Season highlights will see some of Britain’s best-loved names and ordinary Britons remember and celebrate the achievements of the generation who fought so hard for victory.Martin Davidson, Head of Commissioning, BBC History & Business
Date: 28.04.2015 Last updated: 08.05.2015 at 17.22
The BBC will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe with a season of programming across television, radio and online, and a major education project honouring Britain’s Greatest Generation.
Led by BBC Two, the season centrepiece will be a landmark documentary series celebrating the epic stories of ordinary Britons who lived through the war, accompanied by a major BBC Learning project for schools around the country in partnership with the BFI, The British Council and Into Film, which will encourage the next generation of filmmakers to capture the memories of our Greatest Generation.
Other season highlights across the BBC include a 90-minute special for BBC One in which famous names - from Sir David Attenborough, Sir Bruce Forsyth and Honor Blackman to Sir Patrick Stewart, Miriam Margolyes and Dame Cleo Laine - will share their memories of VE Day, as well as new documentaries on BBC Two, BBC Four and BBC Radio offering fresh perspectives on war-time leaders, liberation and the aftermath of war, and the role of the Caribbean colonies in the war effort.
Kim Shillinglaw, Controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, says: “From our World War One anniversary coverage last year to the Taking Liberties democracy season and our Holocaust memorial content this year, BBC Two has played a central role in marking some of the most important anniversaries in our national and global story. But few moments are more significant than this year’s 70th anniversary of VE Day and once again, BBC Two is at the heart of the BBC’s offering, with a strong range of history programmes from some of our leading historians, exploring just what made 1945 such a momentous year. Pride of place will be taken by the last survivors of that generation who not only fought the war, but helped build modern Britain in the years after it."
Martin Davidson, BBC Head of Commissioning, History & Business, says: “May 8th 1945 is the day when six years of war came to an end in Europe and a generation of people emerged from the ruins determined to make that sacrifice worthwhile. This is a moment we are marking with a season of programming across television, radio and online and with a major education project, made in partnership with the BFI, The British Council and Into Film, which honours Britain’s Greatest Generation and aims to get the next generation of filmmakers to capture their memories.
"The heart of our season on BBC Two is a landmark documentary series which celebrates the epic stories of ordinary Britons who lived through the war. We’ll also be exploring fresh perspectives on war-time leaders, as well as the aftermath of war and the role of the Caribbean colonies in the war effort. Over on BBC One, some of Britain’s best-loved names, including Sir David Attenborough, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Honor Blackman, Sir Patrick Stewart, Miriam Margolyes and Dame Cleo Laine will also be celebrating the achievements of the generation who fought so hard for victory.”
BBC Two’s four-part series Britain’s Greatest Generation made by Testimony Films will celebrate the last survivors of the Second World War and their achievement in helping to win the war. Now in their 90s and 100s, they are a generation who lived through two world wars, the Depression, and dreamt of a new and better world built around the National Health Service and the welfare state. This people’s history tells the epic stories of largely unknown, unassuming heroes - from distant childhood memories, through the drama and heartbreak of war, to love, marriage and growing older in contemporary Britain.
Britain’s Greatest Generation is accompanied by a major BBC Learning initiative, Make Film – Greatest Generation, produced in partnership with the BFI, the British Council and film education charity Into Film, which aims to get school children making their own short documentaries about the greatest generation.
This innovative filmmaking project encourages primary pupils aged 7 to 11 to explore and commemorate local history by filming their own interviews with members of the war-time generation and then combining them with clips and footage from a treasure trove of British-made archive films. The BFI and the British Council are providing unique access to 370 amazing archive film clips from 1930 to 1960, many of which show real-life experiences of the war-time era in towns and cities around the UK, and the project’s website intofilm.org/greatest-generation provides teachers and pupils with all the resources needed to make their own documentaries. Make Film – Greatest Generation is also part of Get Creative - a year-long celebration of British arts, culture and creativity. To find out more ways of participating in the arts visit bbc.co.uk/getcreative or follow @bbcgetcreative.
Abigail Appleton, Creative Director of BBC Learning, says: “I hope Make Film: Greatest Generation will both inspire learning and stimulate creativity. The initiative invites children to find out more about local and national history through their own new interviews and the BFI's remarkable archive films and also supports them to tell the stories they uncover in their own short documentary films. I'm really looking forward to seeing their cuts of history. It's also a great example of how the BBC can work with partners to reinforce our educational mission, bringing our different resources together to offer children unique learning opportunities, and lots of fun, I hope, along the way.”
