The Summer Before the War

by John Finch

Episode Number: 4
Director: June Howson



Edwin Ashton   Colin Douglas
Jean Ashton   Shelagh Fraser
David Ashton   Colin Campbell
Sheila Ashton   Coral Atkins
Margaret Porter   Lesley Nunnerley
John Porter   Ian Thompson
Philip Ashton   Keith Drinkel
Freda Ashton   Barbara Flynn
Sefton Briggs   John McKelvey
Tony Briggs   Trevor Bowen
Peggy Drake   Amelia Taylor
Frank Cox   John Alkin
May   Rosalind Ayres
Alan Mills   Bill Dean
Bannister   Brian Miller
An Airman   Tony Milner
A Weeping Mother   Diana Davies



The Ashton Home   Sheila is sitting on the sofa, flipping through a magazine, while Philip, John, Margaret, and Freda are playing cards at the table.

Tony drops in for a moment, just long enough for Margaret to tell him that Sefton rang for him a bit earlier.

When Sheila goes to put on the kettle, Margaret vents her anger at David for being so late to telephone.

A Pub Near the RAF Base   David and other airmen are carousing in the pub, but one pretty girl, Peggy Drake, does not take part in the revelry.

Frank departs with his girl, May, leaving David and Peggy alone at their table.

Peggy is serious and withdrawn, refusing to say what is bothering her.

David goes to the telephone to call his "mother."

The Aston Home   The telephone rings, so Sheila runs to answer it.

David tells her that he has a 48-hour leave beginning tomorrow, and Sheila is delighted.

She leaves to straighten up her flat for David's arrival.

Margaret tells John that they need to go too, in order to catch the last bus.

Philip confides to Margaret that he may not return to Oxford because of the uncertain world situation.

Margaret says there may not be a war, but Philip scoffs at that notion.

A Pub Near the RAF Base   Peggy invites David to Sunday dinner at home, but he declines.

He explains to her that he does not want their relationship to become serious, and she becomes very upset.

Peggy reveals to David that she is pregnant.

Shocked at the news, David tells her that he will not go on leave after all.

The Works   Tony tells a workman, Alan Mills, that the tea will be ready shortly, and Sefton contends that such niceties "undermine the relationship between master and man."

Sefton asks his son how Edwin is coping, and Tony replies that Edwin could run the place by himself.

The RAF Base   In the barracks, David tells Frank that he is not going on leave.

The Ashton Home   Lying together in bed, Jean tells Edwin that she thinks Sefton is lonely, and she urges her husband to see to it that Tony spends more time at home.

When the street lamps go off, Edwin asks his wife, "Who was it said, 'The lamps are going out all over Europe'?"

The RAF Base   In the airmen's shower, Frank tells David that all leaves have been canceled, and everyone is confined to camp.

David has told Frank that Peggy is pregnant, and Frank insists that David must inform her that he is married.

The Works   Tony arrives a bit late to work, and Edwin answers the telephone.

It is Philip on the line, informing his father that the Germans have invaded Poland and that there will be a blackout tonight.

Sheila arrives, so Tony leaves the room.

She asks Edwin for advice about the children—should they be evacuated?

Then she wonders aloud whether David would even bother to come back at all if the children were not there.

The RAF Base   David alerts Frank that he is going to slip out to see Peggy, no matter that everyone is confined to base.

The Works   Sefton tells Edwin that he asked Tony to work at the shop but that Tony refused.

A Pub Near the RAF Base   Peggy says to David that he is the one who must inform her parents about the baby.

She asks him, "Do you like kids, Dave?"

The Ashton Home   Jean advises Sheila to have the children evacuated.

Sheila says that will crush them, adding that Peter has become so confused in his father's absence that he is now wetting the bed, something a host family will not tolerate.

As Sheila is leaving to catch a bus during the blackout, Jean tells her that she will need to decide about the children by tomorrow at noon.

Freda says to Philip, "Have you been out in the gloom yet? It's like the end of the world."

A Pub Near the RAF Base   Peggy confronts David about their relationship—will they be getting married?

David asks her for more time to sort things out in his mind.

The Ashton Home   Edwin is blacking out the windows, and Jean is reading in bed.

He tells her that Sefton wants Tony back at the shop, but Tony cannot figure out why.

Jean speculates that it is envy, as Tony gets on too well with Edwin.

The Briggs Home   Sefton discloses to Tony that one of his wife's dying wishes was that the two of them might become closer.

When Tony says that his staying at the works stands in the way of his Uncle Edwin's advancement, Sefton claims that it is his son whom he is concerned about, not his brother-in-law.

Tony storms out of the room, saying he will await his father's instruction in the morning, something he calls another "victory" for Sefton Briggs.

The RAF Base   In bed at the barracks, David reveals to Frank that he has "landed" twice—with Sheila before Peggy.

When he declares that such misjudgements will happen more often during wartime, Frank counters that some married men will not be so easily tempted.

But Sheila is not here, claims David, and "a woman makes you feel somebody."

The Ashton Home   Philip tells Jean that he has secured a job.

Sheila arrives and announces that the children are at her mother's because she cannot bear to send them off to be with strangers.

Both Philip and Jean say they believe this decision is a dangerous mistake.

In her own defence, Sheila poses a rhetorical question: "Who's going to drop bombs on children?"

The RAF Base   David tells Frank that again he is planning to slip away and see Peggy.

Frank warns him that this will bring trouble, but David snaps, "You're too good to be true, Frankie."

A moment later, David admits that it is he who is "wet—bloody wet."

A School in Liverpool   Margaret is helping to process a large group of children for evacuation.

John arrives in his uniform and says he must report at once, so he and Margaret share a hasty kiss goodbye.

A young boy, not understanding what is happening to him, calls in vain for his mother.

The Works   Edwin informs Tony that a printing press has broken down, making it doubtful that they can deliver Jackson's catalogue of ladies' foundation garments.

Tony reveals that he will be going to the shop, leaving Edwin as manager of the works.

Even when he warned his father that he might not be able to get along with Carter, Sefton remained adamant.

Edwin responds that he received word that Carter had been called by the draft.

A Pub Near the RAF Base   Peggy, David, and May are sitting at a table, talking and drinking.

May says her naval friend, Harry, will soon be home.

Peggy becomes nauseous and runs to the toilet.

May asks David what is wrong with her, but David only says he needs to make a telephone call home.

The Briggs Home   Tony accuses Sefton of knowing that Carter was in the reserves and would be called, alleging that was why Sefton wanted him to take over at the shop.

He then storms from the room, saying he will not oblige his father.

The Ashton Home   Freda informs Edwin that he and Jean will not be going on holiday because the hotel has been taken over for war use.

Jean, she says, is now on the telephone, talking to David about Sheila's decision not to evacuate the children.

A Pub Near the RAF Base   Peggy tells David that she has told her parents about the baby.

She says her father wanted to visit David at the camp, but she begged him not to do that.

Peggy asks David if he was talking to his wife on the telephone, but he claims it was his mother.

She informs David that her parents will see to everything, but that she is not to see him again.

David explains that he had a drop too much to drink "that night."

Peggy asks David how many children he has, and he says two.

"Don't you love your wife, then?" she asks, and he replies, "Yeh, I suppose I do."

Peggy says she must go now because her father is waiting in the car.

David tries to stop her, saying he feels like dirt and apologising, but she runs out of the pub.

The Ashton Home   Philip comes down in his bathrobe to breakfast, and Edwin is in the living room, waiting to hear Neville Chamberlain speaking on the radio.

The Prime Minster announces that Britain is at war with Germany.

Script Excerpt 1

Script Excerpt 2