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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Land Girls: introduction

Christine Bottomley, Jo Woodcock, Summer Strallen and Becci Gemmell in Land Girls

BBC One Daytime commemorates the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War with a new, five-part, all-star period drama – Land Girls.

The stellar cast line-up includes Nathaniel Parker (The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Bleak House), Christine Bottomley (Hope Springs, Massive, Early Doors), Sophie Ward (Holby City), Summer Strallen (Hollyoaks), Mark Benton (The Street), Danny Webb (Our Friends In The North), Jo Woodcock (Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, All The Small Things) and Becci Gemmell (Home Time).

The drama follows the lives and loves of four girls away from home, striving to do their bit for Britain in the Women's Land Army (WLA) while trying to come to terms with the fact that their lives may never be the same again.

Created by Roland Moore, Land Girls follows the girls as they adapt to their new surroundings, and knuckle down to some hard work – and play.

Against the backdrop of war-weary Forties Britain, Land Girls is set on the Hoxley Estate, as the girls balance their working lives at the run-down Pasture Farm and the opulent Hoxley Manor.

Nancy, Joyce, Bea and Annie have all joined the WLA for very different reasons, but they all have one common goal – to serve their country and help win the war.

The drama follows the women as they try to live out their lives in very challenging circumstances, with lots of laughter and tears along the way.

Liam Keelan, Controller, BBC Daytime, says: "Land Girls is a warm and vibrant drama celebrating the unsung heroes from the Second World War, and we're delighted to have secured this talented cast to realise the story.

"This drama comes after the recent success of Moving On and Missing, and the continuing success of Doctors. Land Girls is produced by the same team that makes Doctors, and is BBC Daytime's first commission of a period drama."

The series will be stripped across one week as a one-off special event and Liam adds: "We hope to pay tribute, not only to the many lives that were lost in the Second World War, but also to the land girls who played such an important role on the Home Front. We hope it will be seen by as wide an audience as possible."

Series creator Roland Moore says: "As with any historical fiction, there was a need to balance factual accuracy and respect for the subject matter with telling a good story.

"Although the girls' dramatic journeys are fictitious, I read enough first-hand accounts of land girls' experiences to know that the stories are believable and 'of the time'. It was really important to me and everyone else on the production that we respected the memory of those amazing women."

He adds: "In addition to throwing an overdue spotlight on the land girls themselves, the series also sheds light on other less well-known aspects of the Home Front – the segregation of black and white American troops; the use of prisoners of war as farm labourers; the dispossessed people bombed out of their homes and drifting through the country looking for food and work; the internment of Italian nationals; the treatment of conscientious objectors; and the hunt for Nazi sympathisers."

Annie, played by Christine Bottomley, is the oldest in her family, and has always been the responsible one. The other girls naturally turn to her as they try to survive the day-to-day trials and tribulations of the WLA. Annie feels as though she herself has no one to turn to and quietly tries to deal with her own personal problems from which she feels she has no escape.

Summer Strallen plays Nancy, a cosseted rich girl conscripted into the WLA against her will, who desperately misses her family home comforts and would much rather be out having fun.

Jo Woodcock plays Bea, Annie's little sister. Bea has lied about her age to sign up for the land girls and join her big sister on her adventure. Unfortunately her innocence will land her in hot water.

Becci Gemmell is Joyce, a happily married woman who is fiercely patriotic and eternally optimistic. But Joyce knows the true cost of war as she has already lost her family in a bombing and she's terrified of losing her husband as he's just about to finish his RAF training and be posted on his first mission.

Sophie Ward plays Lady Ellen Hoxley, the Lady of the Manor. She busies herself organising the girls and trying to rally funds for the war, while maintaining the facade of a happy marriage. The arrival of one particular land girl will change her life forever.

Lord Lawrence Hoxley, played by Nathaniel Parker, is a celebrated hero from the First World War, with a dark secret of his own. Totally trapped in his role as Lord of the Manor, he finds that life can be unpredictable in wartime.

Land Girls is accompanied in BBC Daytime by The Week We Went to War, presented by world renowned singer Katherine Jenkins, who is well known for her charitable work with British troops.

Each weekday morning the programme celebrates the everyday heroes on the Home Front, from families who took in evacuees, to ordinary people who ran into bombed buildings to save their neighbours.

Katherine is joined in the studio by her special guest Michael Aspel talking about his own experience as an evacuee, and BBC antiques expert Tim Wonnacott looks at the everyday wartime items which have become today's collectables.

Until now, many of the incredible stories of everyday heroism that took place in British communities have remained untold. The Week We Went To War seeks to uncover these remarkably little-known tales throughout the week.

BBC Learning will be supporting the season with a project aimed at school children aged seven to 12 throughout the UK.

The project will provide online resources available for teachers to download to teach pupils about the era, not just focussing on Britain, but also recognising and remembering the sacrifices made in India, Bangladesh and the West Indies. The resource packs will centre on teaching the children to carry out effective interviews, and teachers will be able to invite local war veterans into school to be interviewed.

If pupils wish to do so, they will be able to upload to the BBC Memoryshare site at

The BBC Archive will release a new online collection exploring the outbreak of the Second World War featuring radio recordings and documents from the period.

Key broadcasts, including Chamberlain's declaration of war itself, will sit alongside documents and memos that reveal how the BBC helped the UK population prepare for life in wartime and cope with the quiet early months, later dubbed the Phoney War.

The new collection will be released on Wednesday 26 August and forms part of the permanent BBC Archive resource which the BBC has made available to UK audiences. For more information, visit

BBC Local Radio, BBC Local websites and regional TV news programmes will also be commemorating the anniversary, reflecting local stories and memories from the time.

The focus will be on encouraging those with experiences and mementos of the period to share them with younger members of their family and the wider community.

Land Girls is a five-part (5 x 45-minutes) in-house drama production for BBC Daytime filmed in and around Birmingham and commissioned by Liam Keelan.

The executive producers are Will Trotter and John Yorke and the producer is Erika Hossington.

Land Girls will be broadcast on BBC One and BBC HD and there will be a second chance to see the whole series on BBC One on Sundays and on BBC iPlayer.


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