Vicky McClure: My Grandad’s War

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Monday: Vicky McClure: My Grandad’s War (ITV1, 9pm)

She’s one of British TV’s most respected actors who, while appearing in Line of Duty and Trigger Point, has often been seen risking life and limb.

But while Vicky McClure has become accustomed to playing fictional heroes, there’s a real-life one at the centre of her family.

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Ralph McClure, Vicky’s 97-year-old grandfather, is a genuine Second World War hero. Despite coming from landlocked Nottinghamshire, he joined the Royal Navy and played a part in the Normandy Landings.

Vicky McClure and her Grandad Ralph visit Cap Manvieux overlooking remains of Mulberry Harbour in FranceVicky McClure and her Grandad Ralph visit Cap Manvieux overlooking remains of Mulberry Harbour in France
Vicky McClure and her Grandad Ralph visit Cap Manvieux overlooking remains of Mulberry Harbour in France

It’s not the first time she’s been inspired by her family to create something – her late grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s led to the formation of Our Dementia Choir, whose fortunes have been followed by the BBC – and her latest project, being broadcast to tie in with the anniversary of D-Day, promises to be just as special.

“My grandad is a real character and I can’t wait for everyone to meet him,” says the award-winning actor. “He’s a legend in my eyes and what he achieved in the Royal Navy should be celebrated.

“This programme gave me an opportunity to spend time with him, learn from him and get a real glimpse into the courageous events of the Normandy Landings.”

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“This film is a very candid journey with one of the last surviving Second World War heroes alongside his granddaughter, who happens to be one of the country’s leading actors,” adds Tom Giles, ITV’s Controller of Current Affairs. “Vicky will guide ITV viewers through this very touching and poignant special, helping us understand the magnitude of one of the most dangerous expeditions of the war.”

The programme sees Vicky visit Ralph at his home, where he regales her with some extraordinary stories and incredible, death-defying moments, some of which took place while he was still a teenager.

The project came about during discussions between Vicky’s partner, Jonny Owen, and production company North One Television.

“Jonny and I met to talk about a drama project and the conversation drifted into Vicky’s amazing grandad – an extraordinary tale I didn’t know – and the rest was pretty straightforward!” grins North One’s CEO Neil Duncanson. The resulting documentary is a co-production between his company and Build Your Own Films (BYO), the firm set up by Vicky and Jonny.

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Among the highlights to look out for are Vicky’s journey to Normandy to retrace her grandad’s steps, as well as her efforts to reunite him with his surviving comrades. But easily the best scene involves Ralph showing his granddaughter what he used to get up to during a tour of the last-remaining landing craft.

“I’m delighted BYO has partnered with North One to make an important documentary about this incredible story,” claims Jonny. “A generation of people who fought for our freedom are leaving us now and it’s essential we understand their sacrifice and how important it was so that we can live the lives we live today.

“Vicky’s Grandad Ralph has become a dear friend and I’ve listened to him for hours telling me how as a teenager he was part of one of the most important moments in human history.

“I’m so glad we can now share this with the world.”