"Tenko" is the Japanese word for Roll Cal where prisoners were counted and which included the obligatory "bow" to the Japanese masters. This is a true story, but not to anyone or any camp in particular. In this series, created by Lavinia Warner, we follow the fortunes of a group of women from their lives in Singapore prior to its fall, and the frightening indifference of the British military chiefs to the pending Japanese invasion, to their lives in a Japanese internment camp. In most camps there was ab internal friction for one reason or another, and in this one there was is a lot of antagonism between the Dutch and the English, mainly because the Dutch were allowed to bring in many more possessions than the English.

It is not a swash-bucking epic filled with gratuitous violence, it just sets out to explore what happens, and indeed happened, when a lot of women have their freedom and individuality suddenly snatched from them and are thrust together in appalling conditions. The exterior scenes in the first 2 episodes were shot in Singapore. The exterior scenes of the prison camp, specially designed and built, were shot in England. The writer for the first series were Paul Wheeler, Jill Hyem, Anne Valery, with direction by Pennant Roberts and David Askey. The series was produced by Ken Riddington, and the scripts edited by Evgeny Gridneff.

Series 1, Volume 1The first series began on 22 October, 1981, transmitted on BBC 1. The story begins in Singapore just before the island is invaded by the Japanese in World War II. Large parts of the civilian population are captured and taken to internment camps, where the conditions are primitive and disease is rife. Based on real life experiences, this is the powerful story of women whose lives are changed forever.

The first series has been released on DVD and video by Acorn Media. It can be purchased by clicking on the following links to Choices Direct (register and buy online, and a percentage goes to this site to help with the running costs):

Buy these titles now from Choices Direct The Complete Series 1 VHS | DVD
Vol 1 VHS | DVD
Vol 2 VHS | DVD

The main cast for the first series is as follows:

Ann Bell - Marion Jefferson, Wife of Col. Jefferson, resident in Singapore
Stephanie Beacham - Rose Millar, British, but a resident of Singapore.
Patricia Lawrence - Sister Ulrica, Dutch Consultor to the St. Theresa Mission.
Renee Asherson - Sylvia Ashburton. A prime example of British "Raj".
Stephanie Cole - Beatrice Mason, A doctor and a martinet.
Louise Jameson - Blanche Simmons, A Londoner.
Emily Bolton - Christina Campbell, A Eurasian , living in Singapore.
Jeananne Crowley - Nellie Keene,A nurse who worked with Dr. Mason in Singapore.
Claire Oberman - Kate Norris, Another nurse, friend of Nellie Keene.
Veronica Roberts - Dorothy Bennett.
Joanna Hole - Sally Markham.
Ann Queensberry - Judith Bowen
Karin Foley - Debbie Bowen, Judith's young daughter.
Elizabeth Chambers - Mrs. Van Meyer, Dutch - nouveau-riche.
Burt Kwouk - Capt. Yamauchi, Prison camp Commandant.

The series was initially directed by Pennant Roberts, with David Askey taking over half way through.

Tx. DateRpt. Date'Title'SynopsisWriter
22.10.81Singapore, 5 December 1941Most of the inhabitants of Singapore remain blissfully unaware of any danger as there has been no information from either the Army or the media, however, the Japanese have landed 400 miles north of the city and heading towards it.Paul Wheeler
22.10.81Singapore, 10 December 1941Following the bombing of the city by the Japanese, a civilian evacuation occurs. The ship on which one such evacuation is occuring is torpedoed and the survivors are taken prisoner.Paul Wheeler
5.11.81Kampong Getah, February 1942The British women are taken to an internment camp where they join a group of Dutch internees, including Sister Ulrice, and everyone has to make adjustments to the new way of life.Jill Hyem
12.11.81The older women are worried when the younger women are removed from the camp unexpectedly, but they are being used as labour crews.Anne Valery
19.11.81The social structure in the camp is disintigrating, and more women are falling ill, with Malaria making its first appearance, and medication is refused. When one of the huts is converted to a sick bay and education and entertainment committees formed, morale improves.Jill Hyem
26.11.81Marion is questioned about British organization in Singapore prior to the fall of the city and friendships between three guards and three internees, lead to trouble and punishment.Anne Valery
3.12.81Sally was pregnant before her capture, and is coming into her seventh month of pregnancy. One of the nurses, becomes very supportive, and this intensifies when the child is still born, leading to rumours of an 'unnatural' friendship. Malaria hits again.Jill Hyem
10.12.81 Judith Bowen dies of Malaria, but requests that Debbie is looked after when she is gone, but this becomes a problem when Debbie finds out about an escape plan and forces her way into it.Jill Hyem
17.12.81Punishment details are imposed on the camp because of the escape plan, leading to the Dutch feeling they are being punished for the actions of the British.Anne Valery
??.12.81Christmas is approaching, and a working party see men in the distance, bringing hope to the women. They are soon disappointed when they learn they are to go to another camp.Anne Valery

