A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1948.

Something which wasn't general publicised during the London Olympics 2012's anniversary year is that almost the entire event, at least what was streamed live, is still available online as part of the Olympics YouTube channel.  Someone has attempted to compile the first eleven days as a sequential playlist here beginning with the opening ceremony and a number of playlists covering each event are on this account.  Should you want to, you can visit this page and experience the entire swimming competition again.

In 1948 such things would probably be considered magic.  Colour footage of London 1948 can be seen in the official Olympic film but that was produced for later release.  But the BBC's coverage was equally innovative for the time with huge ingenuity and massive breakthroughs in broadcast technology being utilised so that a flavour of what was already a huge event could be brought to the public.  But you wouldn't expect the rolling coverage we enjoy today, would you?

Not quite.  The Radio Times shows that after providing commentary of the opening ceremony on the first day, the Home Service, rather live Radio Five Live now, broke into the typical programmes with live commentary at various times at times given at the beginning of each day's listings, augmented by fifteen minute bulletins in the evenings rounding up the day's events.  

Television, during the time it was on air, did indeed have hours of coverage, initially of the athletics and swimming sessions then boxing, gymnastics and "association football" all of which had the benefit of being in the same two venues, the Empire Stadium and Empire Pool.  On the final day, the Olympics had to share its broadcast with a test match and ended with an equestrian event followed by a "short" Closing Ceremony.

London Olympics 1948

"In what's turned out to be an Olympic year, we look back at the televising of the London 1948 Games 73 years ago with Norman Green."
This is a ninety minute lecture that utilises extensive material about the BBC from various archives.
[Royal Television Society]

"Just three years after the end of the Second World War, with both food and fuel still being rationed, London hosted the XIV Olympic Games. They were dubbed ‘The Austerity Games’ with no money for new buildings, existing facilities had to be used. Despite these restrictions fifty-seven countries competed but perhaps understandably, Germany and Japan were not invited.  It was a huge undertaking for the BBC."
[TV Outside Broadcast History]

"This news item celebrates the BBC's acquisition of the most up-to-date technology for outside broadcasting."
[BBC Clips]

"Behind the scenes preparations are made by the BBC for the radio broadcast of the 1948 Summer Olympics from Wembley."

"Throughout the London 1948 Olympic Games, news of the day's events were summarised in specially prepared Olympic Newsreels. This one reports on the Corporation's radio and TV operation at Wembley Stadium."
[BBC Clips]

"The 1948 Olympic Games cemented television as the ultimate immersive experience of the age."
[Science and Media Museum]

"Celebrating 60 years of Sports Report on BBC Radio 5 live on 3 January 2008 with Mark Saggers, Des Lynam and James Alexander Gordon."
[Random Radio Jottings][BBC Programme Index]


"Laurie Taylor trawls the BBC archives in two programmes exploring 60 years of the Reith Lectures, named in honour of the first director-general of the BBC, Lord Reith."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]


"The long-playing record and the BBC’s Third Programme changed the face of classical music in Britain. In popular music the 45 rpm record became the recorded medium of choice, and in 1970 the BBC’s home networks grew to four in order to broadcast respectively (and respectably) pop, easy listening, classical music, and speech. Radio 3’s flagship programmes such as the weekday drivetime slot Homeward Bound and Saturday morning’s Record Review taught listeners what to listen to and how to listen."
[Gresham College]

"Peter Cook, Enoch Powell, Margaret Thatcher, Sheila Hancock, Tony Benn...just a few of the famous voices in this exploration of the Any Questions archive. Jonathan Dimbleby and a special panel of guests offer new answers to old questions from the archive, and explore the changing character of political argument on Radio 4's flagship debate programme."
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]

"Papers related to an episode of the BBC television programme ‘Eye of The Artist’ titled ‘Fantastic Art’"


"Amid the celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of Empire Windrush from the Caribbean in 1948, much has been made of the warm welcome that once greeted those migrant men and women in Britain’s hour of need, as post-war reconstruction got underway."
[The Conversation]

"Filmmaker Samantha Horley recently posted an image of this set of “Guidelines,” which she found among her father’s effects, on her Facebook page. Horley told me that her aunt worked at the BBC as a secretary in the 1960s and 1970s; she thinks the page originally came from her aunt’s papers."

"Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield): I wish to raise certain matters arising out of the Annual Report and Accounts for the year 1946–47 of the British Broadcasting Corporation, presented by the Postmaster-General's Department last month. I do this in no spirit of carping criticism, because, as a former member of the staff of the B.B.C. during the war years, I have a very high respect for the achievements of that Corporation; but I wish to offer some constructive criticism and to seek from the Minister who is to reply some assurances on certain matters which I will raise, particularly regarding the organisation of the staff and the internal organisation of the B.B.C."

