When, in 1940, Nazi Germany conquers Western Europe, Britain alone remains free—an isolated island off a Nazi-dominated Continent. For Britain and her Allies, there are only two ways to strike back at Nazi Germany’s Fortress Europe: from the sea or from the air.
In Striking Back we accompany historian Norm Christie to the French coastal town of Dieppe. August 19, 1942 is the day the Western Allies decide to test the Atlantic defenses of Fortress Europe by staging a large-scale, seaborne raid on Dieppe, a fortified seaport held by the Germans.
Of the 6,000 men involved, 5,000 are Canadian; the day turns out to be the bloodiest day in Canadian military history. Within a few hours, on the pebbled beaches and under the chalk cliffs of Dieppe, almost 900 Canadians are killed and 1,800 taken prisoner. Of the almost 4,000 men who actually land on the beaches, only 1,000 manage to survive.
The bloody failure of the raid at Dieppe makes it clear that a seaborne Allied invasion of France will need very careful preparation—and time. This leaves only one way for the Allies to strike back at Nazi Germany: from the air.
As Britain and her Allies launch massive bombing raids against Nazi-occupied Europe and deep into Nazi Germany itself, Bomber Command requires an almost endless supply of aircrew. Men from all over the Commonwealth and throughout the world—130,000 in all—train in Canada to join the bombing campaign.
With Norm Christie, we explore the abandoned airfields of Yorkshire in Northern England. These were the bases of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s “Six Group” of Bomber Command. From here, each night, bombers set off for Europe and for Germany.
We accompany rear gunner Jim Moffat, from his experiences as a young trainee, to his last, fatal flight towards the German city of Nuremberg on the night of March 30/31, 1944. He was part of a massive bombing raid, involving 1,000 bombers and thousands of aircrew, one of the costliest raids ever staged by Bomber Command—more than 100 bombers and 500 aircrew were lost. In Jim Moffat’s story, one of the most extraordinary tales of survival to come out of the Second World War, we learn the true cost of striking back.
Produced for History Television Canada. Distributed by Breakthrough Entertainment Inc. Worldwide rights available.