'Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley': Everything we know about BBC1's World War II documentary film

Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley
Lucy Worsley wants to find out what life in the Blitz was really like. (Image credit: BBC)

Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley will take us back 80 years to share the gripping real life stories of six men and women who volunteered on London's frontline as the German bombs fell at the start of World War II. 

Actors will bring their powerful and emotional first-hand accounts to life like never before, in a feature-length film filled with remarkable archive footage from the BAFTA winning production team behind Suffragettes with Lucy Worsley.

Worsley will also ask whether the famous "Blitz Spirit" was real, or simply a clever piece of British propaganda designed to encourage America to enter the war, as she searches for the truth of what life during those dark days and nights was really like. 

Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley release date on BBC1

Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley will air on Tuesday February 23 on BBC1 at 8.30pm. It will run for one and a half hours.

What's the film about? 

Between September 7, 1940, and May 11, 1941, the suburbs, streets and homes of ordinary British people became a battleground as German planes dropped 32,000 tonnes of bombs on British cities  — from Clydebank to Coventry, Liverpool to London — in an eight month onslaught now known as the Blitz.

During that time thousands of people would perish beneath the rubble — in tube stations and bomb shelters, in their backyards and in their own beds.

The resilience of the British people in the face of this horror, would become known as "Blitz Spirit", an idea often held up as a benchmark of Britishness, one we call upon whenever we face a crisis.

Using incredible colour archive capturing ordinary moments of people on the streets, Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley shows the remarkable resilience as well as the terrible suffering that people endured, crucially shining a light on the role of the front line workers and volunteers at the heart of it all.

Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley

Lucy Worsley looks back at the British government's wartime posters.  (Image credit: BBC)

Whose stories will we be hearing? 

Frances Faviell 

An artist and socialite from Chelsea, 34 year-old Frances volunteered when the war began and started work as an auxiliary nurse after just a week’s training. 

"Frances had quite a nice life really," explains Lucy. "But you see her toughening up as her story unfolds. Once she volunteered as a nurse, she did the most extraordinarily difficult things and some of her tales are so powerful. She had artistic training, so one of her jobs was to put together dismembered bodies in the morgue, because she had this anatomical understanding of what part might go with what.’"

Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley

Frances joined the auxiliary nurse corps. (Image credit: BBC)

Ita Ekpenyon

Ita, 41, had been a law student living in the West End at the start of the war, but he saw it as his duty to defend the British Commonwealth and began training as an ARP Warden in September 1939.

"It was interesting to hear about the racism Ita endured,’"explains Lucy. "But he was also bringing about racial integration by being in a position of authority as an ARP Warden."

Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley

Ita Ekpenyon gave up his law studies to become an ARP Warden. (Image credit: BBC)

Barbara Nixon

One in six ARP Wardens were women and out-of-work actress Barbara Nixon, 33, was one of the brave ladies who volunteered for the job.

"Barbara became an ARP Warden because it was the most active wartime job available to women," explains Lucy. "She told a fascinating story highlighting some of the class divisions that threatened to open up during the bombing. The government had banned newspapers from reporting on the devastation the East End had suffered, so no one else in the country knew that community’s plight. 

"She was horrified to see a woman from East London, who was covered in blast dust, drawing derision for her appearance when she travelled to West London."

Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley

Barbara Nixon volunteered as a ARP Warden. (Image credit: BBC)

Frank Hurd

The 41 year-old fireman from Euston admitted to feeling bored during the first year of the war, yet sprung into action when the Luftwaffe attacked London’s docks in September 1940.

"Frank knew something very serious had happened for him to be sent all the way from Euston to the East End on that first night," explains Lucy. "His diary shows someone who was absolutely committed and someone you’d definitely want on your side if you were fighting a fire. He was courageous and steady, but he paid the ultimate price and lost his life when a building collapsed on him while he was battling a blaze near Smithfield Market."

Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley

Frank Hurd had was sent to the Docks to fight fires on the first night of the Blitz. (Image credit: BBC)

Robert Barltrop

The 17 year-old was working as a porter in a Walthamstow Sainsbury’s warehouse in the summer of 1940 and volunteered as one of the building’s fire watchers.

"Robert’s job involved sitting on the warehouse roof and keeping watch for fires,’" explains Lucy. "Yet he tells a story of how he’d arranged a date after his shift ended and was determined to keep it even though there was an air raid going on, which he thought was very romantic. He wanted to get on with his life and why shouldn’t he?"

Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley

Robert Barltrop was a porter at a Sainsbury's warehouse when the war started.  (Image credit: BBC)

Is there a trailer for Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley?

Not yet, but we'll be sure to post it here when it arrives. 

Sean Marland
Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV, TV & Satellite Week and whattowatch.com

Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are The Great British Bake-Off, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.