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Dermot O’Leary is uncovering the untold story of the heroic efforts of RNLI crews during World War II in a special episode of Saving Lives at Sea commissioned to commemorate the 2024 bicentenary of the RNLI.

In all of its 200 years, the RNLI has never faced such an immense challenge, as its lifeboat crews were called to serve in the most perilous of conditions, ultimately saving 6,376 lives.

For this new special for BBC Two and iPlayer, Dermot will be delving deep into some of the war’s most iconic and surprising stories, meeting incredible characters from the RNLI’s past and present.

Having spent much of his childhood on the east coast of England, Dermot has long been a proud supporter of the RNLI.

Dermot says: "Growing up near, and spending so much time on, and in, the sea, the RNLI and its incredible crews of volunteers were always a constant, reassuring presence of my youth. All of us in the UK and Ireland owe it a huge debt. As well as having been an ambassador for over 20 years, I'm a huge history fan...

"For me it's always been about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. I’m really excited to investigate this little-known history, and find out how these lifeboat crews played such a pivotal role in the war effort.”

Dermot will travel to some of the key wartime coastal locations and take to the open sea, fully immersing himself in this decisive period of the RNLI’s history. From the evacuation of Dunkirk to the Battle of Britain, Dermot will hear powerful first hand testimony from descendants of wartime crew members, uncover untold stories from local historians, and bring these extraordinary feats - and the heroes behind them - to vivid life.

Clare Sillery, BBC Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, says: “I’m delighted that Dermot O’Leary is immersing himself in the extraordinary stories of the incredible characters who played such a vital role in this period of history. Saving Lives at Sea is one of our most popular brands and this promises to be a very special programme.”

Saving Lives at Sea WWII Special (w/t) 1x60 was commissioned for BBC Two and iPlayer.


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