Britannia at Bay

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Episode 6 of 6

Duration: 1 hour

The final film in Andrew Marr's epic six-part series is a vivid account of Britain in the Second World War.

Marr's story of 'the people's war' begins with the defeat that came to define modern Britain's national spirit: Dunkirk. In 1940, Britain stood alone against the might of the German war machine. Churchill produced the words that stirred the Blitz spirit, but a Nazi invasion seemed inevitable. How could Britain fight on? The 'Dad's Army' of the Home Guard was hastily assembled and Britain was forced to pull together in ways it never had before.

Andrew Marr finds some surprising twists to legendary stories; the Battle of Britain was not simply a story of reckless bravery, but also a one of lethally efficient command and control. The Blitz was a devastating attack from the air that everyone had dreaded, yet it didn't break the spirit of the people or dim their humour.

This was also the boffins' war, and Churchill understood the importance of science. He was prepared to give away Britain's most highly classified scientific and military secrets to help bring the Americans into the conflict. This wooing would help bring victory. But it came at a price: a bankrupt nation, a crumbling empire and a US cultural invasion that defines modern Britain to this day.

  • Photo: Marr in camouflage

    Photo: Marr in camouflage

    Andrew Marr tries on some camouflage make-up at Osterley Park, the Home Guard Training School. Operational from 1940 to 1944, the Home Guard comprised 1.5 million local volunteers who were usually ineligible for military service due to their age, hence the popular nickname 'Dad's Army'. Their role was to act as a secondary defence force in case of invasion from Germany.

  • Photo: On board one of the 'little ships'

    Photo: On board one of the 'little ships'

    Andrew Marr on board one of the Dunkirk 'little ships' on the River Thames at Teddington Lock, Surrey. The 'little ships' were a fleet of over 700 private boats that sailed from Ramsgate to the French port of Dunkirk in late May and early June 1940, to rescue more than 338,000 British and French soldiers who were trapped on the beaches.

  • Memoryshare: Share your memories of World War Two

    Memoryshare: Share your memories of World War Two

    BBC Memoryshare is a living archive of memories from 1900 to the present day. Why not contribute your memories of the Home Front in World War Two?

    Read a Memoryshare recollection of London in the Blitz
  • The Battle of Britain

    The Battle of Britain

    Visit BBC History Online and learn more about the Battle of Britain through hand-picked highlights from the BBC TV and radio archive, specially commissioned features and incredible contemporary photographs.

    BBC History: The Battle of Britain

Credits

Presenter
Andrew Marr
Writer
Andrew Marr
Director
Roger Parsons
Producer
Roger Parsons
Producer
Chris Granlund

Broadcasts

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Available on: DVD

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