Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Battle of Britain Season

Battle of Britain Season

BBC History is committed to marking the anniversaries of the most important events in Britain's past with rich offerings across a wide range of genres and platforms.

As part of a special season marking the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the BBC broadcasts a series of programmes bringing to life the story of the most significant air battle in British history.

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BBC One

BBC One

In a one-off documentary for BBC One, The Real Battle Of Britain, Ewan McGregor and his RAF pilot brother, Colin, relive the experiences of the young airmen of 1940, as they find out what it was like to live through and fight in the most important air battle in history.

Flying across the skies of England, the McGregor brothers get hands on experience of the fighter aircraft of the time; experiencing the excitement, pressures and strains of air combat. For Colin, it's a chance to see if his modern jet fighter training compares to the seat-of-the-pants skills needed to master a Spitfire.

Along the way, they will meet some of the heroes who fought in the battle. Real pilots, radar operators and ground-crew will instruct and guide them through their own Battle of Britain.

Also on BBC One, Dig 1940 is a three-part series that sees presenter Jules Hudson and his team of experts excavate wartime artefacts and the wreckage of aircraft shot down during 1940. As Hitler's Germany prepared to invade, all that stood in the way was the men and women of Britain. Accompanied by the people who witnessed events for real, the programme unearths secrets buried for 70 years, revealing some poignant and personal stories of heroism from Britain's most perilous year.

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BBC Two

BBC Two

Leading the programming on BBC Two, First Light is an intimate one-off drama-documentary, telling the extraordinary story of 19-year-old Geoffrey Wellum, one of the youngest pilots to participate in the Battle of Britain, who was posted at the beginning of the war having never flown a Spitfire.

Based on Geoffrey's personal and deeply moving memoirs, the film offers a compelling testimony to his wartime experiences, revisiting the stark emotions and fiery action that dazzled and terrified him as a young man and changed his life forever.

Serving as a pertinent reminder of courage and sacrifice, and providing the audience with a unique opportunity to relive real experiences and emotions, the programme combines evocative drama on the ground and in the air, with computer graphics and real-time Spitfire flying, capturing the claustrophobia of the cockpit and the frenzy of back-to-back dog fighting.

Also on BBC Two writer and historian James Holland presents a unique examination of the tactics, technologies and intelligence on both sides during the extraordinary summer of 1940 in Battle Of Britain – The Real Story. Drawing on specialist research, and first-hand testimonies from both the British and the Germans, James presents a striking new analysis of this most epic of stories and evaluates the impact of the battle and its place in history.

In a one-off special, the Culture Show explores the extraordinary and diverse works of art that emerged from the darkness of the Second World War. British artists created a kaleidoscope of colour –huge canvases and intimate sketches; posters and portraits, cartoons and chaotic battle scenes, some have become iconic images, enduring works that instantly evoke the period. Others have been virtually forgotten. But whether their creators were official war artists or anonymous graphic designers, all were responding to the most intense human experiences imaginable.

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BBC Four

BBC Four

On BBC Four, Wellington Bomber takes a look at a challenge posed by the RAF and the War Ministry – could a Wellington bomber be built from scratch in a single day? Combining archive footage of the attempt with testimonials from the workers involved at the time, this fascinating film documents the amazing attempt bolt by bolt.

Also on BBC Four, Spitfire Women tells the story of the remarkable women who, against all odds, flew planes for the Air Transport Auxiliary from 1939 until the end of the Second World War. Using archive footage and testimonies from the surviving members and their relatives, Spitfire Women captures the drama, danger and significance of the story of these unsung heroines, who came from across the world to fight for Britain but whose tales of courage and determination remain largely unrecognised.

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Live Events

Live Events

On the 70th anniversary weekend of the Battle of Britain in September, BBC TV will cover the special memorial service at Westminster Abbey as well as featuring a special night of reflection, debate and archive programmes in a live Battle of Britain evening on BBC Four.

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BBC Archive

BBC Archive takes audiences back to the time that has become known as Britain's finest hour, reliving memories and hearing from those who defended Britain from the Luftwaffe.

Available online from this summer, BBC Archive's Battle of Britain collection includes original radio recordings of interviews the pilots who flew Hurricanes and Spitfires, revealing the struggles faced by "the Few" as they set out on missions from which they knew they might never return.

Hugh Dowding, RAF Fighter Command's Commander-in-Chief, speaks about his clashes with Winston Churchill and a television documentary takes some of the people who built Spitfires during the war back to the site of their factory, where they modestly recall their incredible achievements.

The collection also features rarely seen BBC documents telling the story of a controversial news report on a dogfight over the English Channel, revealing the importance of the anti-aircraft gunners and searchlight operators who protected Britain on the ground. There is also a confidential report discussing the character of captured German pilots.

BBC Archive's Battle of Britain collection will be available this summer at www.bbc.co.uk/archive

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