The Last Post

A close up view of army life set in the heat, glamour and extreme danger of Aden in the 1960s

Ben Miles is Major Harry Markham

The authority with which Peter Moffat writes the non-fiction side is very reassuring, because he himself was a young boy in Aden and his father was a Royal Military Policeman, but he’s also very adept at writing human characters.Ben Miles
Date: 19.09.2017     Last updated: 19.09.2017 at 10.00
Category: BBC One; Drama

Your character, Major Harry Markham, is struggling to uphold establishment values within a changing world; do you feel he has to subjugate his own needs to the greater order?

Harry is a very traditional man and the benevolent power of the British Empire has been drilled into him his entire life. He genuinely believes in its civilising influence. But in 1965 in Southern Arabia, one of the last remaining outposts of a diminishing empire, these ideals were really being challenged.

Do you get a sense that Markham struggles to explain how he feels?

As a Commanding Officer he has to maintain this constant order and level of efficiency and lack of emotional engagement, whilst being completely aware of the emotions his men are going through… and of course not talk about it. There is a certain lack of emotional vocabulary to discuss feelings, combined with his desire to not appear weak or unsure.

How does Markham cope with finding himself at a time when Aden suddenly is at a tipping point, where the political situation quickly becomes very intense and dangerous?

The question for Markham is whether he can hold onto those values, and at what point he will be prepared to turn away from them and employ means he wouldn’t ordinarily use to achieve certain ends. Both his sense of decency and his moral framework are very fundamentally challenged in the show.

Markham experiences a dramatic collision between his personal and professional worlds. Do you see The Last Post as a psychological drama as well as a political/military drama?

The authority with which Peter Moffat writes the non-fiction side is very reassuring, because he himself was a young boy in Aden and his father was a Royal Military Policeman, but he’s also very adept at writing human characters. He has such great empathy for so many different viewpoints and attitudes that you end up with a drama full of well-rounded characters.

How has it been for you to play this role?

It’s an interesting challenge to portray this character who tries to maintain order, trust, respect amongst his men, tries to live a family life as a father and a husband, tries to uphold and maintain a sense of Britishness in a country that is hostile to his presence. He has a lot of plates spinning.

Do you see any contemporary parallels?

Oh yes. There was the struggle for national autonomy that we are still seeing today in the Middle East. And this was a time of great change, for the whole word. We were entering a very different age, with America in Vietnam and the emergence of the swinging Sixties counterculture, and yet there was still great conservatism and a great desire to hang on to the dominance and values of Britain.