Series 2The second series began on 22 October, 1981, transmitted on BBC 1. After 10 months, the women were moved to another camp, but split into two groups. On arrival, they are pleasantly surprised as the relative luzury, but their joy is short lived when they encounter the formidable Verna Johnson, who is in charge fo distribution.

The second series is being released on DVD and video by Acorn Media on the 11th August this year as individual releases and boxed sets and can be pre-ordered by clicking on the following links to Choices Direct (register and buy online, and a percentage goes to this site to help with the running costs):

Buy these titles now from Choices Direct The Complete Series 2 - Pre-order VHS | DVD
Vol 1 - Pre-order VHS | DVD

Tx. DateRpt. Date'Title'SynopsisWriter
December 1942For their march to the new camp, the women have been split, and Marion's group later learns that the second group, including Blanche, Nellie and Sylvia, are being sent to another camp and won't be rejoining them. On the way, they pick up elderly Joss Holbrook during an overnight stay at an abandoned house, left behind by another party for being too ill but who has now recovered fine. Debbie dies when she is bitten by something on the journey and the women insist on giving her a proper burial, at which point Marion learns the Bowens were Jewish. They arrive at the new camp on New Year's Day, 1943.Jill Hyem
1 January 1943The internees adjust to life in their new camp, where things are radically different and seemingly much more luxurious than the last one, but soon realise that luxury always has its price. The leader of the women there is Verna Johnson, who's a scheming collaborator in league with Miss Hasan, interpreter to the Commandant, Lt Nakamura. No sooner have they arrived at the camp than Christina is taken away from her friends and sent to another camp on a lorry. Marion is reunited with an old school friend, Lillian Cartland, and her little boy Bobby. Bea finds she must defer to the camp's medic, Dr Natalie Trier. Kate conceals the fact she is a nurse and Sally's attitude to life deteriorates rapidly. Anne Valery
2 January 1943The ridiculous restrictions of the new camp, such as no swearing, leave the women restless, especially Dorothy and Joss. Dorothy agrees to teach Shinya how to speak English. Marion clashes with Verna over responsibility for "her women" but Miss Hasan insists that Verna is the one and only leader and they must obey her. Kate and Rose try to get news on their men from the male camp and Dr Trier tries to get Bea better and back in the infirmary with her. Meanwhile, the women are dressed up in fancy clothes and make-up for a propoganda photo, but the day is ruined when the depressed Sally commits suicide by slashing her wrists with a broken mirror. The Japs come down heavy on everyone as the ladies reel from the shock of Sally's sudden death.
15 January 1943Punishment continues to be severe following Sally's death. Rations are cut and workloads increased. Mrs Van Meyer finds out that Joss is in fact a lady, and starts sucking up to her with no shame. Sister Ulrica goes to the priest for confession and confesses to helping with Sally's funeral, even though since she killed herself it is regarded as a terrible sin. As penance, she has to keep away from the other women and not speak to them at all. The priest says they have led her away from God. Dorothy reveals she is pregnant to one of the guards and wants to abort the baby, which prompts a shocked Sister Ulrica to break her silence.
Sister Ulrica tries to talk Dorothy out of aborting the baby: she says that its either that or she will kill herself. Verna and Miss Hasan arrange for her to have an abortion next day, but then they find out that the new district commander is coming to visit and shove them all in a storeroom for the procedure. The new commander turns out to be the newly promoted Major Yamauchi, who expresses displeasure at the camp hierarchy and replaces Nakamura with Sato, now a lieutenant. When the priest visits again and Sister Ulrica tells him she helped Dorothy get rid of her baby, he arranges for her to leave the camp and continue her imprisonment at a convent. Leaving, Ulrica tells Bea that she knew how to be a nun but she didn't know how to be a woman until she met them all.
