World war documentaries

From the murder of Franz Ferdinand to the rise of the Nazis, World War I and II shook the world to its core. BBC Select has a range of acclaimed history documentaries that dig deeper into these monumental moments in history.

The First World War: The Peoples' Story

The First World War: The Peoples' Story

The brutality, suffering and slaughter of World War I changed the face of Europe forever and had a devastating impact on those involved. Filmed over 25 years, this remarkable history series draws on an extraordinary archive of 200 interviews and digitally restored footage to tell the story of the Great War through the eyes of the ordinary people at the heart of the conflict.

Ep 1: King and Country
Young men enthusiastically volunteered for the Great War unaware of the horrors to come.

The ‘Pals Battalions’, as they were known, were young men who had enthusiastically volunteered to serve their country in World War I. But soon they had their first taste of the horror of mass industrialized warfare. This groundbreaking history documentary features interviews with ordinary people who were present at the time, telling the story of the first brutal years of war in 1914 and 1915.

Ep 2: The Battle of the Somme
The 1916 Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest skirmishes in human history.

They thought it would be the epic battle that would end the war. But 1916’s Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest skirmishes of World War I, leading to a million casualties. This World War I history documentary tells the story of one of the most tragic battles mankind has faced through the remembrances of its last survivors and the thoughts of their desperate families at home.

Ep 3: The Fightto the End
For the Allies the war looked lost. But a series of brutal battles changed their fortunes.

The Allies appeared to be facing defeat as World War I dragged on. But a series of brutal, devastating battles turned the conflict in their favor, though the consequences were unimaginably tragic. Using personal testimony from those involved, this World War I documentary tells the story of these terrible battles and how Britain and its Allies turned a looming loss into victory.

Countdown to War

Watch Countdown to World War II documentary on BBC Select

This fascinating World War 2 documentary explores the three days leading up to war. On Friday 1st September 1939, Hitler’s Nazi forces invaded Poland. By Sunday morning, Britain had declared war. JJ Chalmers and Raksha Dave visit key locations, meet World War II historians and unearth startling archive material. Just how did ordinary Brits react to the prospect of war?

With war about to be declared, how did Britain prepare for battle with the Nazis? This World War 2 history documentary explores Britain on the eve of war. It’s 1939 and Britain could soon be under attack. How will the British public react as the Second World War looms? Panic sets in as Europe goes to war, a war Britain is ill prepared for. How could the country ready itself for war with the Nazis?

Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley

Watch Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley on BBC Select

In this historical documentary about the Blitz, Lucy Worsley looks at The Battle of Britain and the paranoia that it left behind.

Historian Lucy Worsley explores some of the myths surrounding The Blitz, one of the most devastating bombing campaigns of WWII as Hitler’s Luftwaffe bombed the city of London for many months. The common perception is that Londoners displayed unwavering solidarity, the Blitz spirit that got them through the rest of the war. But, as this BBC WW2 documentary demonstrates, the truth was far more complicated.

This clip is from Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley, watch now on BBC Select. Watch the trailer below:

The Wheelchair President

Stream The Wheelchair President on BBC Select

The only four-term President (so far) and the architect of the New Deal during the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt faced his toughest challenge as the Second World War loomed.

Historian David Reynolds re-examines FDR’s wartime leadership and the secrets that he held onto for his entire life as America’s wheelchair president raced to shape the future before the past caught up with him.

Lost Home Movies Of Nazi Germany

Stream Lost Home Movies of Nazi Germany on BBC Select

What was life really like within Nazi Germany? These amateur home movies reveal all.

This remarkable BBC history documentary takes a candid look at what life was really like for those living in, and under, Hitler’s Third Reich in Nazi Germany. Recently discovered home movie footage offers a unique insight into what people in Germany were thinking and how their day to day lives were affected by fascism. This is a distinctly personal experience of the rise, and fall, of Nazism.