The British (2012) s01e07 Episode Script

War and Peace

NARRATOR: Over 2,000 years, they will forge a nation, dominate the globe and invent the modern world.
This is the story of how a small group of islands becomes a superpower.
The British.
This is our story.
(WOMEN CHATTERING) WOMAN 1 : Good morning, girls.
Ready for your shift? NARRATOR: July 1, 1918, a factory in Chilwell, Nottinghamshire.
WOMAN 2: Good morning.
Remember to take out your hairpins.
All of them.
NARRATOR: Dorothy Nicholls is beginning a 12-hour shift.
just a few years earlier, in Victorian Britain, the idea of a woman running a workplace like this was unthinkable.
Now, Dorothy is a shift supervisor.
Factory girls like Rebecca Roper have strict rules they must obey at work.
REBECCA: You're not allowed hairpins, nor hooks and eyes in your clothes.
Nothing metal on you.
NARRATOR: Rebecca is on the most dangerous production line in Britain.
One spark could set the whole plant ablaze.
Over one million British women now work in factories making bombs and bullets, because the existence of the world's largest empire is under threat.
For a century, Britain had been the world superpower.
A nation that sparked an Industrial Revolution, transformed transportation.
A country that pioneered engineering, dominated world trade and revolutionised the lives of its people with sanitation and new technology.
But now Britain is at war with Germany, Europe's great new industrial nation.
And this Great War will be a battle of industry.
Not won in hand-to-hand combat, but by the side who can fire the most ammunition.
Britain fires over a million shells a week to keep the enemy at bay.
Rebecca Roper and women like her at the Chilwell munitions factory will produce over half of Britain's high-explosive shells.
They contain TNT, a highly explosive and toxic compound.
REBECCA: Our faces took on a strange yellow hue.
You'd wash and wash and wash, but it didn't make any difference.
This became the trademark of the shell-fillers.
We were called ''canaries''.
NARRATOR: Two thousand women work round the clock, seven days a week.
Sulphur was used in the making of munitions, and this could turn the skin yellow.
It was terribly bad for them, and many munitions workers, male and female, died, and others were disfigured by the poisonous stuff that they were handling every day.
CAITLIN MORAN: I love the confidence trick that was played on women kind of all the way through history, which was to tell them that they weren't the equal of men and they couldn't do anything.
Until we really needed the women, and then they would prove that they could do anything that men could do.
NARRATOR: Today, ice has been brought in to keep the TNT cool.
Dorothy's evening shift follows one of the hottest days of the year.
Willie Abelard was injured in action and discharged from the front line.
This evening, he begins his first shift at the factory.
There are over 100 tons of high explosive stored on the site.
(LOUD EXPLOSIONS) just an hour into the shift, in another building, a spark sets off a series of deadly explosions.
(SHOUTING INDISTINCTLY) Aprons! Aprons! Aprons! NARRATOR: Covered in volatile TNTpowder, the girls' aprons must be abandoned.
Willie Abelard is one of the 1 34 killed in the blast.
250 are injured.
(COUGHING) Of the dead, only 32 can be positively identified.
WOMAN: Here.
Help us.
(WOMAN SOBBING) Rebecca Roper is one of the lucky ones.
REBECCA: There was utter devastation.
People were running about with the most terrible injuries and shattered limbs.
NARRATOR: Supervisor Dorothy Nicholls is granted an OBE for her part in rescuing the injured.
It's one of the worst disasters on Britain's home front.
But within two days, the survivors are back on the production line.
These women are instrumental in winning the war.
When women put their chins up and go out and do what's needed to be done, it seems to me that they do it with such good grace, with such energy, with such humour.
And they do it without ever expecting any medals or any recognition.
NARRATOR: From the great warrior women who fought the Romans to the pioneering female reformers of the 19th century, women have fought for their role in British history.
As the Great War draws to a close, and despite the Suffragette Movement, women still don't have a voice in society.
But the sacrifices of women like the Chilwell factory workers are hard to ignore.
In February 1918, women are given the vote for the first time.
