Private Peaceful on the radio


Listen to:

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo dramatised by Simon Reade with music by Coope Boyes and Simpson.

Saturday 4th Feb, 14:30 on BBC Radio 4

In the First World War over 300 British and Commonwealth soldiers were executed by firing squad, some for desertion and cowardice. Some for simply sleeping at their posts. Many of these men were traumatised by shell-shock. Not until some 90 years later did they receive posthumous pardons from the British Government, after a campaign helped in part by the publication of Michael Morpurgo’s novel Private Peaceful . The radio dramatisation will bring this story of injustice to an even wider audience.

Recorded on location in Iddesleigh – the Devon village where the book is set with Michael Morpurgo playing the Vicar and Nicholas Lyndhurst Seargent Hanley.

YOUNG TOMMO Ted Allpress

YOUNG CHARLIE Harvey Allpress


YOUNG JIMMY Daniel Houghton

TOMMO Paul Chequer

CHARLIE Mark Quartley

MOLLY Annette Chown

JIMMY Ben Allen

HAZEL/ANNA Alison Reid




VICAR Michael Morpurgo

TOMMO Paul Chequer

CHARLIE Mark Quartley

SERGEANT HANLEY Nicholas Lyndhurst

JIMMY Ben Allen



The Organist was Marjorie Cleverdon.

Private Peaceful opens with a ticking clock: the precious watch that Tommo’s brother, Charlie, has given him in battle. Tommo holds it to his ear to listen for the tick, through the night, as he awaits the dawn. Tommo, whilst waiting his brother’s fate, decides to relive his life growing up in rural Devon: his first days at school, the death of his Father, his unrequited love for Molly, the circumstances that lead him to volunteer to fight in the Trenches. His world immediately comes to fully-dramatised life, in a large-cast, action-packed adventure story.

Like the book, the radio drama falls into two clear parts – the earlier childhood of the brothers in Devon and the later move to the Front line. The narrative is threaded through with the inner thoughts of Tommo which will at times contrast with the dramatised scenes around them .

The rich soundscape of Devon before the Great War – when the buzz of an aeroplane would be a first: terrifying and exhilarating, like the drone of a thousand bees – is juxtaposed with the crump of artillery and the leer of the cackling machine-guns as the soldiers tramp through the sludge to the Front Line. A night patrol to capture a German soldier across no-man’s-land from the enemy trenches, will be intense, agonising, breath-taking. The child’s-eye-view of the world of adult authority – the feudal land-owner, the school master, the army Sergeant, God – is heard through the unbroken voices of the young boys and their counterpart broken voices as they are rapidly thrust into manhood.
Private Peaceful will be available as a podcast to download in full 5.1 surroundsound.

Private Peaceful moves from happiness and joy to human catastrophe in an inkling. The characters endure extraordinary psychological journeys in an unflinching portrayal of emotional truth. This, combined with characteristic exuberance and joie de vivre, is why dramatist Simon Reade is irresistibly drawn to dramatise the story. Private Peaceful’s story comes from a tiny yet universal world: divided by love, united by war, torn apart by injustice.

Directed on location by Susan Roberts.

Other Articles

Cause for Hope: Michael Morpurgo Speaks to Radio 4 about the Coronavirus Outbreak

“I have come to think of the virus as that monster from the ancient Norse legend of Beowulf, Grendel,” writes Michael Morpurgo. “He’s out there now, threatening my home, my village, my family and friends”. Michael talks about what it feels like to be hunkered down in his… Read More

Simon Ward Visits Farms for City Children

Filmed in North Devon, and following the course of the county’s waterways, Simon Ward’s collection of short films is a celebration of Devon’s stunning, diverse habitats – from the wild moors of Dartmoor, to the crashing surf of the coastline and out to the open water around Lundy’s shores. Journey… Read More

‘Toto’ Comes to the Screen!

A brand new musical film based on Michael Morpurgo and Emma Chichester-Clark’s Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz is coming to screens! Presented from the perspective of Dorothy’s iconic dog Toto, who joins the Kansas youngster as she’s whisked away to the magical land of Oz. Read More