When most 18 years olds were taking their first drink, Geoffrey Wellum was piloting planes in the Second World War.
Based on the book by the same name, First Light is the compelling story of the youngest spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain, Geoffrey “Boy” Wellum.
What sets this docudrama apart from the rest is the interspersing of key events with a first person testimony from the 89 year old.
The 78-minute docudrama is faithful to the immensely popular novel, beginning with Geoff enlisting with the Royal Air Force. Ready to take on the world he recalls his first flight as “clean, pure, gets into your soul”
From there, the young spitfire pilot joined the No.92 Squadron, flying wingman for Commander Brian Kingcome before the phone rang and the “Battle” began.
What followed was an 18-month stint in the first line fighter unit. The viewer witnesses Geoff’s attitude towards the mission go from optimism to despair as he witnesses fellow pilots shot down.
His only salvation is the welcome appearance of his wife-to-be Grace who distracts him from the “relentless ritual with no idea when it would end”.
As combat fatigue begins to set in, Geoff is one of two pilots appointed for convoy patrol. The weather conditions mirror to gloom felt by Geoff as he flies off course and narrowly averts the enemy’s fire.
By August 1941 Geoff had completed 50 missions which sadly took their toll the following year when he suffered a complete nervous breakdown.
Geoff concludes, “I asked myself was it worth it, I can’t answer it, I suppose it must’ve been but I’m still struggling.”
First Light was produced specifically for the 70th anniversary of the Battle and it’s both haunting and inspirational.
You owe it to yourself to check it out.