Paul Reeve, CEO of Into Film, says: “This exciting collaboration, encompassing teaching resources, filmmaking guides and a treasure trove of archive clips, is a wonderful opportunity for young people to explore life in the UK from 1930-1960 in a memorable and creative way through the accessible, immersive medium of film. By interviewing members of the UK’s wartime generation and actively participating in making their own short documentaries, the young generation will gain a unique understanding of what life was like at that time. I look forward very much to seeing the results.”
Dr Paul Gerhardt, Director of BFI Education, says: “We are thrilled to be part of this innovative collaboration between the BBC, Into Film, and the British Council. By offering young people the unique opportunity to blend stunning archive footage with their own interviews, we believe ‘Make Film – Greatest Generation’ will bring the past to life with power and immediacy. A small selection of the submitted films will be taken into the BFI National Archive as a lasting legacy of the project and we hope these, in turn, will also inspire generations to come.”
Briony Hanson, Director of the Film British Council, says: “Greatest Generation is a fascinating insight in to one of the most tumultuous and eventful periods in our recent history. The British Council is delighted that our archive film collection is part of this major project and hopes that new generations are inspired to explore and learn from our past whilst creating exciting documents of the present.”
Also on BBC Two, Savage Peace will re-examine the aftermath of the War to throw light on the ‘poisoned peace’ of 1945, when for civilians in devastated Europe, liberation often marked not the end of their troubles but the beginning of new ones. Churchill: Winning The War, Losing The Peace (w/t) will explore Winston Churchill’s electoral defeat just weeks after VE Day to ask why the country turned against their Great British Bulldog in the polls. Two-part series The BBC At War will see Jonathan Dimbleby look at the role of the BBC during the Second World War and uncover the story of how the BBC fought Hitler - and Whitehall - with a unique insight into one of the story’s leading players – his father, Richard Dimbleby.
BBC One will air a 90-minute special film, VE Day: Remembering Victory, in which some of Britain’s best-loved figures recall the jubilation on 8 May 1945, when Churchill announced that the war in Europe was over and Britain threw the biggest street party the country had ever seen. Among those sharing their memories are Sir David Attenborough, Johnny Ball, Honor Blackman, Jilly Cooper OBE, John Craven OBE, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Dame Cleo Laine, Kenny Lynch OBE, Miriam Margolyes OBE, Sir Michael Parkinson, Leslie Phillips CBE, Anne Reid MBE, Dame Esther Rantzen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Una Stubbs and June Whitfield CBE.
BBC Four will focus on the thousands of men and women from the Caribbean who volunteered to join the fight against Hitler in Fighting For King And Empire: Britain’s Caribbean Heroes, while World War Two: 1945 & The Wheelchair President will see Professor David Reynolds re-examine the war leadership of American president Franklin Roosevelt.
In the lead-up to the 70th anniversary of VE Day, BBC Daytime is delving deep into the BBC archive to bring audiences a wealth of WWII programming, including an opportunity to see landmark 1970s series The World At War, a weeks’ worth of programmes examining Hitler, and documentaries exploring the iconic aircraft and true stories of the men and women who helped Britain win the war.
As part of Radio 4’s plans to mark the anniversary of the end of the war, illustrator and animator Gerald Scarfe will present Donald Duck Gets Drafted, exploring the little-known story of The Walt Disney Studios’ contribution to the war effort. Also on Radio 4, Random Edition presenter Peter Snow will use an archive newspaper from the day after VJ Day to make history live. Using extensive sound archive material matched with newly recorded memories, the programme will reflect the VJ Day celebrations across Britain, as reported in The Times on 16 August 1945.
BBC World Service will air The Rape Of Berlin in which Lucy Ash explores what has been described as one of the greatest incidents of mass rape in history. The conquering Red Army were widely seen as heroes at the end of the war, but few spoke about how the Soviet troops inflicted widespread sexual violence on German women.
English Regions will mark VE Day with a series of programmes from each region documenting how people from across the country faced up to the challenges of creating a new country - rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the Second World War. Through first-hand accounts, a picture will be painted of how each region helped bring about recovery.
