TV preview - Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Britain

Penny Linnett.
Penny Linnett.
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During the Blitz more than 450,000 bombs dropped on Britain – and every bomb has its own story.

This series examines the specific effect of four bombs, from their initial impact on individual lives, right through to their wider consequences for the Second World War and all the way to the present day. Each episode begins with a single bomb in a single street in a single place: London, Hull, Clydebank and Bristol.

Episode one follows a bomb that fell on Martindale Road in the East End of London on the first night of the Blitz. Stan Harris and Norman Pirie were boys in 1940. Initially there was relief as the bomb remained unexploded.

Judy Gregory’s grandmother, uncle, aunt and cousins put their faith in the authorities and headed to a local school to wait for buses to take them to safety. The buses do not come, and they and hundreds of others became a sitting-target for returning bombers. One man – journalist Ritchie Calder – tried to warn the authorities and when the bombers did return they killed hundreds of people.

Judy is moved to tears when she discovers her family’s story, outlined in terse civil defence dispatches. An entire branch of her family tree was lost, thanks to a bomb that didn’t go off.

Calder was determined to publicise the human cost of this bomb. In this programme his two grandsons explore his mission to raise awareness of the real problem London faced in the first weeks of the Blitz – the thousands of people who had lost absolutely everything, including their homes. For the first time it was necessary to create city-wide welfare systems that worked for everyone.

Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Britain, BBC2, Thursday, 9pm