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12th November 1918

Apologies about the way this film was shot: I couldn't avoid being almost invisible in the shade. I'm at the house in Holland where the Kaiser was eventually exiled.

This episode was a real challenge because we wanted to say something dynamic about the Peace, have an episode with its own tensions, and resolve all the major TOMMIES character plotlines -- but not too neatly.

 

We started in the post-Peace hangover with this idea that the Germans were broadcasting in clear. I knew that they had told the British about mines over the radio from Peter Hart's 1918: A VERY BRITISH VICTORY and this also gave us Trelon for later, though I forget where the St Symphorien crossroads mine came from. I also knew that transmitting this way was illegal, which I'd picked up from the annexes of the Armistice document itself.

 

The next step was provoked by a conversation with Jim Beach, though the interpretation of what he said was of course all mine. Aware of his excellent book about Vince Schurhoff we've already mentioned on this site, I asked him what the I Toc Intelligence signallers would have been tasked to do post-Armistice. He outlined the Three B's, which I immediately co-opted for the episode: Bridges, Bolshevism and (stay) Behinds. The shortcut through Holland was confirmed in the Official History but originally came from Landau's ALL's FAIR.

 

The trumpeter. This is an idea that morphed endlessly while we were in production. During the recording for the August episodes I decided it would be great to end this one on the Last Post or the Sunset ceremony music that's so powerful when it concludes the Battle of Britain Memorial Day I work on every year. I kept going back to this thought because one of our sound engineers is a semi-pro trumpeter called Pete Ringrose, and he uses the studio over lunchtimes to practice. So I had an idea and a trumpeter.

 

The problem was the presence of a trumpeter at the end of episode: how could I avoid it sounding hopelessly nailed on? This got me thinking about a way he could be legitimately there throughout the story, better even if he drove part of it. Suddenly I had idea of the trumpeter who could lend a slightly anarchic and surreal tone to what must have been a very odd day. It was no stretch that he might have gone to the burial site later and naturally play the Last Post.

 

The tunes I chose were deliberately showtunes from the musicals and revues the lads saw when in London on leave and were brought over by touring parties ('Maid of the Mountains', 'Chu Chin Chow' and 'The Bing Boys Are Here' in particular). This seemed to be more authentic for a trumpeter than falling back on 'Pack Up Your Troubles' or similar.

 

And now you say, where was Pete's Last Post? It didn't want to fit: musically, dramatically, emotionally. Sometimes these things look great on paper but don't work in the edit. So we didn't use it. There were some trumpet flourishes over the regular signature tune, and the musical songs during the episode obviously, but no Last Post.

 

The material about the German retreat came from BASTION by Sophie de Schaepdrijver about Bruges which included loads of detail about the occupation of northern Belgium and all the stuff about Ghent University. She also had the story of the collaborators suing one another for the profits.

 

WINE WOMEN AND WAR by Howard O'Brien gave me the Belgian women being proud of the holes in their shoes as well as Oostende having a delayed action mine in the Tirpitz battery, killing 50 women and children. He also had a Hidden Brit coming out of hiding, a "nervous wreck". (There was another one, not so nervous, in SAPPER MARTIN by Richard van Emden which gave me the idea for George Brereton.)  He also gave me de Tullio's Sandbag factory: O'Brien had a friend with an interest in a local cotton factory, but on visiting he found it stripped to the bare walls.

 

O'Brien also had the notion of the Canadians being shelled by the British to keep them out of Mons, but I couldn't stand it up so rumour it remained. He also reported a German straggler being strangled by populace in town square.

 

I found the Sleeping Sickness research and the role Bayer 205 played in the Treaty negotiations in THE DEVELOPMENT OF DRUGS FOR TREATMENT OF SLEEPING SICKNESS: A HISTORICAL REVIEW by Dietmar Steverding which you can read here.

 

There's a thing we had to cut for time that I really thought had a tremendous flavour. In the script we had exchanges in the cafe between Jack and the waiter. Peter Hart, quoting the IWM Hopthrow recording said that the retreating Germans had coached the Belgians in “English” and requests for a beer were met with “You can Kiss my Bottom” but said in the tones of “certainly sir”

 

When we get to Cron he's the first person to tell us about the skeletons at Givry. I found this story in Max Arthur's FORGOTTEN VOICES OF THE ROYAL NAVY and he got it from the IWM's record of Hubert Trotman. It was also Hopthrow's recording that got me thinking about rewiring the telephone exchange because he'd helped repair a damaged power station.

 

The Livens casualties in a Banks and Pollard thesis (BEYOND RECALL: SEARCHING FOR THE REMAINS OF A BRITISH SECRET WEAPON OF WORLD WAR 1) were surprising small, the Hundreds of Huns line being more to do with the dread recall of the character.

 

No one would believe me but if you look at the road running down from the old Mons telephone exchange (not the new one) you'll see it becomes the Rue de la Peine Perdue.

 

Obviously no bomb went off in Mons that day or, as they say, it would have been in all the papers. But the area was lethal with mines and booby traps. Richard van Emden has blown railways, trees across roads, mined crossroads and revolver booby traps, as well as lots of detail on German theft of any moveable object. Richard's QUICK AND THE DEAD book was also great for colour, and while we're here, his MEETING THE ENEMY.

 

The detail on the booby trap in the cupboard was almost verbatim from the 8th Royal Berkshire's Log Book for November 1918, and you can find it here.