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Privates“National Service is still compulsory
  fifteen years after the end of the
  Second World War — and in 1960
  young British men called up to serve
  their country see an unavoidable
  two-year interruption in their pursuit
  of pleasure, girls and rock ’n
  in the BBC drama series Privates..

THE LAST INTAKE OF CONSCRIPTS for National Service begin their two-year stint of strict training in the army under the critical eye of the over-zealous Corporal Barrowman (Phil McKee: Band Of Brothers; Clash Of The Titans) in the brilliantly compulsive drama Privates.

Young men from all walks of life converge on the Bleakley Marsh barracks, where the North Yorkshire Regiment is stationed, to be knocked into shape to serve their country. The Cold War is at its height so the threat from Russia is still very real and politicians are already questioning the decision to drop national service.

“A marvellous,
well observed period
drama with comic
moments and
Privates offers a
fascinating insight into
a landmark era
Joining R2 Section under the command of Captain Colin Gulliver (Patrick Baladi: The Office; Mistresses), pacifist Private Keenan (Alexander Vlahos) is immediately taken into custody for angrily pursuing Lance Corporal James Hobbs (Marc Silcock) with whom he has a serious issue around the barracks, resulting in Hobbs accidentally assaulting an officer and going AWOL.

Arrogant Private White-Bowne (Jack Fox: Fresh Meat) comes from a privileged background and was in the Officer Training Corp at Eton. He is certain he has found the perfect solution for getting out of the army and he will cause as much trouble as he can for the others while he is still there.

The gentle Private Owen Davies (sensitively played by Matthew Aubrey) is the butt of the bullying Barrowman's un-PC jokes and the Welshman is worried that he will never make a good, courageous soldier. Troubled by his grandfather's war experiences, Owen is to find help and support from his fellow soldiers. Private Eddie Wratten (Billy Seymour) is an East End wide-boy who apparently knew the Krays, and he also suffers at the hands of Barryman.

Also in R2 Section is Private McIlvenney (Conor MacNeill), the surprisingly capable Private Rothman (Sam Swann), and Private Hoy (David Kirkbride), but latecomer Private Andrew Lomax (Ross Anderson), a movie star impersonator who may or may not be certifiable, will cause a stir. Is his apparent madness yet another ruse to be discharged or is Lomax seriously off his rocker and a danger to the army?

In the NAAFI is Hobbs' fiancé, Norah Preston (Sasha Frost), who has suffered unwanted attention as one of the few black people in Britain. Her friend Nurse Connie Charles (Sarah Vickers), who has a tragic past, is continually asked out by the conscripts and has a policy of not dating the soldiers but will she break her rule with this latest group?

The tough-but-fair Sergeant Michael Butcher (Michael Nardone) has personal problems that are about to escalate; and Captain Gulliver's marital problems with his wife Audrey (Emma Stansfield) seem insurmountable. Even Barrowman has a dreadful secret and it is one that will soon come back to haunt him.

This is the dawn of the Swinging Sixties, when England was facing a brand new world: Liz Taylor was in love with Richard Burton; John F Kennedy was America's great hope; the space programme was forging ahead; the peace movement was growing in England and the contraceptive Pill was launched. A new breed of young man was standing up for England, Rock 'n' Roll and the right to think for himself.

Something of a culture shock, the army represented rigidly enforced discipline; and the teddy boys, gangster, peaceniks, posh boys and the certifiable loose cannon find themselves having to come to terms with it. Deafened, blinded and choked as they are prepared for war and a possible nuclear attack, the group is being regimented into one tight fighting machine whether they like it or not and boy, do they not like it!

They will have to get used to the food, the beds, early rising and late watches, shaven heads, itchy uniforms and being broken down and rebuilt by the army. But who will break first? A marvellous, well observed period drama with comic moments and watchability, Privates offers a fascinating insight into a landmark era. A talented cast adds to the cast iron appeal.

Privates also features: Richard Katz as Captain Viktor Bulgakov; and Steven Pacey as Major Cunnicliffe. Director of Photography is Paul Otter; Written and Co-Created by Damian Wayling; Produced by Nick Pitt; and Directed by Bryn Higgins. Privates is filmed on location in Northern Ireland with the help of the soldiers and wives of 2nd Battalion, The Rifles.

* Powerful, gripping drama at its best, Privates was screened on five consecutive days on BBC1 from 7 January (2013) and is released on DVD, courtesy of Acorn Media, on 28 January 2013. Running Time: 213 Minutes Approximately | 2 Discs | Catalogue Number (DVD) AV3084 | RRP: £19.99.

"A marvellous, well observed period drama with comic moments and watchability, Privates offers a fascinating insight into a landmark era" Maggie Woods, MotorBar