BBC Parliament will also look at labour’s landslide victory in the General Election 1945 with a Gresham College lecture from constitutional historian Prof Vernon Bogdanor to be broadcast on the 70th anniversary of the day voters went to the polls. There will also be another chance to see Bombed But Not Broken about the bombing of the House of Commons Chamber on the worst night of the London Blitz and its subsequent reconstruction.
There will also be a selection of BBC iWonder guides and timelines created for the season, which will be available at bbc.co.uk/iwonder. The interactive guides will be rich with bespoke video and audio content, and the format is fully responsive and provides a consistent experience on desktop, tablet and mobile.
VE Day 70 on the BBC
To mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day, three days of commemorations will be broadcast on the BBC from 8 to 10 May 2015.
On Friday 8 May, to echo the moment it was formally announced that the war had finally ended in Europe and Victory was declared, a Service of Remembrance will take place at the Cenotaph in London, observing a national two-minute silence at 3pm.
VE Day 70: The Cenotaph (2.45pm-3.30pm) will broadcast live on BBC One from the service which will be attended by the UK’s senior political leaders and Second World war veterans. Highlights from VE Day 70: The Cenotaph will also be shown on BBC Two from 7.30pm to 8.00pm.
On Saturday 9 May at 8.30pm VE Day 70: A Party To Remember, in association with The Royal British Legion, hosted by Chris Evans, will broadcast on BBC One and Radio 2 from London’s Horse Guards Parade.
This star-studded concert will feature a spectacular line-up including some of the biggest recording artists, performers, stars and celebrities in live entertainment. Confirmed acts include comedian and presenter Alexander Armstrong, tenor Alfie Boe, actors Adrian Lester and Bernard Cribbins, Blue, Chas and Dave, Collabro, dance troupe Diversity, musical theatre’s leading lady Elaine Paige, jazz vocalist Gregory Porter, Honeysuckle Weeks, Dad’s Army’s Ian Lavender, R&B singer Jamelia, actors Jane Horrocks and Julia Sawalha, mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins, actor and musician Laurence Fox, Pixie Lott, Rebecca Ferguson, legendary rock band Status Quo and BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing Professionals.
On Sunday 10 May in VE Day 70: The Nation Remembers (10.00am-1.30pm), Kirsty Young introduces full, uninterrupted live coverage of the final day of the 70th anniversary commemorations to mark VE Day from the glorious surroundings of St James’s Park, London.
Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall together with other members of the Royal Family, will attend a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey to commemorate this historic occasion. Following the service all eyes will be turned to Parliament Square and Whitehall for a parade of veterans and all those involved in the war effort both at home and abroad. Proceedings will be concluded with a fly-past featuring the magnificent Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and Red Arrows.
Commentary will be provided by Sian Williams in Westminster Abbey and Eddie Butler for the Parade. Anita Rani and Dan Snow will also be capturing all the stories and reactions on this day of national celebration.
Highlights from the three days of commemorations to mark VE Day 70 will also be shown on BBC Two 6.00pm-7.10pm.
VE Day: Remembering Victory (1x90) On 8 May 1945, Churchill broadcast the long-awaited announcement that the war was over in Europe and to celebrate, Britain threw the biggest street party the country had ever seen. Seventy years on, some of Britain’s best-loved figures recall the jubilation of that unforgettable day.
This documentary, narrated by Julie Walters, features some of Britain’s best-loved celebrities - including Sir Bruce Forsyth, Honor Blackman, Sir Patrick Stewart, Miriam Margolyes and Dame Cleo Laine - as they share their memories of the tea parties, bonfires, joyful tears and dancing in the streets. After the heady days of celebration it was soon back to the realities of food rationing and unheated homes, but gradually the nation got back on its feet. This is the story of the generation shaped by victory.
Interviewees: Sir David Attenborough, Johnny Ball, Honor Blackman, Jilly Cooper OBE, John Craven OBE, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Dame Cleo Laine, Kenny Lynch OBE, Miriam Margolyes OBE, Sir Michael Parkinson, Leslie Phillips CBE, Anne Reid MBE, Dame Esther Rantzen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Una Stubbs, June Whitfield CBE.
