Scene summaries may contain spoilers
Welcome to Bristol, a major port on the Severn River between England and Wales. Much of the city burned in previous bombing raids, and people are struggling without enough shelters. The government's focus is on London and Coventry, and the bombings and deaths in Bristol are downplayed in the news. While people know better how to deal with the bombs after they fall, January 3rd is a particularly cold night, and freezing conditions hamper attempts to put out fires.
The flames of the city can be seen from a hundred miles away, but Bristol was lucky tonight: the Germans dropped one of their largest bombs, but it didn't explode. In cities with countryside nearby, like Bristol, thousands of people head out of the city each night to sleep in ditches, cars, and whatever accommodation they can find. Where the government haven't helped, other have stepped in. Private coach services ferry people out of the city, and people living in the countryside offer space in houses and barns. But some people are less scrupulous.
Things are even worse in Portsmouth because of the naval dockyard. Whole streets have been destroyed, and houses are usually close together and crowded. Portsmouth is also one of the worst places in the country for looting. Despite potential prison sentences, some people use the distraction of a bombing raid to break into shops or houses and take what they can find, especially if there are rationed items that can be sold on the black market.
Close by on Hayling Island is a top secret defence site. Starfish sites were placed away from the main cities, set up with fire baskets designed to mimic the layouts of factories and warehouses. They would be lit to confuse the bombers into attacking the wrong location. On April 18th 1941, they estimate that 90% of the bombs intended for Portsmouth landed on the starfish site instead.
Clydebank, near Glasgow, has only suffered minor raids, leaving the docks and factories mostly undamaged. However, they aren't as well prepared, with few shelters, and few volunteers to handle the fires. Everyone is working punishing hours for the war effort. A bright, full moon makes the city an easy target, and it's said that all but eight of Clydebank's 12,000 houses will be damaged. Many people die, and many of them are put in a communal grave wrapped in sheets, because the Department of Heath at the Scottish office refused Clydebank authorisation to buy the cardboard coffins. The Germans will repeat this attack tomorrow.
Belfast was expected to escape bombing raids, and received no money for shelters, but on April 15th, 1941 it saw a severe attack. Following the incendiaries come "screamer" bombs that emit an eerie sound intended to terrify people. A bomb also hit the central telephone exchange, cutting the city off from mainland Britain. Protestants and Catholics shelter together, although rumours still fly about who has it worse, and even whether the Catholics purposefully drew the bombers to the Protestant side of town using lights. But people are starting to learn how to live with the constant bombing.
Cast listings may contain spoilers
Six to Start Ensemble
Six to Start Ensemble