Returning to the Spanish Penisular War

I saw on the Twitter a link to a Radio 4 show, The Reunion, which brings together people from a common event or background. The most recent episode was about the Sharpe TV series.

It’s a great insight into the background of the making of the series, some of the challenges that the cast and crew faced.

It was a Napoleonic war drama to be shot in the Crimean Peninsula. But little did the producers know that they would be sending the cast and crew to film in a rapidly disintegrating Soviet Union.

Once in Crimea, the whole production faced near-starvation and danger around every corner as they set about creating one of Britain’s most successful and critically acclaimed 90s television programmes, Sharpe.

It was to go down in television folklore for its unique tales of mishaps and hardship. Renowned actor Paul McGann was originally cast to play the lead character, Sharpe. But only six weeks into filming he picked up a serious injury and had to pull out.

It left the production in chaos and saw one of the highest-ever insurance pay-outs for a television series.

Everyone packed up back to the UK with the future of the series left in suspense. That was until a relatively unknown actor called Sean Bean took on the part and the show was back on the road. The cast and crew headed back to Simferopol in Crimea (later to be nicknamed “simplyawful”) and filming resumed.

Sharpe became a six series hit across nearly 15 years, with viewing figures topping 10 million.

Our panel includes Sharpe’s author Bernard Cornwell, then-assistant producer Stuart Sutherland, one of the “chosen men” Jason Salkey who played one of Sean Bean’s right hand men, Michael Cochrane who played Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson across the entire series, and Diana Perez who played Ramona.

What I didn’t know, and was quite a surprise was that Paul McGann was originally cast as Sharpe. I thought I knew a lot about the series (I even have a book about the making of the series). However, I didn’t know that.

I do wonder how different the series would have been with Paul McGann in the lead role.

I really enjoyed the series when it was broadcast and though around thirty years old, is still great television. I also love the books as well.

It certainly has rekindled my interest in the subject matter, I re-watched an episode of Sharpe, thinking about re-reading the books, and looking back into my Flintloque collection and digging out my 25mm Napoleonic Rifles figures.