PBS Masterpiece's Home Fires takes us back to the heart of a rural Cheshire community during the Second World War, where a group of women band together to keep their world – and the nation – from falling apart while the men are away fighting at the front. 

Meet the women – and men – bringing the home front to our TV screens...

Frances Barden (Samantha Bond)

Frances is the heart and soul of Great Paxford’s WI and the village community. Formidably intelligent and with a strong entrepreneurial drive, she can’t help but dominate any forum. She’s a great woman to have in your corner, but a terrible opponent.

Her marriage to Peter a stable one of equals. But all that changes in series two, when Frances is forced to confront the fact that her happily ordered life isn’t quite what she thinks it is.

Where have you seen her before?

Everywhere, actually. Downton Abbey's Aunt Rosamund Painswick was also Outnumbered's Auntie Angela and, of course, James Bond's very own Miss Moneypenny. 

Joyce Cameron (Francesca Annis)

First-class snob Joyce had a finger in every pie in the village, with spots on almost every committee board to her name. But in series one we learned that there was more to this rather lonely women than meets the eye, as she lost control of the WI and dutifully followed her husband to live on the coast.

Series two finds her back in the village and eager to get back into the fold as the Battle of Britain looms. But why has she REALLY come back? And where is her husband?

Where have you seen her before?

A veteran of both stage (with the Royal Shakespeare Company) and screen, Annis has appeared in films including sci-fi disaster Dune (with Kyle McLachlan and Sting – yes, Sting – in1984) and television series such as Reckless, Wives and Daughters, Cranford (with Michael Gambon and Judi Dench) and Deceit.

Sarah Collingborne (Ruth Gemmell)

The last time we saw Frances' younger sister she was in a bit of a pickle having had a misunderstanding with new pal RAF officer Nick Lucas. The pair had struck up a strong friendship while Sarah's husband Adam was away serving as an army chaplain but that aforementioned misunderstanding left their relationship on the edge.

When Nick returns from Dunkirk, and she receives some devastating news about Adam, Sarah's future has never seemed more uncertain.

Where have you seen her before?

Gemmell took the lead opposite Colin Firth in the 1997 big screen adaptation of Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch and her TV CV includes roles in The Bill, Silent Witness, Waking The Dead, Tracy Beaker, Channel 4's Utopia and Penny Dreadful.

Pat Simms (Claire Rushbrook)

Pat finally found her freedom at the end of series one when abusive journalist husband Bob went off to be a wartime reporter. And when we meet her in series two she's learning to relish it.

Pat has become a happy, independent, an outgoing member of the WI and an outgoing member of the
community. She even strikes up a bit of a friendship with a very handsome Czech soldier. But it's not long before Bob is back on her doorstep – and things become more complicated than ever.

Where have you seen her before?

She had a Bafta-winning turn in E4's My Mad Fat Diary, but before that Rushbrook appeared on stage in numerous West End productions (including Three Sisters, Festen and The Crucible), on the big screen in Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies and on the small screen in The Sins, Linda Green, Carrie And Barry and Whitechapel.

Erica Campbell (Frances Grey)

Doctor's wife Erica runs the village surgery and is fiercely protective of her husband and daughters. She married in a whirlwind during the First World War and doesn't want her girls to suffer the same fate. 

Erica’s deep-rooted sense of right and wrong led her into trouble in series one, when she tried to intervene on Pat’s behalf. As series two opens, Erica is wiser and more cautious in her approach, though she will battle to the end to support her family and friends, including Will’s worsening cancer and Laura’s scandalous behaviour.

Where have you seen her before?

Not to be confused with the historical Duchess of Suffolk, Grey is best known for her starring roles in Messiah alongside Ken Stott.

Bob Simms (Mark Bazeley)

Bob's struggle to achieve much since his fictionalised account of his experiences in the First World War became a best-seller ate away at him until he became a bitter and frustrated man who took his anger out on his wife. He psychologically and physically abused Pat, until her friends managed to conspire to send him away from the village at the end of series one.

But when Bob returns injured at the top of series two, he is determined to retain the status quo.

Where have you seen him before?

Remember The Special Relationship? Bazeley played Alastair Campbell alongside Michael Sheen's Tony Blair. You might also have spotted him in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (with Olivia Colman and Paddy Considine) or in The Body Farm and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Dr Will Campbell (Ed Stoppard)

The villagers of Great Paxford have an excellent GOP in Dr Will, who knows them all too well. After witnessing the horrors of war during WWI he's well respected in the community, and dearly loved by his wife and daughters.

After being diagnosed with lung cancer in series one, Will was forced to be the patient rather than the doctor. However, he is not simply someone to give up and die. Despite the dire prognosis, he and the rest of the family are determined to live life to the full and make the most of every day. This aptude is challenged in series two as Will gets worse, though there may be hope on the horizon.

Where have you seen him before?

Allo chuck, what's yer name and where d'ya come from? That's what Cilla Black would have said to him had he not played her manager, Brian Epstein in ITV's Cilla, we're sure.