TV Times talks to David Jason about his 70th anniversary documentary on The Battle of Britain and his new one-off drama, Albert’s Memorial

These are both serious subjects but they also have a lighter side. Is that important to you?
“If you’ve got a story to tell then, no matter how bleak or how sad is it, you must always give your audience a break and something that will make them smile, too. If you ask me, there’s always humour in tragedy and vice versa and TV should reflect that.”

But presumably their content is very different?
“One is factual piece about probably the bravest men and women in the entire history of our nation. The other is a comedy drama about two old codgers returning the body of a comrade to Germany for burial. They transport him through France in a coffin on top of a taxi, bickering and bouncing off each other like Laurel and Hardy all the way. The two programmes are very different, but both grew of the huge respect that I have for those who fought in World War Two in general, whether in the air, at sea or on land.
“Without these brave souls we’d have been invaded by the Nazis and none of us would have shared the life and the freedoms that I know I’ve certainly enjoyed in my lifetime. So both the documentary and the drama are, in their own way, a tribute.”

How has the war influenced you?
“Well, I was born in February 1940 myself and I was six months old when the Battle of Britain was raging overhead. I grew up in London, which had been devastated by the bombing. So I feel that in many ways I have been shaped by the war and it has always fascinated me.”

Did your family suffer any near misses?
“One bomb landed just up the road on The Gaumont Cinema, another in Percy Road, the street next to us, and a third in our road, Lodge Lane. If the bomb had dropped just 150 yards to the right I wouldn’t be here today.”

What was the aim of the documentary?
“I wanted to tell the story not just of ‘the few’, so named by Winston Churchill, but of the ‘many’ behind them. Without them the battle could never have been won.”

And the drama?
“The three old codgers, Harry, my character, Frank, played by David Warner, and Michael Jayston’s character, poor dead Albert, didn’t really exist. But the story of what happened to them is taken from real and rather shocking events that have stained the pages of history. It would spoil it to disclose what those events were or why Vickie, a beautiful young German woman who’s played by Judith Hoersch, is on the journey with them. Suffice to say they are going back to Germany to bury not just their friend, but their grief and their guilt about a truly awful experience that they all shared so many years ago. Right from the outset, I didn’t want Albert’s Memorial to be just an entertainment programme any more than I wanted the Battle of Britain to be a dry old history lesson.”

David Jason: The Battle of Britain is on September 12 at 7pm on ITV1 followed by Albert’s Memorial at 9pm.