The Documentary

For School and Country is a documentary miniseries brought to you by Thistle Productions. It chronicles the service of twelve World War II veterans who went to school together, took up arms when war broke out, and served all over the world across the services: army, navy and air force. With the legacy of the First World War behind them, they marched to the next great conflict. The miniseries is made up of five episodes, with a 273 minute runtime.

For School and Country premiered at Knox Grammar School on 5 May 2015. The DVD is for sale to the Knox community through the OKGA now.

Phil Stevenson aboard HMAS Nestor.
Phil Stevenson aboard HMAS Nestor.

Episode I: Books to Arms

Decorated Great War hero Neil MacNeil prepares his boys for the war he sees coming and John Hore-Lacy comes face-to-face with Rudolf Hess on the Bavarian ski slopes.

Phil Stevenson duels with the Admiral Graf Spee and Bismarck and Ted Carter digs in at Tobruk. John Reid keeps Ted and his buddies alive with the Tobruk Ferry Service.

Don Caldwell Smith in his Lancaster bomber.
Don Caldwell Smith in his Lancaster bomber.

Episode II: Scuttled and Sunk

John Reid films on his movie camera the destruction of HMS Barham, and watches with Phil Stevenson as the Queen Elizabeth and the Valiant are also taken out of action. Phil’s ship is sunk during the Malta convoys, and Ted Carter comes up against Rommel again at El Alamein.

Japan enters the war and brings the fighting home to Australia. Don Caldwell Smith witnesses the attack in Sydney Harbour before transferring to the Air Force, while David Nesbitt loses friends in flight school, before even reaching a combat zone.

Barney Greatrex in 1944.
Barney Greatrex in 1944.

Episode III: A Great Escape

Barney Greatrex is shot down, the only survivor of his Lancaster Bomber. He goes on the run from the Germans and Vichy French, teaming up with the Maquis.

Don Caldwell Smith also flies for Bomber Command, flying in Bomber Harris’s Thousand Bomber Raid. Arthur Pardey fights off German air raids on England before going to Cairo, where he hunts down the Italians with the Desert Air Force.

Eric Thew in New Guinea, 1944.
Eric Thew in New Guinea, 1944.

Episode IV: Terror in the Jungle

Eric Thew fights the Japanese in New Guinea, but soon learns that disease is the biggest enemy. David Nesbitt flies secret missions in Burma, while Lysle Roberts start out his service by defending Australia’s coastline. John Hordern transfers to HMAS Shropshire, and fights in the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Battle of Corregidor, fending off kamikaze attacks.

John Hore-Lacy, before going to fight the Japanese at Tarakan and Balikpapan.
John Hore-Lacy, before going to fight the Japanese at Tarakan and Balikpapan.

Episode V: You Do Your Part

John Hore-Lacy takes on the Japanese at Borneo, an enemy fighting to the last man. Arthur Pardey walks through the ruins of Munich and Lysle Roberts loses comrades to the dangers of flying. At war’s end, Phil Stevenson attends the official Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay, before being one of the first three Allied servicemen on the ground in Nagasaki post-war.

With the war over, our student soldiers finally come home. They lost brothers and classmates to war, and have to somehow move on their lives. In their early twenties, yet having experienced so much, this was easier said than done. Veteran Richard Miles leads the charge in remembering and honouring their fallen classmates. Finally, they look back at what made them ready and able to survive history’s costliest conflict, and why they fought for their school and country.

Australian War Memorial
Australian War Memorial

From the schoolyard to the battlefield, a dozen student soldiers put down their books, and went to war…