Adapted for Television by Kenneth Watson and shown as part of ITV's "Play of the Week" strand. Shown on Tuesday 20th August 1963 at 9:15pm lasting 90 minutes.
Life in the Royal Flying Corps seems pleasant enough to young Bill St. Aubyn as he basks in the French sun. But when an important offensive is mounted, he is suddenly faced with the grim reality of war.
France, September 1918. Still British blood spills pitifully, pointlessly into the mud of battle. This is the setting for Tunnel Trench, the third in the series of four plays about the first world war called For King and Country.
In the play dramatic critic and writer Hubert Griffith -who died in 1953, aged 56- pulls no punches. His play opens on the eve of a battle - a big British push with a German "Tunnel Trench" as one of its first objectives. We see three aspects of the battle. The Royal Flying Corps squadron is having a fairly clean war. In the words of an observer, Bill St. Aubyn (Robert Morris), they are "drugged with the fun and excitement of it."
St. Aubyn's younger brother, Ronny (Nicholas Pennell) is an infantry private in the same action. But his war is grime, vermin and barbed wire, mud, dugouts and duckboards. Fighting the war on yet another level, we see the General Staff Officers, with Major Digby (David Burke) in liaison with the flying boys.
Starting with the R.F.C. briefing, with St. Aubyn and his pilot, Lieut. Smith (Michael Bangerter), detailed for the first patrol - the play follows the attack, spanning the first day's action.
Also among the cast were Michael Robbins (On The Buses) and Frank Thornton (Are You Being Served?). The play was directed by Derek Bennett and produced by Gerald Savory.
Michael Bangerter supplied the pictures below (click on them to enlarge in a separate window). "In the 'crash' photo, Robert Morris is in the back of the cockpit - I am in the front. Both of us look suitably terrified!" In the other photo Michael is the officer on the right - Robert Morris is on the left.
Michael Bangerter remembers, "The company built an exact copy of the WWI fighter. The wind machine, sound effects and smoke simulation did a great job - all, I believe, very convincing. Robert and myself had very little to do with the rest of the cast as our scenes were rehearsed separately - we met up only occasionally."
Here is an excerpt from The Telegraph critique: 'The sincerity of the play has clearly infected the Granada people. It was handsomely mounted and tautly directed; the honesty of Robert Morris's and Michael Bangerter's playing carried off the dated sentimentality of the relationship between the central characters.'
Other plays in the "For King and Country short series: