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The tagline for My Grandparents’ War is “Follow leading Hollywood actors as they re-trace the footsteps of their grandparents and learn how World War II changed the lives of their families – and the world.”
I didn’t realize until I started watching that these were British actors because the show was originally shown on British TV. It aired in the US on PBS in the spring, but I just got around to watching it using the PBS Passport that is a benefit of my membership in my local PBS station.
Helena Bonham Carter’s grandparents didn’t serve as soldiers, but played significant roles in other ways.
Mark Rylance’s grandfather had an abysmal war experience, something that may have shaped Rylance’s anti-war stance to the present-day.
Rylance’s way of viewing the war contrasted, to a degree, with Kristin Scott Thomas who comes from a naval family. Her father was killed in an accident while flying for the Royal Navy when she was five, breaking the link to stories about her grandfather. Her grandfather commanded the HMS Impulsive and participated in several major operations including Dunkirk and D-Day, but also one that I’d never heard of: The Arctic Convoys. These were dangerous and icy journeys that supplied the Soviet Union with vital supplies to contribute to the Allied war effort.
Carey Mulligan’s grandfather was also in the navy, but much of his service was in the Pacific. We follow her to Australia and Japan to learn about that aspect of the war experience.
All four of these stories were complicated and nuanced, but told so well that I was too fascinated to be fully aware of how much I learned.
I’m posting this ahead of Veterans Day to honor the elderly veterans who were interviewed in this series. This November 11th is also the 100th anniversary of the burial of an unknown soldier at Arlington after World War I. World War I was the war that my grandfather fought in.