"This book, which has been written to impart to its readers fundamental knowledge about the operative, performing and allied arts of television -the latest medium of mass home entertainment - is the first, it is hoped, of a series of annual reports on visual radio in Britain and the world."
[World Radio Archive]

"In a little book that I called Plain Words I drew freely on the BBC for illustrations of things which, in my submission, would have been better said otherwise or not said at all."
[World Radio History]

Soup Safari #82: Mushroom and Green Lentil at the Old School House.

Lunch.  £5.10.  40 Lark Lane, Liverpool L17 8UU.  Tel: 0151 727 2341.  Website.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1947.

The 25th anniversary of British broadcasting was commemorated with a special issue of the Radio Times, which amongst other things includes an essay from the then DG Sir William Haley, an interview with Bernard Shaw ("When I want to hear a good play, I listen to one of my own.")(pictured) and half a page from The Dean of St Paul's about "a quarter of a century of religious broadcasting . . ."  It's all a bit fusty compared to the cavalcade of interviews the magazine published seventy-five years on.

Although much of the radio schedule was as normal, there were commemorative programmes throughout the week with near nightly concerts and various talks.  On the 12th November 1947 itself the Home Service hosted, "Do You Remember", "The BBC Birthday Night Programme" introduced by John Snagge and featuring "sixty minutes of famous personalities, commentaries, occasions, and entertainments" followed by a talk from Sir William, "The Place of Broadcasting".

Although still in its infancy, BBC Television filled prime time in the tail end of the week with a number of shows.  "Scrapbook for 1922" which included extracts from Pathe films of that year (and goodness me is available on YouTube), a central documentary "The Story of the BBC" billed as "recalling facts and personalities in 25 years of broadcasting", "Funny Thing This Wireless!" a "light-hearted review of the 25 years" featuring the likes of Frank Muir, Clive Dunn, Vera Lynn and Ronnie Hill and a "Viewer's Viewpoint" discussion featuring luminaries like film director Michael Powell and "an ordinary viewer."

25 Years of Broadcasting

"No ONE can doubt any longer that Broadcasting has a place."
[World Radio History]

"The whole is cast, by special request, in the form of A Grand General Jubilee Salute to the BBC.  Broadcast on BBC Third Programme, Saturday 15th November 1947 at 22:05 (or 10.5pm as it was known in those days)."
[Chris Goddard][BBC Programme Index]

"Sir Malcolm Sergeant appears before one of only two cameras, covering BBC Proms 1947 for television, for the first time."
This is an excerpt from the radio broadcast.

"The chief-conductor of the Proms Sir Malcolm Sargent epitomised the classical music festival from 1947 until 1967. He took part in an astonishing 514 concerts, and shaped the BBC Proms as we know them today."
[Royal Albert Hall]


"The sound effects girls at work during studio broadcast of the "Dick Barton" radio show."


"BBC reporters describe being trapped by bad weather for 29 days in 1947."
[Trinity House]


"In 1947, Brian George, the head of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Central Programme Operations, hired Séamus Ennis to help record traditional music throughout Ireland."

"By the time BBC TV was turned on again after World War Two, they'd lost the advantage to commercial TV in US. Would they be able to catch up?"
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"Today’s seasonal post relates a tale of woe about a pantomime broadcast from a Christmas past. What follows is a brief encounter with the catalogue of problems that afflicted the planned presentation in early January 1947 from the Grand Theatre of ‘Croydon’s biggest pantomime’, Jack and the Beanstalk."
[Screen Plays][BBC Programme Guide]


"Allegations of bribery centred around dance music booking in the BBC."

"This book, which has been written to impart to its readers fundamental knowledge about the operative, performing and allied arts of television -the latest medium of mass home entertainment -is the first, it is hoped, of a series of annual reports on visual radio in Britain and the world."
[World Radio History]

"The task set me in this article is to take a leaf out of Wisden and select the Six Best of the Year"
[World Radio History] 

Soup Safari #81: Tomato and Lentil at La Parrilla Mexican Bar & Grill

Lunch. £5.50. La Parrilla Mexican Bar & Grill, 56-58 Lark Lane, Liverpool L17 8UU. Tel: 0151 306 8158.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1946.

The post-war era begins in earnest. If you haven't already realized, I'm preparing these BBC 100 posts ahead of schedule. To give you an idea of how far ahead I am at the moment, it's currently New Year's Day 2023. I spent the past December posting Christmas links and other things. For you, March is in its early stages (which reminds me I need to change the calendars - done now). Having thought about these posts in the weeks away, I'm pretty happy with the format of only linking to the BBC's website when it's a program about itself or immensely pertinent (see below). I try to steer clear of its own history pages as much as possible. There's no point in replicating what's already there. Anyway, happy New Year to me and rabbits to you.

