My Grandparents’ War

Air date: 04/04/2021

Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas and Carey Mulligan Explore Their Families’ Pasts in My Grandparents’ War

Four-part World War II history-genealogy series premieres Sundays, April 4-25 on PBS


Combining key moments in history with compelling personal stories, My Grandparents’ War is a new four-part series that takes a fascinating journey into the past to understand the extraordinary impact of World War II on the families of four British actors. Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown, “Harry Potter” series), Mark Rylance (“Dunkirk,” “Bridge of Spies,” Masterpiece: Wolf Hall), Kristin Scott Thomas (“Darkest Hour,” “The English Patient”) and Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman,” “The Great Gatsby”) each host a one-hour journey into their respective family histories as they travel to historic locations, from the beaches of Dunkirk to the former site of a prisoner-of-war camp in Hong Kong, to retrace their grandparents’ footsteps during the conflict that changed their lives forever. My Grandparents’ War premieres Sundays, April 4-25 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video App.

All four Hollywood stars have unanswered questions about the scars the war left on their grandparents. In each episode of My Grandparents’ War, they’ll discover remarkable stories of bravery amid the most harrowing circumstances, uncovering the life-and-death decisions their grandparents were forced to make. The series examines universal themes of love, courage and self-sacrifice through the dramatic human stories of ordinary people caught up in one of the most horrific wars of all time.

“We’re honored to share these moving stories of bravery, sacrifice and family history through Helena, Mark, Kristin and Carey’s personal journeys of discovery,” said Lesley Norman, executive producer for WNET.


Episode 1: “Helena Bonham Carter”

Premieres Sunday, April 4 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app

Helena Bonham Carter’s grandparents—two in France, two in England—weren’t conventional war heroes. They didn’t fight in any battles but did save countless lives. Bonham Carter explores the story of her maternal grandfather, Eduardo Propper de Callejón. A Spanish diplomat, de Callejón defied his government’s orders by issuing visas to help Jewish people escape the Holocaust as the Nazis invaded France. She learns her paternal grandmother, Lady Violet Bonham Carter, took her own stand against anti-Semitism. A mother of four and a liberal politician, Violet was also ahead of her time, volunteering as an air raid warden and campaigning for women’s rights.


Episode 2: “Mark Rylance”

Premieres Sunday, April 11 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app

Actor and peace activist Mark Rylance explores the World War II story of his grandfather, Osmond Skinner, who spent almost four years as a Japanese prisoner of war. Rylance learns how Skinner, a banker, bravely joined the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps and was thrown into a deadly battle to defend the island. With no military training, he was shot on Christmas Day and was taken as a POW. Rylance’s views on war are tested as he uncovers the real and shocking story of how his grandfather survived Hong Kong’s notorious POW camps.


Episode 3: “Kristin Scott Thomas”

Premieres Sunday, April 18 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app

Kristin Scott Thomas’ grandfather, William Scott Thomas, served as a commanding officer in the Royal Navy throughout World War II. He survived some of the most devastating battles, from Dunkirk to D-Day, but never spoke about his experiences. For the first time, Thomas uncovers how her grandfather saved thousands at Dunkirk and endured the horrors of the Russian Arctic convoys. Her journey of discovery is packed with revelation and emotion as she meets the families of people her grandfather saved and veterans who served alongside him.


Episode 4: “Carey Mulligan”

Premieres Sunday, April 25 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app

Carey Mulligan’s grandfather, Denzil Booth, a teenager from the Welsh Valleys, traveled thousands of miles to fight the Japanese military in the final months of the war. Mulligan discovers his university education meant Booth was fast-tracked to be a junior officer in the Navy. On board Britain’s biggest warship—the first ever attacked by a Japanese kamikaze aircraft—he lost his closest friends. Mulligan travels to Japan to understand the Japanese military strategy of the era. She’s shocked by the ages of the pilots and the horrors her grandfather faced when he arrived in Tokyo.


My Grandparents’ War is a production of Wild Pictures for Channel 4 Television. Produced in association with Taphae Productions Limited, in association with THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. Presented by Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas and Carey Mulligan. Directed by Francis Hanly, Leo Burley, Laura Nash and Christopher Walker. Series Producer is Leo Burley. Executive Producers are Tom Anstiss and Paul Hamann. For THIRTEEN: Lesley Norman is Executive Producer and Stephen Segaller is Executive-in-Charge.


Original funding for the PBS presentation of My Grandparents’ War was provided, in part, by Elaine and W. Weldon Wilson and by PBS.


About WNET

WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN, WLIW21, WLIW-FM and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey and its news division, NJ SPOTLIGHT NEWS. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.


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Actress Carey Mulligan in Japan with Dr Hiroshima. Dr Hiroshima brother died as a Kamikaze pilot. Credit: © Wild Pictures

Carey Mulligan’s Grandfather Denzil Booth. Denzil served in the Royal Navy as a Radar officer in the final years of World War Two. Credit: FAMILY ARCHIVE

Actress Carey Mulligan in the Welsh Valleys where her grandparents lived all their lives. Credit: © Wild Pictures

Actress Helena Bonham Carter in Stockton, Wiltshire besides the grave of her father. Credit: © Wild Pictures

Helena Bonham Carter and Social Historian Lucy Noakes discussing Helena’s grandmother role as an air raid warden in London during the Blitz. Credit: © Wild Pictures

Helena Bonham Carter’s grandfather Eduardo Propper De Callejón. Credit: FAMILY ARCHIVE – Elena Bonham Carter

Actress Kristin Scott Thomas on The Mole in Dunkirk, France. Credit: © Wild Pictures

Actress Kristin Scott Thomas meets World War Two Veteran David Caink, who served on board the same ship HMS Verulam as Kristin’s grandfather during D-Day. Credit: © Wild Pictures

Actress Kristin Scott Thomas grandfather William, Grandmother Mary, Father Simon, Aunt Iola and Uncle Richard. Credit: FAMILY ARCHIVE

Actor Mark Rylance travels to Hong Kong. His grandfather Osmond Skinner was held as a POW in Hong Kong for nearly 4 years during World War Two. Credit: © Wild Pictures

Actor Mark Rylance’s Grandfather Osmond Skinner, Grandmother Hazel, Mark’s mother Anne and Uncle Richard. Credit: FAMILY ARCHIVE

Actor Mark Rylance and his father David Waters outside HSBC bank in Hong Kong. Credit: © Wild Pictures