Begins by looking at the story of Franz Honiok, a 43-year-old farmer who is often considered the first victim of the Second World War, before going on to show that when Germany invaded Poland in August 1939, no-one was ready for war.
By January 1916 the war had become a stalemate. Millions had died and yet no side had achieved a decisive breakthrough. Austria-Hungary tripled the size of its armies to five million men. Germany doubled its forces to seven million. And in Britain men were volunteering to fight at the rate of up to 33,000 a day.
In 1943 the British and Americans plan the opening of a 'Second Front' in Northwest Europe. Huge numbers of troops, aircraft and ships begin to assemble in England for the invasion of France. They train relentlessly for what will prove the largest amphibious operation in military history. Meanwhile across the Channel the Germans also gather their strength. Hitler sends one of his best generals, 'the Desert Fox' himself Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, to supervise the construction of coastal defences known as 'the Atlantic Wall'. But the Allies retain one crucial advantage that even Rommel's genius cannot compensate for – only the Allies know where and when they will strike.
It's said that journalists write the first draft of history. To mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, John Simpson, the BBC's world affairs editor and longest-serving correspondent, goes back to his reports on what he believes is the most important story he ever covered – the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
2019 • History
A look at the Battle of Britain, examining the limited resources the British military were left with following the retreat from Dunkirk, and the pressure on German forces to conquer England quickly, so attention could be switched to Russia. The second half of the programmes examines the US entry into the war, in defiance of the promise made by President Roosevelt during his re-election campaign.