The director of BBC Two’s upcoming war drama has gone into more detail of the filming challenges presented when filming in Watford to make it look like an Iraqi desert.

The new feature-length BBC Two battlefield drama Danny Boy was shot in Watford, instead of Iraq, due to the travel restrictions enforced from the pandemic.

Written by Bafta-winner Robert Jones (Murder, Party Animals) and directed by Sam Miller (I May Destroy You, Luther), Danny Boy needed a location a little closer than home to depict a warzone.

Amid the second lockdown in November, the director said the biggest challenge of filming during Covid was: “Filming the Battle of Danny Boy – which took place in Iraqi desert, in sweltering heat, with tanks and explosions - just outside Watford in November.”

Danny Boy is a gritty 90-minute film based on real life events and features lead actor Anthony Boyle taking on the role of Iraq War veteran Brian Wood, a soldier wrongly accused of historic war crimes.

Colin Barr and Sue Horth, executive producers for Expectation, added that the two mainly hoped to achieve empathy and “a sense of being in Brian’s boots on the ground in Iraq”.

Of course while much of this relied on the script and the acting, there was also a challenge of making the set realistically mimic an Iraqi desert in Watford.

Anthony Boyle in Danny Boy (Photo: BBC)

Anthony Boyle in Danny Boy (Photo: BBC)

Likewise, scenes set in Turkey had to be shot in a Turkish restaurant in North London.

“Besides the editorial and creative challenge of drawing such complex stories together into a compelling emotional fabric, there were a few big technical and logistical hurdles to filming in 2020,” added the executive producers.

They said: “Like everyone, Covid was our main challenge. As one of the first drama teams to start production after confirmation of the DCMS insurance scheme, navigating the new world of social distancing with rigorous Covid protocols presented all sorts of new experiences; from on-set bubbles to the travel ban obliging us to film Iraq in England, in November."

Director Sam Miller with actor Toby Jones (Photo: BBC)

Director Sam Miller with actor Toby Jones (Photo: BBC)

They continued:“Fortunately the weather held off for four precious days - though it tipped down for a week before and a week after - and we managed to complete all our filming without any interruptions.

“Our ultimate aim was to make that hurdle invisible, that no-one watching would pick up that it was filmed during Covid.”

“Anyone who remembers the Iraq war will also find something recognisable here,” said the executive producers, citing the different accounts and memories people would have of the era.

Actor Toby Jones, who plays former human rights solicitor Phil Shiner went as far as to say that filming felt “unusual” due to the necessary Covid protocols in place.

Titled after the military checkpoint in Iraq, Danny Boy explores all manner of legal and moral conflicts pertaining to life within and beyond a warzone, as Boyle’s character finds himself at the mercy of the British legal system.

Anthony Boyle and Toby Jones (Photo: BBC)

Anthony Boyle and Toby Jones (Photo: BBC)

The real-life Sgt Wood was a lance corporal in the 1st Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment at the Battle of Danny Boy in May 2004.

The battle sparked a 13-year legal fight after British troops were given an order to remove the bodies of 20 Iraqis who had died and take them back to a nearby camp along with nine prisoners of war.

The detainees, who were insurgents with the Shia militia Mahdi Army, went on to claim they had been mistreated and heard the torture and murder of their compatriots.

A soldier once bestowed a Military Cross for bravery by the Queen, Wood later found himself falsely accused of war crimes and was summoned to testify to the Al-Sweady Inquiry – one of Britain’s biggest ever public inquiries, into allegations of mistreatment of the Iraqi nationals by British soldiers.

Danny Boy will air on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer on May 12.