Second World War survivors to be honoured with raft of BBC shows marking VE Day

The Greatest Generation season will include a documentary capturing the memories of those who survived the war, and will be accompanied by other programmes about Britain's fight against Adolf Hitler

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The BBC is honouring the last survivors of the Second World War with a landmark documentary series called Britain’s Greatest Generation.

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The four-part BBC2 programme will celebrate the achievements of the millions of ordinary Britons who helped to win the conflict through a series of moving and personal interviews.

“Now in their nineties and hundreds, they are a generation who grew up in the shadow of the Great War, suffered through the Depression years, and fought long and hard for freedom,” according to a statement by the Corporation.

“This people’s history tells the epic stories of largely unknown and unassuming heroes: from distant childhood memories; the drama and heartbreak of war; love and marriage to growing older in contemporary Britain. 
All the stories will be illustrated with painstakingly researched footage and unique material from interviewees’ personal collections.”

Britain’s Greatest Generation will accompanied by a project, involving the British Film Institute and the British Council, encouraging schoolchildren to interview the last survivors from their area and make their own short films.

Both organisations are providing primary school pupils aged 7 to 11 with access to 370 archive film clips from 1930 to 1960, many of which show real-life experiences of the wartime era in towns and cities around the UK. A book, also called Britain’s Greatest Generation, will accompany the series.

The programme forms a central plank of the BBC’s Greatest Generation season which will mark the end of the Second World War in 1945.

The 70th anniversary of VE Day will see three days of commemorations broadcast on the BBC from 8-10 May.

On Friday 8th May: to echo the moment it was formally announced that the war had finally ended in Europe and victory was declared – a Service of Remembrance will take place at the Cenotaph in London, observing a national two-minute silence at 3pm and broadcast live on BBC1.

On Saturday 9th May at 8:30pm VE Day 70: A Party to Remember will be hosted by Chris Evans and broadcast on BBC1 and Radio 2 from London’s Horse Guards Parade.

This star-studded concert will feature comedian and presenter Alexander Armstrong, tenor Alfie Boe, actors Adrian Lester and Bernard Cribbins, dance troupe Diversity and singer Elaine Paige.

Other confirmed names include Dad’s Army’s Ian Lavender, R&B singer Jamelia, actors Jane Horrocks and Julia Sawalha, mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins, actor and musician Laurence Fox, Pixie Lott, Rebecca Ferguson and rock band Status Quo.

On Sunday 10th May in VE Day 70: The Nation Remembers (10:00am-1:30pm). Kirsty Young hosts full, uninterrupted live coverage of the final day of the 70th anniversary commemorations to mark VE Day from St James’s Park, London.

The event sees the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and other members of the Royal Family attending a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey to commemorate the occasion.


VE Day will also be marked by a series of other documentaries including BBC1’s VE Day: Remembering Victory narrated by Julie Walters and featuring some of Britain’s best-loved celebrities – including Sir Bruce Forsyth, Honor Blackman, Sir Patrick Stewart, Miriam Margolyes and Dame Cleo Laine.

BBC2 will also air The BBC at War, a two-part series, written and presented by Jonathan Dimbleby and uncovering the story of how the BBC battled Hitler – and Whitehall opposition – over the course of the war. The mini-series promises to offer a unique insight into one of the story’s leading players, the presenter’s father, Richard Dimbleby.

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Among a range of other programmes there will also be an hour-long documentary about Britain’s wartime leader –  Churchill: When Britain Said No – and another programme about the aftermath of the war, called The Savage Peace.