The Crimson Field Episode 5

‘New woman’ Sister Joan is desperate to know the fate of her fiance. Image: BBC/Nick Wall.

Sister Joan’s (Suranne Jones) dangerous secret was revealed last week by Flora and then ruthlessly exploited by pantomime baddie Sister Quayle. It was announced to an assembly that Joan was engaged (ring spotted on chain round neck) , which forced her to make up a tale about her fiancé being in the British Army, when actually he’s a German. In my programme notes I had written ‘Interesting strand?’ Too hopeful! It sadly descended into an unbelievable plot involving what looked like resistance fighters as Joan desperately tries to make contact with her man. It’s basically a spy theme that might end up in Joan being shot as a traitor. What are the chances in the last episode?

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Joan is arrested and charged with a capital offence.

At last the focus turns to Matron Carter (Hermione Norris); she has been simmering away in the background doing good here and there and putting up with Sister Quayle’s jealousy over the promotion. This week’s incoming wounded introduces Colonel Ballard, an imperious, brusquely spoken officer from the Punjabi Rifles. They have a brief verbal spat, in Punjabi: ‘Well well well, she speaks Punjabi’ he sneers. Another strand, this time it’s the colonials! OK writers and producers give us a treat: please explore the empire line, as it were. It appears that Matron grew up in the Punjab and comes from a well-heeled family. That’s it really.


Matron Carter meets Colonel Ballard from the Punjabi Rifles.

This week we have our first splash of mud! It rains during this episode, quite a lot it seems as muddy puddles finally get their day in the spotlight. Posh, aloof Rosie Barratt is outed as a Rt. Hon. when a package addressed to her is spied on the post trolley. However, for whatever reason, (reader, there must be one, it is a constructed narrative after all) she trips in a muddy puddle and her glowing white apron becomes sullied. Nothing is made of this.

It’s all so QUIET as Bjork might say; there are few sounds of battle, which is odd when you consider that the rumblings of explosions could be heard frequently across the Channel in Kent and mentioned in various diaries, for example the Reverend Andrew Clarke, writing from Essex on July 1 1916: ‘All this morning the Flanders (as it is supposed) guns have been booming forth, making [the] house quiver at times and shaking window sashes. At 10am they made almost an uninterrupted roll of sound, like a long roll of distant thunder’. Now that is terrifying and feels real.

Flora (the prissy one with a gay brother) decides to raise morale by organising a concert party. I wonder if  in reality the YMCA might have done this as they were set up in pretty every location in the various theatres of war. Who can tell me more? But it gave the cast a good excuse to have a singalong, maybe to raise their morale as much as ours. Anyway, the last episode is next week and then I can go back to being a Sunday-night-drama avoider.


Let’s just remind ourselves of the real women involved in nursing behind the lines.

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Nurses at New Zealand Stationary Hospital, Wisques, France,, 1918. Image: New Zealand Archives, Reference: IA76 H905.


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