mon 26/02/2024

The Last Post, BBC One review - sundown on the Empire | reviews, news & interviews

The Last Post, BBC One review - sundown on the Empire

The Last Post, BBC One review - sundown on the Empire

Lust and bloodshed on the Arabian Peninsula

A change of gear for Jessica Raine as Alison Laithwaite

Peter Moffat, author of Silk and The Village, has turned his sights on the last days of Empire for his latest series. Specifically, Moffat has mined his own memories of growing up in a British Army family in Aden in the 1960s, where his father was in the Military Police.

The story begins as Captain Nick Page (Joseph Kennedy) is about to leave Aden (an unprepossessing but strategically significant port in what is now Yemen), to be replaced by the young and untried Captain Joe Martin (Jeremy Neumark Jones, pictured below with Jessie Buckley). Behind him, Page leaves a garrison accustomed to broiling in the ferocious desert sun, an escalating terrorist insurgency which will eventually prompt the British to pull out of Aden altogether, and the distraught Alison Laithwaite (Jessica Raine), the married woman with whom he has been having an affair. I nearly said “torrid affair”, but in these latitudes there isn’t really any other kind.

The love-in-a-hot-climate theme, set against a backdrop of dirty politics and physical violence, is quite a popular one and has given us the likes of Casablanca, The Quiet American and The Year of Living Dangerously. Whether The Last Post will surpass any of those doesn’t seem very likely, but this first episode introduced some solidly-drawn characters and successfully evoked a claustrophobic mixture of tedium and intermittent terror which felt like an accurate approximation of what the real-life characters might have experienced.

The Last Post was shot in South Africa, but its sandy wastes and dazzling blue sea serve well enough as the Arabian Gulf, while the montage of newsreel film in the opening credits successfully evoked the period. The props department had gone into overdrive to decorate the Aden airfield with some Lightning fighters, a VC10 airliner in BOAC livery, and a Vulcan bomber flying overhead.

That probably blew most of the budget (which is possibly why the later scene where a British officer was blown up in his Land Rover by terrorists was done off camera), but nonetheless the sense of a closed community operating under military rules in an alien landscape was effectively conveyed. Ben Miles (pictured below), his brow permanently furrowed, plays Military Police commander Major Harry Markham, a rigidly Queen-and-country officer who probably memorised the Army regulations in his pram. However, it’s now the mid-1960s, Aden represents the end of an Imperial era, and you don’t need Bob Dylan to explain that the times are changing.

Raine’s performance as Mrs Laithwaite is the revelation of the piece. Freed at last from Tudor bodices and that midwife’s uniform, Raine energetically seizes the role of bored, frustrated Army wife, washing it down with copious quantities of daytime gin and flouncing around her cell-like married quarters as though auditioning as a Tennessee Williams heroine. The way she hung her underwear out on her rooftop washing line, under the gaze of the garrison below, would have prompted mass cardiac arrests at Nonnatus House.You have to feel some sympathy with her cuckolded husband, Lieutenant Ed Laithwaite (the suddenly omnipresent Stephen Campbell Moore), who has been passed over for promotion and knows his marriage is on a disintegrating wicket, but sticks doggedly to his military duties. Quite important they are too, since he’s involved in gathering intelligence about local terrorist activity. Where the Army’s undercover spooks try to intimidate Arab prisoners with what the CIA would call “enhanced interrogation”, Ed has had the brilliant idea of winning prisoners’ confidence by speaking to them in a confidential manner, and has already unearthed a significant arms cache which was about to be used against the Brits. However, the authoritarian Major Markham will have none of this softly-softly nonsense and has ordered him to cease and desist.

It remains to be seen how Moffat handles the balance between soap-opera and counter-insurgency, and the behaviour of the characters both in and out of uniform. But it promises to be entertaining at least, and given some extra resonance by its historical context.