Letter From America Begins

"Alistair Cooke remembers Lindsay Wellington, the BBC head who came up with the idea of weekly letters to help people in the UK understand American life in 1946."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"A portrait of the 20th century as viewed through the eyes of one of the world's greatest broadcasters - Alistair Cooke.  Combining extracts from the 2,654 editions of BBC Radio 4’s Letter from America with reflections from Alistair, the programme follows the key elements of what is often referred to as the American century."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"Every extant episode is now available on the BBC website.  Unfortunately, like In Our Time, they're locked into a programme page format which isn't easily navigable when that many episodes are involved and so I decided to create the following chronology to make them more accessible and create the ability to easily skip to a particular year and re-experience that history through the words of Alistair Cooke."
[feeling listless]

The Dark Tower

"First transmitted in 1946, The Dark Tower is a parable play on the ancient theme of the Quest, suggested by Robert Browning's poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. It was written and produced by Louis MacNeice, with music specially composed by Benjamin Britten, and played by an ad hoc orchestra conducted by Walter Goehr."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"Incidental music for the radio play The Dark Tower by Louis MacNeice. Signed by Britten on the title page (f. 1). The manuscript is not dated."
[British Library][BBC Programme Index]

"Poet Paul Muldoon recalls a fellow Belfast wordsmith who innovated radio production, loved rugby and drank hard."
MacNeice's first drama for radio was The Dark Tower.
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"Louis MacNeice’s The Dark Tower was heard at the British Library on 13 November 2014 as the fourth in a five-part series of public listenings. Below, Dr Amanda Wrigley of the University of Westminster offers some background to this work."
[In The Dark Presents]

Television Returns

"After World War Two, television returned to British screens on 7 June 1946.  The demonstration film, Television is Here Again, showed prospective viewers what sort of programming they could expect."
[BBC Archive][BBC Programme Index]

"First transmitted in 1946, these are highlights of the films shown on BBC Television since it reopened in June of that year after a seven-year gap caused by World War II."
[BBC iPlayer][BBC Programme Index]

"Muffin the Mule was one of the earliest BBC television shows. It was broadcast at least in 1953, near the time of Elizabeth II's coronation. It involved a human hostess speaking and singing to a puppet mule. (TV: The Idiot's Lantern)"
Muffin the Mule began in 1946.
[TARDIS Data Core]

"The politics behind the return of TV in 1946."


"A look at young 'Just William' actor John Clark as he relaxes at home."


"In this wonderful and detailed essay, Margaret writes about her experience of singing live on Children’s Hour, with the Kendrick School Choir and Orchestra; at the BBC Broadcasting House on Sunday 3rd February 1946."
[Kendrick School]


"With the end of the Second World War in 1945, the BBC went back to normal broadcasting hours and regular working conditions. The corporation now had a colossal listening audience which had grown during the war years, and radio sets were as common in households as television is today. That audience would continue to grow, for there was little luxury or recreation in Britain just after the war."
[Look and Learn]

"Mixing music with drama and the ancient with the cutting-edge, the Third Programme set out to scale the shining peaks of “high culture”, but, says David Hendy in part six of our 13-part series on the history of the BBC, its lofty aims alienated as much as they allured..."
[History Extra]

"Humphrey Carpenter's history of the Third Programme."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"Tommy Handley and the ITMA gang in farewell party comedy sketch set at Albany Club."

"The British radio station broadcasts its session from a flat of the senior captain Horák, who fought as a fight pilot in the UK. A native of Lidice returned to his homeland with his English wife and two children. In total of 50 millions people listened to this radio session."
[CT / Czech Republic]

"The Dutch government offers a diner to some guests of the BBC in castle "Oud-Wassenaar" (Old Wassenaar). Present at the diner are a.o. Prime Minister W. Schermerhorn, the former Prime Minister P.S. Gerbrandy and the English envoy sir Neville Bland."
[Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision]

"One of the most intriguing is a drama called Exercise Bowler which was broadcast on 5 August in a television version produced by Jan Bussell. From the traces that survive in Radio Times and elsewhere in the press, it seems to have been interesting as a response to Britain re-adjusting to peacetime and also strikingly experimental in its use of the television studio."
[Screen Plays]


"The war renewed debate about poetry in public life. In 1941, the weekly BBC magazine The Listener asked Robert Graves (‘as a war poet’) to explain why the war had produced little great poetry so far. Because, Graves said, it was a different kind of war."

"Hugh Morton broadcasting 'Stuff and Nonsense' show from hospital."


Musicians Union open letter in the form of a pamphlet questioning the BBC's use of recorded music and the fees paid to artists.

"LORD BRABAZON OF TARA rose to move to resolve, That this House is of the opinion that before an extension be granted of the B.B.C. Charter, an investigation into the present development be held The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name."

"The third Royal Charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation came into operation on 1 January, 1947. It was a date with more than one significance. Not only were the wartime services of the BBC a matter of the past and safe with history ; the transition period was also over."
[World Radio History]

"The Governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation present herewith their Report for the year ending 31st March 1946."

