My Grandparents' War season 2: air date, celebrities and all about the wartime ancestry series

My Grandparents' War season 2 on Channel 4 features Toby Jones in the final episode.
My Grandparents' War season 2 on Channel 4 features Toby Jones in the final episode. (Image credit: Channel 4)

My Grandparents' War is back on Channel 4 for a second series where actors, singers and celebrities look back at their family history in wartime. Series 1 back in 2019 saw Helena Bonham Carter, Kristin Scott Thomas, Carey Mulligan and Mark Rylance taking part. Now four more celebrities share their family's war history, so you'll be joining Game Of Thrones star Kit Harington, singer Emeli Sande, Hollywood actor Kiera Knightly and actor Toby Jones.

Here's everything you need to know about season 2 of My Grandparents' War on Channel 4...

My Grandparents' War series 2 release date

My Grandparents' War starts on Channel 4 on Thursday, September 15 at 9pm. It's a four-part series with episodes running weekly on Thursday at the same time, plus they will become available on streaming service All4.
Take a look at the episode running order in our episode guide below, which we'll be updating every week so do check back.

My Grandparents' War series 2 episode 1: Kit Harington

As Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, Kit Harington is used to intrigue and battlefield heroics and he finds both features in his family history as he explores his grandparents’ experiences in World War Two. He discovers his paternal grandfather, John Harington, was recruited by naval intelligence in 1941 and sent to Jamaica where one of his colleagues would have been James Bond creator Ian Fleming. 

"This was before Fleming wrote the Bond novels and he’d have met all sorts of people in the service," says Kit who also starred in BBC1 drama Gunpowder. "Fleming went to Jamaica  and most likely would have met my grandfather so, in a really roundabout way, John Harington might have inspired Bond!"

John was tasked with keeping an eye on the former King Edward VIII, who had been appointed Governor of the Bahamas but whose Nazi sympathies continued to worry security services. In the Caribbean, John met and married Kit’s grandmother, Lavender, days after meeting her. She’d been posted to Barbados also to do intelligence work - reading letters to Germany from the United States and South America to see if any contained coded messages from Nazi spies. Meanwhile, Kit’s maternal grandfather Mick Catesby fought in Italy in one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war - the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944, which earned him the Military Cross for bravery. 

"He lost some of his closest friends," says Kit. "He didn’t want to talk about what happened. He didn’t even want to acknowledge that he’d won a medal. He just wanted to move on."

Kit Harington in My Grandparents' War.

Kit Harington in My Grandparents' War. (Image credit: Channel 4)

Episode 2: Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley has starred in several films set during World War II, including Atonement and The Imitation Game. But in the second episode of C4’s My Grandparents’ War she traces what life was like for her maternal grandparents, Jan and Mac, in 1940s Britain.

Sadly, Mac died before she was born and Jan passed away when she was 11, meaning Keira knew very little about her grandparents’ experience of the war. So it’s a surprise for Keira to discover that Mac was something of a war hero.

Not only did he help to save 700 Irish guards when their ship was bombed off the coast of Norway, but he also worked as a sonar operator in the Royal Navy, listening out for German U-boats. "He must have had nerves of steal," says Keira, 37. "You’re listening to something coming towards you that could kill you. That’s what he had to live with!"

Although Mac and Jan survived the war, Keira learns that in 1942 Mac was rocked by the news that his beloved younger brother Wilf was killed fighting the Japanese off the coast of Indonesia when his ship was sunk. A year later her grandmother’s youngest brother, Andrew, was shot down over Germany. He survived more than 18 months in a prisoner of war camp before being rescued by American soldiers. 

"My grandmother didn’t find out his fate for a week," says Keira. "The not knowing would have been so hard. But while she was reunited with her brother my grandfather was left with only a memory of his. What they had to live through was extraordinary!"

Keira carries out research in the Churchill War Rooms

Keira Knightley is featured in episode 2 where she carries out research in the Churchill War Rooms. (Image credit: C4)

Episode 3: Emeli Sandé 

Singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé learns some shocking truths about both her grandfathers as she retraces their footsteps in the third episode of C4’s My Grandparents’ War. During World War II, her maternal grandfather, Bob, fought in Egypt. But after victory was declared, he signed up for 12 more years of army service. In 1953 he was posted to Kenya with his family, tasked with helping to quash the Mau Mau uprising, an attempt by the Kenyans to win back land seized by British settlers. But the British Army’s response was extreme, and an estimated 80,000 Kenyan men, women and children were forced into detention camps, while over 11,000 Mau Mau were killed. 
‘I feel deeply angered by how the British Empire treated Kenyans, but also how it placed my grandparents in danger,’ says Emeli. ‘They were living on an army base on heart of Mau Mau territory. Bob was even instructed to shoot his family if the Mau Mau got into the compound and was told it was far better than being captured. It must have been terrifying!’
Meanwhile, Emeli also retraces her paternal grandfather’s World War II story to the British colony of Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. Saka Sandé worked in the copper mines, which produced metal needed for ammunition, but later became part of Zambia’s fight for independence. ‘Both my grandfathers were involved in violent struggles in Africa, one tasked with upholding the British Empire, the other trying to overthrow it,’ says Emeli. ‘I now understand how colonialism divided us and the racism it generated still exists today. But as my family has shown there’s a way to move forward together.’

Emeli Sandé explores her family history in Zambia

Singer Emeli Sandé is in episode 3, exploring her family history in Zambia. (Image credit: C4)

Episode 4: Toby Jones

Detectorists and Sherlock star Toby Jones has acting in his blood. His maternal grandmother, Doreen, known as Dorki, was an actor and during World War Two and she travelled into war zones to entertain the troops. In this week’s fourth and final episode of My Grandparents’ War, Toby discovers how she had to be rescued from Northern France by the Royal Navy when the Nazis invaded.
"My grandmother decided to devote her acting talents to the war effort and joined the Entertainment National Service Association (ENSA)," explains Toby. "She then went to France in 1940 with a company of ENSA actors to raise the spirits of the British soldiers"
Dorki performed in 11 French towns in just a month, but her life was thrown into danger when Germany invaded. As the Nazis neared Dorki and her fellow actors then made a desperate retreat to the Channel ports, covering 150 miles by night.  Dorki was evacuated on 22 May 1940 from Boulogne, as German bombers soared overhead. Just two weeks later she married Toby’s grandfather, Reggie, having only known him for a few months.
"Around 5000 British soldiers and hundreds of ENSA performers were evacuated by the Royal Navy before Boulogne fell under Nazi control," says Toby. "It seems so critical to her life story that she took flight from France and was then married within two weeks. Yet it’s extraordinary that nobody in my family seems to know about it. Dorki’s experiences in France would have made her realise what she valued and loved."

Toby Jones follows his family history in the final episode of season 2.

Toby Jones follows his family history in the final episode of season 2. (Image credit: Getty)

Is there a trailer for My Grandparents' War season 2?

Channel 4 has yet to release a trailer for My Grandparents' War series 2, but we'll update here if one arrives.

* Best Channel 4 documentaries
Best BBC documentaries
Best Channel 5 documentaries on My 5

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.