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2 Oct 2018

New BBC VR film flies you to Berlin at the height of the Second World War

A powerful new virtual reality film launches this week from the BBC, in which viewers join the RAF on a bombing run during the Berlin Blitz.

1943 Berlin Blitz launches this Thursday on the Oculus and Steam stores. Viewers are put in the footsteps of BBC war reporter, Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, and sound recordist, Reg Pidsley, as they document their flight on a terrifying mission over Berlin.

Taken from the BBC Archive, Wynford’s commentary was one of the most ambitious and dangerous reports made during World War Two giving crucial insight into the war to those listening at home. The original radio broadcast went out over the airwaves on 4 September 1943, just a few hours after the plane landed safely back at RAF Langar in Nottinghamshire.

Viewers will experience the jeopardy and the excitement of the bombing raid, as VR transports them into the belly of Lancaster bomber ‘F for Freddie’. As the plane flies high over Berlin while anti-aircraft shells burst all around, the sense of danger is palpable, and justified - just four months after this flight F for Freddie was shot down over Stettin.

The Lancaster was the most successful heavy bomber employed by the RAF in World War Two and, along with the Spitfire, became something of a British icon in the wake of the war. More than 7,000 of the planes were built, flying upwards of 150,000 sorties.

Created by BBC Northern Ireland and Immersive VR Education, in partnership with BBC VR Hub; 1943 Berlin Blitz marks the 100th anniversary of the RAF and the brave, bold and groundbreaking journalism the BBC is built on. Wynford Vaughan-Thomas’s original radio programme is available to listen in full from Radio 4 Extra on BBC iPlayer Radio.

Peter Rippon, editor of BBC Archive, says: “We have been overwhelmed by the response to Berlin Blitz so far. People are finding it profoundly moving. The authenticity of the audio and the nobility of the characters involved, combined with virtual reality means audiences can now relive with past with an intensity not previously possible.”

Zillah Watson, head of BBC VR Hub, says: “This film is a wonderful example of how virtual reality can bring the BBC’s archive to life in a way we’ve never really seen before. VR adds a vivid, tangible dimension to an exceptional and extraordinary piece of journalism, and brings the past and future together beautifully - using a 75-year-old broadcast to demonstrate the very best of what this new form of storytelling has to offer.”

The new experience is available from Thursday on the Oculus and Steam stores for Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive headsets. It will also soon be available to watch in 360 on Oculus Go, Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream. Additionally, Imperial War Museums will be showing the film at its Duxford and North museums over the coming months on selected dates.

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