The Blitz: Days That Changed WWII (Tuesday 10th, 8pm) marks the 80th anniversary of the World War II bombing campaign, a defining event of World War II, which lasted from September 7th, 1940 until May 21, 1941. The Blitz was a maelstrom of fire and destruction: 85 major air raids, 24,000 tons of bombs dropped, 40,000 fatalities, 1.5 million people left homeless or displaced.
US war correspondent Ernie Pyle described one evening that he witnessed as “a night when London was ringed and stabbed with fire.” Featuring remarkable archival film and eye-witness accounts, this documentary takes us from Black Saturday in the East End, to the tragedy at the Balham tube station shelter, and to the ruins of Coventry Cathedral – the symbol of a city which endured almost 12 hours of heavy bombing on 14 November 1940. The government reassured the British people that they could take it — and filmed itself handing out 44 million gas masks and two million back-garden shelters to help them do it. Millions of men and women volunteered as firefighters, ambulance drivers, and air-raid wardens. In London, four days after a ration-card Christmas, cameras show them fighting back — making a ferocious stand against the Nazis’ all-out assault on St Paul’s. Somewhere, during the locked-down days and blacked-out nights, the idea of ‘Blitz Spirit’ crossed over from newsreel legend into reality.