We should celebrate the fact that British women felt empowered enough to stand up and go, ''No, we're here, too, and we want to be a voice that's heard, ''that has a say, that has a right, that has a right to make a change ''in a country that we live in as equally as men.
'' NARRATOR: A year later, the first-ever female MP takes her seat in Parliament.
JEREMY BLACK: This is a world in which for upper, middle class and working class women, there is a breakdown of pre-existing social norms.
And obviously that doesn't mean that you're moving into a kind of society equivalent to today, but what it does mean is this is not Victorian Britain any more.
NARRATOR: 7.
45 a.
m.
, May 5, 1930.
A 26-year-old from Kingston upon Hull is about to become a female icon.
Amy johnson, a new breed of woman.
One of the first generations to study at university.
She's an economics graduate.
And now, an amateur pilot.
She aims to fly solo from Britain to Australia.
Only two people have attempted such a flight, and neither of them were women.
Her plane has top speed of only 90 miles an hour.
Extra fuel tanks have given her a flying time of just 13 hours.
JOHNSON: I have an immense belief in the future of flying.
I'm certain a successful flight of this nature by an English girl, solo, will do much to engender confidence amongst the public in air travel.
JULIET GARDINER: What Amy johnson was interested in was speed, and speed is a great preoccupation of the '30s, so that's why Amy johnson is such a celebrity, as a glamorous young woman, fearless young woman, prepared to take on anything.
And so unusual for a woman in her time.
NARRATOR: Not only does she want to be the first woman to fly to Australia, she also wants to break the 15 and a half day record for a solo flight.
The furthest Amy Johnson has ever flown is from London to Hull.
Now she faces a journey of 11,000 miles.
In her attempt to be the very first woman to fly to Australia, Amy Johnson hits a sandstorm over Iraq.
JOHNSON: Sand and dust covered my goggles.
My eyes smarted, and I couldn't control the machine.
I've never been so frightened in my life.
NARRATOR: Yet, she is still two days ahead of the world record.
Britain has a rich history of pioneers looking beyond our shores.
Pioneers of land, sea and in the air.
We are a nation of adventurers.
SAUL DAVID: The Amy johnson story very much encapsulates the British spirit of adventure, because here's a secretary from Hull who decides to take on this incredible voyage of flying halfway around the world.
And despite all the hardships and all the difficulties and all the obstacles, I think it says everything about the British determination to take on something that is the other side of the hill and find out if we can actually conquer it.
(THUNDER RUMBLING) NARRATOR: But bad weather through Asia means she is forced to divert.
No longer able to navigate, Amy johnson crash lands.
(CRASHING) Her journey looks to be over.
JOHNSON: I'm getting very tired of my trip, and a wee bit discouraged, because everything seems to be going wrong.
NARRATOR: But Britain still rules an empire covering a quarter of the globe, and she has crashed in the British colony of Burma and near an engineering school.
The students have the skill and materials to patch up the wing, and replace her damaged propeller and burst tyre.
She doesn't have particular mechanical skills, she's not much of a navigator, but she's pretty intrepid.
And she was intent on breaking records quite fearlessly.
NARRATOR: The world is getting smaller.
The highs and lows of Amy's progress fill the British press, airwaves and newsreels.
JESSIE J: Well, I mean, I can imagine being, say, if I was a child, back in the day, and looked at somebody that had literally just destroyed and ripped up all the rulebooks that I had ever known, and gone, ''You know what? I'm gonna do what I wanna do, ''and I'm gonna get a plane and fly around the world by myself.
'' You know, I would've gone, ''Wow, that's completely changed my mindset on how I see my life now.
'' (CHEERING) Amy johnson! NARRATOR: May 24, 1930, Darwin, Australia.
The journey has taken her 19 and a half days.
She's the first woman to fly solo across the world.
MAN: Three cheers! (CLICKING) (WHOOPING) NARRATOR: Despite missing the world record, the Daily Herald declares her achievement, ''The vindication of womanhood.
'' She receives a hero's welcome.
The Daily Mail buys Amy Johnson's exclusive story, and declares her journey, ''The most marvellous feat of endurance ''recorded in the whole history of womanhood.
