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]