The Crimson Field: Recreating a WW1 army hospital

Friday 11 April 2014, 16:52

Cristina Casali Cristina Casali Production Designer

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As the production designer my job on The Crimson Field was to design the set: choosing the ideal location, deciding on the layout, designing all the different areas and selecting the style and decoration.

I researched historical photographs and paintings found from the Imperial War Museum archives, which was important early on as they communicated the atmosphere and look of the production.

I presented my design ideas to the producers in the form of mood boards, drawings, scale models and plans.

My whole team then worked closely together to achieve the ambition of the production.

The Camp Layout Drawing - The Crimson Field Early base camp layout plans: the pharmacy set across the square from the quartermaster's store Set layout in 3D - The Crimson Field Once the plans were finalised, I drew a 3D sketch of the whole site to bring it to life The Pharmacy Set Drawing - The Crimson Field My pharmacy design sketch detailing how the interior of the pharmacy would look The pharmacy under construction - The Crimson Field The construction of the pharmacy took three weeks, including painting the buildings The Pharmacy Dressing Plan - The Crimson Field The dressing plan detailed the location of the large furniture in the pharmacy The pharmacy set dressed with props - The Crimson Field Ready for filming: it took a week to fully stock the pharmacy with medical props Rosalie Berwick in The Pharmacy - The Crimson Field Marianne Oldham as Rosalie Berwick in the pharmacy

During my research, I noticed from photos of military hospital at Étaples that all the tents had been adapted to make them practical for hospital use.

Entrances and exits had been cut into the canvas wherever necessary, with a variety of wooden doors, storage areas and practical shelving added in.

So I joined three tents together to make a large L-shaped ward tent and imagined that the connecting corridors were storage areas and nurses stations.

The Ward Plan - The Crimson Field I planned the nurses' station to be connected to Ward 1 through a series of corridors Colour Illustration of the Ward - The Crimson Field My colour illustrations helped visualise the interior look and feel before construction Oona Chaplin on Set - The Crimson Field Oona Chaplin as Kitty Trevelyan on set in the ward The Quartermasters Store Plan - The Crimson Field This scaled drawing showed what the quartermasters store would look like from all sides The Quartermasters Store During Construction - The Crimson Field An old photograph inspired this rock feature and all of the stone was appropriated nearby The Quartermasters Store Set - The Crimson Field The quartermasters store set dressed with props and ready for filming The Quartermasters Store - The Crimson Field Captain Miles Hesketh-Thorne (Alex Wyndham) visits the quartermaster (Jeremy Swift)

Cristina Casali is the production designer for The Crimson Field.

The Crimson Field continues on Sunday, 13 April at 9pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. For further programme times please see the episode guide.

More on The Crimson Field
BBC One: The Crimson Field: Watch a set tour narrated by Cristina Casali
BBC Media Centre: The Crimson Field 
World War One At The BBC: More television and radio programmes 
BBC Writersroom: The Crimson Field: Interview with creator & writer Sarah Phelps

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC. 


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    Comment number 1.

    My Grand Mother was a nurse in WW1. She was studying opera singing at the Vienna opera House, and found out that the British prisoners of war were getting a hard time. Within weeks she was doing amputations, but caught mumps. there was an outbreak and she had to come home to be confronted by her mother for nursing German soldiers, there were Belgian, French, British and German soldiers there, nurses don't get a choice. My Grandmother replied that she wanted a Son but did not want a husband :). Out of the family she had to go. Marion Temple R.I.P.

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    Comment number 2.

    This is a moving series, ringing with authenticity and visually convincing.
    However, I wonder if the director/producer of this series feels that the dialogue is not essential to full enjoyment and appreciation of the stories?

    Over and over again, others watching the programme with me say "did you get (hear) what he\she was saying"? Surely, in spite of the emotion the actors display they should be encouraged to speak clearly enough for their words to be intelligible.

    This is not a question of hearing. Many actors voices are clearly understood whilst all the rest just mumble or whisper.

    I guess its too late to do anything about this production. Believe me, this is not the only programme which puts its audience at home at a disadvantage. It would be appreciated if those producing dramatic programmes in future could suggest the actors use their training in diction and projection to the grateful appreciation of the audience.


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    Comment number 3.

    I noticed that in tonight,s episode, the priest said"body of Christ" as he gave communion to one of the soldiers. I believe that this form of words was only introduced relatively recently and therefore was out of place in the First World War years. Is this correct?

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    Comment number 4.

    In last week's episode I was astounded to hear the noise of a distant helicopter when two characters were chatting in the woods just short of the hospital area. The set must have been near a military airfield?

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    Comment number 5.

    Yes, that's correct. The tridentine mass(mass in Latin) was used from 1570 to 1962. I have watched the first three episodes of this but won't bother with anymore. There's an awful lot of staring into space and clean aprons and a woeful lack of patients and work.Would recommend Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally for an in depth view of field hospitals in WW1.


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