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Machine Gunners, The

1 9 8 3 (UK)
6 x 25 minute episodes

This BBC children’s drama series revolves around Chas McGill (Shaun Taylor) and his school friends – Cem (Tony Saint), Clogger (Andrew Craig), Carrot Juice (Adrian Dawson), Audrey (Debbie Breen) and Nicky (Alastair Craig) – who live in a (fictional) Tyneside town called Garmouth during the Second World War.

The town suffers regular bombing raids from the Luftwaffe and, following one such raid, Chas finds the wrecked tail of a German bomber that has crashed in Chirton Hall Wood and takes the fully operational machine gun from the turret.

While the police and Home Guard search frantically for the missing gun, Chas and his friends build a secret fortress at the bottom of Nicky’s garden – from where they can see out to sea – and plan to fight the Germans themselves.

School has closed early for the Christmas holidays and the children are spending most of their time in Nicky’s garden. They have extended “Fortress Caporetto” (named after a World War I battle in which Chas’s grandfather fought) and furnished it with items acquired from unsuspecting adults. Then, one night, a terrible event changes their childish game into something far more serious.

A German bomb destroys Nicky’s house and it’s feared everyone has been killed. Chas  rushes to see if Fortress Caporetto has been damaged and discovers Nicky hiding there, shaken but alive. The children decide not to tell the authorities Nicky is alive, and Nicky and Clogger begin living secretly in the Fortress.

Sergeant Rudi Gerlath (Jürgen Andersen) of the Luftwaffe is shot down over Garmouth and parachutes, unnoticed, to earth. He wanders into the garden of Nicky’s bombed-out house and the children take Rudi captive, holding him in Fortress Caporetto with his own pistol.

But a rapport develops between them and life settles into an amiable routine. Meanwhile, the authorities are growing more and more convinced that the children have the gun and are closing in.

The six-part series was based on the 1975 novel by Robert Westall.

Chas McGill
Shaun Taylor
Audrey Parton
Debbie Breen
Cem Jones
Tony Saint
Nicky Nichol
Alastair Craig
Clogger Duncan
Andrew Craig
Sergeant Green
John Gannie
Stan Liddell
Harry Herring
Mrs McGill
Pauline Moriarty
Mr McGill
Les Wilde
Carrot Juice
Adrian Dawson
Nana McGill
Lyn Douglas
Fatty Hardy
Michael Mould
Boddser Brown
Raymond Pattison
Rudi Gerlath
Jürgen Andersen
Colin Spalding
Paul Butcher
Sandy Sanderson
Arthur Davies
Grandad McGill
Dick Irwin

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