Raine energetically seizes the role of bored, frustrated Army wife


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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I cannot adequately describe my utter contempt for this travesty of a drama. The existence of such a rag tag and bobtail unit of Royal Military Police was without doubt the most ludicrous part of this programme, The military structures and the relationships between officers and men was so poorly depicted I had to view between my fingers. The two military advisors seemed to have forgotten to research the period to any depth and the wardrobe dept really do need to get their act together with the uniforms. The cringe factor was so high that I will find it easy not to watch this terrible programme again.

You need to read to get an understanding on how the TV and film industry work before making such uneducated comments about the role of an advisor

An unfortunate response from an educated 'military advisor' denigrating the ignorant riff raff. I was in Aden 1964 1966, it was a tragic 'under the carpet' ending to our colonial days - the most ignominous of retreats, there was no handing over ceremony, I was looking forward to this but not a good start..... might develop positively.? It has no feel of Aden, Granite does not replace razor sharp punice, crags and much tooo much vegetation - Jordan might have been a better location than SA. People were burnt black by the sun not a pale coffee. Don't understand the trip through the village to the airport - Kormaksar was just next to the causeway outside Big Aden. Never mind, will wait and see, great to have the focus on a forgotten world where I saw a graveyard in silent valley filled up with soldiers in 18 months and the UK looked the other way.

Have you not taken in the fact that I don't give a flying toss about making TV dramas and at least know what life was really like in the circumstances dramatised. Do you?

The story line of The Last Post is good but I lived in Aden in 1965 & there were so many errors. Everyone (except new arrivals) were very tanned, the men often had sweat stains down the back of their uniform due to the humidity, the guy who walked back to base would have been burnt to a crisp & the new wife would not have worn a suit as it would have been far too hot.Stepping off the plane in Aden was like opening an oven door. Fitted shift dresses were not worn as they would have caused prickly heat rash. Disappointing....not enough attention to detail.

To be fair, hadn’t the new wife’s luggage failed to arrive? The CO’s wife later offered to lend her some clothes .

She would have at least have taken her jacket off. (A blouse would almost certainly have been worn beneath). Though I agree that in those days people did tend to travel in their Sunday best.(I was there 58-60 and 64-66 and some of the errors are ludicrous. There were no pitched roofs with chimneys, grass verges or scrubland. It was mostly just rocks and sand except where cultivated. However we must remember that this is a drama and not a documentary and I await the next episode with interest.

Escgood but forvthe glaring errors ... my main is the Vc 10 in BOAC markings .... as I spent many a happy year working as crew on Vc10 I was surprised too see a flight refuelling probe on the front why did you not use the BOAC Vc 10 at duxford all ready the right markings and ready to go..

Far too many inaccuracies and errors of details to make this anything other than disappointing to someone who lived there at the time.

as a former WO1 I was also appalled at the inaccuracies of the drama: the landrovers were spotless throiughout the drill when the sgt brought the detatchment to attention was laughable when the corporal went to collect the new Captain he was driving a short wheelbase land rover when they arrived in the camp he was driving a long wheelbase. the interaction and type of banter between officers and other ranks would have been unheard of. Terrible drama

I served under Capt. Moffatt in Aden. For goodness sake at least get the uniforms right! These guys look like something outbof a Carry-On film. Shoddy research on the part of the BBC.

I just watched "The Last Post" on Amazon US, and having only cursory knowledge of Britain in Aden in the mid-1960s but a solid interest in post-war British military equipment, I was surprised to see how sloppy the RMP uniforms were, especially the officer's kit. Only LT Martin knew how to wear his Sam Browne belt properly, and the blanco on the enlisted men's kit was almost missing. MAJ Martin's off-center RMP cap badge was driving me crazy as I watched what I thought was otherwise a very good TV production about a period that doesn't get much attention. I'm glad several Army veterans who actually served in Aden in the mid-60s have written their comments about the show, and the dearth of proper instruction from the production's military advisors. The Beeb should hire you fine gentlemen instead. I'm a Yank, and even I saw problems with the presentation. I'll give some latitude about set selection and finding working 1960s Series II Land Rovers in South Africa, but the uniforms are an easy one to get right. Almost, BBC, almost right--do better in Season 2.

