For the past six weeks the BBC have treated us to a fantastic war drama called The Crimson Field. This series was based in France and was set in a medical camp close to the front lines.
Throughout the six hours it’s been on our tv screens we’ve managed to see more of women’s lives in WWI than we’d possibly read in a book. It’s definitely bolstered the fact that women were indeed a crucial part of WWI
The main three ladies we get to know from the beginning are Kitty Trevelyan (Oona Chaplin), Flora Marshall (Alice St. Clair) and Rosalie Berwick (Marianne Oldham) all of them have their own secrets which we find out in the series. We get to watch them all grow in the short time we know them yet after the finale Sunday night it left me feeling like I’d known them forever. Suranne Jones plays another character who we know from the beginning, she plays Sister Joan Livesy. Sister Livesy is keeping a bigger secret than the rest of the ladies which makes her very interesting to watch.
One part I have to applaud the BBC on tackling is the taboo subject of Germans residing in Britain after the sinking of the Lusitania. We find out early on that Sister Livesy’s fiancé is a German, living in Britain, who goes back to be a German soldier. We find out that Germans who lived in Britain were treat very badly throughout this time. It’s quite an eye opener to see how different nationalities were so strictly divided but then we see this same division between the sexes and particularly ranks within the army.
Each week we saw a different mix of soldiers come through the doors. This gave quite a visual of how the army, doctors and nurses dealt with different scenarios. A few that cropped up were desertion, keeping homophobia on the quiet, shell shock and mental health problems caused by the war and trust issues between the staff. Put in the time era of WWI and the punishments in place made these serious issues.
In some ways this series has been different to many you’ve seen before. I know when I first heard about it being commissioned I fell in love with the fact that the
main characters were female nurses from an everyday background. I loved that the actors were fairly unknown but you had the guiding light of experience such as Hermione Norris, Kevin Doyle and Adam James to keep it all in check so to speak. Everything else you learn about the war is an added bonus. The characters are obviously different to films you may have watched about both WWI and WWII, they feel a lot more gritty and strict. The nurses are also strict and stick with the rules, but you sometimes see the newer nurses facades crack a little reminding you they’re only human and they’re still only young.
In Sunday nights finale, which was a corker, the news comes in about Edith Cavell being executed which ties in with the storyline at that point. Everything within the series works well especially with the writers managing to weave real life stories into the scripts.
The Crimson Field is really a series that needs to be watched. In my opinion it wouldn’t have worked as well for any other war. WWII sticks with women being Land Girls, Lumber Jills and Donut Dollies. WWI only seemed to depict women as nurses, there doesn’t appear to be many other roles for the fairer sex. The series manages to fit all the good, bad, ugly and forbidden of a year in WWI into six hours. Yes some questions don’t seem properly answered but this may leave room for another series… Just remember there’s still a lot of the war left at this point.
Watch The Crimson Field on BBC iPlayer here
Learn more about the series here