The six-part miniseries ANZAC Girls tells the true and ofeten overlooked stories of the women from Australia and New-Zealand who served as nurses during World War I. In 1914, Alice, Hilda, Elsie, Olive and Matron Grace Wilson arrive in Egypt and soon find out that war is not the 'splendid adventure' they thought it was as they have to deal with the horror of wounded men from the Gallipoli campaign.
I have not seen many Australian period dramas, but found ANZAC Girls through the ever-growing review list of Silver Petticoat Review and I'm so glad I did! What wonderful stories and what a well-made production! From the first episode I easily connected with this group of women and was totally sucked into their world. I thought it really interesting that this series takes you to so many areas of WWI: from the city hospitals in Alexandria to the deprevation of the Greek islands and from a hospital on a ship to the trenches in France. In that respect I thought 6 episodes was almost to short for all the stories ANZAC Girls wanted to tell, but still it didn't generally feel rushed.
Though most of the actresses and actors were unknown to me (something new in watching a period drama!), I was really impressed by their performance. All the girls really embodied their characters, but my personal favourite was Anna McGahan playing Sister Olive Haynes. There were so many aspects to Olive's character, both bravery and vivaciousness, but also fear and insecurity and Anna McGahan convincingly made óne character out of all this.
Ofcourse this production will be compared to the BBC's The Crimson Field. Having seen both of them, I must say I liked ANZAC Girls better. It somehow felt more real than the BBC's counterpart. This no doubt has to do with the fact that all the nurses portrayed in ANZAC Girls were real women and their stories were true stories. When I discovered this I spent an evening reading about these amazing women and marvelling about their strength and bravery. This just really adds to the experience of watching such a period drama. I also felt like there was less 'drama' (for want of a better word) in ANZAC Girls compared to The Crimson Field. Ofcourse, there was romance and some secrets, but I felt like it focused more of the war itself and what the women had to go through as nurses. And finally, though BBC dramas usually stand out in the 'looks' department, I felt ANZAC Girls really didn't lack anything in cinematography or locations.
So, I very highly recommend ANZAC Girls to anyone interested in WWI and period dramas with strong female characters.