Lord Charlie Brockett: WWII Spies

Wednesday 10th December at 9:00pm

The documentary series that sees famous dads and their sons embark on exhilarating adventures continues. In this edition, Lord Brockett and his son William learn the skills of a World War II spy and carry out a mission to steal sensitive documents from behind enemy lines.

In 1996, Lord Brockett –also known as Charlie Nall-Cain –fell spectacularly from grace when he was sent to prison for conspiracy to commit fraud. His family moved overseas, and he has only recently been reunited with his son William, now 17 years old. “From four to 17, which are crucial formative years, we haven’t been together at all,” says Charlie.

Now out of prison, Charlie has a unique opportunity to get to know his son. Based on a government information film used by British spies in WWII, the duo will follow a rigorous training regime before embarking on an undercover operation designed to represent a genuine wartime mission.

The pair begin their training at Beaulieu, one of many country estates where raw recruits of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) were put through their paces. Like all SOE trainees, the boys must first learn the art of self-defence, and jujitsu instructor Bruce Heffer has no intention of giving them an easy ride. “The basis of what we do is to inflict as much damage to the attacker as we can,” says Bruce. For William, who lacks his father’s army experience, this sort of combat situation is a new challenge.

Having learned how to fight, Charlie and William set about mastering the spy’s greatest weapon – the language of secrecy. With the help of Dave White, an ex-government communications officer, the new recruits learn Morse code and a further encoding system used by the SOE. Once again, this is familiar territory to Charlie, while it is a new language to William. But the 17-year-old is keen to learn about the many gadgets at the spy’s disposal, and excels at his next lesson –lock-picking.

Heading back outside, father and son are taught some skills for going undetected while moving through water. Using a technique called breath-hold diving, Charlie and William must retrieve a weight from the bottom of a lake. “God it’s cold!” says William. “I’m more used to the pool environment.” Next up, the intrepid duo must overcome their shared fear of heights as they are shown the ropes of climbing. “You’re kidding, right?” asks William when faced with a 50ft climbing wall. “Once it gets to about three storeys, I start panicking.” Scaling this wall will be a mental and physical challenge for both parties, but they must complete it if they are to proceed to their real mission. In the event, both Charlie and William manage to conquer their vertigo and make it to the top of the wall.

With their training complete, father and son are ready for their adventure –a covert mission on British soil. Only after passing this critical test would a real SOE operative be able to go undercover and spy against the enemy. Charlie and William’s task is to steal a set of blueprints from the heart of a weapons base. The location has been picked to resemble enemy-occupied rural France, and comes complete with mock German troops. They are dropped some miles away from the base and must cross an icy river before collecting their equipment from a parachute drop and gathering instructions using Morse code. It takes over an hour, but they are eventually ready to infiltrate the base.

After picking a lock on the perimeter fence, the two are faced with an 18ft wall to scale –this time in the
dark and without an instructor. They both make it over the wall, but there are bigger obstacles in store –including armed guards, a secret safe code and a risky dash to the escape plane. For Charlie and William, however, the greatest challenge may be to work together as a unit, having spent so many years apart. In this respect, Charlie is full of confidence.

“As a dad, I couldn’t be happier,” he says.

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