Home Television Drama Tenko

Tenko

1 9 8 1 – 1 9 8 4 (UK/Australia)
30 x 55 minute episodes
1 x 110 minute episode

Taking its name from the Japanese word for roll-call, Lavinia Warner’s drama told the story of the suffering of a group of expatriate women imprisoned after the fall of Singapore.

The first series set in 1941, introduced a group of English and Australian women from Singapore who were shipwrecked while they tried to escape the Japanese invasion. The survivors are captured and put in an internment camp.

They and their Dutch companions must all make drastic adjustments to – and discoveries about – their lives.

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In the second series, the group was moved to a new camp with a completely new pecking order and a particularly vicious camp leader.

At the beginning of the third series, the prisoners were liberated and had to re-adjust themselves to life in Singapore in the aftermath of the war.

Leading characters were upper-class camp leader, Marion Jefferson (a Colonel’s wife); crusty Dr Beatrice Mason (played by Stephanie Cole from Waiting For God); Rose Millar (Stephanie Beacham, divested of her usual sex-bitch image); suffragette Joss Holbrook; and tragic Dorothy Bennett, who turned to prostitution with the camp guards.

Some of the characters the audience came to love died of malaria, malnutrition, or the punishments meted out by the guards, and viewers were rocked to their core.

Those who survived the war were reunited for an incongruous one-off murder mystery, set in 1950, entitled Tenko Reunion (1985).

Only small parts of Tenko were actually filmed in Singapore. The realistic prison camp set was built in a quarry in Dorset in England.

Marion Jefferson
Ann Bell
Rose Millar
Stephanie Beacham
Sister Ulrica
Patricia Lawrence
Kate Norris
Claire Oberman
Joss Holbrook
Jean Anderson
Nellie Keene
Jeananne Crowley
Dr Beatrice Mason
Stephanie Cole
Christina Campbell
Emily Bolton
Major Yamauchi
Burt Kwouk
Mrs Van Meyer
Elizabeth Chambers
Dorothy Bennett
Veronica Roberts
Sally Markham
Joanna Hole
Verna Johnson
Rosemary Martin
Miss Hasan
Josephine Welcome