What to watch tonight
PUBLISHED: 00:01 06 November 2017
Monday's best TV: Women at War, Nigella, Elizabeth I
Women at War: 100 Years of Service, BBC1, 9.15am, Monday to Friday
It’s 100 years since women were enrolled into the British Army for the first time when the first all-female military unit was established in 1917.
The Women’s Army Auxillary Corps was formed on July 7 with the creation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service and the Women’s Royal Air Force coming later in the same year. Fast forward 99 years and the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry was the first British regiment to offer frontline close combat roles to women.
It’s been a long journey that began with women nursing men in field hospitals and now sees them fighting alongside their male colleagues.
When war was declared in 1914, the suggestion of women in the army would have been considered to ridiculous by the War Office, but by 1917, Britain was facing a major manpower shortage following the devastating casualties of the Somme.
Looking at the women taking on men’s jobs on the home front and the privately-funded medical organisations set up by women which also provided non-medical staff to undertake other roles, the War Office began to realise they had underestimated the force of females.
This series is stripped across the week that leads to Remembrance Day and sees five well-known faces telling stories of theirs and their relatives’ time in service. By retracing their steps, meeting veterans who lived through war and meeting women serving today, this is the story of women who defend, and have defended, our country.
Today, EastEnders actress June Brown relives her wartime experience in the Wrens, when women were encouraged to join the war effort to ‘free a man for the front’ and takes the controls of a warship as she finds out what life is like for women serving in the Royal Navy today.
As she recalls her own work as a cinema operator showing training videos to troops and gets a taste of the opportunities available to women today, June finds her views on women’s roles in the forces challenged. She also meets a D-Day veteran (don’t try and keep up with them if they start a drinking session, June, I know to my cost that lot can drink someone less than half their age under the table) and sees a dramatic training exercise as recruits aboard a ship.
Nigella: At My Table, BBC2, 8.30pm: I won’t lie, I trusted Nigella’s cooking more when she was slightly larger (this is just sour grapes – I neither look as good as dear old Nige or cook as well as she does) but regardless, I will tune in to see what the Domestic Goddess has on her table. Eleven from Stranger Things would be pleased: first up it’s waffles, there’s a passion fruit ice cream cake, a toasted brie, Parma ham and fig sandwich and then she breaks out the nigella seeds because why wouldn’t you if they named a seed after you?
Elizabeth I’s Secret Agents, BBC2, 9pm: The Queen is dead, long live the King. King James VI of Scotland is one of my very favourite monarchs, but sadly (for me) this documentary is more about his relationship with Robert Cecil than his scandalous flirtations with chaps, particularly ‘the most beautiful man in Europe’, the Duke of Buckingham. But I digress: Cecil discovers his arch enemy John Gerard is one of those planning to blow up the Houses of Parliament - he must act fast or there will be, ahem, fireworks.