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Family At War, A (ITV 1970-1972 with Colin Douglas and Barbara Flynn)

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A Family At War Main Cast

First seen in 1970 and at the time Granada TVs most expensive ever series A Family At War charts the second world war years of the Liverpudlian Ashton family. Very quickly the show captured the nations interest hitting number one in the ratings beating the all powerful Coronation Street in the process.

Large by todays standards the family of 7 was headed by no nonsense Edwin (Colin Douglas) who worked in the printing works run by his arrogant and pompous brother-in-law Sefton Briggs (John McKelvey), wife Jean (Shelagh Fraser) did her best to instill the proper values into their five grown up children, eldest of whom was David (Colin Campbell), trapped in marriage to Sheila (Coral Atkins), ends up joining the air force by the end of the first episode.

Their other kids were the idealistic Philip (Keith Drinkel), schoolteacher Margaret (Lesley Nunnerley) who quickly gets married to John Porter (who is still very much under the influence of his domineering mother, leading to problems in the marriage), the just heading out into the world Freda (Barbara Flynn) and youngest son Robert (who is away much of the time at nautical school and is played by a very young David Dixon.)

Much of the first series is concerned with the coming of world war two, it is May 1938 when the series begins but already the dogs of war are mustering themselves, the second episode sees Philip going back to Spain (he had been there the year before) to help the fight in the civil war then.

By the time season started it was New Years 1941 and the war is taking a toll on the family, eldest son David and his wife Sheila have separated, Margaret is convinced her husband John is dead (he went missing after Dunkirk), Philip is in the Middle East youngest son Robert has joined the Navy. This last move has prompted a major rift in the marriage of Edwin and Jean. Edwin signed the papers for Robert to join up under age – but he didn’t tell Jean. Tragedy strikes when Robert is killed.

There was a lot of tragedy in fact, eldest daughter Margaret had a baby with another man but the baby died, then her husband John reappeared but with a serious case of PTSD.

The three seasons covered the whole of the war and a few months afterwards and then wisely creator John Finch called it a day.

The series was a massive popular success for ITV, catching the public imagination strongly – no surprise really given that for most of the older viewing audience the war was something they also lived through,

Episodes 25-32 were recorded in black and white because of a strike organised by ITV technicians between 13 November 1970 and 8 February 1971. The dispute was over a pay increase that the technicians felt they should get for working with the new colour equipment.

A Family At War

Sbeila played by Coral Atkins and Colin Campbell as David. The pair had a strained relationship from the beginning.

production details
UK / ITV – Granada / 52×60 minute episodes / Broadcast 14 April 1970 – 16 February 1972

Creator: John Finch / Producers: Richard Doubleday, James Brabazon, Michael Cox

cast
COLIN DOUGLAS as Edwin Ashton
SHELAGH FRASER as Jean Ashton
BARBARA FLYNN as Freda Ashton
LESLEY NUNNERLY as Margaret Ashton/Porter
COLIN CAMPBELL as David Ashton
KEITH DRINKEL as Philip Ashton
CORAL ATKINS as Sheila Ashton
JOHN McKELVEY as Sefton Briggs
TREVOR BOWEN as Tony Briggs
IAN BOWEN as John Porter
JOHN NETTLES as Ian McKenzie(71-72)
PATRICK TROUGHTON as Mr Porter
MARGERY MASON as Mrs Porter

THE EPISODES
SEASON ONE 14 April – 4 August 1970
1. THE FACTS OF LIFE
2. TO DIE FOR SPAIN
3. LINES OF BATTLE
4. THE SUMMER BEFORE THE WAR
5. THE GATE OF THE YEAR
6. THE BREACH IN THE DYKE
7. THE WAR OFFICE REGRETS
8. FOR STRATEGIC REASONS
9. THE NIGHT THEY HIT No 8
10. ONE OF OURS
11. BROTHERS IN WAR
12. IF IT’S GOT YOUR NUMBER ON IT
13. THE END OF THE BEGINNING

SEASON TWO 11 November 1970 – 17 March 1971
1. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HILL
2. I CAN BE HAPPY, CAN’T I?
3. A LESSON IN WAR
4. IS YOUR JOURNEY REALLY NECESSARY?
5. THE FORTY-EIGHT HOUR PASS
6. HOPE AGAINST HOPE
7. A TIME TO BE BORN
8. A HERO’S WELCOME
9. WE COULD BE A LOT WORSE OFF
10. LEND YOUR LOVING ARMS
11. HAZARD
12. GIVING AND TAKING
13. BELIEVED KILLED
14. INTO THE DARK
15. THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW
16. CLASH BY NIGHT
17. SALUTE THE HAPPY MORN
18. I WANTED TO BE WITH YOU
19. A SEPARATE PEACE

SEASON THREE 6 October 1971 – 16 February 1972
1. THE LUCKY ONES
2. FOR THE DURATION
3. HAPPY RETURNS
4. THE THINGS YOU NEVER TOLD ME
5. YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS
6. FLESH AND BLOOD
7. SPREAD A LITTLE HAPPINESS
8. TAKE IT ON TRUST
9. THIS YEAR, NEXT YEAR
10. THE FUNDAMENTAL THINGS APPLY
11. THICKER THAN WATER
12. BREAKING POINT
13. THE LOST ONES
14. THE SENSIBLE THING
15. UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
16. COMING HOME
17. A FAINT REFRAIN
18. TWO FATHERS
19. THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH
20. …YIELDING PLACE TO NEW