'' JESSIE J: Whatever they put in magazines and newspapers and on newsreels in cinemas in the '30s or the '40s, that's what young people are looking at and being inspired by.
NARRATOR: In the 19th century, Britain had been the workshop of the world.
A manufacturing superpower.
Britain's coal producers provided the steam that powered the Industrial Revolution.
British steel built new railways, driving massive trade expansion.
But the efforts of the Great War derailed British industry.
GARDINER: Britain was broke, money, was in debt to America and had its industry in disarray, obviously because everything had been geared up for war.
NARRATOR: During the 1930s, in some towns of the industrial north, 70% of men are out of work.
DR NEIL FAULKNER: The experience, very often, is of unemployment and impoverishment, and there's no sense that this is a country fit for heroes, a home fit for heroes.
NARRATOR: Two hundred men from jarrow marched 300 miles to London to protest.
GARDINER: Britain was a very divided country in the '30s.
In the north, you have very high unemployment, whereas for those people living in the Midlands or the south, where there are new industries making things for the consumer market, synthetic textiles, cars, pharmaceuticals and, of course, building, a great boom in the building industry, then life was pretty good.
NARRATOR: Four million new homes are built.
Fitted out with all mod cons, including inside bathrooms.
Before the Great War, only one in ten families owned their own home.
By 1939, cheap mortgages mean that this number has tripled.
These homes, with their gardens and garages, give birth to a new suburbia, green and spacious, and transformed the landscape of Britain forever.
They had their own front door, they had a small back garden, they had fresh air.
It was so different from the overcrowding and the pollution of the inner cities, and it was a lot of people's dreams.
DAVID PUTTNAM: I was brought up in a new semi-detached house, and it was home, and my mother was a real homemaker.
It was her palace, you know.
It was what she wanted.
She ruled it, and the rest of us were allowed to live in it.
(LAUGHING) NARRATOR: The 1930s sees the beginning of another transformation.
A British discovery is set to revolutionise medicine.
Save lives, reduce infection, cure disease.
It's the result of over two decades of scientific endeavour.
But it all starts with the wartime experiences of one man.
1918, the Great War.
A makeshift hospital along the French western front.
(SOLDIERS COUGHING) Alexander Fleming, a Scottish captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, knows even a minor wound can mean death from bacterial infection.
-NURSE: There you go.
-Thank you.
NARRATOR: Basic antiseptics often make things worse, killing not the bacteria, but the body's natural defences.
(GROANING LOUDLY) Fleming takes samples from those who have died and begins to study how to wipe out the bacteria that cause infection.
FLEMING: I could see for myself that these antiseptics didn't kill all microbes.
I was consumed by a desire to discover, after all this struggling, something which would.
NARRATOR: It would be another decade before his work comes to fruition.
September 1928.
In his London laboratory, Fleming makes a chance discovery.
He notices one of his bacterial cultures is contaminated with a type of mould.
He should reject the culture, but he doesn't.
Instead, Fleming looks a little closer, and notices something unusual.
Wherever the mould appears, the bacteria is destroyed.
He had stumbled upon one of the most significant medical discoveries of the century.
Fleming identifies the mould as Penicillium notatum.
From this discovery, Oxford scientists later derive the drug penicillin.
FLEMING: Never neglect any appearance or any happening which seems to be out of the ordinary.
It may be an important truth.
ROBERT WINSTON: I think the reason why Fleming is important as a scientist is because he recognised something was going on, which he hadn't expected.
And most people, when that happens, throw away the evidence.
Science works, very often, by serendipity.
DOUGRAY SCOTT: That changed the course of medicine and our lives.
So it was an incredibly important discovery, and he was one of many Scots that made great discoveries.
NARRATOR: Penicillin revolutionises the way infection and disease are treated across the world.
Now the lives of countless millions are saved from diseases, which would once have routinely killed.
For someone who's an explorer, I always carry a survival kit, and it's got fishing hooks in, fishing line, compass.
But above all, my antibiotics, penicillin.
And that makes me feel like I've got a little bit of Britain strapped to my waist.
Might save my life or not, but I always feel a little bit more comfortable having it tucked against me.
NARRATOR: The health of the British people is transformed.
