So here I am again with the second episode of the BBC’s war drama The Crimson Field and I must say things are getting interesting. Suranne Jones, who turned up at the very end of the first episode on a motorbike and in man’s clothes, gets a larger presence as the civilian nurse volunteering for army service, the forward thinking Sister Joan Livesey. Marianne Oldham as Rosalie Berwick also gets a bit more screen focus than the previous episode and, as ever, the horrors of war of shown to us with more and more troops returning from the front line wounded. Oh by the way, some plot spoiler here.
The story seems to focus most prominently, however, on the now paraplegic Major Edward Crecy (Rupert Graves) and his wife Adelinde Crecy (Jodhi May), who struggles to come to terms with her now legless husband. It allows for some real poignancy of the reality of war and how those who had not experienced the war like the men at the front have can never truly understand its horrors, as well as illustrating how not only is Major Crecy having to cope with his disability, but also how his wife will have to adjust herself as well.
Oona Chaplin as Kitty Trevelyan plays a strong part in this story line, assisting Adelinde Crecy in her own forthright and personal manner, in coming to terms with the reality of the situation by showing that he is still alive and can return home, something which many wives will not have the luxury of.
Yet it is the social commentary within this story line which really draws you into the story. Major Crecy was saved by his one and only surviving soldier from his battalion from the murderous machine gun fire, Private Jackie Byeford (Tommy McConnell). It is brilliant to see the breaking down of social barriers between the evidently upper class Major and the working class Private, with the Major refusing Officer accommodation in order to remain with Byeford.
However, it is Mrs Crecy’s arrival which shows the expectations of class distinctions of the era, trying to pay off Byeford as a “token of appreciation” and attempting to stop Byeford from saying goodbye to the Major before being sent back to the front as he is “intruding”. It really speaks volumes of the times they lived in where the boundaries of social distinction are blurred for those serving yet seeming utterly alien for those on the outside looking in.
The other great story line is that of the aforementioned Sister Joan Livesey, the progressive Liverpudlian civilian nurse who tries to get the other nurses to see the value of Volunteer nurses and the necessity to train them in order to relieve the already overworked professional nurses instead of having them “out of sight and out of mind” doing the laundry. Yet, when she brings this up to the bloody minded Sister Quayle (Kerry Fox), Quayle merely brushes her thinking aside saying that the professional nurses will cope as they always have and that her thinking is “the passion of youth”, although clearly indignant and insulted by Livesey’s suggestions.
Livesey then gets to put this trust in the Volunteer nurses sooner than anticipated, as when carrying in many wounded men into the hospital, one soldier’s wounds becomes incredibly serious and is rushed to surgery, with Livesey going along, leaving Berwick in charge of the tent. However, while Flora Marshall (Alice St Clair) revels in the chance of actual nursing instead of being stuck in the laundry room, Berwick panics and flees after attempting to wash a man.
The next day Livesey, after congratulating Marshall, finds Berwick decides she needs to be confronted with what she feared that night. Livesey takes her into the hospital morgue and unveils what Berwick had been so afraid to go near the previous night, a man’s penis. After trying to coax her into looking, telling her there is no mystery to a man’s body, Berwick calls her depraved and flees to Sister Quayle.
It is amazing how such bodily parts can cause such drama, but then I remember when, and probably all of us, at one time or another, baulked at images of the other gender’s genitalia, let alone having it up close and personal, so I can understand this mentality towards prudishness towards anything sexual.
My final note which I shall leave you on is that of the black soldier, Private George Shoemaker (Bradley John). Although this solder is clearly brain damaged and only serves as a subservient point to the Major Crecy story line, it brilliant to show that men of all races came to fight for King and Country, something which may have not been forgotten in this day and age, but almost certainly comes as an afterthought to the majority of us. To see the damaged soldier and his clearly distraught father (Fraser James) is a brilliant move to highlight that the First World War was not a horror of one colour only.
I hope you have enjoyed this review, I have purposefully left some story lines out so I hope you will watch it to catch up on them all but I have told you the only which had greatest poignancy, for me at least. While The Crimson Field has still a little way to go to be called a great series, it is certainly taking the steps in the right direction. Please like, comment, share, follow my bog and above all, get on BBC iPlayer and watch The Crimson Field!