The Machine Gunners was a six-part television series based upon the book of the same name by Robert Westall.

It tells the story of six children during the second world war after one of them finds a crashed German plane (complete with dead pilot) and takes the machine gun as a souvenir, and then as they build a fort in the garden of another child (to help the fight against the Germans – or Jarmans as they are colloquially known in the local lingo of north eastern England where this is set) and end up keeping an injured German officer prisoner inside the fortress (well as much as a bunch of kids can keep a grown man prisoner anyway – even though they do have a gun).

The show was broadcast in early 1983 on the BBC and I remember watching it at the time and it was nice to watch it again exactly thirty years after I originally saw it.

I thought that it was a very well made piece of television drama, firmly set in its time period with lots of detail and realistic shots of aerial battles between Spitfire’s and Messerschmitt’s and Heinkel’s, and also the misery and trauma caused by these events on the people at the time which was not shied away from considering that it was based on a children’s book.

The acting from all of the children involved I thought was very good and they all seemed to quite natural (which is not often the case with child actors) but here they seemed to get it right with the child actors cast in this show, Shaun Taylor as the lead character, Chas McGill, being particularly good in this show and very believable as a young lad in those times, doing the sort of stuff that all boys are wont to do, which is whatever they want despite how dangerous it might end up being.

The show has never been released on DVD to my knowledge but can be seen on YouTube, which is where I found it. It is well worth a look at.

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