August 4th World War One Remembered on the BBC

Controller, World War One Centenary

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11pm, Tuesday August 4th 1914. Britain’s ultimatum to Germany expired and war was declared on Germany. Just hours earlier, the Daily Mirror took a combative stance; ‘We could not stand aside! Britain will not allow Germany’s fleet to batter France’s undefended coast’, it rallied. The Daily Telegraph reported that its readers should be shedding ‘tears of pride over the spectacle presented by the British race’; by contrast the next day’s Manchester Guardian feared that the country was facing “the greatest calamity that anyone living has known”.

Despite the headlines, the war in Europe must have seemed so far removed from the lives of ordinary men and women. Complex in its causes and without the immediacy of modern communication and media, this conflict must have appeared almost from nowhere that fateful August week, a rogue wave in a once calm sea. Looking forward to the August Bank Holiday, most believed it would be over quickly; that Germany would be given a ‘bloody nose’ and that would be the end of it. Of course, as we know now, nothing was further from the truth.

The conflict became known as the war to end all wars; millions died and millions more suffered physically and mentally. It changed the nature of society, warfare, global politics, economics and medicine, setting the course for the twentieth century. It changed how we live and how we think. It helped define our modern world and nearly all of us have some kind of family connection with what took place.

Marking the centenary throughout four years and tracking every aspect of the impact of the war, the BBC’s World War One Season across TV, Radio and online is our most ambitious to date. It will, I hope, leave an important legacy of understanding about this conflict - both for us today and, importantly, for generations to come.

Our season began at the start of the year. With landmark documentaries, drama, debate, unique archive, arts, live music and events, local stories, children’s programming, UK-wide World War One at Home events, iWonder online guides, educational initiatives and working with partners such as the IWM, we have already done much to examine, debate and illuminate the story of World War One. But there is much more to come and you can see on the BBC World War One website some of the programming highlights for August 2014 and beyond.

Of course, as we reach the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, we will take the time to reflect and to commemorate the fallen. Throughout the day on Monday August 4th, BBC Television, Radio and Online will be covering the day’s events.

On TV Huw Edwards will anchor the BBC’s coverage of national events throughout the day on August 4th, with Sophie Raworth presenting coverage from near Mons, Belgium.

World War One Remembered: Across the Commonwealth on BBC One (9.10am to 11.15am) will show the Service of Commemoration for the Commonwealth in Glasgow which will be attended by HRH The Duke of Rothesay (as the Prince of Wales is known in Scotland). There’ll be commentary from James Landale and reports from Anita Rani.

In the early evening, coverage will move to Belgium and to BBC Two for World War One Remembered: From the Battlefield (6.30pm onwards) for a Service of Remembrance at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons, where TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be joined by HRH Prince Henry of Wales. And, as the nation nears the actual hour that war was declared,World War One Remembered: From Westminster Abbey on BBC Two (9.00pm onwards) will mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War with a candlelit vigil at 10.00pm attended by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall as well as covering the Lights Out moments around the country.

Throughout the day BBC News will be covering events on both the BBC News Channel and BBC World News as well as in the regional news programmes. Online, the BBC News website will offer live coverage of all the day’s events, and our dedicated World War One portal (www.bbc.co.uk/ww1) will bring together live updates on August 4th, as well as guides, timelines, programmes and more from the BBC’s WW1 season this year.

We will also be marking the day on BBC Radio stations. Radio 4 will broadcast the Glasgow service in full with commentary by James Naughtie and an extended edition of The World Tonight will include coverage from Westminster Abbey as well as reflecting all of the day’s events. Radio 5 live’s programmes will include Nicky Campbell presenting Breakfast from Glasgow and a special OB with Richard Bacon from the Imperial War Museum in London. Two Proms that evening, which are part of the 14-18 Now, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, on Radio 3 will take as their starting point the events of 100 years ago. Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine programme will begin its WW1 in Real Time features whilst, also at lunchtime, Radio 4 will begin its ambitious four year drama, Home Front. And Radio 1 will be running the first of three programmes in its documentary series Radio 1’s Stories - Veterans: WW1 to Afghanistan presented by Greg James that evening at 9pm. Amanda Vickery examines the psychology of war in the UK edition of the BBC World Service debate series The War That Changed The World on Saturday at 7pm.

As communities across the UK mark the centenary, BBC Local Radio in England and BBC Radio Scotland, Wales and Ulster will be covering the day in many ways. And throughout our output we will be encouraging people to share their thoughts and reflections using the hashtag #remember.

The full schedules for the day can be found on the BBC World War One website. Please do join us in whatever way you can to help commemorate and remember both the sacrifices and the achievements of the First World War. I very much hope it will be a day which inspires fresh reflections, both shared and individual.

Adrian Van-Klaveren is Controller, Great War Centenary

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