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Wings (1977/78) – #1 – S01 E01 – The Volunteer – Tim Woodward, Nicholas Jones, Michael Cochrane


This Episode

Spring 1915: 18-year-old Alan Farmer, a blacksmith from Becket’s Hill in Sussex, lives with his widowed mother, his father having been killed attempting to fly an old plane. Alan continues to have a keen interest in flying and engines and, against his mother’s wishes, goes for an interview with the Royal Flying Corps. His father’s brother, who has lost an arm on active service, comes to stay with the family and run the smithy. A local farmer’s daughter, Lorna Collins, is in love with Alan but he is slow to begin a proper relationship with her. At his interview for the RFC, Alan meets Charles Gaylion, an army officer from an upper-class background who hopes to transfer to the RFC. Alan’s interview goes badly, and it is clear that his working-class origins will interfere with his aspirations; however, when he mentions his past “experience” with his father’s plane, he is accepted. Alan and Charles are reunited at the training centre, where they meet their instructor Captain Triggers, at first sight a bad-tempered disciplinarian. Mistakenly believing Alan to be an experienced pilot, Triggers takes him up in a dual-controlled Avro which Alan proves unable to land. He is berated by Triggers for risking both their lives. As Alan is packing his case, expecting to be dismissed, Triggers unexpectedly returns, makes encouraging remarks to Gaylion, and insists on Alan taking another flight, this time with Triggers at the controls. He performs advanced manoeuvres that leave Alan feeling foolish, but ends by telling him that he can continue with his training.


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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