Upstairs Downstairs Series 4

  • Series Title:  Upstairs Downstairs
  • Season: Series 4 (Season 4)
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  4
  • Cast:  Gordon Jackson, Jean Marsh, Angela Baddeley, David Langton, Simon Williams, Christopher Beeny, Jenny Tomasin, Lesley-Anne Down, Meg Wynn Owen, Jacqueline Tong
  • Network:  ITV (UK) – Granada

Series Four of Upstairs Downstairs covers the First World War – the entire war. The season starts where the previous season at left off, in 1914, as the UK has declared war on Germany. James, who hadn’t adjusted well to leaving the army and working in the city the previous season, has already re-joined the army before war is even declared. Everyone is enthusiastic and happy, waving flags, singing patriotic British songs, and thinking the war will be over in six months. Young men rush to join up so they, “don’t miss it”.

This season of Upstairs Downstairs cleverly covers as many aspects of World War I as they can. Hudson, ever patriotic and distrusting of “foreigners” – becomes even more prejudiced, and subscribes to propaganda magazines. When Hazel, James’s wife, finds out – she’s livid and reads him the riot act. Hudson also attempts to join up several times and is rejected for his age (only 35) and “ill health” (he wears reading glasses). He, then, instead becomes a “special constable”, basically, special police. In a very strong episode, Mrs. Bridges is getting bread from a local bakery she’s used for years. The man who owns the bakery is second-generation German and a British citizen, but speaks with a German accent, as does his wife. While Hudson and the constables are protecting some building that doesn’t need protecting, a gang of “patriotic” British people, attack, vandalize, and burn down the German’s bakery. He shows up at Eaton Place with his family, including young children. The servants try to help, but in the end the baker’s wife is upset (understandably) at what happened, and even the normally happy-go-lucky baker is angry at Hudson, because he felt that the special constables should have protected his store. And remember, he may have German roots – but he’s a loyal British citizen.

Meanwhile, Ruby, the somewhat dim kitchen-maid, quits her job in service and gets a job working in a munitions plant, where she can make more money – and do her own patriotic duty (Ruby explains, “They say any woman who goes out to work is doing the same duty as a man who goes to war because it frees the man to join up instead of work.” She’s quoting a newspaper.) Ruby is absent from several episodes, but finally returns when her plant is blown-up in a zeppelin raid. Ruby gets re-hired as kitchen maid. However, in another episode when a bomb explodes very near Eaton Place, damaging the windows and the drawing room, Ruby becomes quite hysterical – obviously flashing back to being in a building that was bombed.

Daisy and Edward, marry, and then Edward goes off to war. He is injured and invalided home, suffering from severe shell shock (PTSD). He’s sent back again, but survives, and is eventually given an honorable discharge. At the end of the season, they both give notice and decide to make their own way in the world.

Meanwhile, though Daisy had talked of getting a part-time job (in addition to her duties as maid) as a omnibus “conductorette”, it’s Rose who actually does it – even though when Daisy had discussed the idea, Rose pooh-poohed her. Rose continues to work at Eaton Place, and does part-time shifts as “conductorette”. (Similar to Hudson, who works both as butler and as special constable.) She runs into her once-intended Australian, Gregory, again. He’s in the Anzac’s (Australia and New Zealand corps). Running into him again, Rose realises that she made a mistake in giving him up. They get engaged again, with plans to marry after the war. Naturally, he’s killed. However, in the last episode of the season, Rose discovers she’s inherited a large amount of money from Gregory.

Georgina quickly joins up to be a nurse in London, and even though she has a few missteps, the sister in charge sees something in her and asks if she’d be willing to go to France as a nurse. Georgina had always wanted to be a real nurse helping soldiers – not merely changing sheets, and helping women in the local hospital, so she readily agrees. She turns out to be a extremely successful nurse.

James comes home on leave and complains about, well, just about everything. Hazel then uses her influence to get him posted to a safer post in the behind-the-lines officers station. James is not pleased about this. Hazel, trying to please him, then has him transferred back to the front. Eventually, James is reported missing presumed dead. However, he turns up in Georgina’s hospital, severely wounded and in shock. Hazel decides he should recover at home, and hires a private ambulance and nurse to bring him back to England. Both James and MP Richard Bellamy don’t approve, pretty much for the same reason – they don’t want to unfairly use their influence for personal reasons. Hazel gets what she wants. James does recover at home, but becomes increasingly sullen, depressed, and begins to show signs of shell shock, himself.

Richard Bellamy meets a war widow, Virginia Hamilton, and despite the two not liking each other at all at first – they fall in love and marry towards the end of the season. Virginia has two children from her first marriage. She had three, but her oldest son is killed in the war. Richard is also elevated to the Peerage and made a Lord. This is both an honor, and a way of kicking him out of Conservative Politics (as a Lord, he has the right to sit in the House of Lords – therefore he can no longer be an MP). Richard, though elected as a Tory (Conservative Party) through the influence of his wife’s family, had often held more middle-of-the-road and Liberal (as in the British Liberal Party) views, and had “crossed the line” when voting to follow his conscience. Needless to say, in earlier seasons of the show, his wife, her family, and even his lawyer did not approve. (Among Mr. Bellamy’s “liberal” stances – supporting universal free education, and Home Rule for Ireland. The Conservative response was, and I quote the show, “What do the poor need education for? All it will do it teach them what they don’t have.” What stuck-up nonsense.)

Series Four moves through the years of the war – dealing with a number of issues: shortages, hoarding, rationing, women working outside the home (many for the first time; others servants who found a way to make more money), zeppelin raids, bombings in London, men coming home physically disabled, men dying, soldiers with shell shock (which was an old term for what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and even women developing the same (Ruby is also clearly suffering from PTSD after being caught in a factory that was bombed). It also shows the subtle changes in attitude from 1914 when everyone was gung-ho and happy, to 1917 and even early 1918 when people felt like they were losing.

The armistice finally comes in November of 1918, and in the final episode of the season. However, Eaton Place is still not free from tragedy, as Hazel succumbs to Spanish Flu.

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