Revealed

the captain bligh conspiracy: revealed (5/8)
20.00–21.00

Five’s historical documentary strand continues with a compelling new examination of the mutiny on the Bounty. Popular history has long depicted this famous event as a tale of plucky sailors confronting their brutal master, Captain Bligh. But now Mark Arundel, a direct descendent of Bligh, sets out on a quest to establish the truth of the matter and clear his ancestor’s name.

The most famous mutiny in history occurred in the middle of the Pacific Ocean over 200 years ago. In 1789, after the Bounty’s mission to Tahiti, Fletcher Christian led 18 men in a bloodless mutiny against commanding officer Lieutenant William Bligh. The ship was taken without force, and Bligh and the men loyal to him were put to sea in a small launch. Bligh then embarked on an epic 47-day voyage to find inhabited land, whilst the mutineers went on to settle the tiny island of Pitcairn.

In countless books, films and poems Bligh has been painted as the villain of the tale. But is the truth as clear-cut as the stories would have us believe? Mark Arundel, the great, great, great, great, great grandson of Bligh, is determined to find out whether the evil reputation of his ancestor is justified. Taking Charles Laughton’s performance as a monstrous Bligh in the1935 film as his starting point, Mark trawls the archives and canvasses expert opinion in a bid to shatter the myth of the despotic captain.

Mark’s journey begins in the British Library newspaper archive, where he learns that, in the wake of the mutiny, Bligh was hailed as a hero. After being put to sea by Christian, Bligh successfully crossed 3,500 miles of ocean in his open-topped boat to reach safety – an extraordinary feat of navigation. He was rewarded with an audience with the king and a quick promotion. For Mark, the question is: how did the naval hero of 1790 become the Hollywood tyrant of 1935?

To understand more about the Bounty’s voyage, Mark visits the Natural History Museum, where he inspects the breadfruit plant that the crew were sent to collect. Then he reads the official log of the trip, where he finds references to Bligh’s many efforts to make life for his crew easier. He also hears testimony from historian Andrew Lambert, who suggests that the real reason for the mutiny was not Bligh’s brutal captaincy, but rather the delights and attractions of Tahiti. Was it the desire to “go native” that prompted the crew’s action?

Mark’s investigation now turns to the accounts that sketched Bligh as a despot. Chief among them are the memoirs of one mutineer, James Morrison, who first detailed Bligh’s alleged tyrannical ways. Another crewman who attempted to demonise Bligh was Peter Heywood, who hoped to salvage his career in the navy by justifying his actions in the mutiny.

But Mark finds further evidence of a conspiracy against his illustrious ancestor in the history of Edward Christian, brother of Fletcher. Edward Christian was a prominent magistrate who was determined to clear his brother’s name. He conducted a series of interviews with the disgruntled survivors of the Bounty and compiled them into a formidable denunciation of Bligh. Mark reads a copy of this intriguing document and is astonished to learn the extent of this little-known scheme to discredit the captain. Furthermore, he finds a direct link between the denigrating accounts of Christian and Morrison, and the screenplay of the popular 1935 film, which cemented Bligh’s modern reputation as a villain.

Mark’s quest throws fascinating new light on this famous episode and vividly illustrates how one version of events has contaminated all future accounts. With the use of primary sources, expert interviews and reconstructions, this film sets the record straight on the life of William Bligh.

the plot to kill jfk – the cuban connection: revealed

The historical documentary strand revisits one of the most shocking events of the 20th century with a fresh examination of the assassination of John F Kennedy. A three-year investigation in four different countries by award-winning German filmmaker Wilfrid Husman has revealed what may be the missing link between Lee Harvey Oswald and the Cuban secret service.

Key evidence in this new account includes an intriguing CIA wire tap recording of a conversation in the Cuban embassy in Mexico, where Cuban staff rejoice the news of Kennedy’s death. Furthermore, the film uncovers a top-secret memo which reports that a high-ranking member of the Cuban secret service flew out of Dallas airport hours after JFK’s death. The film tracks down this man 40 years on to hear his story and those of other Cuban agents for the very first time.

