Posted by JC on April 25th, 2011
NZ on Screen have unearthed my television play Casualties of Peace, much to my amazement. I thought it had been wiped years ago. There was a shortage of tapes and we just re-recorded over everything.
It was made in 1982, starring Judie Douglass, Peter Vere-Jones and Michael Hurst, playing a teenager. It was Michael’s first major television role and he won an award for it – Best Newcomer, from memory. A very young Fiona Samuel appears in it as well, with Kevin Wilson, Ken Blackburn and Joanne Simpson.
World War II lingered on for our returned soldiers and haunted their families for decades. The vets would gather together to make sense of their experiences, and to find again the camaraderie and mateship of service life. My childhood was filled with war stories, with strange men who would turn up at our door and spend hours reminiscing with my father. He seemed younger and more alive when they were there.
This play was based on my father, these lost men and their conflict with the next generation, whose view of the Vietnam war was so out of step with their own lives and beliefs.
My father was one of those who would never talk about his war experiences, he did 5 yrs of WWII. His silence was broken in 2004 on the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings, my father was in the second wave that clambered over hundreds of dead bodies. Near where he lives in St Heliers his local drinking hole is a cute German Restaurant. On that day in 2004 he finally met the owner, a man of my father’s generation who as it turned out was in a machine gun emplacement on the very same beach, only on the other side. These two old men drank together but just did not have the capacity to talk about it much but they did managed to say – Sorry – to each other. I figured that said it all.
Not long after, my father finally told me what happened that day and the weeks after, the horror of losing just about everyone he knew, the chaos, the noise, the bodies and the sheer blind terror that got him through. Tears were streaming down my face when he’d finished. I asked him “how the hell did you stay sane?” he said “comrades, we were all in it together, we were all scared shitless, together” I’d never really got what that word, comrades, really meant until then.
He has never felt the grief of it all, I guess that’s what my generation does.
I remember the play, and was thinking about it the other day. I’m aurprised that it was as ‘recent’ as 1982; I’d thought it was earlier. But the story was set about 1968?
From memory the script did not seem to be very sympathetic to the character played by Peter Vere-Jones.