A children’s TV serial about the Falklands War that the Thatcher Government tried to ban is being republished as a free e-book novel for the thirtieth anniversary of the war. After complaints from the Falkland Islands Government, Defence Minister John Stanley said the drama was unsuitable for children and asked Thames Television to pull the three-part series from its schedules.ITV refused and Thames screened the series in 1983, but after pressure from the Independent Broadcasting Authority, managing director Bryan Cowgill inserted a verbal warning before each episode to confirm "the fictional nature of the storyline". The dark story, written by Jan Needle, tells of three young children on the Falklands who find a badly injured Argentinian conscript hiding in a sheep pen. Fired by ideas of patriotism, they decide it is their duty to kill him. Despite TV industry gossip that the series would be "Famous Five Go Mad in The Falklands", A Game of Soldiers was nominated for a BAFTA award and reviewed by The Guardian as “a vivid, moving and recommendably stimulating work”. The three-part Thames TV serial, directed by Peter Tabern, has since been shown on DVD and video in thousands of British classrooms to provoke classroom discussions and as a subject for examination essays on the power of rumours in wartime.
A dramatic version was published by Collins Educational, with teachers' notes
by Professor Viv Gardner, of Manchester University. It has been performed as
a school play and in workshops all over Britain and is still sought after. The
first episode emerged last week on YouTube.
The novel that Jan Needle wrote for HarperCollins was in print for more than 20 years and is now being released as an Amazon Kindle book. It will be free to download on Monday and Tuesday (April 23 and 24) through the Electric Authors website as part of World Book Day.
Needle, author of 40 books, said at his home in Manchester: "With both the British and the Argentine governments making vaguely warlike noises, it seemed a good idea to remind people – especially children – just how destructive actions like this can be. Several hundred people lost their lives, but the drums are being beaten all over again.
"The conflict was described as being 'like two bald men fighting over a comb' and whatever the rights and wrongs of it, the human costs were appalling. Strangely, both countries have since run down their navies to the point where neither has the capability of fighting such a war again. It would be more than tragic if they tried.”
The Falklands War between April and June 1982 cost 259 and 649 British and Argentinian lives.
OurKingdom serialised another book by Jan Needle, The Skinback Fusiliers, last year, under the pseudonym Unknown Soldier. The personal reasons which led to the use a pseudonym having been resolved, it was republished under his real name later in the year as a Kindle ebook called Killing Time at Catterick.