The Crimson Field premiered last night on BBC One. For Kevin Doyle, his portrayal of Colonel Roland Brett in the World War I drama is a far cry from his recent demotion to footman at Downton Abbey and his interminable suffering at the hands of Carson. “It’s nice to be giving orders rather than receiving them,” he told RadioTimes.com. “It took me a while to get used to being a figure of authority – to have someone with quiet authority who is rather placid.”
Set in a field hospital on the Western Front, The Crimson Field is not so much the usual war story of soldiers in the trenches but more of the tented field hospitals where the injured found themselves in the care of military doctors and nurses.
The Crimson Field begins in 1915 with the Voluntary Aid Detachments, or VAD’s, and their arrival as the first volunteer nurses at the field hospitals on the coast of France. Starring Hermione Norris (Ros Meyers in Spooks), Oona Chaplin (The Hour, Sherlock, Game of Thrones) and Suranne Jones (Scott and Bailey, A Touch of Cloth), The Crimson Field tells a WWI story that is not that widely known, especially not one taught in school.
The VAD’s were young women primarily from the middle and upper classes and were unaccustomed to hardship and discipline. Dealing daily with the injuries, casualties and, ultimately, death, took its toll. Every dying man at a field hospital would have had a nurse with him to the end, and it was her responsibility to write to the family, always stating, whether it was true or not, that the loved one died peacefully and without pain.
The six-part series continues each Sunday on BBC One and will make it’s way to public television stations via PBS in the not-too-distant future.