The documentary also explores the volatile relationship between the US and Cuba in the wake of Fidel Castro’s seizure of power in 1959 – from the failed Bay of Pigs invasion to the CIA’s covert attempts to remove the Cuban leader. With the help of reconstructions and eyewitness testimony, The Plot to Kill JFK illustrates how the hostilities between Cuba and its neighbour are irrevocably linked to the tragic events of November 22, 1963.

the captain bligh conspiracy: revealed

The historical documentary series continues with a look at Captain Bligh, who has been immortalised in countless depictions of the mutiny on the Bounty –one of the most infamous episodes in maritime history. Hollywood and more than 2,000 books have made sure that the popular understanding of this brief event, which took place on the deck of a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean over 200 years ago, is quite cut and dried: Captain Bligh was an evil tyrant; Fletcher Christian a romantic hero.

Bligh’s great, great, great, great, great, grandson Mark Arundel has arrived in London on a mission. For as long as he can remember, he has been told that the Bligh family name was dragged through the mud –and he wants to find out whether his ancestor’s evil reputation is deserved.

Taking Charles Laughton’s monstrous Bligh of the1935 film as his journey’s starting point, Arundel embarks on a quest to unravel the truth about his ancestor. He will trawl the archives and meet historians in a bid to dispel the myths of time. Along the way, Arundel’s investigation will take in rare documents, artefacts and even plants as he attempts to turn a popular myth on its head.

auschwitz –the great escape: revealed(4/8)
20.00–21.00

Continuing on Five this week is the historical documentary strand that delves into past mysteries and controversies from ancient times through to the 20th century. Tonight’s programme uncovers the true story of an audacious escape from Auschwitz by two young Slovak Jews in 1944 – an event which alerted the world to the horror of the Nazi concentration camps.

Auschwitz Birkenau was the largest of six secret death camps built by the Nazis to exterminate the Jews, with up to 12,000 prisoners dying there every day during the latter part of the Second World War. Throughout the five years of the camp’s existence there were many escape attempts, but only five men succeeded and survived the war to tell their stories. Rudolf Vrba and his friend Alfred Wetzler were the first escapees to get information about the real purpose of the camp to the free world.

Life in Auschwitz was little short of a living hell. After travelling in appalling conditions in packed trains, the new arrivals were split into two groups: the stronger prisoners were put to slave labour; the weaker ones were sent directly to the gas chamber. In a world of brutality, squalor and disease, survival was almost impossible – yet 19year-old Rudolf Vrba was determined to escape and alert the world to the horror of Auschwitz.

The plan to exterminate the Jews relied upon the camp’s diabolical purpose being kept secret from the outside world. Vrba hoped that the truth about the camp would provoke uprisings and stop Jews from allowing themselves to be taken away by the Nazis. However, escape was an incredibly risky prospect – failed escapees were tortured and executed, with their bodies hung up for all to see.

The moment of Vrba’s escape arrived in April 1944, when he and his friend Alfred Wetzler decided to take advantage of the construction of new huts in the camp to make their getaway. With the help of the Polish builders, they walked out of the camp and hid in a wood pile just outside the perimeter fence. The pair knew that the guards normally spent three days searching for escapees before the alert was called off – so when their disappearance was discovered, they simply waited out the search in their tiny hiding place.

Once the search was abandoned, Vrba and Wetzler slipped into the countryside and spent a perilous 11 days on the run through occupied Poland. When they finally crossed the border into Slovakia, they at first struggled to convince Jewish leaders of the true nature of Auschwitz.

The race was on to warn the Jews in neighbouring Hungary that their imminent deportation to so-called labour camps was in reality an extermination programme. But – controversially – the leaders of the Hungarian Jews did not disseminate Vrba’s report, believing it would jeopardise efforts to negotiate a deal with the local Nazi leadership.

In a tragic twist of fate, copies of the VrbaWetzler report only reached the western allies in time for D-Day in June 1944, at which point British and American forces were too stretched to make Auschwitz a priority. However, historians believe that Vrba’s report ultimately forced the Hungarian government to end the deportation of Jews from Hungary, saving thousands of lives.

