The World at War (1973–1976)
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France Falls: May-June 1940 

As their forces invade Northern Europe German strategists capitalize time and again on French preconceptions confounding French defenses.


Peter Batty




Episode credited cast:
Laurence Olivier ... Himself - Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
André Beaufre André Beaufre ... Himself - French High Command (archive footage) (as General André Beaufre)
Maurice Chevalier ... Himself - Entertainer (archive sound)
Lawrence Durrell ... Himself - British Foreign Service
Edward Spears Edward Spears ... Himself (as Sir Edward Spears)
Charles Trenet ... Himself - Entertainer (archive sound)
Hasso von Manteuffel Hasso von Manteuffel ... Himself - German Panzer Command (as General von Manteuffel)
Walter Warlimont Walter Warlimont ... Himself - German High Command (as General Warlimont)
Gordon Waterfield Gordon Waterfield ... Himself - War Correspondent
Siegfried Westphal Siegfried Westphal ... Himself - Staff Officer Western Front (as General Siegfried Westphal)


In 1934 France starts building a sophisticated bulwark along the German border called the Maginot Line. It is a network of armed forts, connected by a narrow-gauge, underground railway. At the northern end of the Maginot Line lies the Ardennes, high mountains covered with dense forests. This area is perceived by the French generals as impenetrable, so they haven't much forces located there. 10 May 1940 the German army starts its offensive by invading Holland, and then Belgium. The French generals send 40 of their best divisions into Belgium. The Germans take the opportunity to move through the weakest point in the Maginot Line further south. With their tanks they penetrate the impenetrable Ardennes. They build a bridge across the river Meuse, and soon the German tanks, followed by the infantry, are in France. The German blitzkrieg shocks the French. Holland surrenders on 14 May, Brussels falls three days later. French citizens start leaving Paris and other cities. 12 million refugees ... Written by Maths Jesperson {}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Release Date:

14 November 1973 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Thames Television See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The narrator Laurence Olivier refers to the death of King Henry V of England in 1422. Olivier played Henry V Henry V (1944), which he also directed. See more »

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