World On Fire: Scenes of a man on fire leaves viewers shocked

Viewers praise ‘distressing and emotional’ new BBC WWII drama World On Fire as series kicks off with dramatic scenes of Polish volunteers fleeing a Gdańsk post office basement after it’s set alight with petrol

  • BBC1 Second World War drama World On Fire premiered on Sunday night
  • Opening episode criss-crossed between the UK, Poland and Germany in 1939
  • One heart-stopping scene saw Polish soldiers attacked in their underground HQ 

Viewers praised ‘distressing and emotional’ Second World War drama World On Fire after its dramatic premiere last night. 

The ambitious seven-part BBC1 drama, which follows characters living through the first year of the Second World War, premiered to widespread praise with an episode that depicted some of the earliest moments of the war. 

Among them was the siege of a Gdańsk post office on 1 September 1939, where a group of some 60 Polish volunteers – many of them civilians – held off German attacks for 15 hours before being forced out when petrol was poured into the basement of the post office – their last stronghold – and set alight. 

Viewers were also introduced to a string of characters living in the UK, France, Germany and Poland, including an American journalist played by Hollywood actress Helen Hunt and a pacifist Brit played by Sean Bean.

At the centre of the story were Manchester-based factory worker and jazz singer Lois (Julia Brown) and her sweetheart Harry (Jonah Hauer-King), who fell in love with Polish waitress Kasia (Zofia Wichłacz), while working as a translator in Warsaw.  

Viewers watched in horror as a man was set on fire during a dramatic battle in the first episode of Second World War drama World on Fire last night, pictured.  The shocking scene depicted the final moments of a German siege of a Gdańsk post office in September 1939

Last night viewers were introduced to a string of characters living in the UK, France, Germany and Poland, including Gregor, pictured, a Polish teenager who volunteered with his father

Viewers praised the show for its accurate depiction of events, pictured, including how the battle started when SS troops cut off the electricity to the post office

Viewers watched with a sense of dread as Kasia’s father Stefan (Tomasz Kot) and his teenage son Gregor volunteered to join their fellow countrymen defending Gdańsk against the advancing German troops. 

Stefan, who fought in the First World War, delivered a rousing speech insisting they could defend the post office at the centre of the city until Allied support arrived. 

The rag-tag group of volunteers, largely made up of post office employees, valiantly defended the building before being eventually forced into the basement. Among their number was also a woman and her young daughter who lived on site. 

The group managed to defend the post office against German assaults for 15 hours before being forced out when the basement was pumped full of petrol and set of fire.  

Last night viewers watched with a sense of dread as Kasia’s father Stefan (Tomasz Kot), right, and his teenage son Gregor volunteered to join their fellow countrymen defending Gdańsk against the advancing German troops. Pictured, the men before the final assault

The group managed to defend the post office against German assaults for 15 hours before being forced out when the basement was pumped full of petrol and set of fire, pictured

The siege marked one of the first acts of the Second World War in Europe as part of the German invasion of Poland.   

Viewers praised the show for its accurate depiction of events, including how the battle started when SS troops cut off the electricity to the post office. 

It also captured the horrific reality of the basement being set on fire, and how the Poles who emerged waving the white flag of surrender were shot on site. 

One wrote: ‘Wow.. Battle of the Danzig post office was really well done. #WorldOnFire.’

A man walking through the flames left viewers in shock and depicted the horror of the siege, which marked one of the first acts of the Second World War in Europe  

Stefan, pictured, emerged waving the white flag of surrender but was shot on site. The same fate met the men who surrendered after defending the post office in September 1939

Another posted: ‘Interesting to see the portrayal of the taking of the Danzig post office right at the birth of the war. Well done for that.’

Several viewers also praised the show for casting Polish actors to play the Polish characters. 

Others applauded the decision to tell the stories of those living outside of the UK. 

World On Fire continues Sunday 6th October at 9pm on BBC1. 

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