Sunday, August 10, 2014

Harriet's Army

This excellent CBBC mini-series continued the theme of last Monday's special Newsround programme about how World War 1 changed attitudes to women (see previous blog). Below is a synopsis of the story, with spoilers.

(Spoiler alert)

Harriet Grange lives with her dad and brothers Edward and Sam. Harriet, a feisty girl, is forced to leave the Girl Guides after fighting with some boys. War is declared and most of the local men are anxious to sign up. Edward is too young to join, but is pleased that the government has agreed to allow Scouts and Girl Guides to act as a second line of defence. Harriet, although kicked out of the Girl Guides, still wants to help the war effort.

The Brown family moved to the town two months earlier and people start to gossip when neighbours discover that the Mrs Brown's daughter is living in Germany and is married to a German. A lot of hostility gets directed towards the Brown family.

Harriet's young brother, Sam, gets his foot trapped between railway points, but is rescued by Thomas Brown just before a train passes. Thomas and Harriet gradually get to know each other better and Harriet realises Thomas and his family are being treated unfairly. Harriet enthusiastically adopts Thomas's suggestion of starting her own vigilante kids' army, and goes out in the streets to recruit volunteers.

Thomas's autistic younger brother, Lewis, is bullied by the other kids, but Harriet rebukes them for their cowardly behaviour. Life becomes intolerable for the Browns, so Harriet and her best friend, Violet Croft, help them to escape to a secret hideout in the countryside. Harriet's older brother, Edward, still doesn't trust the Browns, and is really angry when he finds out that she's helped them escape. He tells her she's helped the enemy - it's treason. She convinces Edward that he's wrong about the Browns.

It's April 1915, and Mrs Brown has gone to Whitby looking for work, leaving Thomas and Lewis in the hideout. Harriet and her 'army' have kept the two brothers supplied with food purloined from the allotments.

Lewis has noticed flashing lights in the distance, which he believes represent numbers. Harriet tells Edward she thinks the lights are coded spy messages.

Violet receives a letter from brother, Stephen, describing the unpleasant conditions on the front line. She's been knitting him a pair of wooly socks.

Harriet persuades her volunteer army to help track down the spies. They will need to triangulate the light source in order to determine its precise location.

Violet is devastated to hear that Stephen was killed when the ship he was returning on was sunk with the loss of all on board. But in the course of the search for spies it turns out that Stephen did return safely to Britain on a cargo boat, and was living in the woods, stealing supplies in order to survive. Stephen tells Harriet that every one of his mates had been killed on the front lines and, as the sole survivor, he'd been too ashamed to go back to his family.

Harriet realises that her army still need to find out who's responsible for the light signals. Edward, meanwhile, has discovered a piece of paper with Lewis's decoded numbers. It dawns on him that the numbers match the dates on which British ships were torpedoed. Edward is quick to conclude that Thomas Brown is spying for the Germans, but when confronted with evidence, he's persuaded that his suspicions were unfounded.

The signals are tracked to some old ruins, and Harriet's army catch the harbourmaster red-handed, signaling messages to U-Boats out at sea. British army soldiers arrive at the scene in time to apprehend the culprit. That evening Mr Grange tells his family how proud he is of them. Harriet was, in some ways, a reminder of his late wife.

The series ends on a romantic note with Harriet and Thomas walking hand in hand through the woods.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Today's Newsround at 10.10am looked at the significance WWI had on women's lives; how the war changed attitudes and eventually led to a more equal society.

Ricky reporting for Newsround on 4th August 2014

Ricky Boleto: Good morning, I'm Ricky with a very special Newsround coming to you from these trenches here in northern France. It's here where some of the most important battles took place over the four years of World War 1 - a war which began on this day, exactly one hundred years ago. While men were fighting in places like this, women's lives were changing forever, like Nellie Spindler - and this is her story.