Where do the soul-searching images of the First World War come from? Not merely telling the war, but seeing it, showing it in flesh and blood: this is what graphic novels offer us today. Exploring archives and history, the authors in this program converse with the depth of Time. They make First World War live again in our imagination: their drawings are more than strokes. These major artists have made the War the main subject of their graphic tales.
We survey the interwar years, the rise of dictators, Japan’s invasion of China, and the expansion of the Third Reich.
The invasion of Poland causes even the most resistant of powers to declare war.
War explodes across Western Europe.
Germany seeks to neutralise the strength of Britain, the only European country still opposing Hitler, from the air.
The war in Europe is transformed when Hitler unleashes Operation Barbarossa and invades the Soviet Union.
While the Germans are invading Russia, Japan continues to pervade the East and changes the war with an attack on Pearl Harbour.
In 2014 Europe remembered the outbreak of the First World War. The fateful war, which raged for four years and cost 12 million lives, began a century ago in 1914. The catalyst of the disaster was the murder of the Austrian successor to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo. This astonishing documentary conveys the dramatic events on the eve of the First World War.
A fierce WWII battle at sea, unreported for more than 60 years is revealed at the bottom of the Gulf of Thailand in HD underwater video. There lay the US submarine Lagarto and the remains of her 86 crewmen, whose families share how their husbands and fathers' disappearance shaped their lives.
In October 2001 the United States launched the war against Afghanistan, with the whole world by its side, in an act of self-defence after the attacks of 9/11. Today, the troops of the coalition are gradually packing up. They lost over 3000 soldiers and leave behind a country on the brink of civil war and bloodshed… The official rhetoric has not stood up to the stark reality on the ground. Bin Laden? Found and killed…elsewhere, in Pakistan.
June 1944 – The combined American, British and Canadian armies make up the most powerful invasion force ever assembled. They plan to establish a bridgehead in Normandy, storming beaches along a 50-mile front while airborne troops secure targets inland. They face determined German defenders protected by bunkers, obstacles and minefields. David Willey talks amphibious tanks, and Taff Gillingham demonstrates the heavy kit that weighed down the troops as they waded ashore.
June 1944 - The Allies are bogged down in bitter fighting amid the hedgerows of Normandy. The British and Canadians are still short of the objective they planned to capture on D-Day: the city of Caen. This episode tells the story of the bloody fighting for the city. David Willey recounts the story of panzer ace Michael Wittman; Taff Gillingham demonstrates the MG42 machine gun; and Matthias Strohn describes the storm of the century that nearly wrecked Allied plans.
July 1944 – American forces plan a major offensive codenamed Operation Cobra. They would attack near St. Lo, achieve a breakthrough, then unleash General Patton and US Third Army to exploit the opening. In this episode, veterans from all sides tell the story of the treacherous fighting amid the Normandy hedgerows, Patton’s lightning advance into Brittany, the liberation of Paris and the devastating German defeat at Falaise. Expert historians discuss the bomb plot that nearly killed Hitler.
September 1944 – Montgomery proposes a bold plan to cross the Rhine and encircle Germany’s industrial heartland. Operation Market Garden begins as thousands of Allied paratroopers seize key bridges, while British tanks advance up a single 100km road to link up with them. But major flaws quickly emerge in the Allied plan. Veterans of British 1st Airborne recall going ‘a bridge too far’ at Arnhem, and members of XXX Corps explain why ‘Club Route’ soon became ‘Hell’s Highway’.
October 1944 – The Allies face a major supply crisis. Vital fuel and ammunition still has to be landed at the D-Day beaches 300 miles to the rear. When the Belgian port of Antwerp falls into Allied hands intact, it seems the crisis might be over. But first the Allies have to clear the Scheldt Estuary, connecting Antwerp to the sea. With limited manpower and resources, the Canadians must fight across a broken landscape of flooded fields and dykes, against experienced German soldiers.
November 1944 – As the Allies advance into Germany they run into formidable concrete bunkers, pillboxes, minefields, and tank traps. German soldiers fight tenaciously to defend their homeland. We hear from veterans on both sides fighting in the Hürtgen Forest, so notorious it was nicknamed ‘the Death Factory’. Tank expert David Willey shows us the King Tiger tank, and the cheap but lethal Panzerfaust. Historians David Silbey and Stephen Bull discuss the effects of combat fatigue and trauma.
December 1944 – Hitler has picked the Ardennes sector for a major offensive – a last gamble to turn the tide of the war. The surprise attack, spearheaded by elite divisions, initially sends American units reeling. The German onslaught leads to the bloodiest single battle fought by US forces in World War Two. We hear from survivors of SS atrocities against prisoners and civilians, and veterans of the US 101st Airborne’s ‘Band of Brothers’ who held Bastogne during a bloody week-long siege
March 1945 – The Allies have reached the River Rhine, which Hitler is counting on to stall their advance. Field Marshal Montgomery plans a giant operation to cross the river in the north, but luck hands the Americans an intact bridge over the Rhine at Remagen. We hear from the first US troops to cross it. Monty’s great amphibious and airborne crossings are described by those who took part. As the fighting ends, we hear the emotional stories of those lucky enough to return home.
On the 29th of August 1949, the USSR set off their first atomic bomb, just four years after the Americans. The speed with which they achieved this surprised the world. What nobody knew was that it was the result of espionage implemented at the heart of the United States. Stalin was able to obtain all the nuclear discoveries made by scientists who worked on the famous Manhattan Plan. At the centre of the operation was a very unusual female spy, Elizabeth Zaroubin.
"The Road to War" uses elaborate re-enactments, fascinating Computer Generated Imagery and previously unseen archive footage to examine how the assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 came about and how Austria-Hungary used the death of the heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, to start a war against Serbia. The film investigates how this regional conflict caused the Central Powers and the Triple Entente to enter the First World War.
This is the story of the incredible escape attempt of 29 British Officers in July 1918 having spent 10 months constructing the tunnel right under the noses of their German captors. Ten of these officers made the journey to neutral Holland and returned to England as heroes.