Soup Safari #60: Tomato and Basil at Pippin's Corner.

Lunch.  £4.95.  Pippin's Corner.  64 Lark Lane, Liverpool L17 8UU.  Tel:  0151 222 5370.   Twitter.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1945.

The introduction of the BBC Light Programme was a key moment in the development of the corporation as we know it today. The forerunner of Radio 1 and 2, it was intended to replace the General Forces Programme, which had been popular with listeners in the UK as well as the armed forces.

Looking at the schedule for the first day, the approach was to provide continuity between stations, with many strands and personalities such as Sandy MacPherson carried over. The music mix initially favored classical music over popular.

Perhaps one notable addition was a forty-five-minute radio adaptation of the Gainsborough film, I'll Be Your Sweetheart, starring many of the same cast, including Margaret Lockwood. Presumably, it was in a similar format to the Lux Radio Theatre shows, which had already been running in the US for a couple of decades.

The Light Programme's remit would change over the years, and a number of its shows later transferred to talk stations where they continue today. The likes of Desert Island Discs, The Archers, and Woman's Hour still appear on Radio 4, and archive episodes of the former reach back into these early days.

The End of the War

"Radio report with the eyewitness account of Sergeant Major Edwin Austin, a member of the British army, about the suicide of Heinrich Himmler."
[Austrian Media Library]

"It was late in the evening on 1 May 1945 and Karl Lehmann was working at his desk on the outskirts of Reading, 40 miles (65km) to the west of London.  Soviet forces were closing in on Berlin and the war with Germany had reached its final stages.  The 24-year-old was monitoring German state radio when listeners were told to prepare for an important announcement."
[BBC News]

"Richard Dimbleby was the first broadcaster to enter the camp and, overcome, broke down several times while making his report. The BBC initially refused to play the report, as they could not believe the scenes he had described, and it was only broadcast after Dimbleby threatened to resign."
[BBC Archive]

"This year marks the centenary of the birth of the BBC. To celebrate, Taylor Downing looks at how the Corporation came of age during the Second World War."
[The Past]

"Indo-Anglian novelist, lawyer, journalist, and politician, Khushwant Singh describes a 1945 BBC broadcast that sticks in his mind: on a railway car, having slipped off it's rails between Barog and Shimla, the driver turned on the BBC."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"One of the earliest visitors to Broadcasting House on VE-day was an American soldier. He waited with his camera at the ready, till the very moment when the flags of Victory broke from the curved front of the building. The Stars and Stripes, the Russian flag, and the Union Jack flew in the wind together, and the American took his photograph and departed."
[World Radio History]


The B.B.C. Brains Trust Answering "Any Questions?" 
"A Strand Films presentation.  An Anglo-American Film Corporation Ltd production. The Brains Trust (pictured) answer questions spontaneously on camera."
As you can see this is three sections.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1944.

Back in 1994, the BBC broadcast a series of special bulletins with Sue Lawley presenting news of the D-Day landings as though they were happening then, utilizing footage and correspondent audio from fifty years earlier. Fortunately, someone has uploaded the programmes to YouTube, and they are absolutely fascinating, covering not just the war, but other contemporary events.

We're told that "Speaking in Trafalgar Square, the actress Sybil Thorndike has called for equal pay for women. (She) said the concept '...that a woman should be paid less than a man for doing the same job is almost pre-historic.'" We're not told the context of her saying this, but she would presumably be angry to know that this deplorable state of affairs still hasn't been corrected nearly eighty years later.

If you do have a glance at the episodes that have been uploaded, you'll notice that it was the continuation of a project that began five years before with News 39, which covered the events leading up to the start of the war and ended in 1995 with a half-hour episode about the ceasefire. It's an excellent format and an interesting way of presenting the older, dramatic footage in a dynamic way.

The War Continues

"Movietone goes to ITMA's Farewell Party and joins Tommy Handley and company."
Pictured above.

"A reconstruction of the first 'live' broadcast made by a BBC radio correspondent in Normandy."
[Imperial War Museum]

"The earth revolves on its axis and moves in an orbit round the sun."
[World Radio History]

"Reporter Denys Blakeway explores the role and effects of German propaganda broadcasts during World War Two, most notably those by Lord Haw-Haw."
[BBC Archive][BBC Programme Index]

"00:08:01 'Song of the Islands'. A report featuring a calypso band of West Indian musicians serving in the armed services. Scenes inside a radio studio in BBC Broadcasting House."
[Imperial War Museum][BBC Programme Index]


"ENSA show for war-workers from a factory canteen : Carroll Gibbons and his Orchestra, with Rita Williams and Betty Kent. ' Guest artists, Ted Andrews and Barbara Clarke and Petula Clark."
[Imperial War Museum][BBC Programme Index]

"Ann Driver. 1-'The Beginning of Movement'"
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]

Behind The Scenes

"The prevailing emotion of 1944 is best described by the words forward -looking. Sometimes our eyes have been fixed with agonizing expectancy on the next few weeks : sometimes simply on the next few hours. Yet through days and weeks alike, there has run persistently a vision of the future in longer terms; a future in which the twice renewed nightmare of war with Germany may be ended once and for all: a future in which we may be inspired to rebuild our homes and our great institutions in the true spirit of our national genius."
[World Radio History]

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1943.

