The odds seemed insurmountable. In the heat of the Second World War, Germany was operating at the peak of its powers and seizing control of huge portions of the European landscape. But on September 15, 1940, the German army came face to face with a foe they had clearly underestimated. It was a bloody battle fought entirely in the skies over Britain, and it led to Hitler's first major defeat. "13 Hours that Saved Britain" recounts this battle with great insight and poignancy.
The film features a collage of stunning archived footage and cinematic recreations, as well as interviews with dozens of eyewitness and pilots who fought on the frontline. The story they weave is one of exceptional bravery and determination in the face of assured annihilation.
France had just fallen to the German army, and there was every reason to believe that Britain would be conquered with similar ease. Over 400 enemy fighters cascaded upon the countryside that day, but they were met with a force of resistance they could not have anticipated. The film captures each passing hour of the battle from a variety of fascinating perspectives. Fighter pilots recall the twirling masses of metal that filled the airspace, the intensity of combat, and the strategic maneuvers that ensured victory.
Perhaps the most revealing testimonies come from the witnesses - most of whom were young children during the war - who stood below and watched the events unfold with awe-stricken wonder. They might have observed the war through the detached lens of adolescence, but their memories are filtered through an adult understanding of horror and sacrifice.
Throughout the film, viewers are given a tactile sense of that day - from the foreboding roar of the air sirens to the thrill of playing a role in the country's finest hour. Though the war would continue for four more years, Britain's valor struck a mighty blow to the confidence of the Hitler regime.
"13 Hours that Saved Britain" is a moving tribute to the formidable might and ingenuity of the British Royal Air Force and its neighboring allies, as well as the will of the entire civilian population who bore witness to history.
Directed by: Stephen Saunders