Using dramatic reconstructions, contemporary archive documents, expert analysis, and interviews with Holocaust survivors, this film uncovers the true story of Vrba and Wetzler’s daring escape, and examines how their written account of their experiences – the Auschwitz Protocols – affected the world.

auschwitz –the great escape: revealed

This absorbing documentary uncovers the true story of an audacious escape from Auschwitz by two young Slovak Jews in 1944 – an event which alerted the world to the horror of the Nazi concentration camps.

The truth about Auschwitz was the most guarded secret of the Nazi’s Final Solution. The plan to exterminate the Jews relied upon the camp’s diabolical purpose being kept secret from the outside world. Auschwitz was deliberately constructed so that it was impossible for any prisoners to escape and reveal the truth.

Throughout the five years of the camp’s existence, there were hundreds of attempts at escape. However, only five men succeeded and survived the war to tell their stories. Rudolf Vrba and his friend Alfred Wetzler were the first escapees to get information about the real purpose of the camp out to the free world. This film uncovers the true story of Vrba and Wetzler’s daring escape, and examines how their written account of their experiences –the Auschwitz Protocols –affected the world.

The documentary uses dramatic reconstructions and expert historical analysis, and features testimony from Holocaust survivors Freddie Knoller and Otto Pressburger. It also includes an interview with Professor George Klein –a Hungarian Jew who witnessed the Auschwitz Protocols in 1944.

the great olympic drug scandal: revealed(3/8)
20.00–21.00

Continuing on Five this week is the historical documentary strand that delves into past mysteries and controversies from ancient times through to the 20th century. Tonight’s programme revisits the dark days of the Cold War with a startling examination of East Germany’s secret programme to feed its top female athletes with untested drugs. For decades, the communist GDR state administered harmful drugs to thousands of young women in a desperate and dangerous bid to achieve sporting excellence.

In the 1970s and 80s, female East German athletes came from nowhere to dominate international sport. This film uncovers the truth of their success, revealing new and disturbing details about the communist state’s doping programme – a vast project that secretly fed steroids and male hormones to its sporting elite, including girls as young as 12. Now those girls are grown women, and their broken bodies bear witness to the cruelty of a regime that pursued gold medals – at any cost.

Over a 20-year period, an estimated 10,000 GDR athletes were involved in the doping project, which was closely guarded by the state’s fearsome secret police, the Stasi. Using reconstructions, archive footage and eyewitness testimony, the film places the personal stories of these athletes in historical context, showing how professional sport was one of the arenas in which the Cold War was fought. As one GDR doctor, Rainer Hartwich, explains: “Sport was one area in which this small state, the GDR, could really outrun the rest of the world.”

Doctors talk openly about their role in administering anabolic steroids. One physician, Ulrich Sunder, reveals how the drugs were slipped into the athletes’ daily vitamin supplements, and explains that each club had strict goals on the number of medals they had to achieve. “Each club had clearly given targets for each sport… what they had to deliver at the World Championships or the Olympic Games,” he explains.

The athletes took the drugs as part of a brutal training regime, and anyone who dared to question the medication would find themselves reported to the Stasi. In addition, girls were prescribed the contraceptive pill, as it regulated their periods and made it easier to schedule competitions. Doctors were also aware that it was crucial to avoid pregnancies, as the male hormones the athletes were fed could cause deformities in their babies.

The film features former athletes who attest to the horrendous impact of the hormones they received. Many found their bodies changed dramatically, experiencing weight gain, large hands, thighs and noses, hair growth, and genital malformation. GDR doctors even recommended that girls with unusually deep voices caused by the drugs should be banned from giving TV interviews and forbidden from doing jobs where their voices could be heard.

One athlete, Heidi Krieger, was so affected by the hormones that she felt she could no longer live as a woman and underwent a sex-change operation. Most shocking of all, the film uncovers evidence that one male swimmer died from the effects of the drugs he was given, and the report into his death was covered up for over 20 years.

Today, the women affected battle a range of ailments, from depression and eating disorders to internal organ damage. They also live in the knowledge that their sporting achievements are tarnished by scandal. “Those coaches and those doctors didn’t give me the chance to find out whether I could have achieved those results without anabolic steroids,” says former swimmer Rica Reinisch.

At a time of renewed concern about doping in sport, this film provides an important warning about the risks involved. It paints a stark picture of a project that was, in reality, an unprecedented chemistry experiment – the long-term impact of which can only now be assessed.

the great olympic drug scandal: revealed

In the 1970s and 80s, female East German athletes came from nowhere to dominate international sport. This film uncovers the truth of their success, revealing new and disturbing details about the communist state’s doping programme –a vast project that secretly fed untested steroids and male hormones to its sporting elite, including girls as young as 12. Now those girls are grown women, and their broken bodies bear witness to the cruelty of a regime that pursued gold medals at any cost.

Using reconstructions, archive footage and eyewitness testimony, the film places the personal stories of these athletes in historical context, showing how professional sport was one of the arenas in which the Cold War was fought. Doctors talk openly about their role in administering drugs that have caused irreversible liver, womb and heart damage in thousands of women. Athletes including British Olympic medal winner Tessa Sanderson reveal their frustration at competing against the East Germans, while antidoping scientists explain the tricks that GDR doctors played to avoid detection.

At a time of renewed concern about doping in sport, this film provides an important warning about the risks involved. It paints a stark picture of a doping project that was in reality an unprecedented chemistry experiment – the longterm impact of which can only now be assessed.

the aztec massacre: revealed(2/8)
20.00–21.00

The historical documentary strand continues with a journey back in time to the Aztec Empire. This edition probes the mystery behind 400 dismembered bodies unearthed in the ruined city of Zultapec. Knife cuts and teeth marks on the bones indicate that the victims met a bloody end, but who were these people and why did they meet such a terrible fate? Aztec expert Dr Elizabeth Baquedano travels to Mexico to unearth the shocking truth of the Zultapec skeletons.

Between the 14th and the 16th centuries, the Aztecs dominated the lands of present-day Mexico, until the arrival of the Spanish brought their world to a sudden end. Now, Elizabeth Baquedano is on a mission to unravel a centuriesold murder mystery involving 400 dismembered bodies found in the ruins of Zultapec. Her journey begins in Mexico City, where she meets forensic scientists who have made the surprising discovery that at least 40 of the bodies were Europeans. Elizabeth concludes that they were conquistadors, part of Spain’s invading army led by Hernán Cortés, which first arrived in Mexico in 1519.

The traditional view of the Conquest holds that the Aztecs put up little resistance to the Spanish, with their empire crumbling in just two years. Yet the bodies at Zultapec indicate that the Aztecs’ response was more violent than first thought. Elizabeth theorises that the murdered conquistadors were part of the second wave of invaders – a supposition supported by forensic evidence which shows that European females were among the dead. It is well documented that European women did not arrive in Mexico until the second party of conquistadors landed.

Elizabeth believes that the conquistadors at Zultapec were part of a caravan abandoned by Hernán Cortés during a battle, only to be captured by the Aztecs. She travels to Zultapec to meet archaeologist Enrique Martinez and take a closer look at one of the excavated bodies. “We can see that some vertebrae are missing here, the pelvis is missing and we also have the femur bone missing,” Elizabeth says of the skeleton. “So we have clear signs of dismemberment.”

It would seem that the conquistadors were sacrificed to the Aztec gods on the steps of the temple – a brutal act that involved slicing open the victim and offering the heart up to the sky. “Human sacrifice was very important to the Aztecs because they believed that without it, the gods would go unnourished and the world would come to an end,” Elizabeth explains.

But there is a problem: whilst it is well known that the Aztecs sacrificed people in vast numbers, there is no record of them sacrificing Europeans. However, methodical research in 500-year-old texts yields a small illustration of European sacrifice that supports the findings at Zultapec. Elizabeth also meets a historian who suggests that the conquistadors’ sacrifice served a political purpose – to warn the Aztec subjects not to side with the invaders.

Yet there remains one final piece of the puzzle: Enrique Martinez shows Elizabeth the bones of the victims and reveals a grisly secret about the Aztecs – a truth long speculated upon but never before confirmed. Teeth marks on the bones offer proof that the Spaniards were consumed after being sacrificed. “In the case of these bones,” Elizabeth says, “we know that the marrow was ritually eaten.” With the truth of the Aztecs finally exposed, new light is cast on this fascinating civilisation.

the terrible truth of the aztec warriors: revealed

The new series of the historical documentary strand continues with a journey back in time 500 years to the Aztec Empire. Between the 14th and the 16th century, the Aztecs dominated the lands of present-day Mexico, until the arrival of the Spanish brought their world to a sudden end.

