The Weekend's Television: The Children Who Fought Hitler, BBC4,
The Secret Life of the Berlin Wall, BBC2

Some small-print disclaimers first, relating to product description. The Children Who Fought Hitler, to start with, a title that conjures up images of human waves of boy-soldiers, running through the rubble-filled streets of Berlin to see who can get to the bunker first and take out Adolf with a Sten gun.

In reality, intriguing though it was, Testimony Films' programme about three alumni of the British Memorial School in Ypres, could more accurately have been called "A Teenager Who Fought the Germans as Well as Two Adults Who Were Children When the War Began", which doesn't have quite the same ring to it. Follow the logic of Testimony's approach and you might equally make a film called "The Toddler Who Shot JFK". And then there's The Secret Life of the Berlin Wall, a title that leads you to expect a film revealing that the reverse side of that forbidding barrier was used as a projection screen for state-sponsored porno films or something similar. In fact, the "secrets" that Kevin Sim's film revealed were that it was awfully grim on the other side and half the East German population were spying on the other half – grave subjects and worthy of airtime, but not exactly classified information for the last 20 years.

Never mind, the title isn't everything, and it's entirely possible for a documentary to fail to deliver the advertised goods and still be worth watching. This was straightforwardly true of The Children Who Fought Hitler, which shone a light into an intriguing cranny of Second World War history. It told the story of the British Memorial School in Ypres, a little corner of a foreign field that was, for a time at least, England. Set up to cater for the children of the British veterans who built and administered the war graves of Flanders, the school imported British values and a British school curriculum across the channel. It was, you might say, founded on the headstones of the Glorious Dead, and, whatever Wilfred Owen said about dulce et decorum, it seemed to have successfully inculcated a very old-fashioned notion of patriotism and sacrifice into its students. One of the former pupils here, a one-time school captain called Jerry Eaton, had left Belgium before the war broke out, eventually winning his wings as a Mustang pilot for the RAF. The two others, a little younger, were among the refugees who set out for the French coast when the Germans invaded. Elaine Madden, a 17-year-old girl, made it across the Channel disguised as a squaddie by a sympathetic British soldier. Stephen Grady, 14 years old and bicycling just ahead of the Germans, was eventually turned back.

It was Grady who really justified the title, recalling the uncomplicated glee with which he and a teenage friend picked up discarded British weapons and grenades on their way back home, hiding them in a field for later use. At just 16, Grady became a section head for the local Resistance, licensed to vandalise on behalf of the Allies and protected by youthful innocence from the full scope of his danger. "I thought if you had a Luger and six rounds you could take on the German army," he said. Putting some of those rounds into an off-duty German officer seemed to have crimped his enthusiasm a little – "I didn't think it was cricket, if you know what I mean" – but even so he recalled the war with almost unalloyed affection as did Elaine Madden, trained up as an SOE agent and parachuted back into Belgium: "These were some of the happiest days of my life," she said of the thrill of liberation. "It was a fabulous feeling."

Memories were far more mixed in The Secret Life of the Berlin Wall, with regret travelling in contradictory directions. There were contributors who were having to live with the fact that they had betrayed their friends, and some who bitterly resented wasted years in prison. But there were also, notably, former socialists who still mourned the death of the society they'd committed themselves to. Kevin Sim's film was a sometimes tryingly affected affair, with the sequence in which a mime artist wordlessly acted out the plight of living under totalitarianism virtually impossible to watch without inappropriate giggles. But there was fascinating material here, too, in particular the interplay of Western and East German propaganda and the astounding scale of the police state. Per head of population, the Stasi was 12 times the size of the Gestapo and 35 times the size of the KGB, and that was without counting the informers. Alfred, one of the true believers, had returned to Berlin from England, hoping to "create a new mental attitude" in the defeated German people. He still couldn't see the folly of attempting to do it with Nuremberg rallies that changed the colour of the flags to red and substituted a more genial kind of lie for the anti-Semitism.

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering