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Wings (1977/78) – S01 E10 – August 1915: “The Burning Question” – Tim Woodward, Nicholas Jones, Michael Cochrane, David Troughton


This Episode

August 1915: Charles Gaylion’s plane is set on fire despite him not having sighted the enemy. Triggers receives information about increased casualties among British pilots and he, Charles and Alan Farmer puzzle over the source of the danger. A new arrival, Lieutenant Conrad, makes few friends because of his superior attitude, but his superb eyesight becomes an advantage when he sees that what Charles and others have mistaken for a French Morane is in fact a German monoplane. Back in England, Lorna has volunteered to be a nurse and is looking after injured pilots; she begins to realise the dangers Alan faces. Triggers is frustrated that his superiors do not believe their planes are being outclassed by the Germans but his frustration turns to anger when a magazine sent to Alan by his mother provides the answer: the Germans have developed a machine gun that can fire through the propeller. With Farmer and Conrad as back-up, he lures the German monoplane into attacking him until it is driven off by Conrad with a hunting rifle, giving him the evidence he needs to alert the rest of the RFC.


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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