31 March 1943Marion asks Yamauchi about Christina and the other women from the first camp; next day, Christina and Blanche are returned to join their friends. Bea is crestfallen that they have sent Blanche back and not Nellie. Blanche finds out about Debbie's death and blames Rose for telling the guards about their escape. She teams up with the irrepressible Joss to put one over on the guards. The women learn that some of them are to be repatriated (ie sent home) and Lillian gets her hopes up that she and Bobby will be on the list. When the list comes in, they aren't on it but Dr Trier is. Christina is contacted by the underground, and passes on the news that Rose's boyfriend Bernard and Kate's fiance Tom are both alive and at the nearby men's camp. NOTE: Louise Jameson rejoins the cast in this episode. Blanche tells the others that Sylvia died just a few months after they arrived at their new camp, but that Nellie is alive and well, running the camp sick bay. Bea doesn't believe her but it appears that she is telling the truth, as we find out during season 3. Jill Hyem
22 April 1943With Christina's help, Rose and Bernard arrange to sneak out of their camps and meet up in the jungle on the night of the Emperor's Birthday, when the guards will be busy at a party. Blanche goes with Rose to act as escort to the meeting place. Rose and Bernard meet and decide to get married when the war is over and they are free. Back at the camp, Kate and Marion learn of the meeting just as the guards do too. Sato orders them all into the jungle to find Rose and Bernard: the women watch them leave and are horrified when shots ring out into the night... Meanwhile, Christina decides she doesn't want to be courier for the underground any more. Joss and Blanche make plans against the guards and Lillian continues to obsess about Bobby's health. Dr Trier is repatriated, leaving Bea in charge of the infirmary. Kate considers becoming a doctor after the war.Jill Hyem
30 April 1943The internees suffer severe punishments following Rose's escape. She is brought back to the camp alive, but shot in the back; Bernard was killed at the scene. Bea and Kate operate on Rose to remove the bullet and all of the women provide items for them to use in the surgery, even Verna. When Rose wakes up, she is paralysed from the waist down. Yamauchi and Miss Hasan try to find out how she kept in contact with Bernard. Blanche finds it hard to visit Rose after the shooting. Shinya tells Dorothy that one of the women informed on Rose and everyone suspects Christina of being responsible. She is put before the disciplinary committee and gets back a Not Proven verdict. Marion catches Lillian giving Bobby unusual food items and realises she was the informer, to get extra food for Bobby.Anne Valery
12 May 1943Jill Hyem
3 September 1943Conditions continue to worsen inside the camp, not helped any by a drought and an increased work load. Marion's diary is burned by the guards. The prisoners discover that Red Cross Parcels have been sent to the camp but not given to the women - Verna tells them they were kept from them in the aftermath of Rose's escape but Marion works out that was a lie and realises the contents of the parcels have been sold on to them by Verna. Dorothy forgives Shinya for shooting Rose as he prepares to leave for the front. Next day, an allied plane bombs the camp while trying to bomb Yamauchi's headquarters, killing Miss Hasan and Shinya and seriously wounding Daisy and Sato. Led by Blanche, the women takes advantage of the incident to raid the storerooms and steal the Red Cross parcels. Yamauchi shows up in the middle of it all and orders them to stop.Anne Valery

Series 3The series began on , transmitted on BBC 1.

