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20 August 2014
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BBC to film the true story of Dunkirk

BBC TWO is filming a dramatic recreation of the events surrounding the daring Dunkirk rescue of 1940.

Written by acclaimed script-writer Neil McKay (The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper and The Murder of Stephen Lawrence), Dunkirk will tell the true story of the audacious bid to rescue the third of a million troops from the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) besieged on the beaches at Dunkirk in 1940.

Crucially, all the stories featured in the three part drama are true. They are the result of a hugely intensive research project to find the untold accounts of what happened.

Writer Neil McKay explains: "There have been many documentaries made about Dunkirk, and one film made in the 1940s, but what is different about this is that it is the first time the full story has been put on the screen.

"Whilst we have drawn on documentary sources we have sought as much as possible to derive the drama directly from the experiences of Dunkirk veterans. We have spoken to a great many of them, and some of their stories have been directly portrayed."

2003 Olivier Award winner for best actor, Simon Russell Beale, plays Churchill, who had been in power for little over a week when he ordered the rescue bid to save the stranded soldiers.

Triumphing over Cabinet members who wanted to press for peace, the rescue of some 338,000 troops, mainly in Royal and Merchant Navy ships, aided by a mixed fleet of little ships, was dubbed a miracle and lead to the expression 'Dunkirk spirit', synonymous with refusing to give up in time of crisis.

Neville Chamberlain is played by Christopher Good and Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, by Richard Durden (Daniel Deronda). Richard Attlee (The Archers), Clement's grandson, plays Clement Attlee.

Commander of the BEF, General Lord Gort, is played by John Carlisle (The Forsyte Saga). Clive Wood (London's Burning, The Bill) plays General Henry Pownall and Kevin McNally (Spooks) plays Harold Alexander, the last officer to be evacuated from the beach.

Dunkirk is directed by first time director Alex Holmes, Creative Director for Documentaries at the BBC, and produced by Rob Warr, Head of Talent at the BBC.

Rob Warr says: "Dunkirk is the most astonishing rescue mission ever. If it weren't for the 'miracle' of Dunkirk, Hitler would have won World War II before it had properly started.

"We want to give a very real sense of actually being there: what would you have done? How would you have felt? We hope to give viewers an authentic sense of what living through the events would actually have been like.

"Filmed like reportage, with a real sense of immediacy, we want viewers to feel very much at the centre of the action."

McKay adds: "One of the reasons why it seemed so important to make the drama now is that the survivors of Dunkirk are in their eighties or older.

"In ten or fifteen years the people who went through this extraordinary experience will be gone and the opportunity would have been lost forever.

"We hope the films will not just be gripping drama, but some kind of tribute to those who went through the experience of Dunkirk."

Dunkirk is being shot in locations around Dunkirk, Chatham and Whitstable.

Dunkirk will be supported by a full interactive TV service, which will provide key background information as well as interviews from the veterans who survived Dunkirk and who feature in the drama.

The People's War website - -
which is gathering the public's stories of World War II will also be devoted particularly to people's personal stories of Dunkirk during transmission.

There will also be documentaries on BBC TWO and BBC FOUR supporting the Dunkirk season.

All the BBC's digital services are now available on Freeview, the new free-to-view digital terrestrial television service, as well as on satellite and cable.

Freeview offers the BBC's eight television channels, interactive services from BBCi, as well as 11 national BBC radio networks.



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