This week on World On Fire, Rommel’s forces in North Africa directly attack Rajib, Harry, and Stan’s unit. Kasia realizes through her mission from Sir James that some of her fellow Polish refugees are sending intelligence back to the Nazis. One of Lois’ patients reminds her of the life she left behind. Meanwhile, let’s look at what’s happening in occupied France with David and Henriette.
Last week we left off with David and Henriette making their way to the French coast. They narrowly escaped capture by Nazi soldiers when the farmer's truck they were hiding in was searched. Episode 5 for David and Henriette begins somewhere in Brittany in an old farmhouse. Henriette unfortunately doesn’t have access to any morphine so all David can do is try to sleep off the pain. Once again Nazi soldiers are patrolling. He wakes up from a nightmare but can’t remember what exactly it was.
The Resistance members give David a pot of beef stew and brandy. Henriette then tells him about how the Nazis arrested her brother Luc. David tells Henriette that in England the antisemitic atrocities are in the newspapers followed by the cricket scores. He realizes that his British citizenship is a privilege and also the only thing protecting him from sharing the same fate. His own coping mechanism of focusing on the dangers of the war fell apart as soon as his plane crashed.
Later on we see that the brandy has not only dulled David’s pain but also caused Henriette to let her guard down as well. In another life, David says, they could have gone out dancing in Mayfair. They’re both drunk and laughing loudly. The combination of the alcohol and trauma bonding leads to David and Henriette kissing. After the kiss David wonders if he could give up flying and work for the French Resistance instead. Henriette points out that he’d be dead within a week: grade school level language skills are not going to cut it.
In the middle of this conversation, the Resistance sends a signal to move David to the next location. Unfortunately the new hiding place is much smaller and more rat infested than the barn. Henriette insists he has to go back to his squadron and her own goal is to get back to Paris. David then asks her how to say “I love you” in French and also not to forget him. The episode ends with David and Henriette waiting for the next signal to move.
While there were indeed stories of RAF pilots being shot down in France looking for assistance to escape during the course of the war, World on Fire’s historical advisor, Richard Overly, pointed out on MASTERPIECE Studio podcast that David and Henriette’s plot is actually at least a year too early. We know from the North Africa plotline that this season is set in the middle of 1941. Overly said that the RAF bombing campaign of French targets ran from 1942 into 1943.
In 1941, the French Resistance were still struggling with outsmarting German and Vichy (the French authorities who were puppets of the Nazi regime) regulations, weaponry shortages and food rationing. In addition, the Resistance was unable to counteract how many civilians were willing to comply with Nazi and Vichy laws restricting French Jews and Jewish refugees.
Many of the real life Henriettes were civilians from all classes and religious groups. Most Resistance members had no previous military training, and worked alone or in small groups to avoid being arrested or betrayed by Nazi sympathizers. Many were involved in delivering Allied soldiers and wanted French citizens to the coast or the border with Spain. Some were involved in helping British Special Operations Executive agents collect information on Gestapo and Vichy activities but many more people were involved in publishing anti fascist newspapers or sabotaging the occupation regime by destroying German property. Even though Henriette would have had no idea about SOE’s existence in France, she was still correct that David would completely fail at passing for a French civilian.
We did not see Albert in Episode 5, but he should also be counted as a member of the Resistance. He’s still in Romainville, surviving against all odds. Will he find a way to escape? Will Henriette and David make it to the coast? We’ll have to watch the season finale of World On Fire next week to find out!