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To Serve Them All My Days (TV series)

To Serve Them All My Days is a British television drama series, adapted by Andrew Davies from R. F. Delderfield's 1972 novel To Serve Them All My Days. It was first broadcast by the BBC over 13 episodes in 1980 and 1981. It was broadcast in Australia in 1981 by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and in 1982 by PBS in the United States as part of their Masterpiece Theatre anthology series.

To Serve Them All My Days
DVD cover
Based onTo Serve Them All My Days by R. F. Delderfield
Written byAndrew Davies
Directed by
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes13
Producer(s)Ken Riddington
Running time50 minutes
Production company(s)
Original networkBBC One
Original release17 October 1980 (1980-10-17) –
16 January 1981 (1981-01-16)


As in the novel, the protagonist is David Powlett-Jones (John Duttine), a coal miner's son from South Wales, who has risen from the ranks and been commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the First World War. In 1918, after being injured and shell-shocked, he is hired to teach modern history at Bamfylde School, a fictional public school in North Devon, in the southwest of England, where he wins the respect and acclaim of colleagues and pupils. He serves under headmaster Algy Herries (Frank Middlemass), forms a friendship with Ian Howarth (Alan MacNaughton) and marries Beth (Belinda Lang). He engages in a long bitter rivalry with the jingoistic science master Carter (Neil Stacy) but the two of them later become friends. Powlett-Jones is eventually appointed headmaster.


The series was filmed over 11 months in 1980,[1] with Devon and Dorset locations[1] including Milton Abbey School in Dorset.[2] Besides the exterior filming, indoor scenes were filmed on a soundstage.[3]



Writing for The New York Times, John J. O'Connor described the production as "a richly textured tapestry crammed with the social details that were the speciality of Mr. Delderfield",[4] with "a steady flow of insightful and touching moments".[2] He praised the performances of the cast and that of Duttine in particular.[2][4] People magazine called the series a "colorful chronicle of post-World War I England that never crosses over to the gooey side of sentiment."[5] In a review for the DVD release in 2011, PopMatters was less enthusiastic, calling Delderfield's material "inconsequential" and writing: "The action veers sluggishly from the mildly diverting to the excruciatingly dull." The review summarised the series as "basically a dated, dull, tiresome, tedious old drama by an author whose reputation is far from robust."[3]

The adaptation was nominated in the Best Drama Series category at the 1981 British Academy Television Awards and in the Outstanding Limited Series category at the 1983 Primetime Emmy Awards.[6]

DVD releaseEdit

All episodes of To Serve Them All My Days have been made available on DVD in the UK, Australia and the US.


  1. ^ a b O'Connor, John J. (21 November 1982). "TV View; How an Unknown Became a British Star". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b c O'Connor, John J. (16 June 1984). "TV Weekend; A Series That Makes the Rerun Worthwhile". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Bamfylde School is No Hogwarts!". 24 May 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b O'Connor, John J. (10 October 1982). "Masterpiece Theater Weaves a Rich New Tapestry". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  5. ^ "To Serve Them All My Days". People. 11 October 1982. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  6. ^ "35th Emmy Awards Nominees/winners". Retrieved 13 February 2017.

External linksEdit