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Thursday 27 Nov 2014

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The Battle Of Britain Season – First Light

First Light

Geoffrey Wellum was just 18 when he was thrown into combat as a fighter pilot at the beginning of the terrifying air war of the Battle of Britain. Now seventy years on and aged 89, he is still haunted by the conflict that almost destroyed him.

Based on Geoffrey's personal and deeply moving memoirs, First Light is an intimate drama-documentary that delivers a compelling testimony of his wartime experiences, revisiting the stark emotions and fiery action that dazzled and terrified him as a young man and which changed his life forever. It is the story of a boy who went to war, and who came back a broken man.

Set in the summer of May 1940, Geoffrey 'Boy' Wellum (Sam Heughan), driven by his love of flight and a desire to defend his country – joins the RAF's most famous "fighter boys": No.92 Squadron. Barely out of school and with just a few hours flight training, he has never seen a Spitfire close up, let alone flown one.

But no one has time to teach Boy the art of war, the squadron is fighting for survival and he must find his own way through the tension on the ground and the fight he must soon join in the air. As he is plunged head-first into combat, he discovers that the real enemy is not the Luftwaffe but the forces of despair that threaten to overwhelm him. As the death toll rises, Boy withdraws into himself and pushes away those who care for him, even Grace (Tuppence Middleton), the love of his life, cannot save him from the darkness that fills his heart.

Thrown time and again into a vortex of terrifying noise, stark emotions and fiery combat, Boy – like those around him – reaches breaking point.

After 18 months on the front line he is a boy who has lost his youth in the most violent and immediate way possible; his spirit broken by a merciless world of kill or be killed. No longer caring whether he lives or dies, he can only be saved by the action of his superiors – who know that if he continues to fly he will face certain death.

Through Geoffrey Wellum's compelling first person testimony, intense drama and cutting-edge CGI and real-time Spitfire flying sequences, First Light evokes both a period of great personal sacrifice and the claustrophobic horror of the fighter pilot's cockpit – where terror lurked in every cloud.

About Geoffrey Wellum:

Geoffrey Wellum (89) is a Battle of Britain British fighter pilot and author. He was born in Walthamstow, London and aged 17 he signed up on a short-service commission with the RAF in August 1939. He served with 92 Squadron throughout the Battle of Britain.

In March 1942 he went to 65 Squadron at Debden as a flight Commander and from there to Malta later that year. He led a group of eight Spitfires off HMS Furious to Luqa during Operation Pedestal.

Returning to England, Wellum became a test pilot on Typhoons at Gloster Aircraft. He later became a gunnery instructor until the end of the war. He stayed in the RAF after 1945, serving in Germany as a staff officer, followed by a four-year tour of duty with 192 Squadron. Wellum left the RAF in 1961 to take up a position with a firm of commodity brokers in the City of London until his retirement to Cornwall, where he still lives. He has three children.

Sam Heughan Biography:

Sam Heughan plays Geoffrey 'Boy' Wellum in the drama. Sam graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2003. He was nominated for a 2003 Laurence Olivier Award (Most Promising Performance) for Outlying Islands at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs.

Sam has appeared in various TV programmes including: A Very British Sex Scandal (Channel 4), Any Human Heart (Film4), Midsomer Murders (ITV) and as a regular character in BBC Soaps River City and Doctors.

His film leads include: Young Alexander The Great (Ilya Salkind Company) and Emulsion (White Lantern Films), while theatre credits include: Plague Over England (Duchess, West End), MacBeth (Nottingham, Edinburgh Lyceum), Romeo And Juliet (Dundee Rep) and Hamlet (Citizens Glasgow).

First Light (BBC Two, 1x80 minutes) Lion/Manray Media. Executive producers are Richard Bradley and Madonna Baptiste (Lion/Manray Media) and Cassian Harrison (BBC).

First Light is also being shown on the award-winning BBC HD channel – the BBC's High Definition channel available through Freesat 108; Freeview 50; Sky 143 and Virgin 108. BBC HD offers the very best of the BBC's programming in high definition, bringing audiences the programmes they love with up to five times more detail than standard definition, and exceptionally vivid colours and crisp pictures.

Information for viewers

More content about First Light will be published, as transmission approaches, on:

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