Aside from the swearing child (??) ... A painfully slow and starkly empty first episode - extraordinarily bad casting choices, military inaccuracies galore and p*ss poor over acting featuring a script that has no thread to hold a plot together never-mind a cast that has zero cohesion or chemistry. I reference particularly what can only be described as the very overweight Scots guy with a Mohican and tattoos (????!) as a prime example of all of what fails The Last Post. Whoever was responsible for casting him should hand back their cheque together with the 'military advisor' responsible for this catastrophe. Credibility is not helped either by featuring a commanding officer that looks about 12??? One word - disaster. How can any actor worth his salt ( assuming any respect for his profession/ craft) not even attempt to lose weight to portray military personnel?? If you have a thing for blubber flapping about in the searing heat and wind then that is about the only thing that is 'unmissable' in The Last Post! (The Telegraph review is also an objective overview. Dear me.... what a spectacular fail for the BBC. #consignedtothebin) If this had been commissioned by ITV Drama ( ahem, it would have been consigned to the cutting room floor??!) however, the 'losses' that this flop of a series is likely to make/be could have at least been partially recompensed/recouped by Weight Watchers clambering to sponsor the TV Idents! :P )

This series does nothing to reflect any military unit on active service in 1965. Occasionally some of the 'service' arms were irresponsible and that led to casualties but it was rare, in my experience. this episode was packed with inaccuracies from dress code through to how officers address each other, and disciplines. The RMP should be very upset with this series, as it puts them in a particularly bad light, unfairly, and is a slur on those who served in Middle East Command. I speak with some knowledge having served two tours in Aden in the sixties, with a professional unit, unaccompanied.

Hi Max, gutted to hear I'm duff casting. Pretty rough. If you watch the series to the end I lose weight during the show. I felt like the people in Aden were unprepared for the insurgency when it happened but that they got leaner and more front footed (some say the Argyls were too front footed) as it happened. Mil uniforms had to be different. We did not have concent to use real badges etc so everything had to be asessed as at least 35% different. The inverted flag may be a mistake, though we did spend a day re-shooting an entire mess scene because the flag was not right so its more likely to be another statement. Hope you watch further and see that we thought about the above.

Painful answerI'm afraid - I fear the barrage of contempt from RMP veterans as well as the absent soldiers who are todays Aden Veterans Association members.

For me, I've got no problem with the actors or their acting. And if you are who you say you are, you're not 'duff casting' in my view. The issues regarding realism lie elsewhere: Native American haircuts, SMGs carried stocks folded and used like props on Star Wars, an SAS unit massacred to a man because unable, apparently, to comprehend the 'advantages of not being seen' and, above all, the inescapable dread that the BEEB will NEVER let reality get in the way of its leftist ideology - hence that snide little insertion at the start where the Queen refers to Aden as a worthy example of colonial rule. And as for that fundamentalist murderer in the cell just wanting his country back in exchange for the CO's child (quite a good deal actually), that wasn't what the fight in Aden was about any more than it was in Malaya, but that's historical revisionism at the BEEB for you. For me, the actors, yourself included, made the recent episodes bearable. But given the BBC's track record, one can't help feeling that the incompetence demonstrated by the British Army in the action scenes was a calculated slur. It must never be forgotten that in Aden, the British soldier was up against a treacherous and fanatically determined foe: I refer, of course, to the British Labour government of the day and I look forward to seeing Harold and Dennis tellingly depicted in the coming episodes.

I served in Aden (Radfan camp) in 1965. We did internal security and fought on the borders ... Can't say I recall seeing any MPs outside of the air base!! Last Post what a load of crap.

