Lines of Battle

by Stan Barstow


Episode Number: 3
Director: Richard Doubleday

 

CAST

Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
Jean Ashton   Shelagh Fraser
David Ashton   Colin Campbell
Sheila Ashton   Coral Atkins
Margaret Porter, née Ashton   Lesley Nunnerley
John Porter   Ian Thompson
Philip Ashton   Keith Drinkel
Freda Ashton   Barbara Flynn
Sefton Briggs   John McKelvey
Tony Briggs   Trevor Bowen
Gwyn Roberts   Ioan Meredith
An Oxford Student   Ian Michael
An Oxford Student   Christopher Ferguson
An Oxford Student   Ian Barritt
An Oxford Student   Peter Devin
The Barman   Tony Malloy
Peter Ashton   Peter Finch
Janet Ashton   Janet Tute
Harry Porter   Patrick Troughton
(credited, but did not appear)
Celia Porter   Margery Mason
(credited, but did not appear)

 




LIVERPOOL, JUNE 1939

The Ashton Home   Margaret and John are in the living room, deciding whom to invite to their wedding.

In the kitchen, Jean wonders aloud whether Margaret is really ready to marry John, and Edwin answers that she is of age.

Margaret and John come into the kitchen, and the four of them discuss the possibility of war.

After Margaret leaves to see John to the door, Jean announces to Edwin that Philip and a friend, Gwyn Roberts, will be staying in the Ashton home for the wedding.

Edwin calls Gwyn "the Welsh gas bag."

At Oxford   Gwyn tells Philip that the townspeople in his Welsh village expect him to succeed in his studies, to set an example for them.

He reminds Philip that he suffers from asthma—ironic because he was only in the mines once, just long enough to shudder—and he shows him the inhaler that aids his breathing in times of respiratory distress.

The Ashton Home   Sheila comes to ask Edwin for money, as she has fallen three weeks behind in paying her rent.

She assures Edwin that the money David promised to send is probably in the post.

At Oxford   David, in his RAF uniform but off duty, shares a few drinks with Philip and Gwyn at a local pub.

Aristocratic students at the next table make disparaging remarks about the coal mines, and Gwyn takes exception.

A heated argument ensues between Gwyn and the students.

The students leave, giving Gwyn a pointed look.

Philip and David discuss the imminent war, but they fail to see eye to eye.

Though David says the men are ready to fight, Philip argues that it will not be a cricket match.

David accuses his younger brother of being hypocritical, perfectly willing to fight someone else's war in Spain but then criticising him for wanting to defend his own country.

"You always were a superior little sot!" he charges.

The Ashton Home   Margaret resents the fact that David is not at home to put his own children to bed, but Jean says it was an oversight.

Edwin tells Jean that Sefton is unwilling to invest in machine guards to protect his employees.

At Oxford   Gwyn is feeling unwell after the previous night's drinking, and he asks Philip for a couple of aspirin.

Voices are heard in the hallway, and when Philip opens the door to investigate, the aristocratic students rush into the room.

They overpower Philip and drag Gwyn from the room, but Philip soon breaks free and rushes to look for his friend.

The students strip Gwyn to his underwear, toss him into the river, and flee.

Gwyn emerges from the river, gasping for breath, and Philip arrives to help.

Frantically, Gwyn tells Philip to fetch his coat from the waters and find the inhaler.

The inhaler restores Gwyn's breathing, and he wheezes, "Britannia rules the waves, eh, boy?"

The Ashton Home   Sefton berates Philip's friend, Gwyn, for talking political rubbish.

"His father's an unemployed miner," says Edwin, "as mine was—before he got his ten-bob pension."

Sefton, Jean, and Freda leave for the church.

Margaret comes down the stairs in her wedding gown, looking beautiful but quite nervous.

Alone with her father, she takes a moment to thank him for all his sacrifices over the years.

Margaret confesses that she almost called the wedding off, explaining that she does not want children if there is to be a war.

At the Church   At the wedding party, Edwin tells Sefton that Harry Porter had to take his wife, Celia, back home because she complained of a dizzy spell.

Sefton raises a toast to the younger generation, saying they will be essential in the coming war.

He asks everyone to drink a patriotic toast to king and country.

Sheila begins to cry, and Jean comforts her.

Tony chuckles at his father's speech, saying there was not a dry eye in the house.

The Ashton Home   John tells Margaret he could feel her trembling during the wedding vows, and he is pleased to see that she is again his "cool, self-possessed Margaret."

He is uneasy, wondering whether her jitters were simply a bad case of nerves or perhaps something far more serious—regret.

At the Church   Gwyn overhears Sefton and Edwin arguing about the machine guard.

Sefton tells Edwin that he wants him to fire that troublemaker, Morgan, from the works.

Gwyn steps in and confronts Sefton, declaring that the country needs a new system of government, one where greedy employees cannot run roughshod over the workers.

Though Gwyn apologises to Edwin for causing an embarrassing scene, he then proceeds to rebuke him for not standing up to Sefton.

The Ashton Home   Margaret and John leave in the car, amidst thrown confetti and shouts of congratulations.

Edwin asks Philip where his friend is, and Philip replies, "He'll turn up."

At the Church   Tony reveals that he may enlist, but Sefton is cool to the idea, reminding him that printing is a reserved occupation.

The Ashton Home   Edwin admits to Philip that he is guilty of listening in silence while Sefton says outrageous things.

Gwyn returns from his walk, and Freda contends that it would be all right for him to go upstairs and talk with Philip.

Jean reveals to Edwin that she is worried about Margaret and John staying with the Porters.

Philip tells Gwyn that he cannot forgive him for humiliating his father.

Gwyn says that there were distinct lines of battle between miners and management back home, but here you do not know where you are.

He accuses Philip of betraying the cause, but Philip argues that he saw in Spain how the party members behave, shooting their own men in the back.

Philip grants that he envies Gwyn because he is able to see everything in certainty—black or white.

Jean avoids Gwyn as he descends the stairs, but Freda is bold enough to bid him goodbye, and he kisses her on the cheek.

Edwin explains to Jean what Gwyn told Sefton at the party.

Jean says it is a pity that Robert could not have been home for the wedding.

Edwin is philosophical about it, saying children are like knitting—you put one down for awhile and pick up another.

Jean looks away and says, "Yes, there's no peace."

On a Train   Gwyn tries to proselytise a uniformed fellow traveller.


Script Excerpt 1
Margaret/John

Script Excerpt 2
Philip/Gwyn/Edwin/Tony/Sefton