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Military training for The Last Post in South Africa

Former soldier Paul Biddiss provided tailored military training to the cast of the BBC's 1960s-set drama The Last Post.

The Last Post

The Last Post was produced by Bonafide Films and The Forge Entertainment, and is based on the true story of British military personnel stationed in the Yemeni port city of Aden with their families in the 1960s. Cape Town doubled for Aden during the shoot.

“I was flown out to South Africa ten days before principal photography,” Biddiss tells KFTV. “I was briefed in advance by production a few weeks prior to flying out, in order to formulate a constructive boot camp relevant to the plot and character storylines.” 


Tailored military training

“As with all boot camps I start with the basics,” Biddiss says. “Drill, weapon handling, basic patrolling, close-quarter battle, military fitness and situational awareness training. 

“I tailored the boot camp to suit the units and ranks being portrayed during the late 60s in Aden. For example, I presented the officers with more command-task orientated situations, where they would need to get used to giving orders and solving problems; teaching them how to use the chain of command and delegation through the ranks to achieve the mission. In the end the officers acted like officers and corporals alike. 

The Last Post“I concentrated heavily on situational awareness training in the form of observing people and suspect objects while patrolling in volatile areas of a busy market, where possible attacks, booby traps or just local disputes could erupt at any time from any direction. 

“Knowing when to shoot or not to, using the rules of engagement at the time. This training gave them a realistic feel of the tension a patrol goes through.” 

  
Working in South Africa

“Training in the heat was a must for this production,” Biddiss says. “At first the plan was to have the boot camp in the UK in October.

"I advised that even real soldiers require acclimatisation training when deploying to hot countries and the cast should be put through the same to get them in that mind set. It paid off!”


Advice on military etiquette and period accuracy

“I cover a broad spectrum of military life during boot camps, depending on what the production needs,” Biddiss says. “Basics on officer etiquette, or how a sergeant or private would act towards each other. 

“I would articulate feelings in given situations and likely reactions, offer the director advice and also to stunts, props, the armourer and costume designer. Making sure berets are shaped correctly, which is a massive pet hate with most soldiers when they watch actors on TV.”

“On most productions I will have no control on uniforms or equipment as they are pre-ordered for a role months before my involvement." 

The Last Post

“Some items might be wrong for the period and could attract negative media attention. Most times I can offer advice on how to hide the mistake or how to rearrange equipment to look more realistic.”


Where the military advisor fits into the team

“My sole job was to train and prep the main cast for their roles before filming started so they would naturally act like soldiers and be able to concentrate on their lines,” Biddiss says.

“The Last Post had a dedicated historical adviser who provided the main bulk of the advice on the British military in Aden during the 60s for prep and filming. My role was more the physical aspect of training cast for the task. Once the boot camp was completed my job was effectively done.”

To read more about Paul Biddiss’ experiences in film and TV click here.

Images: Paul Biddiss

 



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