The Powder Monkey

1951 | United Kingdom

Based on Arthur Groom's 1949 novel All Guns Ablaze, The Powder Monkey was a BBC production for children's television broadcast in January 1951. It told the story of Admiral Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. 

Groom, who was born in Hove, Sussex in 1898 was a prolific author of over 100 children's books and also wrote stories for British annuals based on US TV Western series' such as Buffalo Bill, Wells Fargo and Champion The Wonder Horse. He also wrote Writing for Children, a book containing a wealth of information on every aspect of writing children's books and plays. 

The Powder Monkey
The picture shown here (complete with BBC camera) is thought to be from the first broadcast.

The thirty minute play, seen through the eyes of a Powder Monkey, a member of the ship's crew whose job it was to ferry gunpowder from the ship's hold to the cannons, was first broadcast on 30 January 1951 and starred Andrew Osborn as Horatio Nelson. A second version was also shown - the date of which is unknown at the time of writing - with Richard Longman taking the role of the British naval hero. The play ended with Nelson on his death-bed.

Published on January 21st, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.