48 Hours to Victory


3 x 60'

Production company

Yeti Television

Year of production


Commissioning channels

Channel 4

In this brand-new history series, Dermot O’Leary teams up with former Royal Marine, Arthur Williams and military historian, Lucy Betteridge-Dyson to count down the 48 hours that secured victory in three of the most famous battles in British history: Dunkirk, Waterloo and The Somme.

For the 48-hour window, the team track the key movements on both sides. Dermot will be telling the human stories and revealing what it was really like for ordinary people on the ground in the thick of the action. In the war room, Arthur unpicks what the enemy was doing, and Lucy reveals the British movements.

As Dermot, Arthur and Lucy put these iconic battles under the microscope, they access personal artefacts and records, revealing the secrets and untold stories of these critical hours – full of the triumph and tragedy of war.

With Arthur in the air and Lucy on the ground, they deep-dive into the tactics, technologies, tricks and resources that both sides used both in the UK and in France/Belgium, while Dermot meets descendants and experts to tell the untold stories of extraordinary heroes.

Incredible archive and cutting-edge GFX delivered in our war room studio brings to life the defence and invasion tactics employed on both sides and emphasises why our 48-hour window is so critical when it comes to victory and defeat.

Together Dermot, Arthur and Lucy debunk theories, uncover strategies, identify monumental mistakes and immerse themselves completely in these epic and bloody battles.


Episode 1

In every battle of every war, there’s a defining time when victory is seized. In this series, military history enthusiast Dermott O’Leary is joined by ex-Royal Marine Arthur Williams and historian and battlefield guide Lucy Betteridge-Dyson. Together they unpick the two crucial days that secured victory in some of Britain’s most important battles.

In the first episode they tackle Dunkirk and 2 key days during the evacuation of British soldiers that prevented a German victory. The heroic actions of one ship – HMS Worcester – act as window into the wider story of Dunkirk and the escape of thousands of men.

Dermot meets a survivor of Dunkirk – 91-year-old Regine Grey who was one of the tiny number of civilians who escaped. He brews up an original naval concoction aimed at calming shredded nerves and boards one of the original little ships that played such a vital role during the evacuation. Arthur flies over the battle site and also examines some of the fearsome weapons employed by the Germans up close – including the only surviving S-Boat in the world and the Stuka dive-bomber. Lucy follows in the footsteps of soldiers fighting on the perimeter and making their way to the beaches – along the way visiting the Mole (sea defences) where men were rescued, exploring a bombed ship and unearthing the story of Captain Ervine Andrews whose men kept the Germans at bay for 10 hours. A graphics war table allows the team to home in on key moments and turning points as they reveal how the rescue was pulled off. Finally, our trio discuss the surprising impact Dunkirk had on the entire outcome of the Second World War itself.

The Somme

Episode 2

In the second episode, Dermot, Arthur and Lucy delve into the final 48 hours of a battle that raged for over four months – The Battle of the Somme. A byword for slaughter and sacrifice, we reveal how the lessons learned in previous months of battle finally came to fruition in the final two days when the German lines were penetrated and victory was claimed.

The team follow the fortunes of men from the 2nd Manchesters and the Glasgow Boys Brigade to unpack a wider story of this battle and what it took to finally break-through.

Dermot spends time in reconstructed trenches eating the very meal soldiers ate hours before going over the top, as well as meeting the descendants of a Glasgow soldier who was one of just 15 men in his battalion to survive. Arthur flies above the Somme battlefields in his plane to reveal the tiny area of land being fought over and the complicated trench system the Germans built. He fires a German machine gun dubbed the devil’s paintbrush and finds out how the British infantrymen perfected grenade warfare on the ground. He joins Lucy inside a replica tank – a brand-new bit of technology at the time. Lucy dons WW1 waders to follow in the footsteps of men on the ground and joins the bomb disposal team dealing with the shells still littering the landscape today.


Episode 3

In Episode 3, Dermot and the team unpack one of the most famous battles in British History – Waterloo – as it unfolded over 48 hours. It was a battle that would pave the way for a new Europe, cement Britain’s position as a world power and pitch two famous generals, Wellington and Napoleon, against one another.

To tell the stunning story of Waterloo’s twists and turns, we focus in Marshall Michel Ney (one of Napoleon’s top commanders) and Major General Sir William Posonby who led the cavalry brigade in battle. Through their actions in this timeframe, we tell a wider story of this battle.

Dermot unearths what conditions were like for the men – from their conditions to their food – visits one of the most famous paintings of Waterloo and finds out about Posonby’s grave at St Paul’s cathedral. He also meets the great-great-great grandson of a British major who wrote a heart-breaking farewell letter on the eve of battle and gets up close and personal with a Brown Bess gun. Together with Arthur & Lucy, the team use the graphic war table to pick out key strategic moves and actions throughout the 48 hours.

Arthur flies his plane over the battlefield in Belgium, meets historian Gareth Glover to explore Napoleon’s state of mind and fires a Napoleonic canon. On the ground, Lucy’s on foot and on horseback as she traces British movements and attacks. She also unearths the little told story of women on the battlefield – 4000 nurses, wives, girlfriends and even some who fought alongside the men.

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