The Terible Truth of the Aztec Warriors: Revealed probes the mystery behind 400 dismembered bodies unearthed in the ruins of an Aztec city. Knife cuts and teeth marks on the bones indicate that the victims’ flesh was stripped off and eaten. But who were these victims and why did they meet such a terrible fate? The film follows Aztec expert Elizabeth Baquedano as she travels to Mexico in search of the truth. Her journey takes her from Mexico City to the ruins in Zultapec where the skeletons were found. There she discovers that the bodies are the remains of a caravan of Spanish conquistadors who mysteriously disappeared. As Baquedano retraces the last journey of the conquistadors, she uncovers shocking evidence that may throw new light of the nature of the Aztec Empire at the time of the Conquest.

the real dick turpin: revealed
20.00–21.00

Beginning this week is a brand new series of the historical documentary strand that delves into past mysteries and controversies from ancient times through to the 20th century. The first instalment looks at the notorious 18th-century highwayman Dick Turpin, using dramatic reconstructions and contributions from experts to establish the truth behind this romantic figure.

Dick Turpin is perhaps the most famous highwayman in British history –a legendary rogue whose name is synonymous with daring exploits, honour and bravado. The central part of the Turpin legend is the tale of his flight from London to York on his loyal steed, Black Bess, in 11 hours, fleeing from authorities hot on his trail –a story revived in countless books, comics, films and TV shows.

The Real Dick Turpin: Revealed goes beyond popular myth to tell the true story of Richard Turpin, dispelling the buccaneering, soft-hearted robber of legend with the equally action-packed tale of a dedicated and ruthless career criminal.

The programme examines how the Turpin myth was largely shaped by the writer William Harrison Ainsworth in his 1834 novel, ‘Rookwood’, in which Turpin is portrayed as a noble figure brimming with English virtues. Yet the truth is that Turpin cut his teeth as a member of a maurauding pack of criminals called the Essex gang, who tortured and raped the victims of their robberies. “This was a violent, nasty, greedy, dangerous individual,” says John O’Connor, an excommander of the flying squad.

After parting ways with the gang, Turpin embarked on the career for which he is best known –as a highwayman. “This is part of the romantic myth: [Turpin] as being the lace-clad figure who bursts out of the gloom and holds up stage coaches single-handed,” explains historian Professor James Sharpe. The reality was that Turpin preyed on vulnerable travellers and often worked with accomplices –the most famous of which was Matthew King. Their partnership ended with Turpin shooting King dead after the latter had been captured, before Turpin fled. Was this an accidental shooting by Turpin or a deliberate attempt to stop King testifying against him? “The Turpin of legend would let himself be shot rather than risk his partner,” says consultant psychologist Paul Britton. “The Turpin of fact is quite the reverse.”

The programme also turns its spotlight on the great flight to York and poses the question: did it really happen? Equine scientists put a top endurance race horse on a treadmill to find out if this athletic thoroughbred can come close to matching the feat attributed to Black Bess –with surprising results.

There is a further twist to the tale, however, with the revelation that another, near-forgotten highwayman made the same journey to York, years before Turpin was plying his trade. It transpires that a robber nicknamed ‘Swift Nicks’ completed the 200-mile journey from Kent to York in record time in the year 1676, after he committed a robbery and needed to create an alibi for himself. It was this incident –later used in a Daniel Defoe story –that supplied the main plank of the Turpin myth.

As for the real Dick Turpin, his own, less dramatic flight north following the death of Matthew King marked the end of his highwayman exploits. The programme reveals that Turpin’s taste for the high life ultimately led him to the gallows, amid a confusion of shoot-outs, false identity, bizarre coincidence and family treachery. Yet, with the help of Harrison Ainsworth’s novel and the stories it spawned, Turpin has enjoyed a charmed afterlife as a daring soundrel, whilst Swift Nicks and other figures in Turpin’s life have been consigned to the forgotten footnotes of history.

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