Secret Army (TV series)

Secret Army (TV series)

infobox television
show_name = Secret Army

caption = This is the main title caption that was seen throughout the series.
format = Drama
runtime = 50 minutes
creator = Gerard Glaister
starring = Bernard Hepton
Angela Richards
Clifford Rose
Juliet Hammond-Hill
Michael Culver
Terrence Hardiman
Jan Francis
Christopher Neame
Ron Pember
Valentine Dyall
Hazel McBride
Stephen Yardley
country = UK
network = BBC
first_aired = 7 September 1977
last_aired = 15 December 1979
num_series = 3
num_episodes = 43
list_episodes = List of Secret Army episodes
related = Kessler
imdb_id = 0075579

"Secret Army" is a BBC television drama series created by Gerard Glaister. The series chronicled the history of a Belgian resistance movement during the Second World War dedicated to returning Allied airmen, usually having been shot down by the Luftwaffe, back to their home country. The series was made in the United Kingdom and broadcast on BBC1 for three series from 7 September 1977 to 15 December 1979.

Series Overview

eries 1

In the first series, the show was set in a Brussels café ("Le Candide"), where the owner "Albert Foiret" helps "Lisa Colbert" (code-named "Yvette") hide airmen and control the various members of the "Lifeline" organisation as they take the airmen across borders to safer neutral countries such as Spain. Their principal opponents were "Ludwig Kessler", an officious officer in the SS, and the more laidback Luftwaffe officer "Major Erwin Brandt". "Flight Lieutenant John Curtis" is flown into Brussels to act as Lifeline's British liaison and is at first greeted with hostility and suspicion, with signs of a growing romantic tension between him and Lisa.

A continuing storyline was Albert's affair with barmaid "Monique Duchamps", while his wife "Andrée Foiret" was bed-ridden. Other Lifeline operatives introduced in the first series were "Gaston Colbert", Lisa's uncle and a bank manager who supplies forged and stolen documents; "Natalie Chantrens", a guide who also works at the Candide; farmer and wireless operator "Alain Muny" and "Dr. Pascal Keldermans" who takes charge of medical matters concerning the airmen with Lisa working undercover as a nurse at his surgery.

eries 2

In the second series, Albert was rewarded by the British with a share in a restaurant also named "Le Candide" which was prominently-placed on the Grand-Place, and he takes over Lifeline when Lisa is killed. The German officers frequented the new establishment more regularly, allowing all the major characters to interact and increasing the dramatic tension. To capitalise on actress Angela Richards' singing talents, Monique performed regularly for the Candide's diners and this became a staple feature of the series. Not only did these scenes transform the character of Monique from a dowdy waitress to a sultry chanteuse, but they also served as a sophisticated contrast to the often tense events occurring in the episodes. Other story arcs played out during the second series included Kessler's developing romance with lonely Belgian society woman "Madeleine Duclos" and Brandt getting involved with a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler, the discovery of which, together with the death of his family in a British air raid on Berlin, results in his eventual suicide. This series also included pianist and forger "Max Brocard" a Communist resistance infiltrator of Lifeline whose death would lead to further complications in the third series.

eries 3

For the third series, chronicling the period approaching and after the end of the war in Belgium, Bernard Hepton was unavailable for many episodes (as he was touring in a series of plays). Albert's absence was explained by his incarceration in prison, on false charges related to the series one death of his wife. Monique is forced to take charge of both Lifeline and the Candide in his absence in a story development that charted her increasing independence and the eventual decline of her relationship with Albert. Several episodes also focused around the character of "Major Nick Bradley", an undercover British agent introduced in the second series. Brandt was replaced in this series by "Major Reinhardt", a more incisive officer, who regularly clashed with Kessler but nevertheless came closer than ever to discovering Lifeline.

The final episode to be made, "What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?", set 25 years after the liberation of Brussels, looked at how the characters had fared after the war, but was never broadcast - the reason for this has been variously attributed to a strike (falsely suggesting that editing was never completed), the episode's anti-Communist message, or because it was significantly different in tone from the rest of the series. The main themes of the episode were subsequently incorporated into a sequel series, "Kessler", which was transmitted in 1981 and explored the fate of the former Standartenführer.


