What can I say about Secret Army that hasn’t been said before? This was a truly outstanding and superb offering from the BBC in the later 1970s and ran for three series. It details the experiences of a Belgian resistance group in World War 2 under the German invaders and covers the entire war period. The real star of the show is Bernard Hepton (from the BBC’s also outstanding “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “Colditz”) as Albert Foiret the owner of a Belgian Cafe (being Belgian think more “bar” than the English “all day breakfast” type of cafe), Jan Francis (in my opinion Secret Army was her “crowning glory”, certainly miles better than the atrocious “Just Good Friends” to come next from her) as Lisa Colbert and Angela Richards as Monique Duchamps. Together (with some other characters I haven’t mentioned!) they are “Lifeline” an organisation that helps Allied aircrew to evade capture and return to Britain via neutral countries such as Switzerland or Spain.
The general “plot” of the three series is obviously how they help allied airmen escape capture and return to England and so on. There are also various other plot “elements. Albert’s wife is an invalid and you only ever see her in her bedroom. Monique is Albert’s mistress. Any of this sounding familiar? Yes, it was the inspiration for the BBC’s later comedy series of ‘Allo ‘Allo, however, there’s nothing in the remotest bit funny about Secret Army.
Among the German characters Michael Culver stars as Luftwaffe Major Erwin Brandt and Clifford Rose as SS Sturmbannführer (roughly equivalent to Major) Ludwig Kessler (another plot would later see a Belgian woman becoming his Mistress and them falling in love.) Although the Luftwaffe are deemed to be “officially” responsible for the capture and imprisonment of shot down allied airmen Kessler frequently usurps Brandt’s command and takes matters into his own hands; this effectively showing the differences between the general German military (Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe etc.) and the para military “Nazi” organisations such as the SS and the Gestapo and the differing ways in which they “dealt with” things. You have to remember that most German soldiers and/or airmen were just “ordinary blokes” and much as the same as their allied equivalents, acting honourably (well as much as one can in war I guess) as oppose to the brutality of the SS and Gestapo.
Of course in the 1970s I was but a young lad and to be honest totally and utterly uninterested in such TV programmes as Secret Army (or the other things my mother religiously watched such as Upstairs Downstairs, The Duchess Of Duke Street and so on.) But as I came to the end of secondary school I became incredibly interested in 20th century history (my best subject at school!) and “devoured” such series as these and the books many of them were based on, an interest I still have to this day. I have of course re-watched them all again since they came to DVD (well with the exception of Duchess Of Duke Street) and can appreciate series like Secret Army for just how good they were then as well how good they still are.
One other thing there is also a follow up series to Secret Army called Kessler and how he “fared” after the war, but I can’t comment on it as I haven’t got round to seeing it, just making you all aware of it.
I give it 9 out of 10.
You can get all the DVDs from Amazon: