Testament of Youth (2014) Script

We used to swim here when we were children.

Hope Vera hasn't gone in yet.

Completely forgot about the rats.


Big nest of them, apparently.

We'll be all right in the shallows, but we shouldn't go...

Oh, no.



Get out of the water! Rats!

Vera! Vera!

Wait for me.


Victor. There's no rats in here.

You idiot!

So? What about you and Victor?

What about us? Come on.

He's sweet. Sweet?

All the attention's making you arrogant.

Stop it.

I'm a block of ice.


Come on. We should be getting back.

Do we have to?

Mother and father are expecting us. They're always expecting us.

They're driving me mad. Give them a chance, Vera, all right?

I mean it.

I'll try. Better had.

Come on, Vera!

...from rats!

I'm sorry, Victor. I expected a little panic.

I didn't expect a fully-fledged leap into the lake.

You knew about this. I knew father wanted you to have one.

You colluded with them. Vera, it's just a piano.

Vera, come and see your surprise.

Darling, I've been so dying to tell you, but... I just couldn't.

Mrs Ellinger was in on the secret and she's come to hear you play.

Perfect. She's an absolute beauty, so I'm told.

Well, come on, darling.

Give us a taste of what we can look forward to.

Oh, dear. Vera.

Vera, come back and apologise now.

If you can't show me the respect I deserve, then at least show some for our guests.

I don't want a piano.

You knew I didn't want one and still you bought it.

I won't be bullied by you.

Oh, I buy her the most expensive gift of her life, but no, I'm bullying.

Your father hoped you'd be happy, dear.

That piano could pay for a whole year at Oxford.

Oh, here we go.

And all this time you said you couldn't afford for me to go.

No, I can't afford to waste money... Oh, Arthur.

Vera, I... I didn't mean...

Vera, come back here, now!

I've thrown my work out.

You can take it to your paper factory and pulp it for all I care.

Now, stop it. I'm simply concerned that you're turning yourself into a bluestocking.

That's no way to find a husband.

I don't want a husband.

How many times do I have to spell it out?

I'm sorry you didn't have a daughter whose sole purpose in life is to hitch herself to a man.

There it is. I'm not getting married.

Not now, not ever.


That's clear, then.

Ted. Good to see you. Roland. Welcome.

Vic. Great to see you.

Hello, Mr Brittain. Roland, we've heard great things about you.

Can I help? Oh, you frightened me.

No, thanks.

Please, I'd rather be by myself.

It's the books I'm worried about.

I've never seen anyone beat them up that way.

Wordsworth, Shelley.

Poor Byron.

All these Romantics aren't good for you, you know?

Don't worry. They have very little influence.

So I saw earlier.

I'm sorry about the badly-timed arrival, by the way.

I can see this is all highly amusing for you. No.

Yes. You're already polishing up the anecdote for your friends back at school.

I'm sorry. I was so caught up in myself.

I didn't think what this must be like for you.

She certainly didn't deserve the treatment you gave her.

Well, I got you your piano.

That's something to be happy about, at least.

You can thank me for that.

Come on, then, Ted, Ash Grove.

Yes, Ash Grove! Ash Grove.

Right. Ready? Yeah.

Very good.


You're studying.

What of it?

Nothing, I...

Look, I've done the Oxford entrance exams.

It's all about technique. I could help you.

Once you've learnt it, you'll sail through, I'm sure.

Like a Masonic secret, passed from teacher to boy.

Actually, my teachers weren't that good.

I worked it out for myself.

And so will I.

It's just three years of study, Father.

You know women don't even get degrees at Oxford?

What's the point of her going, then?

It's all she's ever wanted.

She's set her mind on it.

But it's three years of extra expense.

I'd share my allowance with her. That would help.

What about the entrance exam?

Don't you need tuition for such a thing?

She's teaching herself.

I wouldn't feel right about going myself if Vera didn't have the chance.

She was always so bright.


Very well, then. You can sit the wretched thing if you want to.

Oh, thank you, Daddy. Well, you're just sitting it, mind.

And then we'll see.

Now, play me some of that piano.


God, it's beautiful here. You're so lucky.

Mmm. Except we're nearly back at school.

We're here now, Ted. Come on. Live in the moment a little.

One more term and it'll all be over.

Sort of daunting, seeing your whole life stretched out in front of you.

At least you won't be buried alive in Buxton.

Do we have a suffragette on our hands?

I would be, given the chance.

I suppose that shocks you.

You're talking to the wrong man, Vera. Roland's a supporter.

Well, my mother does admire them.

She's a novelist and she writes for the papers.

She supports the whole family, in fact. I hope you don't mind me saying.

Well, not now I've seen Vera's face.

I had no idea.

Well, perhaps you've jumped to conclusions about me.

I think that's mutual.

Oh, no. No, I've researched you quite thoroughly.

I even found a poem in the yard, in fact. I took the liberty of...

Poem? You kept that very quiet. Let's have a look.

Give it back.

It's nothing. It's a stupid thing.

Well, I don't know about anyone else, but...

I could do with a drink of something.

Yes, er... let's get back to the house.

I didn't know you kept it a secret.

I kept it quiet because I was moved by it.

I found it beautiful.

And you seem an impossible person to say that to.

I'm not.


What if I told you I want to be a writer?

And I even dream of earning a living by it.

I want to write, too, as it happens.

But I'm a little in my mother's shadow.

Is she good?

How's she done it?

Sheer pig-headedness.

You should meet her, you'd get on.

You must write.


No one's ever said that to me before.

Come on! You'll miss the train!

Roland! Come on, we're leaving!


I don't want you to go. We'll have the whole summer.

Come along, boys. You don't want to be late.

You've a train to catch. I'll just be back in a minute.

Has anybody seen the big, black suitcase?

Goodbye. Goodbye.

Victor, come on!

Don't forget your tennis racket.

I wish you weren't going so soon.

Did you read the poem?

Of course. And?

It's well-crafted.


It was a little dry, as though you were holding back.

I couldn't find you in it. Well, I can assure you it's mine.

Of course, I... I didn't mean... Roland, come on, we're late.

Vera! Come on, Vera!

Come on, darling.

Let's go.

Bye! Bye, Mother!

Thank you!

"Edward, please send me news of Roland Leighton.

"Tell him how much I enjoyed meeting him, will you?

"I think I offended him, Edward.

"You know I can be my own worst enemy."

"Edward assures me you won't mind me writing direct.

"You set me a challenge, you see, and I've done my best to meet it.

"I hope you find more feeling in this one.

"Down the long, white road we walked together.

"Down between the grey hills and the heather.

"You seemed all brown and soft, just like a linnet.

"Your errant hair had shadowed sunbeams in it.

"And there shone all April in your eyes."

Oxford, next stop!

Ah, the famous honey-coloured stone, yes.

Very beautiful. Yes, this is the right square, dear.

Nothing like what we've got in Buxton.

A different hue altogether.

That might be Broad Street over there.

It's down at the bottom.

Do be careful. These bicycles are everywhere.

Vera, dear, this way. There's a horse coming now.

All looks very secretive, doesn't it? This way, dear.

What? Come along.

I know you're only staying two nights, but Oxford can get chilly.

I brought you an extra nightie, just in case.

Aunt, please.

I promised your mother I'd keep a proper eye on you.

She does worry.

Bed socks. That's my final word.

I'm sorry, are you lost?

I'm here for the exam.


Er, the porter's lodge is there. He'll direct you.

Thank you. I'm Vera's Aunt Belle.

I shall be staying nearby.

Is it an entrance exam we're holding or a debutantes' ball?

It's the Latin essay I'm dreading.

My tutor's convinced Virgil will come up. I hope he's right.


You may begin.

Excuse me.

Excuse me, about the Latin paper... What is it?

I didn't know an essay was required. It's stated quite clearly.

I must have missed it. I didn't have a tutor.

I prepared for this by myself.

You seemed to be busy writing, Miss... Brittain.

I wrote it in German instead. German?

Perhaps where you come from, German and Latin can be equated, but not here, I'm afraid.

You've judged me already.

You think I'm frivolous, a provincial upstart, but I'm not.

I think you're keen to stand out.


Good day, Miss Brittain.

Our next gathering will be on Wednesday.

Lovely. I tell you what, we are a little stuck...

"It was a disaster, Edward.

"All my dreams are over. I'll never escape Buxton now.

"And Roland hasn't answered my last letter.

"perhaps he's had second thoughts.

"Thank goodness I have someone I can confide in."

Better luck next time.

Vera, hurry, hurry!

Strict instructions from Edward, we mustn't be late for his parade.

Gracious, it's only school speech day.

I'm not sure that any of these are going to be nice enough.

Of course they are.


What's in the letter, dear?

Oh, come on, Vera, you can't go hiding things from me.

It's from Oxford. Oh.

I thought it might be from a boy.

Don't tell Father. All right.

There, that's the one. Perfect.

What do you think, dear? Daddy?



Yes, perfect.

Was that the right answer?

Another year, another school speech day.

And as we send our proud cadets out on to life's stage, we say, as always, be strong, be loyal, be brave...

Loyal to yourselves, loyal to kith and kin, but above all else, loyal to your homeland, ready always to serve the glory of the Empire.

You will go out into the wider world rich in the values of Uppingham School.

Use those values to make your contribution to our nation.

Many of you will now be going on to university.

Your masters and I look forward to seeing you excel there, and we expect you to uphold the standards...

Before he came here, he... My results from Oxford.

Come on.

No one will disturb us here.

I know what it's going to say.

Shall I?

You got in.

Come here!

But it says you need to work on your Latin.

You'd better tell Roland.

Do you think?

Go on.

Er, Mother, Father, this is Edward's sister, Vera.

Well, how do you do? Nice to meet you.

I didn't know Edward had a sister. Nice to meet you, dear.

Pleasure. You look happy about something.

I just heard. I got a place at Somerville.

Now suddenly she's become a very intriguing young lady.

Don't you think, Roland?

Excuse me, I must tell my parents. Yes.

Well... Excuse me, sorry.

Vera, wait.

Can we talk alone?


It's such good news about Oxford. You don't have to say that.

No, I know, but Somerville is quite...

Look, if it's friendship you want, that's fine with me.

I prefer clarity, that's all. No, it's been a busy term.

Exams, and ending school is quite the time-consuming business, as it turns out.

Your mother didn't even know I exist.

Now, that... that is self-protection.

I've been carrying it around with me. So why didn't you write back?

A little nervous perhaps.

Not good with words.

For someone who wants to be a writer...

When we're at Oxford, we'll be able to see each other every day.

I'll be concentrating on my work. Well, you'll need fresh air, surely.

And a chaperone.

Lapdog. Humble slave.

Vera, let's agree.

No more fear.

No more fear.


What on earth is going on?

This isn't the way to go about it.

I'd like permission to see Vera again, Mrs Brittain.

Fully chaperoned, of course.

We'll see.

Mr Leighton.

Slow down, you two!

Excuse me.

I think we lost her.

We've been very bad, you know. Mmm.

We're going to get a terrible report. Mother won't be surprised.

She thinks she has a very odd daughter. Not odd. Just interesting.

I've never known where I fit.

Does it need to be a place?

Well, I don't know what to say to the pair of you!

No, really, I don't!

My feet are hurting. We'd better call it a day.

Ah, newspaper.

Countdown to war.

Thank you, madam. Morning, sir. Good day.

Here you are, sir. Today's headlines.

My boys'll be the first to sign up and it'll be a long queue.

I think there isn't a lad in the country doesn't want to go and crush that bloody Kaiser.

I think the war will be over very quickly if it happens at all.


I need your help.

Tell me.

I've been talking to father about signing up.


This is what we trained for. I'm an officer cadet.

Father was his usual calm self.

Said he'd rather put a gun to his head than let me go.

It's all happening so fast.

There are boys from the town who've signed up already.

How will it look if I'm not among them?

I'll talk to him.


I promise.

What's making you so cheerful? I'm not.

I don't think Roland will go.

Don't go losing your head over him. Why not?

No, no, no, no, no!

No, I said no.

All the papers are saying it'll be short and fast.

Well, I know a little more of war than you do, young lady, and I can assure you, it's never short, and it's never fast.

If we believe that from the outset, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, doesn't it?

He might not even see any fighting.

He's only 18.

What's he going to say when everyone around him is signing up and he isn't?

Let him be a man.

He won't forgive you if you don't.

"Dear Roland, now we're a nation at war, "is it terrible of me to be so excited about Oxford?

"I'll be catching the 2:20 train on Thursday and I'll be travelling alone.

"Could you meet me at Leicester?"

Where's your luggage?

Sit down. I have something to tell you.

What is it?

I'm not coming to Oxford, Vera.

You've signed up.

A commission with the fourth Norfolks. I'm joining them tomorrow.



Edward's still waiting. Everybody is.

My Uncle Theo's a military man.

He pulled some strings.

Did he push you to it? No. No, I asked him to.

Vera, I have to go.

How many generations get the chance to be involved in something like this?

I can't let others do my duty for me.

I'll be in Norwich. It's not even active service.

You wouldn't want me not to?

There'll be months of training.

At which point, it could all be over.

Me and Ted will be coming to Oxford with you in the New Year.

Isn't it strange...

That I'm the one going to Oxford without Edward or you?

Ah, Miss Brittain. Surprised to be here, no doubt.

Considering I had no tuition. Yes, and how it showed.

Luckily you also displayed an original mind.

Though whether you can bring any discipline to bear on it is another matter.

"Oxford is everything we dreamed of and more.

"If only you were here to share it with me, Roland.

"I want to ask you to leave the army, "but I can't do that. I won't.

"Victor's been turned down because of his poor eyesight, "but Edward's joining the Sherwood Foresters soon.

"My heart lurched at the sight of him.

"My little brother, suddenly so grown up."

Look at you. Vera, the Oxford student. How are you?

I'm very well.

"At least I have the comfort of knowing you're all safe on English soil."

The injured will be taken there this afternoon.

All these beds can be sent to the dining hall.

All right. Then you can tell Matron she can...

"Leave for France Thursday. Charing Cross, half past one.

"Please confirm can come. Roland."

We can't have students gallivanting off to London.

It's not a gallivant.

We have to work twice as hard as the men, Miss Brittain.

We have to be twice as good.

Otherwise what is the point of us fighting all these years to prove that we're worthy of degrees?

It's to say goodbye to someone going to the front.

You already have someone there perhaps.

My brother.

Ugh, not where my abilities are best expressed, socks.

But then that's war for you, isn't it?

Men go off to fight and we stay behind and knit.

You'll be back within the day? Yes.

And will, of course, have a chaperone?


Thank you.

How long do we have? About an hour.

You told me you weren't going to France yet.

I asked for a transfer.

You're so eager to face death, then, are you?

No. Yes, you are.

You must be. Vera, please.

You're sick. You've got a fever.

I can't even be angry with you now.

Doesn't he look handsome in that uniform?

Take these, dear. They'll bring the fever right down.

Thank you.

Oh, no. No, no. Don't you move. I'll go and get it.

I'm sorry.

I didn't mean to be harsh.

I've let you down. No.

Now it's here, I have a dust and ashes feeling about it.

Do you take sugar, dear?

Influenza is ripping through the troops.

I read about it in the newspaper.

They call it Spanish flu.

It seems you get a very high temperature and then shortly afterwards faint and then suddenly...

All aboard!

Oh, I'm sorry. This one's taken.

I am coming back.


All in! Right, you lot, say your goodbyes and move it out.

Roland! Vera!

Roland! Vera!



Write. Yes.

Write. I'll write.

I love you.



Roland asked me to come. Thought you'd need a friendly face.

Thank you. Come on. Sit down.

How are you? What a mess.

I can't stay here.

Not now.

I have to do something. What?

I don't know.


There's a call for volunteers.

Look, Roland won't die young.

He was born to make his mark on the world.

Do you think? I'm sure of it.

Thank you for being here.

I'm so sorry if you were hurt. No, please.

It's fine. No, there's no need... No, I feel like...

In fact, I've met a girl.

That's wonderful.

I'm so happy for you. What's her name?


She's keen.

She has you here, with her.

She's a luckier girl than I am, then.

Miss, er, telegram from Miss Lorimer, Somerville College.

Thank you, Miss.

Yes, I understand your concerns, but I'm sure if you refer to the list that I gave you on complementary novels, you'll find it extremely helpful.

Thank you, Miss Lorimer. Yes, not at all.

Latest news from the front!

Thank you, Miss. Latest news from the front!

Nursing? What on earth for?

They need volunteers.

And I'm sure there are plenty of eager young women out there who've not embarked on promising careers at Oxford.

I need to do something.

I can't stay here buried in books, not now.

You don't own the truth about how we get through this, Miss Brittain.

Your opinion is just that, an opinion, and you'd do well to remember it.

I'm sorry, I didn't mean...

This crisis needs people who can stand back and reflect.

How can you think of giving up a golden opportunity that you have worked so hard for?

So your mind's completely made up?

Yes, it is.

I know what visions have brought you here, and I'm happy they've carried you to our door, but that's where you leave them.

You're not angels of mercy swooping down to mop the brows of grateful men.

You're workers and you'll do whatever you're asked, no matter how dirty, no matter how dull.

Do I make myself clear? Yes, sister.


Airs and graces will not be tolerated, especially from those who've come down from an ivory tower.

If you've any doubts, the door's there. You can leave now.

Your duties commence at 7:00 am sharp. You do not sit down on the ward.

Who sterilised the instruments?

I did, Sister. And would you say you've done a good job?

I think so.

You think so. Really?

What about these?

I forgot. You forgot?

And what if someone had used them, not realising?

I'm sorry. It's human lives that could be put at risk.

And I thought you were supposed to be intelligent.

"The nurses here know I've come from Oxford, Roland, "and they're determined to break me.

"Little do they know, the harder they push, the more grateful I am.

"Anything to stop me thinking and to fill the hours between news of you."

"One of my men has just been killed. The first.

"I've been taking the things out of his pockets

"and tying them in his handkerchief to be sent back somewhere, to someone, "who will see in them more than a torn letter, "a pencil and a piece of shell."

"please don't keep things back from me, Roland, "with an idea of sparing my feelings.

"I shall never be afraid to confront the real."

"The imagined holds far greater terror for me."

Fancy sending him over in this state. We're seeing more and more of it.

If you're so eager, Brittain, you sponge him down.


What did you say?


Have you ever been? Oh, yes. We used to go as children.

Here she is.

You look exhausted. What are they doing to you here?

I'm all right.

Vera, Geoffrey Thurlow, a friend from the battalion.

You're not leaving for France?

Not yet.

I'm sorry. Forgive me.

No, no, no. The relief is all mine.

A peace-loving soldier? Or a cowardly one, perhaps.


Geoffrey was about to train to be a priest. That takes courage.

Saved by the war. Imagine that.

So, shall we go? Where?

Didn't he write and tell you?

Roland's home on leave.

No, he, er... he walked through the door yesterday and slept for 20 hours straight.

Hardly said a word.

So he's, er... he's down there, by the sea.

If you excuse me, I think I'll go and see him.

Let's, er... Let's just give them a moment, shall we?


I have to go back in three days.

Oh, just look at that view.

Well, well, the officer returns.

Vic! Hello. Good to see you. Roland.

Good to see you. Hello.

Very good to see you. Roland, Geoffrey Thurlow.

Very good to meet you. It's a pleasure.

Good shot.

The worst is when you have to go out and repair the wire.

Boot polish on your face, crawling on your belly through the mud and rain.

I was out one night with an officer called Harrison.

We were so close to the Germans, we could hear them whispering in their trench,

Were you scared? You don't think about it, really.

He's a good man, Harrison. I invited him to stay, but he's not interested in home leave, says it makes a man soft.

God forbid any of you should be soft.

If I could get out there...

I don't think I'd want to come back.

You don't know the first thing about it.

Let's get some tea.

That was unnecessary.

Then talk to me, otherwise how can I understand?

Perhaps you can't.

I sent you some poems a while ago. I don't know if you got them.

I don't think so.

Have you written any yourself?


Oh, for God's sake.



I'm sorry, I'm...

I'm sorry.


Roland, here. Look at me.

Look at me.

I'm here. This...

This is real.

Feel it.


This part of you...

Don't destroy it.

It might be gone already.


It's not.

I promise.

Harrison's brother came back from leave engaged to his fiancée.

Within ten minutes, he'd stuck his head over the parapet, and got his brains blown out.

I was next to him when it happened.

Home leave makes you soft.

We don't have to get married.

Or engaged.

Perhaps we should.

It's not what either of us wanted.

Imagine it, though.

You in a white dress.

A sunny day, an old church.

Everybody we love.

Champagne. Cake.

Does it get any better than cake?

Marry me, Vera, next time I'm home.

All right.


You look so handsome. Thank you, Mother.

Good luck. Bye, Geoffrey.

You be safe now.

I will be, don't worry. Take care.

Goodbye. See you soon.

Oh, Geoffrey, dear boy, do take care of yourself.

I will. Oh, I nearly forgot.

My music. Look after it for me.

Father. Son, good luck.

Train is ready to depart! All aboard!

Take care. Good luck, Edward.

You will write, darling, won't you?

Of course.


Could you go and tell your father to hurry up?



Move it! Move it!

200 extra beds by lunchtime. Hurry, now!

"Good news. My Christmas leave has been approved.

"I'll be home to make you my wife.

"And I have a surprise, something I think will please you.

"You'll see when we meet.

"I've been posted to company headquarters three miles behind lines.

"I'll be here until my leave. I'm safe, Vera."



How do I look? Positively bridal.

Such a shame that Edward couldn't get leave to be best man.

Here she is.

You look lovely.

Half an hour to go.

We're meeting Mr and Mrs Leighton at the church.

He'll have had a long journey. He'll be tired.

Miss Vera Brittain? Yes.

A telephone call for you, Miss.

Must be him.

I hope he's not going to be late.

Just here, Miss.



Vera, Roland...

Roland's dead.

Roland's dead, Vera.

This is... from an officer in his company.

"Died of wounds at Louvencourt clearing station."

What was he doing at the front? Wasn't he meant to be behind the lines?

Suddenly sent there, apparently, for a big push.

There was nothing in the papers.

He was out mending wire.

"Shot by a sniper at 2:00 am

"while bravely carrying out duties.

"Taken straight to Louvencourt.

"Died late afternoon.

"Noble and painless death."

That's a long time after he was shot.

What happened?


Suppose the man would know.

He loved this piece.

Why was there no message for us?

"No further details about Lieutenant Leighton's death.

"Unable to help."

Excuse me. Where can I find George Catlin?

He's just down there. Thank you.

Excuse me. I'm Vera Brittain, fiancée to Roland Leighton.

The officer's not receiving visitors today.

I did write to you, Miss Brittain. Yes, and I thank you for that.

I'm sorry for the solicitation. There's really nothing more I can add.

But you did see Roland at the clearing station that day?

Comfort yourself that it was a quick and painless end.

Everyone keeps saying that, but he lived for hours after he was shot.

I'm sorry for your loss.

I understand. You're afraid I'll make a scene.

And why should you be the messenger for some terrible end to a family you've never met? I want to know the truth.

It's the one thing left I can do for him.

Would you mind, Nurse?

It was a messy wound, low down in the abdomen.

They operated. They did their best.

I was in the bed next to him. He didn't stand a chance.

Did he say anything? Was there a message?

The pain was too great, Miss Brittain. It made anything else impossible.

I see. Yes.

That explains it.

Did he, er... suffer a great deal?

They were waiting for morphine stocks. Did some arrive?

He got a dose near the end.

Were there...

any words?


He said, "Lying on this hillside for six days has made me very stiff."

I'm sorry. None of it makes any sense.

You're very kind.

I won't forget it.

"Dear Victor, I met the officer in question. He..."

"He confirmed what Roland's colleague told us.

"It was a painless and noble death.

"please comfort yourself with this as you leave for France."

Roland's kit, they've sent it back to us.

Why did they send us that?

Take it out!


"Violets from Plug Street Wood, sweet, I send you oversea.

"It is strange they should be blue, blue when his soaked blood was red.

"For they grew around his head, it is strange they should be blue.

"Violets from Plug Street Wood, think what they have meant to me.

"Life and hope and love and you.

"And you did not see them grow, where his mangled body lay.

"Hiding horror from the day, sweetest, it was better so."

"Violets from oversea, to your dear, far, forgetting land.

"These I send in memory, knowing you will understand."

"We have to believe, dear sister, "that his life was not needlessly thrown away, "that the wire he was working on that night had to be mended by someone.

"And how typical of Roland to be the first to volunteer."

Nurse Brittain!

Someone's asking for you.

Who's there?

Who is it? Victor.

Vera. I didn't know.

What a fix, eh?

This blanket's driving me mad. It's far too itchy.

I'll take care of it.

Does Molly know?

Would you like me to contact her for you?

There's no Molly, Vera.

There never was.

I couldn't have you feeling sorry for me, could I?

So, I'm getting a visit from an officer who lost both eyes at the start of the war.

He's going to tell me about Braille. That's the Victor I know.

Always the optimist. Yes.

Inspirational stories for the damned.

What about you? Are you still writing? Writing.

That belongs to another life.

I've been thinking and, erm...

I want to look after you.

We belong together now.

Don't we?

You're going to need someone and I...

Well, Roland would like it.

Poor Vera.

Are you proposing to me now?


Yes, I am.

Then I must turn you down.

Brittain, you're wanted.

He called for us about an hour ago, said there was a loud clicking noise in his head.

It was very quick and sudden.

I'm sorry.


"I'm so glad you were near and saw him so nearly at the end.

"We share a memory of both of them, dear Vera, "that is worth all the rest of the world, "and the sun of that memory never sets.

"And you know that I love you, "that I would do anything in the world in my power should you ask it, "and that I am your servant as well as your brother."

My mind's made up.


But... that's the front.

It's so dangerous.

I'll be behind the lines.

It's as close to Edward as I can get. I need to be there.

Well, I've been gathering you some things...

I suppose you can take them to France, too.

It's the cook's last jar.

And, erm...

Oh, cream.

Stop those hands from getting chapped.

And don't forget your poor elbows, it's easily done.

Why was I ever disappointed you weren't a boy?

Mind yourself. You got it? Yeah.

What are you doing out here?

You'll freeze out here.

Excuse me.

I'm to report to C section.

Hut 327. You're under Sister Milroy.

Good luck.

There's about 30 men to a hut.

Some of them are an absolute mess.

They're supposed to pass through the clearing stations, but that's not saying much any more.


Theatre's through there.

We're short on everything, including surgeons.

Had to saw this chappy's arm off myself yesterday.

Quite a job.

It's not ideal, but then, of course, this is war.

Oh, didn't I mention? These are all Huns.

I find it best to number them. Much quicker.

First Hun, second, third, fourth...

Keep an eye on him if I were you. He's only got a few hours left.

Well, er, that's it.

Best to get stuck right in, I... I find.

What about the British huts?

Over to you, then. Plenty of time to change later.

Put it down where you can. There's not many beds left.

Ah, gangrene.

Brittain, get some antiseptic on this filthy Hun.

"Here I am, dear Edward, fighting to save German soldiers

"that just a few miles away you're risking your life to kill.

"It makes you wonder."

Brittain, over here!

"Really, it does."

"I waited for you again on Sunday.

"I'll be here every week until you can come."

Stay still. Stay still.

Brittain. It's hopeless. Get the screen.

All right, old boy, all right.

Calm down, old chap.

To let his soul escape.

Control your mind. It's the only way.

Deep breaths. That's it.

I need some help here.

I'm fine. Thank you.

"I feel it bitterly to have been moved further away from you, dear sister.

"All these months without being able to come and see you.

"Last Sunday we marched past Louvencourt, "and I was able to escape to visit Roland's grave.

"I stood before it and prayed that I might live to be worthy of his friendship.

"But I didn't feel his presence there.

"perhaps he's where he belongs instead, with you."

There's a big push coming.

The Germans are getting closer.





I'm cold. I'll get you a blanket.


Mustard gas.

One of the boys was insisting he knew you.

Probably delirium. Seen it before.


We had to take him round the back.

He said his name was, er... Edward, I think.








He's alive! Help me!

Bring him here!

Come... Lift... Not the arm, no...

That's it.


Wound's infected. We need to sterilise it.




Edward. Edward, come back to me.

Edward. Edward, it's Vera.

I dreamt an angel played me music.

We were back at the lake together, all of us.

Remember? It was the day Victor dived in.


I told him there were rats.

Oh, God!

You're back now.

I found this in your pocket last night.

From Geoffrey.

I didn't read it.

I keep it with me.

I want you to hear his voice.

No. Don't move.

"We walked back to the barracks last night, "all of us thoroughly exhausted."

"It was a scene of devastation, "and yet, as I looked at it, "a strange feeling came over me.