Was more of a Xmas Panto, Aden was nothing like that i can as sure the writer., Jessica Raine would be better to have stuck with call the midwife, this just doesn't suit her character. too weak, turned off half way through. sorry not my cup of tea > BBC Drama

Our sentiments exactly, as for the drama waste of a Sunday evening, the last post verdict- don't call us we'll call you, reminds me a lot of the comedy Hi -De- Hi.

the worst BBC tv drama for Sunday viewing ever, waste of tv licence payers for this kind of force entertainment which proved to be inaccurate for that era in Aden. The 2 actresses mainly J.Raine and the other softy should not give up their day job & return to their normal job behind a counter. The last episode was dreadful enough for us to switch off for the duration, worst episode of the lot. BBC please update your choice of drams for the weekend viewing but not this type of crap thankyou very much. Certainly we were Not Amused.

What a load of old rubbish. I served in Aden between 1964 and 1965. I don't remember seeing many RMP? They certainly were not around on any patrols that I took part in. The advisors that researched this programme need to take a closer look at how things were. The Land Rover vehicles are not the military versions. The colour should be Buff not pink. One common thing that we all shared was that we didn't have an ounce of fat left on us. Please BBC back to the cutting room.

Yes mate i know exactly where you are coming from, i agree

I worked for BOAC Associated Companies in the early 60s and Aden Airways was one of those companies. I'm surprised that BOAC was shown on the airport building. Surely it would have been Aden Airways - perhaps you might remember having lived there,

One issue that seems to be overlooked is that the article states, " Moffat has mined his own memories of growing up in a British Army family in Aden in the 1960s, where his father was in the Military Police." His memories would been of playing at home as a toddler if that, in the mid-sixties so where he came up with his storylines is a mystery; certainly not his own experiences!.

I commented on this utterly unrealistic travesty of a drama. It is so full of inaccuracies from the major ( the use of Military Police during the Aden emergency) to the trivial ( for some) uniform and military discipline issues with the portrayal of the rank structure and manner in which discipline would apply not only to soldiers but also their families. It's no wonder the young of today confuse drama with history when tripe this this programme is almost presented as "fact". I never saw a member of the Royal Military Police in other than an immaculate standard or dress EVEN in the middle of a desert. The cap badge was an utterly ludicrous fake the apparent "close relationship" between officers and men in the 1960's was not one where a Captain would be sitting with a sergeant playing cards while stripped to the waist! Where was the rest of the British Army while our gallant Military Policemen were fighting the insurgents all on their own? There would have been a Provost Company under the command of a more senior officer and there would have been entirely separate "messing" arrangements for Officers, Senior NCO's and WO's and Junior ranks ( Corporals and Lance Corporals in the RMP). I need a G&T after this rant so I will say no more!

I'm interested to read all the above comments. Not having served in the army I cannot comment on these aspects although I certainly agree that the relationships between officers and men did not ring true. My overriding problem is with the overly styled look of the film. Everything but everything is either blue or orange! Even the red-caps were manipulated in certain scenes. For me it began to look ludicrous. Even the plastic containers in the village were colour coordinated to match the rest of the sets and decor. Completely ludicrous. The director was obviously far more interested in the look of the film than in making a programme that dealt with the actual events.

I too thought it daft if predictable. British incompetent and deluded, natives noble cunning freedom fighters, does the beeb make anything else? On inaccuracies I would add a married quarters vulnerable to snipers fully lit at night, corporal nearly gets his head shot off and doesn't tell anyone, another corporal missing in bandit country (that would be on the road to the airport) and nobody bothers to look for him. By the way was the Aden campaign fought solely by the military police by the way? The rest of the army and Raf were presumably guarding Buck house.

