Secret Army: Why You’ll Want To Join The Resistance

One of the greatest ever British dramas is returning to our screens. Here’s what you need to know.

Secret Army

WHAT IS SECRET ARMY?

This is the story of World War Two, but it's not about the soldiers on the front lines. The sprawling series, filled with revelations and intrigue, is about the secret operatives who hide in plain sight, mingling with the Nazis even as they plot their crucial acts of rebellion. The series focuses on one particular group of resistance fighters, based in Belgium, who must do whatever it takes to save any Allied airmen stranded in Europe. These airmen have survived being shot down during bombing raids against the Germans, and now put their lives in the hands of the resistance agents who feed them, clothe them, hide them, and - ultimately - smuggle them back to Britain. Easier said than done...

Secret Army

Watch Secret Army Saturdays from 1pm.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS

The first focus of Secret Army is Lisa Colbert, a woman of stupendous bravery. By day she holds down a regular job in Brussels, but she moonlights as something altogether more dangerous: a resistance agent who runs Lifeline, which is the organization sheltering and shepherding the Allied airmen. She's helped by the other leading figure of the series, Albert Foiret, who is on the surface just a humble café owner. Their various plans are pitted against the opposing force of Nazis - from Luftwaffe officers to Gestapo agents - who know about Lifeline and are determined to hunt them down. This isn't just about the business of war, though - the series pays equal attention to the personal sides of heroes and villains alike, with illicit romances and personal rivalries adding to the richness of the saga.

MAKING A CLASSIC

Secret Army has a seriously prestigious pedigree. One of its creators was Gerard Glaister, who also helped bring us the iconic POW drama series Colditz. Glaister himself wasn't simply a war buff - he was a highly decorated veteran who flew more than 100 dangerous, low-level reconnaissance missions during World War Two. The story goes that Glaister pitched the idea for Secret Army to a BBC bigwig while they were sharing a lift, and got the go-ahead by the time the lift arrived at the floor. Impressively, Glaister succeeded in landing filming locations in Belgium itself, which helps give Secret Army its thrilling realism.

THE REAL SECRET ARMY

The events in Secret Army closely mirror real events. The real Lifeline was known as the Comet Line, which really did save the lives of hundreds of airmen stuck in Belgium and France. Not only that, but there was a real-life equivalent of Lisa Colbert. Her name was Andrée de Jongh, who was in her mid-20s when she created the Comet Line and started working with British intelligence. She was described as "one of our greatest agents" and personally escorted more than 100 airmen across the Pyrenees.

A VERY FAMOUS PARODY

In a strange turn of events, Secret Army spawned a spoof version which ended up being more famous than Secret Army itself. If the concept of a continental café owner embroiled in resistance activities involving unsuspecting Germans, stranded airmen and naughty affairs sounds familiar, then we can confirm that yes - Allo Allo was indeed directly inspired by Secret Army, essentially taking the same set-up but playing it all for laughs. Even the finer details of various sub-plots - such as having a lady laid up in bed, and a pianist who's a forger, and shenanigans involving paintings - were replicated in the comedy. On top of that, several actors from Secret Army even turned up in Allo Allo.