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Ewan McGregor takes to the skies in Remembrance of Battle Of Britain


Ewan McGregor and his RAF pilot brother, Colin, are set to relive the experiences of young airmen in a bid to find out what it was like to live and fight through the most significant air battle in British history.

The one-off documentary, The Real Battle Of Britain, will be shown on BBC One this September as part of a wider season to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Second World War air campaign.

Ewan McGregor says: “The Battle Of Britain was a dramatic turning point in the history of the Second World War and a defining moment in world history. It is a privilege for Colin and I to make this documentary; not only to mark the 70th anniversary itself, but to be able to pay tribute to the courage and sacrifice of those who fought during the battle.”

Flying across the skies of England, the brothers will 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 some 70 years before. Real pilots, radar operators and ground-crew will instruct and guide them through their own Battle Of Britain.

Martin Davidson, Commissioning Editor, History and Business, says: “I am really proud of the Battle Of Britain Season across BBC Television, which I hope will bring the nation together with some really inspiring programmes. From Ewan and Colin’s experiences in The Real Battle Of Britain, to the BBC Two drama First Light and the range of thought-provoking documentaries, the season will not only commemorate what many historians view as the most significant air battle in our history, but also hopefully bring it to life for the modern audience.”

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. Hitler’s Germany was determined to invade our small island, and all that stood in the way was the men and women of Britain. Accompanied by the people who witnessed events for real, the programme will unearth secrets that have been buried for 70 years, revealing some poignant and personal stories of heroism from Britain’s most perilous year.

Leading the programming on BBC Two, First Light is an intimate one-off drama-documentary, that tells the extraordinary story of nineteen-year-old Geoffrey Wellum – one of the youngest pilots to participate in the battle, 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 will deliver 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.

Serving as a pertinent reminder of courage and sacrifice, 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, Battle Of Britain – The Real Story (wt); writer and historian James Holland presents a unique examination of the tactics, technologies and intelligence on both sides during the extraordinary summer of 1940. Drawing on specialist research, and first-hand testimonies from both the Germans and the British, Holland 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 came out of 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 of which have become iconic images, enduring art works that instantly evoke the period. Others have been virtually forgotten. But whether their creators were official war artists or anonymous graphic designers they were responding to the most intense human experiences imaginable.

On BBC Four, Wellington Bomber takes a look at a challenge posed by the RAF and the War Ministry during the war – 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.

Other programmes on BBC Four include Spitfire Women, the story of the remarkable women who, against all odds, flew planes for the Air Transport Auxiliary from 1939 to 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.

On the Battle Of Britain anniversary weekend in September, BBC Two will be covering the special Battle Of Britain 70th Anniversary memorial service at Westminster Abbey as well as featuring a special night of reflection, debate and archive programmes on BBC Four’s live Battle Of Britain evening.

BBC Archive also takes audiences back to the time that has become known as Britain’s finest hour. Original radio recordings include interviews with some of the Battle Of Britain pilots who flew Hurricanes and Spitfires, revealing the struggles that “the few” faced as they set out on missions from which they knew they may well never return. Commander-in-Chief Hugh Dowding 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 that tell the story of the controversial news report on a dogfight over the Channel, revealing the importance of the anti-aircraft gunners and searchlight operators who protected Britain on the ground. Also included is a confidential report that talks about the character of captured German pilots.

BBC Archive’s Battle Of Britain collection will be available online from July 2010 and can be found by visiting
Notes to Editors

The Real Battle Of Britain (BBC One 1 x 90 minutes) Lion TV Production. Executive producers are Nick Catliff (Lion) and Maxine Watson (BBC)

Dig 1940 (BBC One 3 x 30 minutes) 360 Production. Executive producers are John Farren (360 Production) and James Hayes (BBC)

First Light (BBC Two 1 x 75 minutes) Lion/Manray Media. Executive producers are Richard Bradley and Madonna Baptiste (Lion Manray Media); and Cassian Harrison (BBC)

Battle Of Britain: The Real Story (BBC Two 1 x 60 ), Maya Vision International Production. Executive producers are: Rebecca Dobbs (Maya Vision ) and Cassian Harrison (BBC)

Spitfire Women (BBC Four 1 x 60 minutes) Love West Productions. Executive producers are Kieran Smith (Love West Productions) and Cassian Harrison (BBC)

Wellington Bomber (BBC Four 1 x 60 minutes) Peter Williams Television. Executive producers are Peter Williams (Peter Williams Television) and Cassian Harrison (BBC)

History on BBC Television

The BBC is committed to providing a broad range of compelling history content across all channels and platforms. BBC history programmes are known for their thought-provoking themes, meticulous research and expert contributors. Recent successes like Empire Of The Seas – How The Navy Forged The Modern World and History Cold Case demonstrate the BBC’s continued investment in developing the genre. Audiences can continue their journey with BBC history by visiting


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