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First Light (BBC) [DVD]
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Thrown into the crucible of the most violent air war ever seen, a boy, barely out of school, is determined to fight for survival... Seventy years later, that same boy is still yearning to be free. At the age of nineteen, Geoffrey Boy Wellum was the youngest Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain. This is the dramatic story of the teenager who went to war with the Nazis and with the fear that threatened to engulf him. Combining Geoffrey Wellum s compelling first person testimony with intensely evocative action on the ground and in the air, First Light is a powerful drama that documents the universal stark horror experienced by those involved in battle.
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He gets posted and is taken under the wing of the Flight Commander; they all develop a really tight bond and have their own ways of dealing with loss. The aerial fight scenes are amazing, and the CGI is so good that I kept thinking it must be real planes - which I am sure there were for parts of the film. It is hard to say too much without being a plot spoiler, but it deals with his determination to prove himself, his love life and what happens when battle fatigue takes its toll.
I was genuinely moved by this film and felt very emotional at the end. It is so important to remember all of those who died in WW 2 and the Battle of Britain is to be especially so for it was when Britain stood alone. With the exception of volunteers from around the world, these were mostly young, lacking in experience and had not really had a chance to live their lives. Yet they all went up every time it was asked of them this is a great testament to those few men. I can not recommend highly enough.
I watched this programme after experiencing "First Light" as a book. The book left me quite stunned to read of the struggle of a fairly ordinary young man trying to come to terms with flying, fitting in with his fellow pilots and staying alive whilst trying to destroy as many German planes as possible.
The DVD isn't some gung-ho hollywood production but a depiction of the fighter pilots world as experienced by Geoffrey Wellum, and it does a great job of giving us an insight into that world, though of course, we can never experience it.
Geoffrey Wellum adds his self-effacing words to the dramatisation and it is all the better for that. No gung ho speeches or rabid anti-natzi sentiment just an account of his life that at times causes the hair on the back of the neck to rise.
I'd probably recommend buying the book and the DVD and reading the book first. The DVD can never quite pass on the details and atmosphere that the book has and there are some parts of Geoffrey's account that are better explained in his writing - particularly for some sequences, for example, when chasing enemy planes in bad weather over the north sea. Currently the book has 138 customer reviews and a solid five stars. There's a very good reason for that.
At the moment the DVD has a solid five stars and four reviews. It has 134 more to go.
Highly recommended. Thank you so much for telling your story Geoffrey and for your bravery all those years ago. Your are a credit to your fellow airmen.
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