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Carrie's War (1974)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Carrie's War (1974)
BBC1, tx. 28/1-25/2/1974
5 x 30 mins episodes, colour
DirectorPaul Stone
ScriptMarilyn Fox
From the novel byNina Bawden

Cast: Juliet Waley (Carrie Willow), Andrew Tinney (Nick Willow), Aubrey Richards (Samuel Evans), Avril Elgar (Lou Evans), Rosalie Crutchley (Hepzibah Green), Tim Coward (Albert Sandwich), Matthew Guinness (Mr Johnny Gotobed), Patsy Smart (Dilys Gotobed)

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WWII evacuees Carrie and Nick Willow are billeted in a small Welsh village with the austere Mr Evans and his younger sister Lou. Carrie becomes an unwilling go-between, embroiled in a family feud between Evans and his elder sister Dilys.

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Despite its accurate period setting, neither Nina Bawden's novel nor this television adaptation says much about World War II - the title describes an emotional war fought by 12-year-old Carrie Willow, her attempts to reconcile various parties without taking sides and her battle to make her voice heard in a world run by adults.

It's very much a character-driven story, with interaction, emotion and internalised thoughts stressed over actions. Full of small incidents but with very little plot, the story depends on the developing relationships between some wonderful characters. Carrie comes to realise that her guardian, Mr Evans, is not entirely the ogre he at first appears, and by the story's end she has found some sympathy for him, and understands his genuine, if hidden, regret at having shunned his elder sister for much of her life. The timid Auntie Lou is influenced by the spirited way Carrie and Nick handle Evans' harsher outbursts, and inspired to find romance with an American serviceman.

The novel is set up as a flashback piece, using the narration of a nostalgic, grown-up and widowed Caroline Willow, but the TV drama is seen through a child's eyes and sets itself squarely in its period. The serial was ambitiously filmed all on location among the steep terraces and wintery hills of Welsh village Blaengarw - this was the intended setting of Bawden's novel, the author having been evacuated there for one week in 1940.

This children's serial drew praise from adult viewers recalling their own wartime experiences, such nostalgic appeal increasing with a 1975 repeat in the Sunday afternoon 'family' slot.

A more recent TV movie version (BBC, tx. 1/1/2004) stayed faithful to the novel, although director Coky Giedroyc tended to overstress the nostalgic, cosy warmth of Hepzibah's hearth over the cold, austerity of Evans' home.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. The story so far (1:21)
2. Auntie Lou's visitor (4:14)
3. Mr Johnny (4:13)
4. Mrs Gotobed's message (2:11)
Evacuees, The (1975)
Children's TV Drama
WWII Dramas