Produced and directed by Mary Cranitch and exec produced by Chris Granlund for BBC In house productions.
Britain’s Greatest Generation (4x60) BBC Two’s landmark four-part series Britain’s Greatest Generation, made by Testimony Films, will celebrate the last survivors of the Second World War and their achievement in helping to win the war through a series of moving and personal interviews. Now in their nineties and hundreds, they are a generation who grew up in the shadow of the Great War, suffered through the Depression years, and fought long and hard for freedom.
This people’s history tells the epic stories of largely unknown and unassuming heroes: from distant childhood memories, the drama and heartbreak of war, and love and marriage, to growing older in contemporary Britain.
All the stories will be illustrated with painstakingly researched footage and unique material from interviewees’ personal collections. The series is accompanied by the BBC Learning initiative Make Film – Greatest Generation with the BFI, British Council, Into Film to encourage schoolchildren to interview the last survivors from their area and make their own short films.
A book, also called Britain’s Greatest Generation will accompany the series.
Britain’s Greatest Generation is series produced and directed by Steve Humphries for Testimony Films. The commissioning editor for the BBC is Martin Davidson.
The BBC At War (2x60) Debates about the BBC’s role were just as volatile in the 1940s as they are today: Bernard Montgomery called it ‘the fourth arm of war’ while Winston Churchill labelled it ‘the enemy within the gates’. In this two-part series, Jonathan Dimbleby uncovers the story of how the BBC fought Hitler – and Whitehall – with a unique insight into one of the story’s leading players – his father, Richard Dimbleby.
At the outbreak of war, the BBC was very nearly shut down but Dimbleby reveals how the success of Nazi Germany’s propaganda broadcasts – listened to by up to six million at home - goaded it into action. Though the BBC had no newsgathering capability before the war, Richard Dimbleby was among the pioneers who overcame heavy censorship to bring the sounds of war into homes with the first battlefield recordings. The BBC became a powerful force for resistance in Europe and a key means of coded communication with resistance groups. And where before the BBC’s idiom had been universally ‘RP’, resolutely Northern voices like those of JB Priestley and Wilfred Pickles were deployed to universal acclaim.
Even at the end of the war, battles were still being fought about what to broadcast. It was only Richard Dimbleby’s threat to resign that caused his unflinching report from the Belsen concentration camp to be allowed on air. Filmed, produced and directed by Robin Barnwell and exec produced by Peter Grimsdale for Fresh One Productions. Exec produced for the BBC by Martin Davidson.
Churchill: Winning The War, Losing The Peace (w/t) (1x60) Just weeks after VE day, Britain's great war leader Winston Churchill found himself in another battle: to be elected Prime Minister. He was confident of victory – just reward for his leadership of the country through the dark days of WWII. But what happened next many still can’t understand. In one of the greatest election defeats of all time, Churchill was humiliated at the polls, and his Conservative party almost annihilated. Why did his countrymen turn so vehemently on their Great British Bulldog? Was the rejection of Churchill a disgraceful mark of ingratitude or the most mature electoral decision ever made by a democracy?
With surprising revelations from first-hand witnesses as well as historians including Sir Max Hastings, Juliet Gardiner, Anthony Beevor and writer Dave Douglas, this film looks at Churchill’s controversial legacy - and debates the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the man.
Produced and directed by Christopher Spencer, and exec produced by Nicolas Kent and Susan Jones for Oxford Film and Television. Exec produced for the BBC by Martin Davidson.
Savage Peace (1x60) The Second World War was the most destructive conflict in history, laying waste not only to Europe’s people but also its infrastructure, institutions and its moral foundations. Only at the war’s end was the true scale of human suffering and misery revealed, and so devastating was the scene that Europe was dubbed ‘The New Dark Continent'. But for civilians in particular, liberation often marked not the end of their troubles but the beginning of new ones, with famine and disease widespread and an atmosphere thick with ethnic tension and revenge.
This film will re-examine the aftermath of the War to ask if too much stress has been laid on an optimistic view of victory in Europe with celebratory images of VE day and newsreel coverage of the liberation of places like Paris. While narratives of hope and reconciliation are important, are parallel stories showing the darker side of peace yet to receive due prominence? Liberation was bitter, bloody and vengeful, and there were profound and pervasive fears that the peace could be lost. Through rare archive and unique personal testimony, this film reveals the ‘poisoned peace’ of 1945 to throw light on a post-war Europe where civilisation teetered on the brink of chaos, but the story of the transition from war to peace forms the hinge on which modern European history turns.