In 1900, a child could expect to live to less than 50.
Now life expectancy exceeds 80 years.
But this newfound well-being will soon be under threat from an enemy beyond Britain's shores.
Over 2,000 years, the British have fiercely defended their land from invaders.
Not since William the Conqueror and the Norman Invasion a thousand years ago has a foreign army defeated the British people on home soil.
I think that spirit of defiance, you can trace all the way back to the Britons taking on the Romans, to the Anglo-Saxons taking on the Normans.
There's a collective determination among the Britons, I think, from that point onwards that we will not be beaten again.
NARRATOR: But this spirit of defiance will face the ultimate test.
Built from the ruins of the Fire of London, the iconic Saint Paul's Cathedral in the heart of the city of London, standing proud since the 1700s, an enduring symbol of hope and resilience.
Now, for the first time, it's under threat.
Hitler wants to destroy the symbols of our history and bring the city to its knees.
December 29, 1940.
At 6.
15, an air raid begins.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill declares Saint Paul's Cathedral must be protected at all costs.
The survival of these buildings was seen as important, in part because they symbolise the trust between the generations.
I think that's a very important thing about the inter-relationship between community and history, between, as it were, deep history.
NARRATOR: Inside the Cathedral, the Dean, Walter Matthews, directs a team of fire-watchers to extinguish incendiary bombs before the flames take hold.
These are not experienced firemen, but architectural students who know the building well.
They need to be able to navigate the 30 staircases within its six towers by torch light.
For more than three months, London has suffered devastating bombings.
The ports of Bristol, Cardiff and Liverpool have also been targeted, along with industrial cities like Coventry, Glasgow and Belfast.
Over 14,000 have already died.
The Blitz is an attack on the spirit of the British people.
FAULKNER: The situation in 1940 is one of profound shock.
The expectation was that the war would be fought on the continent, in the same way as the First World War.
The collapse on the continent means that Britain, London in particular, is now the frontline in a global war against fascism.
NARRATOR: In the first half hour of the raid, the Germans dropped 300 incendiary bombs a minute.
The Dean of Saint Paul's recalls the attack.
Bring the sandbags.
MATTHEWS: The action in the cathedral became, for a while, a number of separate battles, in which small squads fought fires at different places on and beneath the roofs.
(FIREMAN SHOUTING ORDERS) NARRATOR: In the next three hours, Luftwaffe drops over 120 tons of explosives on London.
During the night, 250 firemen are injured and 14 will die protecting their city.
Saint Paul's dome takes a direct hit.
An incendiary bomb lodges in the lead panelling.
Beneath the lead is a lattice of timbers 200 years old.
They are tinder-dry.
MATTHEWS: We knew that once a fire got hold of the dome timbers, it would, at that high altitude, quickly be fanned into a roaring furnace.
The chances for the dome were slender indeed.
NARRATOR: Firemen battle a strong southwesterly wind, which feeds the inferno.
Stay on it! Stay on it! Keep the stream straight.
Sam Cheveau, a 28-year-old in the Auxiliary Fire Service, begins his shift.
SAM: We could see enormous fires burning all around us with blowtorch effect, as they sucked in the freezing cold air.
Where's my water? NARRATOR: Water mains burst under the intense heat of the inferno.
No water! Backup supplies from the Thames can't be used.
Where's our water? SAM: To add to the difficulties of the night, the Thames was at its lowest ebb.
NARRATOR: There is no water, and the flames are now within metres of Saint Paul's.
just one more wave of German bombers, and the city will be engulfed.
MATTHEWS: We gazed upon this apocalyptic scene.
It's like the end of the world.
ALLEN: You have to ask yourself, when you are being bombarded in the Blitz, why press on? What's the point? Why not just throw in the towel? I think it is because we are such a small nation.
We've understood that way back through history for thousands of years.
There's no other way except to fight, in the end.
Otherwise, you account for absolutely nothing.
NARRATOR: But over the Channel, the wind changes direction.
It is no longer safe to fly.
The final wave of enemy bombers never comes.
The incendiary on the Saint Paul's dome has fallen outwards onto a stone parapet, and not the timber rafters.
