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My Blog

By jonathanruffle, Apr 10 2014 10:05AM

Just the quickest blog to say that the BBC TOMMIES project is


a) taking every second of my life at the moment (and is highly enjoyable and challenging)


b) is generating hundreds of leads for blogs


c) but because of a) all is currently quiet (on the Western Front).


Normal service will hopefully be renewed as soon as possible.


By jonathanruffle, Aug 30 2013 11:04AM

I have just rewatched Peter Watkins’ CULLODEN for the umpteenth time. I saw it on either its first or second broadcast in the sixties. How unbelievably lucky was that?


I have never forgotten his stern voice-over: “this is a round shot, and this is what it does”. Looking at what something is, and what it does, has been my inspiration ever since.


I don’t know how many documentary drama producers see this as the benchmark for their work, but I certainly do. If I ever scratch this man’s achievement I’ll be very proud indeed.


By jonathanruffle, Aug 20 2013 11:13AM

Today's Broadcast magazine has the story that the BBC has picked up ZDF’s GENERATION WAR which follows the lives of five German friends between 1941 and 1945.


The original German title was "Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter", literally "Our mothers, our fathers", which seems a bit more informative. It has a wikipedia page if you want to know more.


Whenever there's such a project I can almost hear the pubs of the UK filled with muttering blokes asking when there will be a British BAND OF BROTHERS. For some reason this remains the one topic every other national broadcaster has had a long-form drama crack at, except us - allegedly the most WW2-centric nation there is.


I have no answer. Except to point to the green shoots represented by TOMMIES, the WW1 Band of Brother for transmission next year and the subsequent centennial years of the conflict.

By jonathanruffle, Aug 13 2013 11:07AM

Following on from the blog I wrote about my three WW1 grandfathers, it occurred to me that the genesis of TOMMIES lies in just one family anecdote.


My grandfather Horace was about to go over the top, or so the story goes. A little further up the line, his brother Percy had just completed his job: shelling the Germans prior to the attack. Realising that this might be - very probably was - the last time he would see his brother alive, he got on a horse and galloped down the line to see Horace one more time. This they did. We can only guess what such a brief and possible final reunion may have been like.


Horace survived the attack. Percy got into trouble for leaving his gun, and was given Number 1 Field Punishment.


So that’s a dramatic story all right. But what interested me was the idea that you would know where people were on the Western Front (indeed they visited each other often, it transpired). Before I started to think it through I imagined the front line as just a soup of indistinguishable mud and unidentifiable locations, year after year after year.


But this story made me go - Of Course! Of course you’d listen out for the names of your neighbouring units. Of course you’d go visiting when out of the line. Over time, finding the quickest way to see people would become second nature.


And it was that realisation that made me see the wood for the trees, or in this case the pimply 18 year old and his elder brother in the mass of khaki. And all of TOMMIES’ joy in the human, ground-level detail probably springs from that moment.


To cap it, and I’ll scan it in if possible, my grandfather James on my mother’s side has a photo in his album of pictures shot covertly in Palestine. It’s of him and his brother Jack after the Third Battle of Gaza.


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