|Directed by||Matthew Whiteman|
Tuesday, 14 September 2010 at 21:00 on BBC Two
Tuesday, 14 September 2010 at 22:30 on BBC HD
|Availability & pricing||Aired on BBC TV as listed.
Expected to appear on BlueRay/DVD in the future.
This week sees the start of the BBC’s Battle of Britain season, marking the 70th anniversary of this pivotal air battle. As part of the celebration, a number of shows will appear on BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four.
Leading the season is First Light, an 80-minute drama-documentary that tells the extraordinary story of Geoffrey Wellum, one of the battle’s youngest Spitfire pilots. Produced specifically for the 70th anniversary of the Battle, First Light is the adaptation of Wellum’s acclaimed book under the same title, which first appeared in 2002.
Geoffrey Wellum was just 18 when he was thrown into combat as a fighter pilot just before the Battle of Britain. Now seventy years on and aged 89, he is still haunted by the conflict that took away so many others of his generation.
First Light is based on Geoffrey’s personal memoirs, revisiting the combat career and emotions of a boy who went to war, and who came back a broken man.
In May 1940, Geoffrey ‘Boy’ Wellum (played in the film by Sam Heughan), driven by his love of flight and a desire to serve with the Royal Air Force, joined No.92 Squadron. At the time he was barely out of school and had just a few hours of flight training. He has never seen a Spitfire close up, let alone flown one.
Like with many newbie pilots at these desperate times, no one had time to teach George how to become proficient as a fighter pilot. The squadron was fighting for survival and he had to find his own ways to kill – or be killed.
As Wellum plunged into combat, he discovered that the brutal reality of war and the feelings of despair were overwhelming him. As the death toll among the pilots rose, Boy withdrew into himself, even pushing away those who cared for him, including his girlfriend Grace (Tuppence Middleton).
After 18 months in the first line fighter unit, Wellum had “had it”. He lost his youth in the most violent and immediate way possible; his spirit broken by a merciless world of kill or be killed. No longer caring whether he lives or dies, he can only be saved by the action of his superiors – who know
that if he continues to fly he will face certain death.
First Light wraps the story through a mixture of Geoffrey Wellum’s first person testimony, atmospheric (and well done!) drama scenes, real-time Spitfire flying sequences, and CGI (computer graphics). It’s an ambitious production, cutting well above the standard wartime documentaries that we all got accustomed to see on the TV. This film is not only faithful to Wellum’s deeply moving story; it is also a convincing attempt to put the viewer right there.
Don’t miss it!