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The Week We Went To War: programmes

Katherine Jenkins and Michael Aspel (image: BBC/Finestripe)

Monday 7 September 2009, 9.15-10.00am, BBC One

BBC One Daytime marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War with a week of special programmes.

The Week We Went To War, presented by world-renowned singer Katherine Jenkins, celebrates the everyday heroes of the Home Front, from families who took in evacuees to ordinary people who went into bombed buildings at risk of their own lives to save those trapped inside.

Each day Katherine is joined in the studio by Michael Aspel, talking about his wartime memories including his experiences as an evacuee, and BBC antiques expert Tim Wonnacott, at Bletchley Park, looks at the everyday wartime items which have become today's collectables.

Meanwhile, famous people who lived through the war – actress Sylvia Syms, Baroness Williams, Tony Benn, Lionel Blair, Leslie Phillips and Rabbi Lionel Blue – recall their childhood memories.

Among the wartime stories included in the first programme are interviews with survivors of the Catford school bombing in South London.

Mary Burge, then six years old, tells how they all rushed to the window when they heard a plane, thinking it was British. She saw the German pilot wave before watching as her brother John was killed by the exploding bomb.

The German plane dropped its 100lb bomb on the junior school in broad daylight. Thirty-eight children and six teachers were killed – the largest single loss of children's lives on the Home Front during the war.

Some of those who were caught up in the tragedy pay tribute on the programme to the ordinary people who searched for survivors.

Eric Brady lost his big sister, Kitty, and says she saved his life – her body was found lying over his.

Eric says: "If it hadn't been for her I would have been the one dead."

Like Eric, 10-year old Brenda Ward was in the school dining room that day: "I heard the very loud noise of a low-flying plane so I got up and I had a look and, honestly, I could see this plane so low I could see the pilot's goggles."

Katherine Jenkins says: "If you have links to the war the programme is going to bring back memories. For young people like myself, there are a lot of events that I was unaware of because they happened on the Home Front – terrible things like the Bethnal Green Tube disaster, where 173 people died. I have learnt so much."

The programme also takes a look at the renaissance of Forties glamour today as well as the more utilitarian styles of the time.

And Douglas Wood tells of the emotional trauma of his wartime evacuation in Staffordshire.

The Week We Went To War is a Finestripe production for BBC Daytime.

Tuesday 8 September 2009, 9.15-10.00am, BBC One

The Week We Went To War pays tribute today to Home Front hero Thomas Hopper Alderson, who won Britain's first George Cross when he saved 11 lives after a German air raid on Bridlington, North Yorkshire.

Presenter Katherine Jenkins talks to Alderson's daughter, Pamela, about her memories of her father.

Twenty-one-year-old student and Masterchef contestant Ben Ellison spent a month for the progamme living on wartime rations to see if it really is healthier.

Katherine says: "I have found the whole thing fascinating and I just felt that, with things like the rations, how easily we now throw stuff away. You can see why older people are so careful not to be wasteful."

And evacuee John Bargewell, from Belfast, goes back to his wartime home in rural north Ulster for the first time since the war.

John and his two brothers were evacuated 48 miles to a home that had none of the modern conveniences that they were used to in their city life.

The programme also takes a look at how and what people ate as well as the games they played as children.

Wednesday 9 September 2009, 9.15-10.00am, BBC One

Today's programme looks at one of the worst nights of the Blitz – 29 December 1940 – and pays tribute to the ordinary British people and, in particular, the firemen of London who helped save St Paul's Cathedral.

And the programme features Henry Wuga, who was evacuated at the age of 14 from the heart of Nazi Germany to Britain.

But he was arrested in Glasgow and interned on the Isle of Man as an enemy alien. Henry honed his skills as a baker and has since enjoyed a long career as a caterer, and still lives in Glasgow.

Today's edition also takes a look at how people entertained themselves during the war and visits Blackpool which, safer than London, was where, night after night, the show went on – even if the illuminations didn't.

Thursday 10 September 2009, 9.15-10.00am, BBC One

One hundred and seventy-three people were crushed to death in what was to become known as the Bethnal Green Tube Disaster.

Witnesses talk about the worst civilian tragedy on the Home Front as BBC One Daytime marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War with a week of special programmes.

The crowds were fleeing an air raid which never happened. Alf Morris was 13 years old and, buried up to his waist in bodies, would have died with his friends if it had not been for a female air raid warden who saw him and pulled him out. He kept his silence about that night for more than 50 years.

Also featured are the moving stories of two couples whose love letters to each other throughout the war prove that the pen really is mightier than the sword.

The programme also takes a look at some iconic posters of the time and tells the story of evacuee Howard Bradley, who left Teeside for the idyllic Lake District – although his stay was to end tragically.

Friday 11 September 2009, 9.15-10.00am, BBC One

In the last programme of the series the story of one of the most unexpected and intensive bombing raids in Britain is told, when the town of Clydebank, in Scotland, was virtually wiped off the map.

Survivors of the raid talk about their recollections in The Week We Went To War.

The programme also takes a look at how life changed, in particular for women, and focuses on work at the Royal London Hospital.

And evacuee Glenys Webster, who was moved from Lee, in South London, to Tonbridge, in Kent, recalls watching the Battle of Britain being fought in the skies above her and how she feared for the safety of her family in London.

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