Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Britain

Ep. 1/4 -

During the Blitz more than 450,000 bombs dropped on Britain - and every bomb has its own story.

This series examines the specific effect of four bombs, from their initial impact on individual lives, right through to their wider consequences for the Second World War and all the way to the present day. Each episode begins with a single bomb in a single street in a single place: London, Hull, Clydebank and Bristol.

Across the series incredible personal testimony, gut-wrenching memoirs, and the meticulous records kept at the time, provide a visceral and terrifying account of the Blitz that directly connects with the human experience of the bombs. As survivors and relatives attest, these bombs touched the lives of everyone and created a legacy we all still live with today.

Episode one follows a bomb that fell on Martindale Road in the East End of London on the first night of the Blitz. Stan Harris (pictured) and Norman Pirie were boys in 1940, but their memories of that fateful night are crystal clear.

Initially there was relief as the bomb remained unexploded. As Martindale Road residents were evacuated, Sandra Belchamber’s grandparents were caught up in the chaos;  she explains their fortuitous decision to leave London and head for Kent.

But Judy Gregory’s grandmother, uncle, aunt and cousins put their faith in the authorities and headed to a local school to wait for buses to take them to safety. The buses do not come, and they and hundreds of others became a sitting-target for returning bombers. One man - journalist Ritchie Calder - tried to warn the authorities that the school was a tragedy waiting to happen. When the bombers did return they scored a direct hit, killing hundreds of people.

Judy is moved to tears when she discovers her family story, outlined in terse civil defence dispatches held in the local archives. An entire branch of her family tree was lost, a tragedy that ironically stemmed from a bomb that didn’t go off.

Calder was determined to publicise the human cost of this bomb. In this programme his two grandsons explore his mission to raise awareness of the real problem London faced in the first weeks of the Blitz - the thousands of people who had lost absolutely everything, including their homes. For the first time it was necessary to create city-wide welfare systems that worked for everyone.

This film explores the work of one exceptional MP, who put these systems in place in record time and joined the call for a National Health Service.

Produced in partnership with The Open University.

Publicity contact: KD

DateThursday, 23 November 2017
Time9:00 PM -
10:00 PM
UpdatesConfirmed for BBC Two on 23 November at 9pm to 10pm