In September 1943, BBC war correspondent Wynford Vaughan-Thomas (pictured) boarded a Lancaster bomber with his recording engineer and a microphone.  Over seventy years later, his words were used as the basis for a VR experience placing the viewer on board the plane with him, watching a night-time bombing raid over Berlin.  

Best viewed using a VR headset, it's nevertheless viewable through a browser on YouTube.  The computer rendering isn't Unreal quality, but its nevertheless extremely immersive and watchable and worth seeing a few times in order to pick up all of the details.  

More of Vaughan-Thomas's work as a war correspondent can be heard at the British Library.  There's also a report from years later of him visiting the Vale of Clwyd.  This memorial would later be erected in Aberhosan to commemorate his life.

Behind The Scenes

"BBC Home Service programme produced by the Entertainments National Service Association entitled 'ENSA Half Hour' broadcast from London"
[Imperial War Museum][BBC Programme Index]

"Film records and illustrates a BBC broadcast by West Indians in Britain to explain to the British people the West Indians' contribution to the war effort."
[Imperial War Museum]

"Hugh Carleton Greene, head of the BBC's German Service, describes how some Germans risk severe punishment by the Gestapo to listen to broadcasts."
[BBC Archive][BBC Programme Index]

"The BBC works to provide an enriching Schools broadcast that teaches children about other cultures."
[British Council film archive]

"Nicholas Kenyon explores early music at the BBC in the 1940s."
[BBC Sounds]

"The third of five personal essays on the voice and radio. Former BBC journalist and now media professor David Hendy explores how, in the early years of radio, the voices coming through the airwaves were heard and regarded."
[BBC Sounds]

"Broadcast on the BBC Home Service, Thursday 23rd December 1943 at 21.40 (or 9.40pm)"
[Chris Goddard]

"The BBC completed its first twenty-one years of day -to -day broadcasting at a time when its will and purpose were wholly devoted to the tasks of war."
[World Radio History]

Soup Safari #78: Spicy Three Bean at Minna.

Lunch. £5.50. Minna, 94 Lark Lane, Liverpool L17 8UU. Website.

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1942.

Every now and then in researching these posts, I'll come across a fact which is so interesting (at least to me!) that I'll end up telling everyone I know.  In the Chronomedia page for 1942 we're told "March 22, 1942:  BBC begins transmitting news bulletins in Morse code for the benefit of resistance fighters in mainland Europe".  I've tried to find more information about this because I have questions.  Was this as part of the schedule or via telegraph equipment - I'm assuming the latter.  How did it start?  How did "listeners" know that it was starting and how and where to pick it up?

People in War

"The B.B.C. broadcasts messages to men in the Royal Air Force who are serving in Canada."

"British Broadcasting Corporation radio programme entitled 'War Commentary' on contribution of West Indian personnel to the RAF's air campaign." 
[Imperial War Museum][BBC Programme Index]

[Imperial War Museum]

"Eighty years ago, the BBC broadcast a program about the Holocaust of Polish Jews, based on materials donated to the Polish government in London by Jewish organizations in Poland. It was an important day for Emanuel Ringelblum's associates. Unfortunately, the ordeal of Jews in occupied Poland continued."
[Jewish Historical Institute]

"By Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt: Good evening.   First of all I should like to thank the people of Great Britain, who everywhere have given me such a warm and sympathetic welcome, and to rejoice with them on this momentous day. I also want to thank the many kind people who have written me. I have not been able to answer all of these letters, but I am nonetheless appreciative."
[Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project]

"Children Calling Home, Friday 25 December 1942, BBC Home Service, BBC Forces Programme."
[BBC Clips][BBC Programme Index]

"In 1942, the BBC was recording an outside broadcast of nightingales singing when 147 RAF bombers flew overheard."
This story is illustrated with images of Beatrice Harrison for some reason.
[BBC News]

Behind The Scenes

"There are, of course, many text books on electrical engineering and that branch of it known as 'telecommunications', but up to now there has never been a book describing the technical practice and equipment of the BBC."
[World Radio History]

"M.J.L.Pulling, the Superintendent Engineer of the BBC Recording Service, gives an illustrated talk on the technical side of BBC recordings, broadcast 11 April 1942: covering direct-cut disks, steel tape (the Marconi-Stille), and the Phillips-Miller non-photographic optical system. (Modern magnetic tape was still under development in Germany and not available until after the war)."
[Roger Wilmut]

"In this programme, which was made to explain the work of the Recorded Programmes Department, Lynton Fletcher and Marie Slocombe give the audience a guided tour of some of the items they have collected in the Library of Historical Recordings."
[BBC Archive][BBC Programme Index]

"Kirsty Young tells the story of the long-running programme as it celebrates its 70th anniversary and investigates what has made it such an enduring part of the radio schedule."

