This was a mixture of very good and not so good. Based on the experiences of real individuals, it tells the story of a group of young women from Australia and New Zealand who travelled across the world to Egypt to nurse those wounded in what turned out to be the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.
First World War dramas tend to focus on the Western front – I have to confess that I wasn’t even aware that there were nurses based in Egypt – so this, made by an Australian broadcaster, is really something different. It’s unlikely that any of these women had ever travelled very far from their homes before, and then there they were, on the other side of the world in a country with a completely different culture to anything they were used to – facing the horrors of war.
And the programme tries hard to trace the relationship between the Gallipoli campaign and the growth of national feeling in Australia and New Zealand. One soldier spoke of how this was their opportunity to break out of Britain’s shadow and make a name for themselves. The nurse to whom he was speaking pointed out that it was a war, not a cricket match – but the point was made, and it’s a point which has been made many times in recent weeks, as the centenary of the Gallipoli Landings has been marked.
On the other hand, was there really any need to show quite so many scenes of nurses flirting with soldiers and talking about the fun they were going to have whilst they were there?! All right, point taken, but most of them seemed far more interested in chasing after men than in anything else, and the soldiers seemed to have a remarkable amount of time to spend chasing after the nurses! One nurse even wandered into an Army camp for a bit of “fun” with a soldier (although it did later turn out that he was her husband) in one of the Army tents! No-one seemed to notice – which was particularly odd as they evidently all had amazingly strongly-developed senses, being able to hear and see the fighting near the Suez Canal all the way from Cairo and Alexandria! And, whilst referring to the Ottoman Empire as “Turkey” can be forgiven, as it was something plenty of people did at the time, having a British doctor say that he came from “Cumbria”, an artificial county which wasn’t created until 1974, cannot!
Still, the good bits outweighed the bad, and I’ll be watching the rest of the series with interest.