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Dermot O’Leary on Saving Lives at Sea: In World War Two

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Saving Lives at Sea In World War Two

In this Saving Lives at Sea special, Dermot O’Leary sets out to uncover the untold story of the RNLI’s heroic efforts during the Second World War. As the nation commemorates the 2024 bicentenary of the RNLI, Dermot delves deep into some of the war’s most iconic and surprising stories from across Britain, shedding light on the extraordinary role the RNLI played in the war effort.

As a proud ambassador of the RNLI, Dermot’s passion for the organisation stems from his childhood spent on the east coast of England, where he witnessed the RNLI’s crucial role in coastal communities. He explains, “It felt like something to be cherished, nurtured, and looked after.” Having spent time in Ireland, Dermot also emphasises the unique reach of the RNLI, encompassing the British Isles as a whole.

Dermot’s involvement with the RNLI goes beyond mere support – he is an ambassador of the organisation. Through his role, he has had the privilege of witnessing the RNLI’s work firsthand, visiting stations and witnessing the dedication and bravery of the crew members. “Talking to some of the guys and girls that go out, you realize it’s pretty tough work,” Dermot shares. “A lot of the stories don’t end well, it takes a toll, and the more time you spend with them, the more admiration you have for them.”

Dermot’s passion for history is another driving force behind his involvement in this project. Growing up in an immigrant family, he developed a sense of his country’s history, particularly Irish history. His interest in the Second World War was sparked as he approached the age of 30 and recognised the significance of the era. “There isn’t a greater example of ordinary people put in extraordinary circumstances,” Dermot explains.

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Discovering the untold stories of the RNLI’s involvement in the war was a particularly fascinating aspect for Dermot. He was surprised by the diversity of these stories, which extended far beyond saving downed pilots. “No two stories are the same. This isn’t just about the boats going out and saving, let’s say pilots, who had been shot down. Which is actually what I thought the whole show would be. But actually, that’s a tiny proportion of what they did during wartime.”

Interacting with the contributors and hearing their firsthand accounts left a profound impact on Dermot. He describes feeling humbled and grateful for their sacrifice and unwavering sense of duty. “Whenever you do a Second World War documentary, you are quietly overcome by a sense of gratitude and the sacrifice of the people that went out and put their lives on the line,” Dermot reflects.

Dermot’s experience filming the project was punctuated by memorable moments and stories. He was particularly moved by the human cost of the war and the toll it took on the RNLI. “That puts into sharp focus that there was a war on and how the level of equipment has changed,” he states. Despite the challenges they faced, Dermot admires the incredible fortitude and bravery of the RNLI crew members who saved lives in the harshest of conditions.

Dermot believes that this show is important because it sheds light on a unique and untold period in the nation’s history, showcasing the involvement of the cherished and valuable RNLI. The show not only celebrates the RNLI’s bicentenary but also highlights the organisation’s enduring significance in coastal communities across the British Isles.

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Saving Lives at Sea: In World War Two premieres soon on BBC TWO.


Mia Silva is a talented British entertainment reporter whose passion for storytelling and diverse background (half Mexican, half English) adds a unique perspective to her coverage. With a keen eye for detail, she brings the latest news and interviews to our avid readers.

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