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Secret Army (BBC Drama, Jan Francis, Bernard Hepton)

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Secret Army BBC Drama Jan Francis

In wartime drama series Secret Army, a Belgian group called Lifeline set up a resistance movement helping shot down British airmen get back to Blighty.

Working out of a café called Le Candide, Lifeline specialised in helping trapped Allied servicemen get home, key personnel in the organisation were café owner Albert Foiret (Bernard Hepton), Lisa Colbert (played by Jan Francis, a mainstay of season one); Foiret’s mistress Monique Duchamps (Angela Richards) and waitress Natalie (Juliet-Hammond Hill) were also heavily involved. The Germans of course maintained a large presence throughout the series, chief amongst them were Sturmbahnfuhrer Kessler (Clifford Rose) and Major Erwin Brandt (Michael Culver).

The German SS leader Kessler was determined to try and stamp Lifeline out but they always managed to try and stay one step ahead.

The series followed the war through to its conclusion with the town being Liberated and there was also a six part sequel called Kessler.

Secret Army is definitely one of the strongest of all 1970’s drama series, supremely suspenseful and full of brilliant acting Secret Army has too often in modern times been unfairly judged as the inspiration for sitcom Allo Allo (it was of course but it was so much more than that).

Season two underwent a couple of changes with the departure of Lisa Colbert who died in shocking fashion in the opening episode of the season. The café location of season one also changed to an exclusive restaurant (still called Le Candide), mainly to introduce more German characters into the series.

Interestingly a “closure” episode of the series, What Did You Do In The War, Daddy? was never actually broadcast, it focused on Albert and Monique some 30 years after the end of the war but the BBC were unhappy about the quality of the make up effects and instead decided to make a six part thriller, the aforementioned Kessler, which focused on the efforts to track down the ageing and now a war criminal Kessler.

Cast: BERNARD HEPTON as Albert Foiret; JAN FRANCIS as Lisa Colbert (Season 1); CLIFFORD ROSE as Kessler; ANGELA RICHARDS as Monique Duchamps; JULIET HAMMOND-HILL as Natalie; CHRISTOPHER NEAME as Flt Lt John Curtis (Season 1); MICHAEL CULVER as Major Brandt (Seasons 1-2); TERRENCE HARDIMAN as Major Rheinhardt (Season 3); STEPHEN YARDLEY as Max Brocard; HAZEL McBRIDE as Madelaine Duclos; PAUL SHELLEY as Bradley (Season 3); RALPH BATES as Paul Vercors (Season 3)

Producer: Gerard Glaister / Script Editor: John Brason / Consultant: Wilfred Greatorex / Technical Advisor: Capt W. Randle / Theme Music: Robert Farnon

UK / BBC One / 42×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 7 September 1977 – 15 December 1979