First Light by Geoff Wellum on BBC2

I’ve just watched the TV adaptation of Geoffrey Wellum‘s ‘First Light‘ on BBC2. Regular readers will remember that I reviewed the book earlier this year.

The TV version is slightly truncated, dealing solely with Wellum’s experiences during the Battle of Britain. The story begins with him arriving at 92 Squadron as a green, 18 year old pilot. The book describes his schooling and training. The programme also tells us very little about his career after the Battle of Britain – after serving as an instructor with an Operational Training Unit, he served in Malta before suffering a nervous breakdown.

It was a very good programme though, with some cracking action shots and archive footage. It seems to have been researched very well, and im terms of details was loyal to Wellum’s book. In particular I think the screenwriters did a very good job of emphasising the bond between the young pilots, and the emotional and psychological effects of such intense, demmanding combat. The scenes with Wellum looking back on his experiences were very thoughtful, and conveyed the dignified reflections of a distinguished man.

Unfortunately First Light is not available to watch again on BBC iplayer (whoever was responsible for that should be ashamed), but you can read more about the making of the programme here on the Director’s Blog.

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8 Comments

Filed under Book of the Week, On TV, Royal Air Force, Uncategorized, World War Two

8 responses to “First Light by Geoff Wellum on BBC2

  1. x

    I didn’t watch this programme. But I did see the programme on the 24-hour Wellington which was OK. My knowledge of war time social history is probably wider than most so there wasn’t anything said that was “new.” But personal stories, even if you have similar tales umpteen times before, always have a tremendous resonance (especially the throw away remarks.) It was nice to hear from a pilot but I think it took focus away from the workers. It would have been nice for the BBC to actually show the film itself. One of the things I like about having access to Sky Arts is that they do show a wide range of films of that type. For example late last year they show a splendid one about the Auxiliary Fire Service. There must be a wealth of HMG films etc. that could fill many hours of broadcast time on BBC4 instead of repeating the evening’s early shows. I am sure but surely a documentary about a film is more secondary source than a primary one.

  2. James Daly

    I think First Light is repeating on one of the BBC digital channels in the next week or so.

    I agree there must be plenty of never before seen or rarely seen footage out there that would be fascinating to watch. I don’t know about you but I do get a bit bored with some of the janet and john level stuff on the documentary channels… I would like to watch archive footage, with a brief introduction and some expert interpretation.

    Another type of programme I enjoy is the in-depth documentary, like the programme that looked at technology issues in the Royal Navy ‘after Sheffield’ – lots of interviews with participants, demonstrations, a structure to it rather than a chronological narrative.

  3. x

    I don’t think “serious” television (telly?) has become dumber so much that content is pushed aside for the art of television. Um. This is best illustrated by TV sport with its montages and odd player profiles when they could be showing coverage of the actual event. I don’t think Tomorrow’s World was much more in depth that new programme “Bang Goes the Theory.” There has also been a move towards more “speculative science” than real science in programmes like Horizon.

    For me though the real problem with serious history (most other factual programming)on the BBC is bias and content. The CBBC “Horrible Histories” is so left wing it could be given as an example of propaganda in a history or political science tutorial. After a buzz on the net I took a good look at the episode which featured the Crusades…..

    I am going to stop now. I don’t want to come across as belligerent bigot.

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  5. Geoff Wellum’s a great story teller, and his book , First Light, is staple reading at the RAF training college of Cranwell. It’s till viewed as the definitive first hand Fighter Pilot account. if you enjoyed the doco.

    Check out this short for more info about one of Geoff’s busiest days during the battle:
    Biggin Hill Big Wing:

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  8. Paul Davies

    Something I wish I could of told my gag and pop, I am so proud of what you did for us and aswell as the fallen you are the brave
    I wish I could of been there with you. Thank you
    Paul Davies

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