"During WWII, Latin America was considered by Britain as a region of strategic, economic and military interest, as well as a source of concern due to its large German and Italian migrant communities."
[King's College London]

"Accurate radio reporting of British defeats helped win trust of German listeners."
[The Guardian]

"This book gives a brief account of how the British broadcasting service has developed and has been carried on in 1942."
[World Radio History]

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1941.

From the start of this project, rather than having a long list of links, I've been attempting to corral them under subheadings to make them easier to read.  But during this war period, so much is happening all the time, that it's nearly impossible.  The links below under the "Home Front" demonstrate how, by the 1940s even with its limited number of channels domestically, the BBC had become a multifaceted organisation catering for a number of different audiences.  

If you only watch/read one of the pieces, it has to be 19 Metre Band, which in its 13 mins gives offers an atmospheric portrayal of Broadcasting House and some of the people who worked there including essayist Z.A. Bukhari (pictured above).  At around the 6th minute there are some brilliant shots of the canteen and elsewhere within the margins you get a real sense of the hierarchies which existed in the corporation at the time, even in the services catering for overseas audiences.

Behind The Scenes

"Go behind the scenes of Indian programmes on the BBC General Overseas Service (later the World Service)."

"The BBC has featured entertainers of colour from its inception, but more as an attraction than a celebration of other cultures. In part four of our 13-part series on the history of the BBC, David Hendy explores how the corporation tried to include diverse voices, from the 1930s to the postwar years..."
[History Extra]

"This thesis focuses attention on the two years that George Orwell spent, between August 1941 and November 1943, at the Indian Section of the B.B.C., producing propaganda talks for listeners in India and elsewhere."
[Edinburgh Research Archive]

"A man with the name of Wilfred Pickles brought regional dialect to the BBC as part of an anti-Nazi-propaganda strategy."

"THIS IS London Calling! Night after night all through Canada, people sit and listen to the voice of a British Broadcasting Corporation announcer, thousands of miles away in London, bringing the day’s news to them from a city deluged in war."

Includes BBC News broadcast.

"During the Second World War the shortage of manpower for industry meant that women were employed in many jobs previously thought to be the preserve of men. The BBC was not exempt from the problem of finding sufficient staff."

"There is a connection between Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and the Morse code. Although approximately 30 years separated the creation of this particular symphony and the telegraph code, the link played a role in Allied broadcasts during World War II."

"Women of the Royal Armed Forces compete in a 1941 quiz show on the BBC."
Note: From the show Women at War broadcast 24th November (this film was issued on the 27th).  The section filmed here is "the Brainteaser's Trust".

"21 March 1941: ‘Anything in the nature of persecution, victimisation, or man-hunting is odious to the British people’ - Churchill"
[The Guardian]

"In this recording of the proceedings at a Foyles Literary Luncheon, guest of honour Lynton Fletcher, who ran the BBC Recorded Programmes Department, exhibits some of the items preserved for posterity."
[BBC Archive]

"Deputy Prime Minster Clement Attlee speaking to the nation on B.B.C. (British Broadcasting Corporation). Tells of the eight points agreed on at the Atlantic Charter meeting between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Churchill and Roosevelt representing Britain and the U.S.A. (Recorded from B.B.C. broadcast)."

"Merchant seaman Frank Laskier talks about the postscript he gave at the B.B.C."

"In the year 1941, the range and penetrating power of British broadcasting were formidably increased."
[World Radio History] 

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1940.

On the 18th February 1940, the BBC Forces radio station began transmissions at 11am with A Short Morning Service followed by a summary of the day's programmes, which consisted of music from numerous genres interspersed with Home Service opt-ins (mostly also musical).  This was followed at 4pm with second half coverage of an "Association Football" match between The French Army v. The British Army, commentated by Raymond Glendenning from Lille (which wouldn't be occupied by the Germans until the end of May).

Introducing the service, the Radio Times explains, much care was taken in selecting the programmes for the service, between national security concerns and just how to entertain troops who could be called to action at any moment, often in difficult circumstances.  After a consultation, which included the BBC's DG himself visiting various forces including the RAF in France, it was decided to keep the tone light, with music which could not easily be disrupted and "may even be enhanced by communal enjoyment and a running exchange of comments."

The final day of broadcasting, 26th February 1944 contains much the same mix of content as the opening day, of gramophone records, live music and a second half coverage of a couple of rugby matches, England v. Scotland and England v. Wales.  The biggest change is an extra programme at 8pm, Home is on the Air, in which "men of the Service tell how they and their comrades are listening now and will be listening in the future together with you at home" as the channel transitioned to General Forces Radio, which also catered to US forces and the Home Front.

The BBC at War

"A handbook about the BBC's war effort written during the conflict.  It ends on a postscript, "... when victory is ours, the high task of radio will be to help in building civilization upon more enduring foundations, and to a better and a livelier pattern. Once again, through broadcasting, Nation shall speak peace unto nation.' "
[World Radio History]

"News coverage becomes top priority for the BBC in wartime Britain."
[The Guardian]

"It's all action on the home front with civilians on high alert to support the war effort."
Contains drama documentary footage of a BBC radio broadcast during a family dinner time.

"Just after 8pm, on 15 October 1940, the British Broadcasting Corporation’s headquarters (built 1932) were hit by a 500lb delayed-action high explosive bomb.   The bomb destroyed the BBC switchboard before penetrating the Music Library on the fifth floor."
[West End at War]

"On the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War, German writer Timur Vermes examines how the BBC used humour throughout the war to counter Nazi propaganda."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"The first in a series of programmes by the BBC broadcast in early 1940 to inform the British public about how the BBC monitors propaganda and news by enemy and neutral countries. This seemingly open, light-hearted tactic was typical of the strategies used in the war against propaganda."
[BBC Archive][BBC Programme Index]

"Martin Wainwright marks the life of a broadcasting phenomenon - the story of how Yorkshire man JB Priestley became the voice of the nation during the darkest days of the Second World War."
[Imperial War Museum][BBC Programme Index]

"A BBC arranged trans-Atlantic broadcast between English parents and evacuated children in America and Canada."

"In Britain, during the first weeks of the Second World War, public entertainment venues closed down. The blackout darkened the streets, and people stuck at home turned to radio as never before. They were seeking news but also diversion — a difficult balance for the BBC to achieve. Many hated what they heard. But the BBC had a seemingly unlikely star: Canadian-born Sandy Macpherson, the BBC’s resident theatre organist."
[The Conversation]

"The following pages give an outline of the way in which the British Broadcasting Corporation has met the call of war, and its contribution to the national war effort of which it is a vital part."
[World Radio History]


"It was in the dark days of 1940 that the BBC instituted 'Music While You Work', following a Government suggestion that morale in industry would be improved if there were daily broadcasts of cheerful music piped into the factories. The theory (which turned out to be right) was that improved morale would lead to better production."
[Masters of Melody]

"A lot of these excellent broadcasts are taken from the United States Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service which monitored many foreign stations during the conflict."
[Michael Marshall Voice Actor]


"In her first public speech, Princess Elizabeth addresses the children of the Commonwealth, many of whom have been evacuated from the cities due to the war, and footage of the Princesses Royal and various other children plays throughout."

[UCL George Orwell Archive][BBC Programme Index]

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1939.

Here we are then, World War II.  Much has been written about this period but two books I would recommend are Edward Stourton's Auntie's War: The BBC during the Second World War and The BBC: A People's History by David Hendy which cover the entire period in immense detail from the differing perspectives of the correspondents in the field and the backroom staff (Hendry is excellent on the human logistics and less than ideal sleeping arrangements).  This project can't cover everything and doesn't want to but will include some of the speeches of politicians and royalty and try to capture some of the tone of the Home Service, which replaced the previous services during war time.

As part of the preparations for war, the BBC purchased Wood Norton, a hall dating back to medieval times, as a back up should the inevitable happen and they could continue broadcasting from outside the capital.  On reading that I was reminded of the draft documents leaked last year to The Guardian which suggested "that in a national blackout it would run a greatly reduced temporary radio service from the UK’s emergency broadcasting centre, called the EBC, based in a rural location not acknowledged by the BBC."  Although Wood Norton Hall itself has been sold, the buildings in the ground are still used for technical training.  Might they be pressed back into service?

Not the War

"Various shots beauty queens parading in special BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation / Company) studio at show. London. M/S of winner Patsy Kent being interviewed in front of Television camera."

"Footage of the interior of Broadcasting House, London."

"Autograph full score. Comprising fifteen numbers, with one leaf of the composer's written instructions and comments on the music. Scored for voices, flute (piccolo), clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, harp and percussion."
[British Library]

The War

"This is an extract of the speech Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made to the nation via a BBC Home Service broadcast at 11.15am on Sunday 3 September 1939."
[British Library]

"The Common Crier’s proclamation (BBC catalogue number 871580) lists all those items to be considered as contraband of war, and they include ammunition, explosives, and anything that can be used to make chemical weapons."
[London Sound Survey]

"BBC News report from September 2nd 1939."

"What really did happen that day in 1939, when the BBC Television Service closed down “for the duration of the conflict”?"

"Winston Churchill speaks at BBC Broadcasting House and reviews the progress of the war."

"Edward Stourton tells the story of the BBC in the ”phoney war” of 1939-1940 and the period’s strange echoes of Covid-19."
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"Footage shot by D.R. Campbell of Anti-Aircraft Demonstration from the south terrace at Alexandra Palace, performed for the BBC Television service. Shortly after the television service was closed for the duration of the war, reopening in 1946."
[Alexandra Palace]

"This book tells briefly of the promise, the achievements, and the diverted energies of a broadcasting year which seemed like to at one time to outstrip and of its sixteen predecessors."
[World Radio History]

A History of the BBC in 100 Blog Posts: 1938.

One of the websites which is being an immense help as I move forward with this project is Chronomedia which says on its opening page that it, "is designed to become the most comprehensive and accurate timeline of developments in communications media ever compiled."  It's quite old in web terms, most of the pages having last been updated when Russell T Davies was last showrunning Doctor Who.  But it still feels immensely comprehensive, especially in charting when sporting events were first broadcast or the changeover from the Baird to Marconi television system which happened in around 1938.

New research is available all the time though.  It confidently states that in February 1938, the "BBC introduces one hour of television on Sundays."  Except we can how see from the BBC Programme Index that the first TV programme broadcast on Sundays was actually in April 1938, Rowing Blues, a review of the Boat Race, which went out for half an hour in the afternoon.  Notably the Radio Times did mention this launch in a February issue (scan here) so perhaps someone in the past has their wires crossed, or the BBC were doing test transmissions which went unlisted in the Radio Times.

Either way, by now the BBC is in its pre-war pomp ambitiously broadcasting cricket commentaries from abroad (England vs South Africa from Johannesburg) and the first televised phone-in show, as Gerald Cock, director of programmes took viewers questions on the air (above photo courtesy of Transdiffusion), both after Chamberlain's fateful "I have in my hand a piece of paper" speech.  Find below a taste of the breadth of programmes across television and radio which were in production a year before the cataclysm.  It's a confidence in purpose which arguably wouldn't been seen from the corporation for at least a decade.


"In 1938 Sigmund Freud recorded a speech for the BBC. It remains one of the few recordings ever made of his voice."
[Freud Museum]

"Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss role of Freudian analysis in understanding the great works of literature."
[BBC Sounds]


"This was long before there was a TV in every home."
[Dusty Old Thing]

"However, while no direct recordings were possible, surprisingly one instance of a pre-World War 2 broadcast compilation remains publicly accessible thanks to an indirect recording."
[Lost Media Wiki]

Behind The Scenes

"Mr Ogilvie, new Director General of the British Broadcasting Corporation, arrives at Broadcasting House for his new appointment."

"M/S as 'Lemo' the 18 month old lioness gets out of a car with her keeper, she walks towards Broadcasting House while crowds stand and watch."

"Produced by the GPO Film Unit, this film shows preparations made by GPO to help the BBC with the nationwide outside broadcast of a major sporting event, the TT motorcycle race on the Isle of Man."
[BT Archive]

"Sir Henry Wood and BBC Symphony Orchestra play 'Serenade to Music'."
Visual record of The Henry Wood Jubilee Concert from 5th October 1938.

"Inside BBC Broadcasting House, we see several male and female contestants of the British Spelling Bee team sitting in a line wearing headphones.  Commentator points out Spelling Master Tom Woodruffe, sitting at a table and talking into a microphone."

"In St. George's Hall, London, the BBC hold a programme composed of couple who have been married over 50 years. Charles Brewer interviews the old folk and also taking part in the programme are a pair married the same day."

"BBC vs The Listeners darts championship at Eastbourne."

"Incidental music for The Ascent of F6, a stage play by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood.  Signed by Britten on ff 1, 1v, 3, and 47. The volume is not dated."
[British Library][BBC Programme Index]

Eighty years ago the BBC conducted Britain's first ever survey of time use. Its aim was to discover whether anyone would have time to take up a brand new leisure activity - watching TV. In fact last year's time use survey in the US tells us that if people gain any unexpected spare time they spend it watching TV.
[BBC Sounds][BBC Programme Index]

"One typescript and one manuscript copy of a talk or article about Charles Darwin. The typescript copy is annotated in pencil at the top: "BBC Lecture on Darwin" [not in Haldane's handwriting]."
[University College London]

"Rare behind the scenes cine film taken at Alexandra Palace."
[BBC Clips]

"And no, it wasn't Doctor Who."
[Smithsonian Magazine]

"Sir John Reith left the BBC on 30 June 1938 to become whole-time Chairman of Imperial Airways."
[World Radio History]