The Video Diaries of Rifleman Harris - Jason Salkey - official site, graphic copyright

the diaries so far

Episode One:

The first instalment of the Harris diaries joins the Sharpe crew at the commencement of shooting for the third series in the Crimean city of Simferopol. It was to be the last of a three year stint in the Ukraine and the events that followed tipped the scales in favour of us never returning.

The third series pack shot is snapped at Belogorsk, Ukraine

Starting as we did at summer's end, our arrival coincided with the height of a four month long drought, immediately hampering our off-camera life. As hand washes from basins and buckets to flush the toilets became the norm.

On set we plodded along with the shooting of Sharpe's Gold, a strange episode that saw the beginning of the end of the Chosen Men. Cooper played by Michael Mears - due to be in only one of the three episodes this series - leaves prematurely. A disagreement with production heads sees him take the plane home a week early before all of his scenes were shot.

Mike Mears hurts finger performing a stunt

Perhaps a dramatic gesture on Cooper's part, but the manner in which production handled the situation left a bad taste in the mouth of Sharpe veterans. Things do promise to get better with the move down to the former soviet Riviera and the seaside resort of Yalta.

Episode Two:

Experiencing life in the post-soviet Ukraine can be hard at times, but it did have it's plus points. One of these is the Black Sea resort town that provided a base for the bulk of our stay; a portion of the tour we keenly looked forward to after our stay in the simply awful capital.

Camera crew change the lens for shot of deserters

However, the feel good factor created by our arrival in Yalta was quickly tempered by an apparent resumption of previous severe water shortages. The 'powers' had assured us that there would be plenty of water when we got to Yalta; we took drastic steps to make sure there was. Strike action ensued and production was held up for the day.

After the dispute was arbitrated 'union bosses' decreed we could 'pick up tools' and get back to the 'shop floor' to complete Sharpe's Gold' and begin principal photography on 'Battle'. An episode not based on a published Cornwell novel, but a story that would include the loss of another of our dwindling Chosen band of brothers.

Episode Three:

The unit having spent two months 'in country' started to get a little fractious; this manifested itself with political upheaval in the world of the Chosen Men. Upheaval of our sleeping patterns followed as we entered into night shoots to film Loup's surprise attack on Sharpe's charges, the Compania Irlandesa.

Daragh O'Malley and Battle cast at Dimerdji, Ukraine

With fatigue inducing night shoots and Sharpe family rows behind us we were at the threshold of a scene that we were dreading to film.

We knew this episode concludes with the death of Chosen Man Perkins, something we weren't anxious to shoot. Inevitably, we completed the deeply touching passing away of Ben Perkins scene and waved good-bye to three-year Sharpe veteran Lyndon Davies.

Episode Four:

Our tenure in the Crimea was gradually coming to a close, as soon we'll be packing our suitcases for the trip to Portugal for completion of the shoot. First we commence shooting the bulk of Sharpe's Sword, an episode dear to Harris' Candide loving heart. For this story provides the biggest contribution from the learned Chosen Man to date.

New actors arrive to shoot 'Sword's' exterior scenes at the dawn of a post-Soviet winter. All the more reason to relish our imminent departure to warmer climes; but first we must say farewell forever to our Crimean friends.

Cast of Sword relax in Bulhaco, Portugal

The dying days of Sharpe's third series would be spent in the winter sunshine of Portugal- England's oldest ally. The defence of who brought us into the Peninsula war in 1809 and up against Napoleon. The Portuguese shoot evokes strong memories of the seminal 'Rifle's' shoot two years previous, where we took refuge after a traumatic first Crimean shoot .

Episode Five:

It had been decided that spiralling costs and the hassle of filming in the Crimea would force us to shoot Sharpe elsewhere. The search didn't lead us far, as producers chose Turkey, Ukraine's Black sea neighbour, to begin the fourth series.

The first part of the shoot is filmed in England without Chosen Man Harris, but I meet up with the unit on the plane to Antalya, Turkey where we will film the battle sections of 'Regiment'.

Though not far from our Crimean 'home', Turkey is a world away in terms of western comforts a state of affairs that pleased us greatly. The down side, perhaps, was with this new five star existence (and the loss of Lyndon 'Perkins' Davies) some of the old Sharpe spirit was withering away.

Nothing escapes the Harris cam. Antalya, Turkey

Thankfully, our reputation in the 'business' for Bacchanalian excess had become legend and the incoming actors resolved to keep it up.

Late one night, that spirit would be rocked to the core when one of our lead characters is injured badly and has to be hospitalised. A situation that provided harrowing resonance of the time Paul McGann was injured on the first Sharpe.

Episode Six:

Diary two of the Turkish era sees us readjusting after the sickening injury to Daragh O'Malley's cheek bone. Almost reluctantly the unit plods through the re-arranged schedule to complete the remnants of Mission (a Harris favourite) and detonate the opening salvos of Sharpe's Siege.

The luxurious Antalya Sheraton made it easy to forget our troubles with satellite telly, endless choices of food and drink and other western conveniences. Something we were not that used to on-tour with Sharpe over the years.

Eventually Daragh recovers; returns to work and proceedings on set gain an air of normality again. All in time for us to up sticks and move both down the coast and back in time to shoot in a little town on the way to the Middle East.

Our first visit to Daragh in hospital after sustaining a broken cheek

Episode Seven:

The vast Sharpe unit pack their bags and board various modes of transport to get us to the final stop on our itinerary, the eastern Mediterranean coastal town of Silifke. Nearby, a castle set has been built where we continue shooting the eleventh episode of this great series: Sharpe's Siege.

This diarist was about to put his usual Sharpe existence on hold with the arrival of his family on location for the remainder of the shoot.

Before we can reach the end-of term calm of the final week we must survive a gruelling series of night shoots and the looming spectre of industrial unrest within the crew.

Sharing a joke on set filming Sharpe's Siege, Silifke, Turkey

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