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Family at War, A (1970-72)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

'War Office Regrets' originally transmitted on ITV, 26 May 1970
Written by John Finch, directed by Michael Cox

June 1940. Sheila finishes her shift at the NAAFI and accepts a lift home from Bob, the delivery man. Margaret goes to church and prays for her husband John, who has been missing since Dunkirk. She visits her sister-in-law Sheila, who is six months pregnant. Sheila confides that she fears that David, stationed at air bases far away from home, is behaving as if he were a bachelor again. Margaret goes to visit her in-laws, Henry and Celia Porter, who have been arguing as usual. After Margaret leaves, Henry re-reads a telegram he has received but hidden. It says that John is believed dead. Henry drinks from a whisky bottle he keeps in the meter cupboard.

Returning home, Margaret bumps into her brother David, who is unexpectedly visiting on his way to his RAF camp. She asks him how his marriage to Sheila is going. David goes to the NAAFI looking for Sheila, but she is back at their squalid house with Bob. She offers Bob some tea. He tells her that he and his wife have separated, perhaps because of the lame leg that has kept him out of the Services. Sheila confides that her marriage to David is a difficult one, but insists she would never betray him. David arrives and, as soon as Bob leaves, starts to argue with Sheila, clearly jealous of what she has been doing while he is away. Sheila tells him of a letter she received from a woman named Peggy who says David got her pregnant. David denies any knowledge of the woman.

Celia accuses Henry of having an affair with an ARP woman. Henry reads from a book to soothe Celia. After she falls asleep he takes a gun from a drawer and leaves the house. Henry leaves the pub drunk; when stopped by a policeman he tells him of the telegram he has received. Sefton visits Edwin looking for his nephew Tony, worried that he may have left home to join the navy. Margaret, anxious about John's fate, becomes irate when Sefton talks of the losses of the war only in terms of money rather than the human cost. Freda tries to calm her sister down when Henry arrives to show them the telegram. Henry tells Edwin that he was thinking of using the gun to kill himself. Margaret cries in her mother's arms.