depends on the developing relationships between some wonderful characters.

Carrie comes to realise that her guardian, Mr Evans, is not entirely the ogre he at first appears, and by the story’s end she has found some sympathy for him, and understands his genuine, if hidden, regret at having shunned his elder sister for much of her life.

The timid and fretful Auntie Lou is influenced by the spirited way Carrie and Nick handle Evans’ harsher outbursts and inspired to find romance with an American serviceman.

The novel is set up as a flashback piece, using the narration of a nostalgic, grown-up and widowed Caroline Willow, but the TV drama is seen through a child’s eyes and sets itself squarely in its period.

The serial was ambitiously filmed all on location among the steep terraces and wintery hills of Welsh village Blaengarw – the intended setting of Bawden’s novel, the author having been evacuated there for one week in 1940.

This children’s serial drew praise from adult viewers recalling their own wartime experiences, such nostalgic appeal increasing with a 1975 repeat in the Sunday afternoon ‘family’ slot.

A more recent TV movie version (2004) stayed faithful to the novel, although director Coky Giedroyc tended to overstress the nostalgic, cosy warmth of Hepzibah’s hearth over the cold, austerity of Evans’ home.

Carrie Willow
Juliet Waley
Nick Willow
Andrew Tinney
Samuel Isaac Evans
Aubrey Richards
Lou Evans
Avril Elgar
Hepzibah Green
Rosalie Crutchley
Albert Sandwich
Tim Coward
Mr Johnny Gotobed
Matthew Guinness
Dilys Gotobed
Patsy Smart