THE WEST at WAR

Continuing ITV West’s series of specially commissioned programmes marking the 60th anniversary of VE Day is THE WEST AT WAR.

This six-part series tells the untold story of the servicemen from the South-West who fought in the Second World War.

Using personal testimony together with previously unseen archive film, some of it in colour, we reveal for the first time the vital role played by local soldiers, sailors and airmen in overseas actions between 1939 and 1945.

The programmes, have been made to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in 2005, and it is important that the sacrifice made by those in the front line is not lost to history.

The series - accompanied by a book and a permanent archive of tapes of those who fought - aims to preserve that memory forever.

The West Country is home to some of the most illustrious fighting forces in the country, and our sea-faring heritage is known the world over. This series features dramatic firsthand accounts from veterans who risked their lives in every theatre of war.

Now in their 80’s and 90’s, they still vividly remember the camaraderie, the bravery, the fear, the brutality and the horror of war. Many were lucky to survive. And they remember those who didn’t: the comrades in arms who fell by their sides, a memory that still haunts them.

There is also a book to accompany the series.

Priced £14.99 ISBN 0 7509 4110 3 Published: April 21 2005 The book can be ordered from Sutton Publishing by caling 01453 731114 or via www.SuttonPublishing.co.uk The book is distributed by Haynes. Customer Services 01963 442 030.

PROGRAMME 1 – LAST MAN, LAST ROUND

Scheduled Tx Tuesday May 10 @ 19.30

The series begins with the incredible escape of a third of a million men from the beaches around Dunkirk in May 1940, now a part of British folklore. We reveal the little known story of the heroic role played by a handful of men from two battalions of the Gloucester Regiment, whose incredible bravery in the face of terrible opposition allowed so many to make it to safety.

The programme relives the story of the Gloster Regiment in the Battle of France and the withdrawal to Dunkirk. In late1939 and early 1940, two battalions of the Glosters were sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). While the 2nd Glosters were trained regular soldiers, the 5th Glosters were Territorials.

In a period known as the Phoney War, The Glosters were digging trenches and training. But on 10 May 1940, the Germans invaded Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg - the Blitzkrieg had begun. The Glosters were sent forward to engage them, but as the French lines crumbled, the BEF were forced to retreat. As the BEF retreated back to Dunkirk, the two battalions of the Glosters were told to hold two key points on the route to the beaches. The 2nd went to the hilltop town of Cassel and the 5th to the small village of Ledringhem.

Here they were told to hold these villages to the ‘last man, last round’.

Veterans from both the 2nd and 5th battalions are featured in the programmes and include: Julian Fane, Jim Loftus and Bill Lacey from the 2nd Battalion.

Joe Trinder (since deceased), Frank Henn, Bill Stanton and Len Llewellyn from the 5th Battalion.

PROGRAMME 2 - THE GREAT ESCAPE

Scheduled Tx Tuesday May 17 @ 19.30

The progress of the 2nd and 5th Battalions is followed as they make their escape to Dunkirk.

PROGRAMME 3 - FEAR NOTHING, BRISTOL'S 501 SQUADRON

Scheduled Tx Tuesday May 24 @ 19.30

The third programme of the series tells the story of the 501 Squadron (right), a hurricane Squadron based in Filton, which became one of the most illustrious Squadrons to fly in the Battle of Britain.

An interesting twist to the tale - before the war, 501 Squadron was essentially a gentlemen's flying club, for weekend pilots. When war broke out, more experienced pilots were brought in from around the country to make up the numbers.

Interviewed are the last two remaining original Bristolian pilots, Bill Green (right) and Keith Aldridge. Both have fantastic stories including how Bill cheated death in one terrifying incident when he fell 16,000 feet to earth, unable to open his parachute until shortly before he hit the ground. Being so inexperienced - only having flown hours in a Hurricane before being sent into combat - both were shot down and have amazing descriptions of events.

We've also filmed the widow of 501 Squadron pilot Michael Smith. Mary Lalonde married Michael in late 1939, when war broke out. He was killed in May 1940. Michael is pictured far right in the above picture of the Squadron.

PROGRAMME 4 - FOR THOSE IN PERIL

Scheduled Tx Tuesday May 31 @ 19.30

Featuring the story of the Battle of the Atlantic, we recognise the heroic achievement of the many local men who served in the Royal and Merchant Navies.

Bristol has an illustrious seafaring tradition – and this would be tested to the limit during the Battle of the Atlantic. Thousands of seamen who served would never return home.

Those featured in this week’s programme include Maurice Ryan. Aged 16, he was on a banana boat which was sunk by a U-boat after leaving Avonmouth. He spent six days in a lifeboat, but later went back to sea and sailed in Atlantic convoys.

John Salinas sailed on Malta convoys and recalls stories of shooting down German planes. He was on a ship sunk by a U-boat but returned to his cabin to rescue a photograph of his wife. Plus Cyril Stephens (now deceased) who sailed on corvette ships, searching for U-boats.

PROGRAMME 5 - D-DAY: THE CAPTURE OF

PEGASUS BRIDGE

Scheduled Tx Tuesday June 7 @ 19.30

The penultimate programme reveals the important part played by local men in D-Day in June 1944. This began with the daring glider raid which paved the way for the beach landings. The programme tells the story of the first action to take place on D-Day. Just after midnight, in the early hours of June 6, six gliders each carrying about 30 men landed in France.

The men were to capture intact two bridges inland of the Normandy Beaches. With these in British hands, the Germans could be prevented from moving their tank divisions to the beaches, which would have meant the Allies would have been trapped, and D-Day a failure.

Landing in the dark, in a glider was a very dangerous feat. Amazingly, the gliders were landed within 50 feet of the bridges. This was later described as the best feat of flying of the war. The bridges were taken intact very quickly and the operation was a complete success.

The programme features two of the surviving troops, including David Wood, the last surviving officer. His friend Den Brotheridge was killed during the attack, and was the first Allied soldier to be killed by enemy action on D-Day. The other interviewee is Doug Allen. Their story is intercut with story of the build up to the beach landings.

PROGRAMME 6 - HELL IN THE JUNGLE (WORKING TITLE)

Scheduled Tx Tuesday June 14 @ 19.30

The Burma story – featured is former regular soldier who fought inthe jungle - Dennis Greenslade. Also officer in charge of the Gurkhas, Derek Horsford, who made a cunning plan which changed the course of the famous battle at Kohima plus two POW's, Leslie Blake and Ted Davis who tell their amazing stories of brutality at the hands of the Japanese.

The series is a Testimony Films production for ITV West. The producer and director is Nick Maddocks and the executive producer

is James Garrett.