Only the biggest of Only Fools and Horses fans will be aware of the number of episodes of the show that were made purely for charity or educational purposes. Most of these specials were broadcast as one-offs, but there is one Only Fools and Horses special that even the most devoted fans may have missed because it was never actually broadcast on UK television.
The special was made in 1991 and was only broadcast overseas, specifically for people in the Persian Gulf. While only lasting about five minutes in total, this ‘episode’ (if you can call it that) was actually made especially for British soldiers serving in the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Titled ‘The Robin Flies at Dawn’, the episode was filmed at RAF Strike Command in High Wycombe. It features the core cast of Del Boy, Rodney and Uncle Albert, with each of the actors giving their time for free to film the one-off piece.
John Sullivan was also on set to help bring the piece together having volunteered to write it alongside Gareth Gwenlan, who also directed it. Recalling the filming, which was shot in the style of a home-movie and wrapped after just one day, Sullivan said: “It was great fun and after we finished filming they laid on a buffet for us.”
In the actual plot for the episode, we open with the three Trotters addressing the troops from a ‘secret location’ in southern England, Del holding a folder marked ‘Top Secret’ under his arm. It isn’t long before Rodney accidentally gives away their location as High Wycombe.
While speaking to the troops, Del presents the famous Reliant Regal, but with some notable changes – a union jack, camouflage, and a machine gun mounted on it. Del suggests it can be used against Saddam’s secret weapon.
The wives of many of the troops are also there and Del and Rodney cheekily say they’ll take care of them for the troops. Finally, the episode ends with a heartfelt appreciative message for the soldiers. Whilst the episode never aired anywhere, for those desperate to see it you can go and see a tape of it in the Imperial War Museum in London.