Sunday, 9 September 2012

Parade's End

I noticed while watching Parade's End this week that Benedict Cumberbatch was languishing in a Casualty Clearing Station in France that once again was entirely staffed by VADs.  These particular young women appeared to be direct descendants of those who were so numerous in the CCSs of 'Testament of Youth' more than thirty years ago, in remarkably similar uniforms of the wrong colour, and completely unsupervised by anyone with a shred of nurse training. I realise that many people might think me nit-picking, pointing out that this is historical fiction and not 'real life,' but surely just occasionally a programme could manage to get the detail correct. I wonder why, when out country has such a long history of trained nurses for the Army, splendid in their scarlet capes and floating caps, it's only VADs, who never actually worked in Casualty Clearing Stations during the Great War, who are allowed to appear on our screens. Are the writers and producers so historically ignorant of Great War medical services? Do they ever do (or get done) any research at all on hospital life? The answer of course is 'yes' and 'no.'  However serious the drama, however deep the plot, however grave the outcome, the on-screen portrayal of military nurses remains a joke.


  1. It's a lazy visual shortcut, IMO. VAD=WWI nurse to a great majority of viewers, and possibly filmmakers, so why rock the boat with accuracy most probably won't even notice?

  2. I honestly don't think that the majority of viewers have any knowledge at all of WW1 nurses and couldn't differentiate between a VAD and a bag of concrete at ten paces. So these dramas are providing them with their only information, which makes it all the more important to occasionally get it right. It seems that now, no-one even bothers to try, just picking up on previous programmes portrayals. Things are much more carefully considered when it comes to the men.

  3. Things are much more carefully considered when it comes to the men.

    Ha! Isn't that how it always happens? Particularly when it comes to war topics.

  4. OK, so here's a man agreeing with you ladies!

    Thanks, once again, Sue for continuing to make a fuss about lazy portrayals of nurses/VADs. If ever you are tempted to tell yourself "oh to hell with it, I'm not going to waste my time pointing out the errors AGAIN", please ignore such thoughts and persevere. You have a willing audience out here who demand that you keep up the good work!

    By the way, a little bird tells me that the Beeb have commissioned a new series - from a rather well known scriptwriter - about a team of nurses during the First World War. Gawd help us!

    Your 'nit-picking' (long may it last) has prompted me to add a special new page on Edie Appleton's website bringing together all her thoughts on VADs. Should be live in a few days.