On the ground, water is restored.
From the roof of The Daily Mail building, photographer Herbert Mason watches the scene.
(CLICKS) MASON: I focused as the great dome loomed up through the smoke.
The glare of many fires and sweeping clouds of smoke kept hiding the shape.
Then a wind sprang up.
Suddenly, the shining cross, dome and towers stood out like a symbol in the inferno.
MIKE JACKSON: That iconic photograph.
London appears to be completely in flames.
But somehow, in the middle, untouched, is the dome of Saint Paul's.
A huge symbol of defiance.
NARRATOR: The ''all clear''has sounded.
(SIREN BLARING) Slowly London's firefighters bring the blaze under control.
MATTHEWS: The cathedral had survived, as if by a miracle, while all around was consumed.
NARRATOR: Hitler has been thwarted.
Churchill praises the indomitable spirit of the British people.
CHURCHILL: Little did he know the spirit of the British nation or the tough fibre of the Londoner, who have been bred to value freedom far above their lives.
On her way to work, Dorothy Barton sees Saint Paul's through the burning ruins.
BARTON: I felt a lump in my throat because, like so many people, I felt that while Saint Paul's survived, so would we.
NARRATOR: 60,000 civilians will die on British soil in the Battle of Britain.
German bombs' damage will destroy three and a half million homes.
But Hitler's plans to break the spirit of the British people only serves to strengthen them.
MEERA SYAL: The bombs were dropping, and yet people stayed in their houses helping each other.
You know, the house next door's gone, ''We'll put the kettle on.
Don't you worry.
'' And they're the kind of people that you just want on your side.
MICKEY FLANAGAN: My mum often talks about the fact that she would meet a family who'd been what they call ''bombed out''.
They'd gone down the shelter, they'd come up, the house is gone.
They got on with it.
They went and moved in, they moved in with friends and neighbours.
I cannot begin to imagine how it must feel to come up from the shelter with your fingers crossed that your house is still there.
On a daily basis.
NARRATOR: From the ashes of war, Britain rebuilds.
The days of imperial glory are disappearing.
At home, the British people demand a new, fairer society.
There was a real deference to the old establishment before the Second World War, and that is largely gone.
Now the assumption is that everybody is entitled to share in democratic decision-making.
Everybody is part of the process of deciding what kind of Britain this is going to be.
There's no longer a touching of caps to the great and the good.
NARRATOR: It marks a turning point.
For the first time, everyone is guaranteed free healthcare from cradle to grave.
GARDINER: The people who had made sacrifices during the war were to reap rewards in the peace.
And those rewards were going to come in terms of a welfare state, in terms of a better standard of living.
They wanted peace, of course, but they also wanted a better peace.
NARRATOR: Britain enters a hopeful new age.
(INDISTINCT) Right.
All the chaps are in place.
Now I want to brief you all about where we are, where the camera positions are.
These are the cameras on the interior of the Abbey.
Got the one here by the western door NARRATOR: June 2, 1953.
In a temporary television studio at Westminster Abbey, broadcaster Peter Dimmock is about to make history.
The people of Britain will have access to an event that has only previously been witnessed by a select elite.
Number two, here, will be looking right across.
(CROWD CHEERING) NARRATOR: A royal coronation of the 27-year-old Queen Elizabeth II.
Recorded in colour film, this footage will be shown in cinemas after the event.
But live on black-and-white TV for the first time, 2 7 million people in Britain are about to watch the coronation unfold in their homes.
It has taken 12 months to organise, and almost as long to persuade Britain's hierarchy to allow television cameras inside the Abbey.
The Prime Minister and the cabinet believe the intrusion of lights and cameras will be an extra strain on the young Queen What's wrong with number two? and a threat to the dignity of the ceremony.
Superb.
But after public outcry, Elizabeth requests that the whole nation can see the coronation.
There, and then number six.
-Isn't she marvellous? -Absolutely stunning.
-Can you believe it, Dad? -NARRATOR: In North London, Charles Bayliss has made the biggest home purchase of his life, an eight-inch, black-and-white television set.
It costs £120, equivalent to over three months' wages.
Two million British households now own a new television, but 10 times as many were watching.