Produced and directed by Peter Molloy and executive produced by Denys Blakeway for Blakeway Productions. Executive produced for the BBC by Martin Davidson.
Fighting for King And Empire: Britain’s Caribbean Heroes (1x60) During the Second World War, thousands of men and women from the Caribbean colonies volunteered to come to Britain to join the fight against Hitler. They risked their lives for King and Empire but their contribution has largely been forgotten.
In this programme, Caribbean veterans tell their extraordinary wartime stories in their own words. They also reveal how they have faced a lifelong struggle as they helped build Britain's multicultural society - to be treated as equals by the British government and the British people.
Directed by Matt Cottingham and Exec Produced by Chris Granlund for BBC In-House productions.
World War Two: 1945 & The Wheelchair President (1x90) David Reynolds re-examines the war leadership of American president Franklin Roosevelt. At the height of war, Roosevelt inspired millions with stirring visions of a new and better post-war world, but it was a world he probably knew he would never see. He was commander in chief of the greatest military power the world had known and yet a man whose paralysis from polio made him powerless to accomplish even the most minor physical tasks. Few Americans knew the extent of his disability.
In this intimate new biography set against the epic of World War Two, Reynolds reveals how Roosevelt was burdened by secrets about his failing health and strained marriage that, if exposed, could have destroyed his presidency. Enigmatic, secretive and with a complicated love life, America’s wheelchair president was racing to shape the future before the past caught up with him. Weaving together the conduct of the war in Europe and the Pacific, the high politics of Roosevelt’s diplomacy with Stalin and Churchill and the entangled stories of the women who sustained the President in his last year, Reynolds explores the impact of Roosevelt’s growing frailty on the war’s endgame and the tainted peace that followed.
Directed by Russell Barnes for ClearStory. Exec Produced for the BBC by Martin Davidson.
Donald Duck Gets Drafted As part of Radio 4’s plans to mark the anniversary of the end of World War Two, illustrator and animator Gerald Scarfe will present Donald Duck Gets Drafted, exploring the little-known story of The Walt Disney Studios’ contribution to the war effort. During the 1940s, the animation company became a war plant, creating groundbreaking military training films and propaganda shorts, educational posters and leaflets, along with original insignia artwork for troops to help boost morale on the frontline. Walt Disney also played a personal role – as a Goodwill Ambassador in South America in the hope of stemming potential Nazi influence. The programme will hear why Donald Duck rather than Mickey Mouse became the Studios’ wartime poster boy (or duck). It will also discover the truth about a certain Disney character providing the password for the D-Day landings.
Produced by Kellie Redmond, and exec produced by Joby Walman for Somethin' Else.
Random Edition Random Edition presenter Peter Snow will use a single copy of an archive newspaper to make history live. Here it’s a copy of The Times for 16 August, 1945 – thus reporting VJ Day the day before. Extensive sound archive material will be matched with newly recorded memories. The programme will reflect the VJ Day celebrations across the country, as reported in this copy of The Times, commencing with the jubilant scenes in London as the war in the Far East was finally pronounced over. Among those recalling that day in London will be Gwen Hollingshead, who has vivid memories of the scenes at Piccadilly Circus. Gwen will also bring alive another report in the paper – of the atmosphere at Rainbow Corner, the central London club for members of the US armed forces, where Gwen worked. Doyne North will also recall a VJ-Day railway journey in the Midlands during which he asked at every station if the war was over yet.
BBC WORLD SERVICE
The Rape of Berlin The Rape of Berlin will see Lucy Ash revisit the end of World War II to explore what has been described as one of the greatest incidents of mass rape in history. The conquering Red Army were widely seen as heroes at the end of the war, but few spoke about how the Soviet troops inflicted widespread sexual violence on German women. Social stigma, political repression and war guilt ensured that for decades the subject was taboo, and even today it remains an explosive topic. Lucy Ash will travel to Russia, and then Germany, to speak to witnesses and historians. Using letters, medical records and two remarkably candid diaries – one written by a young Red Army officer and another written by a German female victim – she investigates the dark side of the liberation of Berlin.
