Released in 2019 to commemorate the 80th year of the beginning of WWII, the documentary series is presented by four acclaimed British actors sharing their own search for a piece of family history.
Each of the four one-hour episode is a moving, personal discovery as the acclaimed actors retrace their grandparents’ wartime footsteps. All of them appear in natural situ, devoid of showy costume or make-up but instead, wrapped in authenticity. A remarkable documentary series.
What’s in common is the intriguing fact that these grandchildren had known little about the wartime happening or even heroics of their grandparents until now, and the main reason is due to the older generation’s own reticence about their experience in a traumatic chapter of their life. This in itself is poignant and revealing.
Episode 1 – Mark Rylance
From Shakespearean drama to Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, stage and film actor Mark Rylance discovers a real-life horror story as he ponders the facts and conditions of his grandfather Osmond Skinner as a Prisoner of War in Hong Kong. He travels to the former British colony and walks the path and talks to those who show him records, and meeting the daughter of his grandfather’s fellow prisoner. Views from both sides of the war are presented.
Episode 2 – Kristin Scott Thomas
Kristin Scott Thomas’s grandfather was Royal Navy Captain William Scott Thomas whose heroics include a crucial role in the Dunkirk evacuation and D-Day, as well as the arduous and deadly missions of the Arctic Convoy to transport supplies to Russia. A moving personal journey as she learns the facts and visits Dunkirk to meet a descendant of an evacuee. The tragic death of Kristin’s pilot father in a plane crash when she was young could have severed a link between grandfather and grandchildren in terms of war stories.
Episode 3 – Carey Mulligan
Carey Mulligan’s grandfather Denzil Booth was just a teenager from Wales when he was fast-tracked to join the Navy. He was A radar operator on a war ship when it was hit by a Kamikaze plane. Touching moments when she goes searching for the details of her grandfather’s ship and conflicting emotions when she finds out the truths about the pilots of these Kamikaze missions when she sets foot in Japan.
Episode 4 – Helena Bonham Carter
While they did not actively fight in the battlefield, both sides of Helena Bonham Carter’s grandparents had performed remarkable heroics during the War. Her maternal grandparents were Jews living in Paris. During the Holocaust, Helena’s grandfather used his Spanish diplomatic influence to save thousands of Jews. While in England, her paternal grandmother was an activist denouncing anti-semitism and was marked by the Nazi’s to be eliminated once they took over. An uplifting episode.
~ ~ ~ ~ Ripples
My Grandparents’ War is now on CBC Gem. If you’re in Canada, it’s free download. Here’s the link to the trailer. If you’re not in Canada, try to find this documentary series. A must-see.
Related Posts on the Pacific Front in WWII:
WWII Comfort Women Speak Out in The Apology
The Railway Man by Eric Lomax: Book Review
12 thoughts on “‘My Grandparents’ War’ is a poignant WWII series”
You KNOW this is a show I’d love (and I do really like all those actors, too, so that’s a bonus.) I wonder if Suzanne could download and record? Or something… I’d love to see this one. And you know it won’t show up here for ages!
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Yes I know. Check where you can stream this or view on demand.
Arti how intriguing. I’m going to catch that series, my mom kept a scrapbook of WWII and shared it with us during our childhood.
My husband’s father, Staff Sargent Leon Marokus, an immigrant to the US was fluent in 6 languages and helped with translations during WWII—and many battles. He has a piece about him in the USHMM (US Holocaust Museum Memoirs) about his search for his daughter after the war. She and his wife were captured and sent to a Polish concentration camp before he could get them to America. He is also mentioned for his heroics during WWII (Battle of the bulge) in a chapter of an historic tomb, discussing US Army military endeavors titled, “Siegfried Line Campaign” by Charles B. MacDonald. He was a great man and never would speak of his experiences or his losses.
Heather, this is such a precious piece of family history! Thanks so much for sharing! And it’s intriguing too that they never speak of their war experiences, even heroics That’s what happen to the grandparents of these presenters. Hope you can find a way to watch this series. It was first shown in the UK last year.
Thanks for sharing this piece of your family’s history. I suppose not talking about it was due to post-victorian upbringing and also dealing with undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. That generation was tough!
I do have a more personal request to you. Please don’t call them “Polish concentration camps”. This seemingly mundane expression is profoundly hurtful to all Poles. The camps were german and they were established and run by Germans in occupied Poland. Proportionally, Poland is the country that lost the most during the war, at the hands of the Germans and the Soviets.
Thanks for your understanding.
Sounds like a worthwhile documentary.
Yes it sure is. Can you click on the link to the trailer at the bottom of the post and let me know if you can open and watch it? I’d like to know if that link even works in the US. Thx.
Thanks so much for highlighting this, Arti- this sounds absolutely fascinating! My hubby and I have been working on tracking down more information about both of our grandfather’s experiences- I keep kicking myself for not asking more while grandpa was living, but I don’t know that he would have said much even if asked.
This doc. represents the actors’ own views towards war. Mark Rylance in Episode 1 is outspoken about both sides, according to him, ’empire building’ is the cause of WWII. He interviewed a Japanese lady (forgot what her capacity is) and her view of course represents her country’s position. She also mentioned that they had already surrendered even before the first atomic bomb was dropped. Intelligent viewers should do research to fact check. Being born and raised in Hong Kong before immigrating to Canada, I was familiar with the Nanjing Massacre even as a child. But the Japanese haven’t acknowledged this atrocity. Unlike Germany, who had apologized for the Holocaust, even set up a Holocaust memorial in their country, Japan has not apologized for any war crimes. Not only Nanjing, there’s also the comfort women from Korea. BTW, in case you’re interested, I’ve a post on the Korean comfort women from WWII.
World history for us to learn from, family history for us to cherish. Thanks for your constant interests and hard work on writing about the two World Wars.
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Arti, that’s a great distinction between world history and family history. It’s interesting seeing how the culture and circumstances of the tellers can impact the tale- necessitating that fact checking you mentioned!
Heading over to check out your post on the Korean comfort women- from what I recall of that sad piece of history, it’s another tragedy that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Anne, I’ve added links to related post on Ripple re. the Pacific front in WWII which you might be interested in. Also, in an upcoming post, I’ll be reviewing a fascinating book that also relates to this piece of history. Stay tuned. 🙂
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Thank you! The school year’s got me scrambling, but I’ll keep my eyes open!