Tx. DateRpt. Date'Title'SynopsisWriter
1 July 1945Two years have passed and the women are in another camp, this one in the site of a former prison. Times have been hard and many have died - including Blanche, Verna, Daisy and even little Suzy. New faces include brassy, tough Maggie Thorpe and 16 year old Alice Courtenay, who lost her mother in the camp. The war has turned and the Allies are finally defeating the Japanese. Christina sees a document in Yamauchi's office, giving orders for the women to be executed, so they all gather weapons to defend themselves with should the guards try it. When a surprise Tenko is called, the women fear the worst and prepare to fight: to their shock, Yamauchi announces that the war is over and that they are now free women. He says that they will, however, remain under Japanese control until the allies get there. Meanwhile, Maggie and a mob prepare to attack Sato.Anne Valery
20 August 1945Marion stops Maggie and her mob from attacking Sato and stops Kate taking down the Japanese flag. She explains to the women how things will work now. Yamauchi reveals the wealth of stores hidden away from the women, to their horror. Kate, with Maggie in tow, goes AWOL for a few hours to see Tom at the men's camp but they are stopped en route and warned not to continue by a male POW, who tells them it is too dangerous just yet. Maggie and the POW have sex in a truck. But next day, Yamauchi arranges for the women to visit the men's camp.
19 September 1945A bunch of Australian soldiers finally arrive at the camp and are horrified by what they find. The women are told they will be leaving for Singapore next day. Alice is mistaken for a boy by the soldiers. Sato kills himself, watched by Dorothy and Joss. The next morning, Yamauchi bids Marion farewell and apologises for everything. Watched by Yamauchi, the women leave the camp for freedom.Anne Valery
The women are met in Singapore by RAPWI officer Phyllis Bristow, who take their details, She wants to transfer Kate and Mrs Van Meyer to other groups, but they refuse and are left where they are. Alice learns that her father is still alive. They are all taken to their new quarters, at Raffles. The luxury of the hotel and the richness of the food stuns the women, as it has been some years since they have had it so good. Marion is approached by a colonel who is gathering evidence on war criminals and Kate hands Dr Trier's notes over to the medical corps. A party is held at Raffles to welcome them all back to the land of the living, where Mrs Van Meyer flirts with a colonel. Marion awaits news about Clifford and Bea runs out of the party in tears, unable to cope with everything.Anne Valery
Still looking for Clifford, Marion is asked to give evidence against Yamauchi. Joss meets up with Stephen Wentworth, an old friend of Monica's (the women she spent most of the series looking for), who has opened a center to help the natives. Kate learns Tom is in hospital and has TB. Marion returns home to her house, and finds it in perfect order, having been taken over by the Japs for most of the war. Dorothy's house, meanwhile, has been trashed by the locals. Stephen wants Joss to help him at the center. Dorothy and Maggie are befriended by Jake Haulter, who seems to have an uncanny (and probably black-market) knack for procuring things. Marion gets an urgent message to go back to the hotel, and fears the worst about Clifford.
Marion is reunited with Clifford, who is at the hotel waiting for her, and tells her Ben is okay. Clifford reveals he is in charge of leading the hunt for war criminals, and intends to start by tracking down and hanging Yamauchi. Bea, still furious about Yamauchi withholding medicines, agrees to testify against him. She also learns that she is slowly going blind. Meanwhile, Marion is annoyed as Clifford tries to wrap her up in cotton wool and keep her away from the others. More internees arrive at Raffles and reveal that Nellie died just a few months from the end of the war. Mrs Van Meyer gossips about Dorothy's involvement with Shinya. Some of the new arrivals at Raffles bully Dorothy for being a collaborator; they chase her down a corridor and she runs right into Sister Ulrica.
Sister Ulrica catches up with the other women and counsels Dorothy, who finds out her mother is dead and leaves to go back to England. Clifford and Marion have drifted apart badly: he doesn't want to hear about the camps, which is all she wants to talk about. Mrs Van Meyer learns Mr Van Meyer is presumed dead and she cannot get to any of his money, leaving her penniless. Marion is furious at Clifford for reading her diary and he realises the other internees know her better now than he ever could. Jake offers Maggie a place to stay. Bea tells Marion that she is going blind and is conned into helping out at the center by Joss. Jake gets Joss free medicine for the center.
The women start being questioned by the military to give evidence against Yamauchi and co for war crimes: Bea flips out, Mrs Van Meyer tells lots of lies and Maggie gives emotional testimony about Blanche's death. Joss is arrested by the police for being with Christina's uncle. Clifford tells Marion that Yamauchi is in Singapore. Stephen announces he is staying in Singapore to run a center; he wants Joss to come back and help him run it. Marion refuses to testify against Yamauchi; so do Christina, who goes to visit him, and Sister Ulrica. Everyone begins doubting things they said and did in the camps, including Sister Ulrica and Mrs Van Meyer.Anne Valery
Kate is distraught when Tom dies and seeks comfort from Sister Ulrica, who comes to the funeral even though Tom was a protestant. Kate also decides she definitely wants to become a doctor. Marion visits Yamauci in prison, with Jake's help in pulling strings. He tells her he knew about her diary and let Christina steal the paper for it. She apologises that it will be used to prosecute him. He tells her that he would rather die than go to prison - it is the more honourable way out. Bea has to explain the facts of life to Alice after a boy gets a little too friendly with her. Maggie realises that she is pregnant. Clifford and Marion fight over her visiting Yamauchi and she says she doesn't know if they have a future together.Jill Hyem
The women all prepare to go home, and say goodbye to Alice as she sets sail for England. The Jeffersons' marriage is clearly in trouble as Clifford sees how much Marion has changed since she has been in the camps. Jake tells Maggie that he knows she is pregnant and she is torn over what to do about the baby. She eventually decides to go back to England as well. Christina decides to stay in Singapore and become a teacher. Mrs Van Meyer learns, to her horror, that Mr Van Meyer is still alive and tells Marion she doesn't know what to do now, that she never loved him. Joss feels under the weather and is admitted to hospital after being mugged.Jill Hyem
The women all prepare to leave Singapore to go back home, agreeing to have a reunion at Raffles in 1950, exactly five years after they separate. Joss dies in hospital. Bea agrees to stay on in Singapore and help Stephen run the centre. Sister Ulrica goes to visit Yamauchi, who tells her he knows he will be hanged. Maggie agrees to go and stay with Dorothy in London. Everyone reminisces about absent friends: Joss, Rose, Blanche and all the others who died, and then say their goodbyes as they all go their separate ways. Marion realises the experience is finally over as she sails for home.