Witness Special - The Lost Children of the Holocaust Following the end of the Second World War, the BBC began a series of special radio appeals on behalf of a group of children who had survived the Holocaust but were now stranded in post-war Europe. They'd lost their families in the genocide but they believed they might have relatives in Britain. A recording of one of these moving broadcasts still exists in the BBC archives.
Seventy years on, this Witness Special joins the BBC's Alex Last as he tries to find out what happened to the children named in the recording. Twelve were named in the broadcast, and they had been in concentration camps including Auschwitz, Mühldorf, Kaufering, Theresienstadt, Belsen, and Dachau. The search involved months of work and took Alex to Germany, Israel and the United States as he traced the survivors. Five are still alive today and four were well enough to speak to Alex as he pieced together the stories of lost children of the Holocaust. It is an extraordinary story of courage and humanity born out of atrocity.
Produced by Alex Last and Rob Walker.
There will also be a selection of BBC iWonder guides and timelines created for the season. Looking at topics from fashion and food rationing to airplanes and women at work, the guides will be available at bbc.co.uk/iwonder. This content will be rich with bespoke interactivity, video and audio, and the format is fully responsive, providing a consistent experience on desktop, tablet and mobile.
English Regions will mark VE Day with a series of programmes from each region that document how people from across the country faced up to the challenges of creating a new country - rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the Second World War. Through first-hand accounts, a picture will be painted of how each region helped bring about recovery. Different parts of the country faced different problems: great cities had been reduced to rubble, families had been torn apart. It was also a period of great social change. Immigration from the West Indies was starting and women had once again broken through into the workplace. While touching on big policy issues, these films will primarily focus on stories of painful memories and the aspirations, hope and determination shown by families after the war and during the 'First Days of Peace'.
BBC South East Back to the Beaches (1x30)
From Brighton to Margate, every town bore the scars of enemy bombs and machine-gun fire. So how did this coastline, dubbed Hellfire Corner, so firmly braced for invasion, become a seafront again? After years of rules and restrictions, the seaside was open again just in time for the summer. If you could afford the fare, you could go and nobody could stop you. But following years of bombing and neglect, were the resorts really in a fit state to welcome visitors?
Anthony Horowitz journeys to the seaside of 1945 to find out. By August bank holiday, holiday-makers were reportedly queuing outside the post office at Margate to withdraw savings to spend on a good time. Bathers at Folkestone started massing on the beaches before nine in the morning. The three miles of Hastings beach heaved with 50,000 people and hundreds slept under the pier and promenade at Brighton. With unique first-hand accounts and remarkable archive, Back To The Beaches shows how the seaside towns, in an era of make do and mend, scrambled to accommodate and entertain post-war Britain – a Britain that wanted to holiday.
Produced by Samuel Supple, directed by Matthew Wheeler and executive produced by Linda Bell for the BBC.
BBC South West Sun, Sea and Swastikas (1x30)
BBC special correspondent Robert Hall journeys to the place he began his reporting career to uncover the story of the aftermath of the German occupation of the Channel Islands. After the explosion of joy following liberation there came the massive task of trying to put damaged communities back together.
Meeting witnesses and expert historians, he tries to find out why returning evacuees felt almost alien and sometimes shunned by those who had stayed. Why did collaborators go unpunished and what happened to the hopes of radical political change in the islands? On the only part of the British Isles to be suffering German occupation the war had given opportunities for heroism but also for betrayal. Why did some pass and others fail these huge moral challenges?
Produced by Ben Woolvin and executive produced by Samantha Smith for the BBC.
BBC West First Days Of Peace – Race Relations (1x30)
By VE day 1945, race relations in Britain had changed forever. Among the GIs based in the west were about 25,000 African-Americans. For many living here it was the first time they had ever seen a black face. But contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of British people welcomed them as part of a larger force here to help win the war.
In the US, racial segregation was still enforced and largely accepted as a way of life, but here in the UK the public reacted to it with confusion, outrage and resistance. So while black US forces were forced to live and work in units separate from their white counterparts, the efforts to stop them integrating with the local largely-white British population ultimately failed. The result was black GIs enjoying a freedom never experienced before. However, this created a tension between black and white GIs which led to bloodshed and death.
