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There is no Next Episode of Lost Heroes of World War One planned.
In July 1914, German forces marched across their borders into Belgium. A shocked British government gave them an ultimatum: to withdraw or face the consequences. The Germans marched on, and when the ultimatum expired Britain declared war.
We hear of the patriotic fervour that swept through the British public by those who signed up to serve their country or those who watched their brothers prepare for war. Many believed it would 'all be over by Christmas', but it soon became clear that the glorious adventure they had expected would be very different to the reality of battle and life in the trenches.
During the summer of 1916, the war entered its third year and hopes were pinned on a new strategy to end the conflict. The 'big push' would see wave after wave of men go over the top of the trenches to tackle the German defences head on. It was here that newly formed 'Pals Battalions' - made up of friends from the same street, factory or football team - joined the battle-hardened troops for what became known as The Battle of the Somme.
The planned walkover of the 'big push' turned into the bloodiest battle of the war, and the decisive breakthrough became a decisive failure with 60,000 casualties – the British Army's single biggest loss in a day. In this episode we hear incredible stories of bravery from those who survived the battle, along with stretcher-bearers who tended to the wounded and the dying.
It wasn't just the men on the frontline who suffered bombing raids, as at home terrifying German Zeppelin airships appeared in the skies above Britain, dropping bombs on defenceless towns and cities. The population not only suffered the threat of bombs but also food shortages and the constant worry that their husbands, sons or brothers would not return. Catastrophic losses of 'Pals Battalions' - friends from the same street, factory or football team - meant that for weeks after the initial assault, local newspapers would be filled with lists of dead, wounded and missing. In this episode, we hear from those who experienced such loss, along with the fighting spirit that emerged in Britain and the women who took on the opportunities to work in place of men.
By 1917, all thoughts of a swift victory were long gone and many of the battle-weary troops had lost not only friends and fellow soldiers but also their patriotic spirit and will to fight. The Allies and the Germans were locked in a bitter deadlock. This episode reveals what life was like in the terrible battles fought in appalling conditions on the ground and in the air at Arras and Passchendaele (Ypres). We hear from Harry Patch (the last of the veterans to die) and Henry Allingham, who lived to 113, about their incredible experiences in the battle, and how they dealt with life and death.
In the spring of 1918, the outcome of the war still hung in the balance and in a bid for victory the Germans launched their massive spring offensive. Thousands of 18-year-old British conscripts had their training cut short and were sent out to France to make up numbers. As the Germans advanced, thousands of Allied troops were taken prisoner to suffer months of hardship at the hands of their captors, but the Germans became the victims of their own success. By advancing too fast, they left their troops exposed and exhausted.
Seizing back the initiative, the boys of 1918 helped turn defeat into victory.
We hear from those who took part in the fight back as they reveal what it felt like to take prisoners themselves, how they felt when the heard the news the war was over and their memories of the journey home.