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Wings (1977/78) – S01 E11 – August 1915: “The Prisoner’s Friend” – Tim Woodward, Nicholas Jones, Michael Cochrane, David Troughton


This Episode

August 1915: The arrival of the new German monoplane forces Triggers to order the pilots of “C” Flight to fly in pairs. Despite having been wounded in the right arm on his previous flight, he returns to active service and, while awaiting the arrival of replacements for a crew killed by the monoplane, he insists on flying a routine reconnaissance alone; he and his observer go missing. Charles Gaylion is obliged to take over as temporary commanding officer, and sends Alan to photograph a German artillery dump with his observer, Conrad. When faced with the Eindecker and ordered by Conrad to move closer, Farmer turns for home and avoids a confrontation. Back on the ground, Conrad insists Farmer be court-martialled for disobeying an order and cowardice in the face of the enemy. Gaylion has no power to prevent the court-martial but succeeds in ensuring that the presiding officer has experience of flying. He agrees to represent Farmer as the “prisoner’s friend” but his inexperience soon shows. At home in Sussex, the local vicar reveals the news about the court-martial to Molly, thus incurring Harry’s displeasure; Molly writes to her MP to try to get help for Alan. Even after the removal of Conrad from the courtroom for arguing with the presiding officer, the court-martial is going badly for Alan, who admits to having disobeyed a direct order. As Charles begins his concluding speech, the proceedings are interrupted by the arrival of a bedraggled Triggers, who has escaped from a German field hospital after being shot down ten days earlier. His evidence is critical to the outcome of the court-martial. Alan is found guilty of disobeying an order but not guilty of cowardice, and is given a minimal sentence. Charles remains devastated at his own inadequacy as counsel for the defence.


Wings is a drama series about the Royal Flying Corps that ran on BBC television from 1977 to 1978. It stars Tim Woodward as Alan Farmer, a young blacksmith turned fighter pilot in World War I.

Nicholas Jones played his teacher and mentor, Captain Triggers, and Michael Cochrane played his upper-class friend, Charles Gaylion, who began a relationship with Farmer’s girlfriend while Farmer was believed dead, shot down over France.

The series reveals that the British pilots are struggling with aeroplanes which are both unreliable and inferior to the German machines, and with an Establishment that classes voicing an opinion to that effect as being tantamount to cowardice. The airmen must also face the resentment of British soldiers who see them having an “easy” life. The rigidity of the British class structure is highlighted when Farmer becomes an officer in the second series – he faces resentment both from some officers because of his class and NCOs because of his new rank. The series takes great care with historical accuracy, covering the early days of the parachute, the fitting of weaponry to British biplanes (lacking the Germans’ interruptor gear, they had to be fired at an angle rather than through the propellers) and the horrors of trench warfare. Wings depicts a Britain that is, in some areas, struggling to adapt in the face of change, at a period that was a turning point for many people’s way of life MORE AT LINK

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