Series 3This one off special reunited many of the cast of the series, and their characters on 26th December 1985. Five years after the end of the war, a chance encounter between Marion and Dorothy prompts Marion to try and organise a reunion at Raffles for them and their fellow ex-internees. In Singapore, they are reunited with the rest of their group - Bea, Kate, Christina, Maggie, Alice and the remarried Mrs Van Meyer, now Mrs Forster-Brown. They reminisce about the past and look forward to the future. Dominica invites them all to spend the weekend at her house, out of the city. Everyone has their own problems: Bea's eyesight is failing, Kate is failing at medical school, Alice is failing at getting on with people and Maggie is failing at accepting help. At the Forster-Brown's estate, communist soldiers hold everyone at gunpoint after hiding inside Sister Ulrica's van. Christina foils their attempt to shoot Bea, but Ulrica is injured. In the aftermath, when everyone has returned to Raffles, Christina is discovered by the other women to be behind the whole incident, the leader of the local Communist cell. She is arrested and sent to jail, where she rejects Marion's attempts to help her, revealing a harsh side to her not seen before. As the group prepare to go their separate ways again, decisions are made. Bea and Stephen take Marion up on her offer to go and live with her in England; Kate decides to drop out of medical school and take over the center, with Alice's help. Jake and Dorothy decide to try a relationship. Dominica and her new hubby, Teddy, also decide to return to England. Marion invites everyone to her home for Christmas, save Kate and Ulrica, who will still be in Singapore, and Christina. The Tenko saga draws to a close as the assembled company gather at Marion's at Christmas, and toast absent friends.

The finale was written by Jill Hyem and runs for 110 minutes.