Presented by Bonnie Greer, this film will bring to life the social attitudes and the prejudices of the time. It will investigate how tolerance went on to inspire a civil rights movement back in the States and will even remember the modern dance moves and music black GIs introduced to the British night life. Bonnie’s father Ben Greer was himself a black GI based in England. He described his experience as the “first decent experience of white people I’d ever had".
Produced by Alastair McKee. The Executive Producer is Alex Baxter for the BBC.
BBC South Ration Book Britain (1x30)
Set against the backdrop of a time when onions were so rare they were raffled in fundraisers, this programme will tell the story of Black Market Britain. Historian Joe Crowley will explore the long-lasting effects of the booming post-war black market, from housewives getting a bit extra under the counter to the crimes of gangster Billy Hill – king of the racketeers.
This documentary will also follow the trail of black-market goods, many of which were stolen from the port of Southampton – local newspaper reports during the first days of peace name and shame the men who were caught. A Hampshire butcher reveals how villagers ‘took advantage’ of drunken American soldiers who lived nearby – siphoning off petrol and smuggling out spam. Ruth Goodman will reveal her family’s secret connection to the black market, and four chefs, all who have stories of growing up in the post-war world, will help recreate extraordinary recipes broadcast to the nation in an attempt to raise morale and keep people on the straight and narrow.
Food historian Seren Evans-Charrington will also explain the thinking behind the government campaigns that now seem hard to swallow. The programme will explore the remarkable story of bread – only rationed after the war. Rationing caused outrage at the time and almost led a nationwide rebellion. From small-town courts to organised crime, Professor Dick Hobbs will explain how rationing was embraced by criminals such as the likes of Billy Hill who forged a ‘career’ out of other people’s misery. So were we really such a broken nation of crooks after the war or was this criminal activity part of getting by?
Produced by Richard Townsend. The Executive Producer is Jane French for the BBC.
BBC London Bombed Out (1x30)
It is widely known that during the Blitz, London was bombed, burnt out and flattened. Once the bombing stopped and the celebrations ended, one and a half million Londoners found themselves without homes. London icon Twiggy grew up among the bombsites of Brent, the second most flattened part of the capital after the East End. Her dad told her of the horror when the back of their house was flattened during the Blitz.
In this 30-minute film, she takes a voyage of discovery to find out how Londoners were rehoused and what that rehousing did to the lasting landscape of the capital. Twiggy meets London’s ‘Bombed Out’ - including 93-year-old Eddie O’Mahoney, who tells her how proud he is 70 years later of his temporary prefab home in Catford. Squatters led by the Communist Party took the law into their own hands both in the city and the leafy suburbs to take over buildings and army camps to find shelter. This meant the government had to act and the London plan was pushed forward.
Architect Lord Abercrombie had grandiose ideas and the award-winning high-rise Churchill estate was created, with residents still there today who remember what, at the time, was a brave new world. The countryside was also used and new towns were built. Stevenage was the first, just a few miles up the A1 from Twiggy’s childhood home, and her journey ends as she finds out just what it was like being uprooted out of their city for those bombed-out folk.
Produced by Ray Hough. The features editor is Dippy Chaudhary for the BBC.
BBC West Midlands Evacuees: Making Peace with the Past (1x30)
Presenter Andy Akinwolere brings us the story of the forgotten victims of World War Two. The evacuation was the biggest movement of people this country has ever seen, and the West Midlands played a key part. Cities like Birmingham and Coventry sent children all over the country; rural communities in Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire took them in. For some, it was a happy experience. But for others, the upheaval left scars that would never heal.
This is the story of the children who endured the double hardship of first being sent from their own families and later, when the war ended, made to leave their new homes, where in some cases they’d been looked after better than they could ever have imagined. While many were overjoyed to be reunited with their families, for some it was a miserable experience of alienation and rejection that they never recovered from – both they and their parents had changed immeasurably, leaving them virtual strangers. By meeting historians and former evacuees – some dispatched from the West Midlands, others who were sent there – Andy will learn about the challenges and hardships they faced once peace had returned to Europe.
Produced by Ed Barlow. The Executive Producer is Rachel Bowering for the BBC.
