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Alexander the Great won the Battle of Hastings...

Category: Factual & Arts TV

Date: 05.08.2004
Printable version

Gandalf defeated the Spanish Armada… the Battle of Britain was a key turning point in The Hundred Years War… the Romans never invaded Britain…


This is a surprising version of British history revealed in a new survey commissioned by BBC TWO series Battlefield Britain, presented by Peter and Dan Snow (starting on Friday 6 August at 9.00pm).


The poll posed questions to more than 1,000 people on several of the battles which feature in the new series - all key turning points in this country's history.


They answers suggest that, even though the grey cells may deteriorate over the years, the older generations are far more clued up on their history than the supposedly sharper 16 to 44 age groups:


They may have given us our calendar, our roads, the first modern toilet and contributed to our language but one in five of those surveyed had no idea that the Romans were ever here at all. One in ten 16 to 24-year-olds actually thought we were conquered by Germany.

Despite blanket coverage of the 60th anniversary of D-Day, a third of those asked - and half of 16 to 34 year olds - didn't know the Battle of Britain happened during World War II. More than one in ten 16 to 24-year-olds thought it was 600 years ago, when England took on France in The Hundred Years War.

The question of who won the Battle of Hastings proved to be a stumbling block for some people too. Just over a quarter of all those questioned didn't know it was William the Conqueror. This rose to a third amongst 16 to 34-year-olds. Of the 16 to 24-year-olds, more than one in five thought it was Alexander the Great and one in eight believed it to be Napoleon.

Almost half of 16 to 34-year-olds questioned didn't know Sir Francis Drake fought in the battle against the Spanish Armada, one of the most famous British sea battles in history. One in five 16 to 24-year-olds said it was the explorer and discoverer of America, Christopher Columbus. Horatio Hornblower, the fictional commander in the CS Forester books, was the answer from one in five 25 to 34 year olds. And Gandalf, the wizard from The Lord of the Rings, was the choice of more than one in twenty 16 to 24-year-olds.

The line between fact and fiction became blurred yet again when it came to the Battle of the Boyne. Nearly half of those surveyed didn't know it is this battle which is marked by the Orangemen in Northern Ireland each summer. One in ten 16 to 44-year-olds believed it was the Battle of Helmsdeep from The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers. It seems that the fictional heroes and battle scenes that feature in Hollywood blockbusters really stick in people's minds.


Peter Snow, presenter of Battlefield Britain, comments: "It's at once a shock and a challenge that so many people can be so wrong about some of the key moments in Britain's past.


"Battlefield Britain can help put this right by giving viewers some of the most striking and vivid images yet seen of the violent events that shaped our history."

Notes to Editors

Survey questions

Q1 Which one of the following conquered Britain?
a) Germans; b) Spanish; c) Romans; d) Americans; e) Don't know

Q2 Who won the Battle of Hastings?
a) Napoleon; b) Wellington; c) Alexander the Great; d) William the Conqueror; e) Don't know

Q3 Which of the following fought men in the English fleet against the Spanish Armada?
a) Horatio Hornblower; b) Christopher Columbus; c) Francis Drake; d) Gandalf; e) Don't know

Q4 Which famous battle is marked every year on July 12 by the Orangemen in Northern Ireland?
a) Boyne; b) Stamford Bridge; c) Bulge; d) Helmsdeep; e) Don't know

Q5 During which war did the Battle of Britain take place?
b) Hundred Years War; b) First World War; c) Second World War; d) Cold War; e) Don't know

Survey conducted by TNS through a representative sample of 1,006 GB adults aged 16+. Research was carried out between 11 and 13 June 2004.

Battlefield Britain: Using ground-breaking graphics to re-create the epic scale of war, father and son team Peter and Dan Snow tell the story of battles that have shaped the country we live in.


From Boudicca's uprising against the Romans to the Battle of Britain, the series journeys through two thousand years of invasion, civil war and rebellion.


Peter reveals how the strategies of the best and worst commanders determined the fate of the British Isles, whilst Dan gives the soldiers' perspective of what it must have been like to ride, march, fly and sail into battle.


Battles featured in the series: Boudicca's Revolt 61AD; Battle of Hastings 1066; Battle for Wales 1403; Spanish Armada 1588; Battle of Naseby 1645; The Boyne 1690; Culloden 1746; Battle of Britain 1940

A BBC Book accompanies the series - Battlefield Britain by Peter and Dan Snow, priced £19.99.

In conjunction with the series, UK heritage organisations from English Heritage to the National Trust for Scotland are staging special events* and re-enactments* linked to the battles shown in the programmes.


Visit for more information about events, activities and places to visit connected with all the battles in this series. *Please note, these are not BBC events.

To accompany the Battlefield Britain, Muriel Gray presents Battlefield Ramblings on BBC Radio 4.


Each week different guests join Muriel to walk in areas linked to the people and momentous battles featured in the TV series.


Please ensure any data used from this release credits Battlefield Britain, starting on BBC TWO on Friday 6 August at 9.00pm.





Category: Factual & Arts TV

Date: 05.08.2004
Printable version


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