Secret Army was created by producer Gerard Glaister as a follow-up to his previous drama series "Colditz". Glaister was a former RAF pilot, and based the series on real events. The fictional "Lifeline" evasion line loosely resembled the Comet line, and the character of John Curtis was influenced by the experiences of the series' technical consultant, Group Captain William Randle.

The series followed the timeline of the war as it impacted on the Belgian location and exterior scenes were filmed in the country, with the assistance of Belgian broadcaster BRT, leading to a feeling of authenticity. Other location filming took place in and around London and the surrounding counties, notably Norfolk.

The title sequence for the series was created by Alan Jeapes whose credits went on to include that for "EastEnders".

Inevitably, the serious tone of the production led it to be parodied by the BBC comedy series "'Allo 'Allo!" with a few cast members appearing in both series, while the title of "Fairly Secret Army", another comedy series, drew inspiration.

Recurring Cast

* Albert Foiret - Bernard Hepton
* Lisa Colbert ("Yvette") - Jan Francis (Series 1-2)
* Flight Lieutenant John Curtis - Christopher Neame (Series 1)
* Monique Duchamps - Angela Richards
* Sturmbannführer/Standartenführer Ludwig Kessler - Clifford Rose
* Major Erwin Brandt - Michael Culver (Series 1-2)
* Natalie Chantrens - Juliet Hammond-Hill
* Doctor Pascal Keldermans - Valentine Dyall
* Alain Muny - Ron Pember
* Andrée Foiret - Eileen Page (Series 1)
* Corporal Veit Rennert - Robin Langford (Series 1-2)
* Jacques Bol - Timothy Morand (Series 1)
* Gaston Colbert - James Bree (Series 1)
* Louise Colbert - Maria Charles (Series 1)
* Hans van Broecken - Gunnar Möller
* Lena van Broecken - Marianne Stone (Series 1-2)
* Yvonne - Henrietta Baynes (Series 1-2)
* Max Brocard - Stephen Yardley (Series 2)
* Insp. Paul Delon - John D. Collins (Series 2-3)
* Madeleine Duclos - Hazel McBride (Series 2-3)
* François - Nigel Williams (Series 2)
* Major Nick Bradley - Paul Shelley (Series 2-3)
* Wullner - Neil Daglish (Series 2-3)
* Genevieve - Trisha Clarke (Series 2-3)
* Major Hans-Dietrich Reinhardt - Terrence Hardiman (Series 3)
* Paul Vercors - Ralph Bates (Series 3)
* Captain Stephen Durnford - Stephan Chase (Series 3)
* Hauptmann Müller - Hilary Minster (Series 3)


* Producer - Gerard Glaister
* Script Editor - John Brason
* Script Supervisors - Frank Radcliffe, James Cadman
* Designers - Ray London, Richard Morris, Marjorie Pratt, Austin Ruddy



John Brason wrote a prequel novel and two novelisations of his episodes.


The complete series of "Secret Army" is available on DVD (Region 2, UK) from DD Home Entertainment. All releases are accompanied by a booklet detailing the production of each successive series, while the series 3 release also features on-camera interviews with cast members Angela Richards (Monique), Clifford Rose (Kessler), Juliet Hammond-Hill (Natalie), Terrence Hardiman (Reinhardt) and Hazel McBride (Madeleine). It does not, however, include the final unscreened episode (see above).


The songs performed by Angela Richards in the series proved so popular with the audience that a BBC soundtrack album entitled 'Au Cafe Candide' was released. Long since deleted, the songs are now available on a new CD, recorded some 25 years after the first, entitled 'An Evening at Le Candide'. Tracks include Richards' own compositions such as Memories Come Gently and If This Is The Last Time I See You, together with popular Forties numbers such as Lilli Marlene and J'attendrai.

ee also

* List of Secret Army episodes
* Kessler, a spin-off series featuring the character Ludwig Kessler played by Clifford Rose
* 'Allo 'Allo!, a 1982-1992 BBC situation comedy, set in occupied France, which drew considerable inspiration from the restaurant setting and resistance intrigue of Secret Army

External links

* [ British Film Institute Screen Online]
* [ Le Candide fan site]
* [ Secret Army Fan Discussion Forum]
* [ Maxim's restaurant in Brussels Grand Place - the location used for Le Candide]

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