Virgin of the Secret Service: The Complete Series 2Apr2013

by Frazer Diamond

Nowadays, the credit crawls at the end of a film or television series seem to go on forever. Everyone, right down to the Assistant’s Assistant, gets their name on screen. But up to the end of the 1970’s, that role call would barely extend beyond a few star names and the heads of department. Film making was all Smoke and Mirrors, and a great many technicians laboured long and hard for years with very little public acknowledgement. My late father was one of those guys. Peter Diamond spent five whole decades working as a film and television stunt arranger, swordmaster, stunt double, and actor and although he’s recently been given at least partial redress by way of various Sci-Fi and Cult TV festivals, and via the “extras” put together on a number of Hollywood home releases, most folks still aren’t properly aware of the breadth and diversity of his extraordinary career. Yes, he worked on Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Princess Bride and Highlander, and many classic Hammer films. But television was his bread-and-butter and it was his diverse work on so many TV episodes, mini-series, one-off plays and filmed variety shows that enabled him to accrue well over a thousand credits in his lifetime.

One thousand credits. That’s a hell of a thing. And if you think that a man might have to work seven days a week, year in year out, to achieve that kind of total, well, you wouldn’t be far wrong. From the mid 1950’s to the early 1970’s, in particular, my father was the get-to guy for the BBC and the ITV network. He’d run straight from a film set to a TV rehearsal, he’d put together the action for all those filmed insets shoehorned into our live Saturday broadcasts, or put in a live appearance himself on a number of variety shows. He went to APBC Elstree, Ealing, Lime Grove, the London Transport Assembly Room, Riverside Studios, Drill Hall in W10, the London Palladium and every type of location in-between for day shoots, night shoots and live shoots. And the credits soon racked up.

francisdrake-1Errol Flynn TV Theatre, Douglas Fairbanks Presents, Ivanhoe, Ghost Squad, The Saint, Danger Man, Doctor Who, The Avengers, Z Cars, Treasure Island, St Ives, Softly, Softly, Gordon Honour, Paul Temple, Story Parade, Return of the Musketeers, The Wednesday Play, Theatre 625, appearances on Mainly Millicent, Bob Monkhouse, Benny Hill, Norman Vaughn and The Derek Nimmo Show, Henry V, Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet, Lysistrata, Mr Pastry, So You Think You Can Drive, TW TW TW – it’s the sheer range that jumps out at you. High-octane ITC action rubs shoulders with the most mundane BBC children’s series. Sketch show japes and variety stunts nudge up to thunderous battle scenes and duels for award-winning dramas. And he continued in this fashion, working both behind and in front of the camera, juggling genres and channels – one day here, two days there – for the rest of his days, right up until his untimely death, en route home from the set of Heartbeat in 2004.

I have recently been wading through a great stack of contracts from my father’s peak TV period. The employment details make fantastic reading at times:

“to be set alight, as arranged.”
Dixon of Dock Green (August 1967)
“to perform stunt of being thrown over bridge into river. Chased by car, shot and killed.”
The Expert (April 1969)

They can also be fantastically vague:

“to walk on, as discussed”
Gamble for a Throne (September 1961)
“for performance, 8th November at Elstree”
Call Oxbridge 2000 (December 1962)

It’s no wonder there are blind spots and gaps in my knowledge, which is where Network have stepped in. They’ve reclaimed so many gems from the film and television archives, and they’re proving a godsend. Thanks to Network, I have now pinpointed my father’s one on-screen appearance in The Invisible Man. Thanks to Network, I have watched him sail and fence through every episode of Sir Francis Drake and I now know he fought both for and against Terence Morgan. And now, thanks to Network, I am being given the opportunity to sit down with Virgin of the Secret Service. This globetrotting spy series is one I have never seen before. I have unearthed my father’s ATV contract for the production, but the information it contains is scant. I know he was the fight arranger and that he plays a hired assassin somewhere. I know also that the stunt team he assembled included Bob Anderson, Peter Braham, Sonny Caldinez, Reg Harding, Arthur Howell, and Del Watson. Soon I will know who, where and what made the final cut. And that means I can tick another series off my list, and we can give my father, and his stunt colleagues, one more credit that is long overdue…


The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel
Arthur of the Britons
The Bill
The Buccaneers
Capital City
Danger Man
Dick Turpin
Emergency – Ward 10
The Four Just Men
Fraud Squad
Ghost Squad
The Human Jungle
The Invisible Man
Man of the World
Piece of Cake
The Plane Makers
The Prisoner
Return of the Saint
The Saint
The Sentimental Agent
Sir Francis Drake
The Sweeney
Sword of Freedom
Tales of the Unexpected
Twelfth Night
The Vice
Virgin of the Secret Service
Where the Heart is
William Tell


  1. Stephen Gallagher (@brooligan) Reply

    Back in 1997 I was shooting a miniseries for ITV (Oktober, Carnival Films, w Stephen Tompkinson) and I specifically asked for Peter to supervise the action. I was in awe of his reputation and saw it as a chance to work with a true legend. He was terrific, supportive to a novice director, and without any discernible ego; he’d listen to my ideas, quietly mould them into something better, and then present the results as if they were my own. On more than one occasion, when a crew member challenged my judgement in the light of my inexperience, he’d catch my eye and quietly shake his head; he’d seen it all, and if Peter reckoned it would be OK, it would be OK.

  2. Frazer Diamond Reply

    Wow. What a lovely comment, Stephen. Thank you for your kind words.

    Meanwhile, I’ve now had the chance to sit down with the series and have so far identified my late father – Peter Diamond – on screen in eight episodes. He plays various hired thugs and guards of different ethnic backgrounds, and he’s also a Beefeater, a waiter, and a drunken cowboy sporting an atrocious false beard. Most of these appearances aren’t credited, either, so once again I have to thank Network for making this series available for folks like myself to watch and study and give credit where it’s due. Cheers, folks!

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