Roy Clarke's script does include lines which would bear repetition better, particularly in the nature of affectionate insult ("You don't need the Love Mobile - you need Farmer's Weekly," Compo is told when he declares an interest in using the services of a mobile dating agency) and Northern xenophobia ("They come back from abroad with very inflated ideas about what should be in a salad," complains one woman during a discussion of Continental immorality). But even the excellent company of comedians (Thora Hird and Jean Alexander is almost too much of a good thing) can't quite disguise the fact that it is now just going through the motions - with yet more genially misogynist jokes about the incompatibility of men and women and increasingly hapless slapstick. They are right to retire.
The Roses of No Man's Land (C4) explored one of the few areas of the Great War not to have been already exhaustively mapped by documentarists and film-makers - that is, the experience of those who nursed the casualties back to some kind of health. It was often an intensely affecting film, not just because of the memories these women had, but because they themselves were now so fragile, veterans of the long attrition of life (the film had clearly been made just in time - four of the participants have died since their interviews). As they talked, you couldn't quite tell where the distress of recollection faded into the simple labour of talking for so long.
Many of the volunteers had lead relatively protected lives before their brutal instruction in the realities of the war - gangrenous wounds, amputations and the industrial output of death. But the most painful of the revelations was the child-like vulnerability of the men, however strong or manly they appeared. "This young fellow, I suppose he was taller than I was. But he did want his mummy so much. He cried for his mummy. I said 'Oh, I'll be your mummy tonight' and gave him a big hug," recalled one woman. Another remembered the distorted perceptions of men in desperate need of familiar comfort: "So often... so often... they would say 'You remind me of my mother', who must have been three times my age." Some questions were missing - you longed to know how this terrible education had changed their feelings towards men or towards the patriotic celebration of the war - but it was a moving memorial all the same.Reuse content