Airdate: A Very Short War

The History Channel will mark Anzac Day a documentary recounting the life of Australian aviator Jack Clifford ‘Cliff’ Carpenter.

The History Channel will mark Anzac Day with the world premiere documentary A Very Short War which recounts the life of Australian aviator Jack Clifford ‘Cliff’ Carpenter.

On April 9, 1940, 28-year-old Carpenter tragically lost his life in Norwegian skies, while defending Norway on the first day of the German invasion.

The one-hour documentary is co-directed and narrated by Carpenter’s nephew, Australian actor/director Bill Young and produced by 2008 Tropfest winner Karl Conti.

The story is told through the eyes of Young as he embarks on a personal pilgrimage from Australia to Wales, London and Norway, to the crash site where a memorial stands and wreckage from the plane still lies.

“I felt driven to create a documentary of my uncle’s life, a life which mirrors the experience of every family that has lost someone dear to them in a wartime conflict,” said Young.

The History Channel has in recent years produced the documentaries The Tragedy of the Montevideo Maru, Beyond Kokoda, and He’s Coming South.

A Very Short War recounts the events leading up to and surrounding Cliff’s final mission through interviews, footage and rare recordings of the lone survivor of the crash.

The documentary features a series of exclusive interviews, including Cliff’s fiancée, 93-year-old Sydneysider Isabel who was sadly denied the chance to marry the man she loved, the Norwegians who witnessed the tragic event, the people of Pembroke Dock, and relatives of the sole survivor of the crash.

Also featured are Cliff’s many letters written to his family in Australia – as well as the moving writings of his friends, fellow pilots and mother, all of which paint a deeply personal picture of a young man who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, a very long way from home.

Cliff was a man of enormous potential who, by age 21, had built his first aeroplane, initiated the first series production of Australian-designed aircraft and was barnstorming rural New South Wales with his aerial circus – before travelling to Britain in 1938 to work as a pilot with Imperial Airways. Following the outbreak of war in 1939, he enlisted with the RAF to be stationed at Pembroke Dock in south-west Wales.

On the evening of April 8, 1940, an urgent call went out for volunteers at the RAF base at Pembroke Dock. Ten men from the far corners of the empire – four from England, two from Wales, two from Northern Ireland, one from Canada and one, Cliff Carpenter, from Australia – hastily came together to form a crew to pilot a Sunderland Flying Boat on a ‘mission’ deemed vital by the Admiralty.

The following day they embarked on their journey and were informed that they were on a reconnaissance mission to Oslo. Little did they know that Germany had invaded Norway that very day.

At 5.50pm on April 9, the Sunderland Flying Boat was shot down by German fighters over the mountains of Overskogen and nine out of the ten crew perished, including Cliff Carpenter.

A VERY SHORT WAR is produced by Karl Conti and co-directed by Bill Young and Myles Conti. It is exclusive to The History Channel, in association with Screen Australia.

It airs 8:30pm Sunday April 25 on the History Channel.

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