"The setting sun had lit up the water in the shell holes, "so they looked like pools of gold.

"And I felt a presence there, greater than all this.

"Such... peace, Edward.

"And I thought of you, dear friend.

"And I knew I'd see you again, "either in this world or the hereafter."

I wish you didn't have to leave.

But I'm glad it's Italy you're going to.

The fighting's lighter there.

When it's over, let's travel together.

Exotic places. Like Italy.

Promise me you'll go back to Oxford, Vera, do what you've always wanted to do.

I can't imagine that any more.

Are you coming, sir?

Do it.

Only if you come too.

"Come home immediately, Vera.

"Mother in crisis."

Domestic duties beckon.

Oh! Vera, what a relief.

Mother? I've had a terrible turn.

Erm, cook left, you know.

And you... You can't get anything in the shops.

There's no meat. There's no butter.

There were no eggs.

What are we going to cook for Edward?

I thought it was an emergency.

I thought maybe we could make him a meringue.

Yes, well, I... I've been in bed for weeks.

Erm... and nothing's been done in the house.

The whole situation is really quite dreadful.

Oh, Vera. It's lovely to see you.

Time to find a cook.

There's household chores too, if you don't mind, and... mountains of ironing.

I have to go at 5:00. I've got a dance.

They still have those, do they?

They're beautiful, dear.

I'll get it!

It's over!

The armistice has been signed!

Oh, Miss Brittain!

Back at last. Yes.

So, Chaucer this term. You've certainly got some catching up to do.

Hello. I'm Winifred Holtby.

I've just found out we're tutorial partners this term.

I heard you wanted to be a writer. Me, too.

We could look at each other's work if you like.

Look, I really must get on.

Oh. Of course.

Vera? Goodness. Are you all right?

Can somebody give me a hand here?

Hey. You're all right. You're all right.

I brought some more books for you.

Did you manage to read the last ones?

I saved my brother's life over there, you know, in France.

But the war still got him.

I was there for the last few months.

I volunteered at a signal station near Abbeville.

I didn't know.

All of us are surrounded by ghosts.

Now we need to learn how to live with them.

You must start at the beginning.

Get up, get dressed, eat.

Spring is out there waiting.

Recently, the German Foreign Minister dared suggest we are all responsible for the war and should jointly pay the price!

To which we say to him, who started it?

There's nothing the Kaiser can do to compensate the men and women of this country, but still the Germans must pay.

The philosophy of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is a dangerous one. The whole cycle could be repeated.

Are you suggesting we let them walk all over us?

Look her in the eye, sir, and tell her to love the Germans.

They killed my eldest at the Somme.

And my next one, Harry.

And you stand here and defend them.

Miss Brittain. Officer.

George, please. George Catlin.

The lady has something to say.

Speak up.

I was a nurse at the front.

Good on you, Miss.

Is there anyone else who would like to share anything that you...

No, I haven't finished.


For a time I looked after a hut of German officers.

Not too well, I hope, Miss.

As you were speaking, I was remembering one of them.

I held his hand as he was dying.

He cried out for a woman he loved.

He faced the end of his life by asking her forgiveness.

I lost a brother in the war. And my fiancé.

I can't make sense of it either, except when I held the hand of that German it was their hands, too, that I was holding.

Their pain was the same pain.

Their blood, the same blood.

Our grief is the grief of hundreds and thousands of German women and men.

No, don't listen!

Sit down!


I speak to those of us who are left behind!

The mothers, sisters, women, we sent our men to war!

I fought my father to let my brother go.

Because we think it's the right thing, the honourable thing.

But all I can do is stand here and ask you...

Is it?

Was I right?

Can I find the courage to accept there might be another way?

Perhaps their deaths have meaning only if we stand together now and say, "No!"

No to killing.

No to war.

No to the endless cycle of revenge. I say no more of it.

No more.

"The sunshine on the long, white road that ribboned down the hill, "the velvet clematis that clung around your windowsill, "are waiting for you still.

"Again the shadowed pool shall break in dimples at your feet.

"And when the lark sings in your wood, "unknowing you may meet another stranger sweet.

"It will be better so."

They'll want to forget you.

They'll want me to forget.

But I can't.

I won't.

This is my promise to you now.

All of you.