Andrew Havill and Molly Vevers, two of the main actors from the six-part docu-drama “U-Boat Wargamers” on Sky HISTORY, talk about the true story behind the show.
We Should Celebrate What They Achieved
Interview With The Stars Of U-Boat Wargamers
The Sky HISTORY docu-drama, U-Boat Wargamers tells the story of the women who helped defeat Germany and win the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II. In an interview for the channel, the main actors of the series, Andrew Havill (Gilbert Roberts) and Molly Vevers (Jean Laidlaw), discuss the plot and the historical figures they portray.
The series focuses on the Western Approaches Tactical Unit (WATU) in Liverpool, a hand-picked group of female mathematicians, forensic accountants, and members of the Women’s Royal Navy Service (WRNS). They achieved what the top brass at the Admiralty could not – a set of tactics which would outwit the deadly U-Boat wolfpacks and set the Royal Navy and the Allies on the path to victory.
Andrew Havill explains that the series is about a country being starved of provisions and cut off from the world due to Germany’s U-Boat packs, which were picking off convoys coming over from America with provisions. Battleships and escorts that were supposed to protect the convoys were not doing so, causing devastation in the country. In 1942, Gilbert Roberts, who had tactical training earlier in his career, was tasked with finding solutions to the problem. He was helped by a team of young women, including Jean Laidlaw, who was ultimately the person to come up with the first of their many new tactics to sink the U-Boats.
Molly Vevers explains that Jean Laidlaw was a 21-year-old chartered accountant who had basic sea-based knowledge and was involved with the WRNS when she was enlisted by Gilbert Roberts. Jean became Gilbert’s right-hand woman and had a great rapport with him. She was very intelligent, mathematically-minded, and a problem-solver at heart. Her scenes where she’s holding court and doing a lecture about a new tactic to the male naval officers were satisfying to perform, despite the technical and wordy script.
Andrew Havill talks about Gilbert Roberts’ background, who came from a military family and went straight to the Navy at the age of twelve. He was deemed medically unfit with tuberculosis at the age of 37 and was reduced to training the Home Guard in case of a Nazi invasion. Havill believes that Roberts’ vulnerability, despite being so good at his job, is what makes the story touching.
The actors also discuss their interest in history before doing the show and the research they had to do to prepare. Molly Vevers admits that she only knew the basic stuff that everyone knows about World War II, but she was able to learn more about this story during her audition and filming.
Overall, the interview highlights the importance of the women who worked at WATU and their contributions to winning the Battle of the Atlantic. The series shines a light on a lesser-known aspect of the war effort and celebrates the achievements of these women.
The full text of “We Should Celebrate What They Achieved: Interview With The Stars Of U-Boat Wargamers” is available on the Sky History website.