Today, a dozen friends and neighbours will crowd around Charles' television.
(ALL CHATTERING) JESSIE J: I always like being part of something that's celebrating something great.
If I was there, I'd have been scoffing a coronation chicken sandwich, eating sweets, waving the flag around.
That would have been my kind of party.
Right in front of the TV, like this far away from the TV, cheering uncontrollably.
So she will be with us at the Abbey in six minutes.
You have six minutes, okay? NARRATOR: Every BBC camera possible is being used to film the coronation.
Sixteen will record the procession outside the Abbey.
Five will cover the event inside.
Peter Dimmock has a long list of strict instruction from the palace.
His cameramen must blend in, so are dressed in formalwear.
Where possible, the cameras themselves must be hidden.
Above the Abbey's organ screen, it's a tight squeeze.
Spot on! So the smallest cameraman, Bud Flanagan, is assigned to the job.
But he's not the only one to need the space.
Tell him if he touches you there again, he'll have to marry you.
NARRATOR: Above all, though, there is one stipulation from the palace.
Cameras will not be allowed to show a close-up of the Queen.
(ALL CHATTERING INDISTINCTLY) NARRATOR: At no other time in history has one person been exposed to the gaze of so many.
-All those jewels.
-Twenty-seven years old! ALL: (CHANTING) God save the Queen! MIRREN: You just see this mantle fall upon her.
I feel you see it in her face.
Her full acceptance of the gravity of this role, for the rest of her life.
-ALL: God save the Queen! -(CHEERING) Stand-by three.
And cut to three.
NARRATOR: As the newly crowned queen processes down the Abbey, Peter Dimmock knows what the nation wants to see.
I'm gonna come to you, two, for the close-up.
Cut to two.
Hold it.
Hold it.
DIMMOCK: We were almost in tears.
It was just fantastic seeing the young queen walking out.
NARRATOR: A new, modern relationship between the monarchy and the British public is sealed.
And back to five.
-(ALL SIGHING IN RELIEF) -(LAUGHING) That's beautiful.
It was rock and roll.
I mean, it was the greatest show on Earth.
There was this young, beautiful queen saying, ''Be part of the new age.
''Be part of the new Elizabethan period.
'' (CROWD CHEERING) NARRATOR: Television comes of age.
By the end of the decade, 10 million homes have sets.
FAULKNER: Television is coming to embody the spirit of the more inclusive, more thoroughly democratic, more caring, in a way, society, which is emerging out of the Depression and the Second World War.
Suddenly, everybody is part of this project of building a new Britain.
NARRATOR: Today's Britain is a country reshaping its identity, building upon its rich and varied history to find a new role on the world stage.
KATE ALLEN: It's a softer sort of power.
It's not the sort of power where you can say, ''This is what will happen.
'' It's the sort of power of influence, where you talk with other countries and you negotiate, and certainly the UK has enormous influence.
To me, the glories of Britain are that the society is just, equal, fair, tolerant.
And that generally, I believe my country is a force for good.
(CHEERING) SCOTT: We do have something that I think is rock solid, and is part of our heritage and our culture and our history.
And I think that we should be very, very proud of that.
And that makes me feel proud to not just be Scottish, but to be British as well.
For me, in modern Britain, what we have to do is remind ourselves of our history.
Try and live up to the standards of the great people that fought wars for us and what they've given us in the past.
It's nice to be able to reach back into the past and feel that you have an identity.
To feel an oceanic, rolling history.
The British identity is made up of so many different cultural inputs, and that's arguably the imperial legacy of all the different influences we took from around the world.
This is an island race that absorbs and welcomes other cultures, because fundamentally, there is a sense of decency and an acceptance of the outsider that is not present in a lot of other countries.
GARETH THOMAS: We are all proud people.
We all have different accents, different religions and different beliefs.
But in the soul of everybody that's a British person is a proud person as well.
I think the thing that I like about being British is that wherever you go in the world, people respect you.
There's this island that is tiny, in geographic terms, and punches and has punched and still punches way above its weight.
Which allows us to stand alone and say, ''This is who we are.
We'll go our own way.
''