BBC North West War’s Forgotten Women (1x30)
Fiona Phillips explores how women in the North West played a crucial role in the war effort during the Second World War, working in munitions factories and on the land in the Women’s Land Army. Having played such a pivotal role during the war, the working women of post-war Britain were not prepared to give up their gains, go back to the kitchen and give way to men returning from the war. Nowhere is this more exemplified than in the shop floors of the factories across Greater Manchester.
During the Second World War, Manchester became a powerhouse for the manufacture of tanks and gun parts – with a predominantly female workforce. They developed engineering and technical skills that women were never expected to learn before the war. And this newly invigorated female workforce also became increasingly involved in the trade union movement, fighting for equality in the workplace and demanding a voice in industrial relations.
Produced by Laurence Inwood. The Executive Producer is Deborah Van Bishop for the BBC.
BBC Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Bomber County (1x30)
Presenter Joe Crowley tells the story of how the RAF crews of Bomber Command and the people of Lincolnshire adjusted to life after VE Day. At its peak, there were 80,000 RAF personnel based there – 13 per cent of this rural county’s population. Bomber Command casualties had been frighteningly high – nearly half the aircrew had failed to come home from their deadly mass-bombing raids on Germany. And local people had had to adapt to the arrival of thousands of young men who drank in village pubs and socialised with local girls at dances.
For many RAF Bomber Command aircrews, the war felt far from over after VE Day. In the second half of 1945, RAF crews continued to fly – delivering supplies across Europe and bringing prisoners of war home. Some men died on supply and equipment-testing missions. Through the testimony of local people and former aircrew who lived through VE Day, we reveal how the RAF coped with the arrival of peace, and how Lincolnshire adapted to the changes and challenges of the post-war era.
Produced by Richard Taylor. The Executive Producer is Nicola Addyman for the BBC.
BBC North East and Cumbria Friends Or Foes? (1x30)
With the end of the war came a reckoning. For many, that meant finding a place to live and a country to call their own. This film looks at how many came to settle in the North East and Cumbria at the end of the Second World War - shaping communities we have today. It will show how migration from Europe is nothing new – and that even people who had been on opposite sides of the war managed to find common cause in living, working and loving in the region.
We hear moving testimony from Polish soldiers and their families, barred from returning to their homeland, who found themselves living on a camp on the edge of Morpeth; German prisoners of war who at the end of the war had to make a choice between returning home or staying in Britain to marry the local women they had fallen in love with; and the German women who came to this country after marrying occupying British soldiers. Each had to deal with separation from their place of birth and family - and find ways of forging a new life here.
Produced by David Morrison. The Executive Producer is Jacqui Hodgson for the BBC.
BBC East Midlands On The Move (1x30)
When peace came, how quickly were we able to get moving again as a nation? Historian Kate Williams visits a railway town in Derbyshire to find a post-war community relying on a worn-out system. She delves through the substantial archives of a bus company in Nottinghamshire, which found itself facing an uncertain future and a demand for pre-war travel it could not fulfil. Then there are the lorry owners distressed at impending nationalisation. And she discovers that, with few cars on the roads, this was the start of a golden age for the Raleigh bicycle factory in Nottingham.
Produced by Tony Roe. The Executive Producer is Sally Bowman for the BBC.
General Election 1945 (1x55) Labour’s landslide victory in the 1945 general election was one of the greatest shocks in British political history. Commentators had expected the wartime leader Winston Churchill to be returned to office by a grateful nation. Instead voters backed the first ever majority Labour government. On the day marking 70 years since voters went to the polls in 1945, BBC Parliament will broadcast a Gresham College lecture from constitutional historian Prof Vernon Bogdanor. He examines whether the result was a mandate for socialism or merely a reaction against the politics of the inter-war years.
Bombed But Not Broken (1x30) By 1945, the House of Commons Chamber lay in ruins. It had been destroyed four years earlier, on the worst night of the London Blitz. On the anniversary of that attack BBC Parliament is screening Bombed But Not Broken  in which Mark D’Arcy tells the story of the bombing and subsequent rebuilding of the Chamber. When MPs debated the reconstruction Sir Winston Churchill declared: “We shape our buildings – and our buildings shape us.” His intervention helped ensure the new Commons retained its traditional two-sided layout, rather than switching to a continental-style hemicycle. Speaking against the background of recent European history, Churchill was dismissive of the way other parliaments with their “harangues from the rostrum” had fallen to fascists and communists.