Above and Beyond
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” – Winston Churchill
The four-hour dramatic mini-series Above and Beyond celebrates the passion and courage of the Canadian men and women who turned the tide of World War II by building an air bridge from Canada to Britain. Most called it foolhardy at best, suicide at worst.
Summer, 1940: the Battle of Britain is raging and the RAF desperately needs aircraft to fight off German advances. When one of Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s (Joss Ackland) ministers, Canadian press magnate Lord Beaverbrook (Kenneth Welsh) suggests flying planes from Gander to Europe, many call it a suicide mission. North Atlantic aviation is in its infancy and winter flying is unheard of. But Britain’s need is desperate and there is little left to lose.
In November, 1940, seven Hudson Bombers, flown by civilians, successfully make the flight from Gander to Ireland, ushering in a new era in aviation history. This Atlantic Ferry Organization team became the core of the RAF North Atlantic Ferry Command, which, by 1945, had flown 10,000 aircraft from Newfoundland to Britain, helping to turn the tide of war.
These war-torn skies are the background for a story of love in an age when all the rules are changing.
The Battle of Britain rages and the RAF is in desperate need of aircraft. Lord Beaverbrook (Kenneth Welsh) convinces Winston Churchill (Joss Ackland) that Hudson bombers, built in the U.S. and piloted by civilians, can be safely flown across the Atlantic from Newfoundland. Many call it a suicide mission.
Flying ace Don Bennett (Richard E. Grant) is dispatched to Montreal to recruit and instruct civilian pilots. The cocky American Bill Jacobson (Jonathan Scarfe) takes a shine to Bennett’s assistant, Shelagh Emberly (Liane Balaban). Against her wishes, Shelagh is sent to Gander by Bennett to make ground preparations for the dangerous mission. Four years earlier, Shelagh had left both Gander and her flame, Nathan Burgess (Allan Hawco), who now manages the Gander Airport with his radio man Pittman (Mark Critch).
After rigorous training, Bennett, the Hudsons and their pilots arrive in Gander from Montreal. And, although conditions for the flight to Europe are perilous, there is little choice. Britain is threatened with defeat by the Germans. On November 10, 1940, Bennett leads seven Hudson bombers, one piloted by Bill, on the first winter crossing of the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.
After a turbulent flight, all seven Hudsons land safely in Ireland.
Flushed with triumph, and ignoring Bennett’s (Richard E. Grant) pleas for more trained navigators, Beaverbrook (Kenneth Welsh) demands additional flights as soon as possible. In Gander, the romance between Bill (Jonathan Scarfe) and Shelagh’s (Liane Balaban) becomes more serious. Nathan (Allan Hawco) feigns indifference.
In 1941, the discoverer of insulin, Sir Fredrick Banting (Jason Priestley) is set to fly to England on a secret mission with the Ferry Command. His plane crashes. The “most beloved country doctor in the Empire” is dead, and blame falls squarely on Beaverbrook’s operation.
Although 289 aircraft have been safely delivered to Britain, Roosevelt and Churchill decide to turn the Ferry Command from a civilian into a military operation and hand control over to the RAF. Bennett cannot swallow this bitter pill. Shelagh now must choose between Bill and Nathan.
Producers: Paul Pope, Scott Garvie
Writers: John W. Doyle, Lisa Porter
Director: Sturla Gunnarsson
A Pope Productions / Shaftesbury Films co-production
Cast: Liane Balaban, Allan Hawkco, Jonathan Scarfe, Richard E. Grant, Kenneth Welsh, Joss Ackland, Leah Lewis, Mark Critch, Pete Soucy, Robert Latimer, Jason Priestle, Robert Wisden, Mary Lewis, Peter Massaline, Steve Cochrane, Mark O’Brien
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