WAR. » Read
about My Role in Foyle's War «
Filming of the pilot for Foyles War, the ITV WW II
detective drama began in Hastings and St Leonards in summer
2001. Later, in April 2002, the programmes maker, Greenlit
Productions, took over Hastings Old Towns, Hill Street,
Swan Terrace, Croft Road and High Street, stretches of which
were closed to pedestrians and cars. As filming began, the
entrances to the narrow, historic streets were crammed with
spectators, hoping to catch a glimpse of somebody famous,
while shopkeepers gazed on glumly, wondering how much business
they were losing as a result of street closures.
were also shot on Hastings beach, when the 1940 Dunkirk rescue
operation was recreated for the second episode. It was local
man Graham Bossoms fishing boat that took the role of
Lady Rose, and Graham and fellow fishermen, Charles and Peter
White, Paul, Shane and Douglas Joy, Marshall Davey, Mark Ball,
Michael Barrow and Clive Stephens had parts as extras, in
scenes in which they physically launched and recovered the
fishing boat in the old time manner. They also played parts
as soldiers. This episodes depiction of wounded and
dying British troops returning to Hastings shores was a fiction,
as none actually came here, but to see the painful scenes
re-enacted on our local beaches brought home the horror of
the real event.
Often, when watching the programme, I was torn between following
the story and spotting the locations. The solution was to
record the two-hour episode and see it twice, in no way an
imposition, as every aspect of the production was pleasing,
particularly its low-key, gentle pace, which reflected Hastings
as it was and still is.
In episode one, the fishermens tall, black net huts
were the backdrop to a gripping
confrontation and chase; the sequence began outside a beachside,
formerchurch, now the Fishermens Museum. The museums
Shipmaster, Curator Phil Ormsby, says he is hoping to mount
a special exhibition connected to Foyles War. He told
me that no Hastings fishermen went on the Dunkirk mission
but two fishing boats were volunteered to Dover to help, as
was the Hastings Lifeboat.
Throughout the series there were many shots of the picturesque
views over the closely clustered rooftops of Hastings Old
Town, which is crammed into the little valley between the
East and West Hills sandstone cliffs. Foyles fictional
home is situated in Croft Road, behind St Clements Church,
the tower of which was frequently visible during scenes in
One summer afternoon, during later, location filming, I slipped
past the policeman in Croft Road who was holding back cars
and pedestrians and I saw the take of a short segment, when
a girl in WAAF uniform crossed the road to Foyles house,
as an elderly lady in 1940s dress passed by, shopping basket
in hand. (I was amused to see that the kerbside yellow lines
had been painted with glue and scattered with what looked
like cat-litter, to obscure the modern traffic markings).
It was fun to spot that brief moment during the transmission
of the final episode.
I was convinced that the scenes featuring a Georgian house
hotel were filmed in Hastings Beauport Park Hotel but
the staff there informed me that it was Squerryes Court in
Westerham. You many recognise here some of the
pictures of it, taken from their website. Several of Hastings
many Olde Worlde pubs were deployed for interior scenes. Locations
other than Hastings were certainly used but the illusion of
the story being set mostly in Hastings was maintained, as
was the charm of the town itself, in spite of some grisly
The cast of Foyles War is headed by veteran actor, Michael
Kitchen, best known internationally for his role as Bill Tanner,
Chief of Staff, in the two James Bond films, Goldeneye and
The World Is Not Enough. Inspector Foyle, played by Kitchen,
was a real life policeman, appointed in WWII to investigate
war-related crimes such as spying and racketeering.
The series proved to be a Sunday night hit, screened over
four weeks in November 2002, attracting up to 10 million viewers.
I understand that further episodes will be screened in 2003
and hope Foyles War will do for Hastings what the tremendously
popular detective series, Inspector Morse, did for Oxford
in terms of tourist interest.
By sheer chance, coinciding with the showing of Foyles
War, my book, Letters From Lavender Cottage-Hastings in WWII
and Austerity, was published. The book is a biography that
portrays the everyday and factual life of Hastings people,
struggling with the effects and aftermath of war
My thanks to The Hastings Observer, Greenlit
Productions and Squerryes Court for the use of their images
role in Foyle's War
In the Foyle’s War, episode “War of Nerves” I was magistrates’
courts advisor to Greenlit Productions who make the series.
court scene was actually shot at St Albans because the local
authority there had been circumspect in not gutting their
old magistrates’ court (unlike Hastings), and they now rent
out the oak-panelled room to film and TV companies and for
corporate and social events.
In working for Greenlit I learned how much attention to detail
goes into period TV productions: I was asked advice not just
on magistrate court procedure but also on dress, hair and
cosmetic styles for the female magistrate and on the deportment
and language of court officials.
Lady Idina Brassey, a Hastings woman mentioned many times
in my book Letters
from Lavender Cottage
was a magistrate in WWII
Hastings and my previous research on her gave me a very good
idea of how a female magistrate in those times would have
appeared. So you could say that the lady chairing the bench
in the Foyle’s War scene bears some resemblance to Lady Idina.
I mentioned to the Greenlit design director that the hand-painted
heraldic shields that used to hang in Hastings’ old court
are now displayed above the new court’s stairway. Greenlit
sent a photographer from their design department to meet me
in Hastings and we went to the courts, where he took pictures
of the shields, so that they could be reproduced for the Foyle’s
War court scene.
The episode in which ‘my’ scene was set was the last in series
three. I waited for the appearance of the scene very nervously.
As far as the shields were concerned it was a ‘blink and you
miss it’ moment but every period detail seemed perfect to
September 4th. 2003
This actricle appeared in Hastings'
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