An absolute 'load of junk' and does great disservice to anyone who served in Aden in the 60's. I was there in 1961, a bit earlier than set in this farce, but I endorse most of the points and comments raised in previous comments I add a few unforgivable scene (scenery) mistakes:- (1) I never saw any accommodation room in Aden without a ceiling fan fitted. Not one shown in first two episodes (either full on or stopped.) (2) Not one sweaty armpits which Khaki Drill (KD) shirts in Aden always displayed, even in Winter. (3) No mention of Crater city; the most identifiable and unique area of Aden, where, incidentally, most 'trouble' occurred in the mid 60's. (4) Green areas of 'Bondu' just did not exist, the place is volcanic rock and sand. (4) Wooden packing cases were mostly used by the natives for living accommodation in Crater, not canvas and brick shelters. (5) An unlikely assortment of weapons displayed in the second episode. (6) The road from Khormaksar airfield, down Mala Straight to Steamer Point, was flanked by high rise concrete flats and street lights, even in 1961. The list goes on and on. The continuity was also rubbish, with troops wearing long trousers when seeking ''master outlaw' but climbed into Land Rovers at start of journey wearing shorts. Told route to terrorist hideout was only 7 miles (i.e.10 minutes max) but stopped at least twice on route and thus inviting attack. In summary; the most poorly researched drama I have ever seen on TV and an utter waste of money and time by the producer, who should go and educate himself about the history of life in Aden at the time and in particular life in the British military. There are many still alive who served in Aden at the time of this farce and would have been very willing to impart their knowledge to produce a fitting tribute.

Too true, whoever researched it had never been up the Dhala road either.

I appreciate it's a drama but some glaring mistakes in part 2 1 relationships between both officers and other ranks poorly portrayed 2 Numbers of RMP on garrison and field role exaggerated 3 gun sights down on 1 close up 4 Never seen berets/hats carried on shoulder epaulettes 5 Use of smgs whilst going into terrain requiring rifles. It is the sort of detail that detracts from storyline. Should have been corrected.

Come on all you military pedants, it's a Sunday night drama, meant to lightly entertain the masses. Stop blathering on about accuracy. After the Strictly Results we ordinary folk with boring little lives enjoy a bit of drama. Whether it was filmed in Yeman, South Africa or Stockton on Tees doesn't really matter to me (one of the above OF). I think the acting is great, the fashions invoke a smile from women of a certain age and the plot is beginning to thicken. So, yes, stop watching if the Land Rovers and badges/uniforms offend and go and read a good book.

Bedford RL in Aden not MKs

I concur with all the comments above, though having spent a short time in Aden in 1967 can see some elements of fact albeit twisted ie in Red Sea Hotel a Brit was shot at while on roof but luckily only hat damaged.....Acting is appalling -completely hammed up - and relationships between officers and soldiers bear no relation to reality.

Watched the first bit but couldn't continue. Unbelievably inaccurate portrayal of Aden. I was there (REME Attached, 3 Royal Anglian Regt) in Radfan Camp 66/67 so have firsthand knowledge.

I watched this series because I was born in Aden. My father was an NCO in the RAF. I was too young to have any real memories of Aden before we returned to the uk. I enjoyed the series and felt that some of the story lines were realistic. I know quite a lot about the role of the wives who accompanied their husbands as my mother talked about it a lot. There were certain 'expectations' and 'boundaries' that wives had to keep in mind. There were 'no go' areas for wives unless they had a male escort. That would have included the American journalist as well. A provocatively dressed woman (tight trousers and a revealing top) in a local souk or drinking place just would not have happened, and would not have been tolerated by the indigenous men in Aden. This would be my main criticism, there my be other points that were not completely accurate but I felt that the series was successful in giving an overall picture of what life was like from the perspective of a wife of a husband in the armed forces serving in a British protectorate.

I know this is just supposed to be a fictional drama, but: if you are going to make a series about the British Army, you MUST, MUST, MUST get the details right. And there were oh, so many excruciating errors and inaccuracies in The Last Post. As a former soldier I could not believe what a shower of shit the actors looked in their "uniforms", or the ridiculous depiction of officer-soldier (and officer-officer) relations. There were a lot of repeated comments about "dying for each other", but absolutely no sense of the discipline, order and esprit de corps that, I am sure, existed in the real RMP at the time. One decent military advisor could have improved the quality of the series' presentation enormously.


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