Friday 11 November 2011, 11:11
TV producers are often asked "Where do you get the best ideas for programmes?"
I can honestly say that some of the best I have stumbled upon are at a bar whilst enjoying a pint.
Antiques Roadshow Remembrance Special trailer
Actually I'm not a big drinker, but being the series editor on Antiques Roadshow inevitably means many nights away from home spent in the company of two dozen of our experts and somehow the bar acts like a magnet for us on evenings before or after a show.
It was in just this situation that Graham Lay, one of our arms and militaria specialists, and I found ourselves chewing over the idea of making a special edition of the programme devoted to wartime stories.
Not the massively recorded turning points of history, rather the equally extraordinary but often untold tales of heroism and dedication when men and women selflessly served their country.
To test the waters we broadcast a 15-second appeal with Fiona Bruce which followed a moving wartime story about a daring fighter pilot which you may remember from one of our shows last year.
His family had come from Australia to make an emotional journey across the UK visiting the bases he had been stationed at.
We were intrigued to see if people were keen to share their family account of conflict, either at home or abroad.
As always we required an object to help bring the story alive.
None of us were prepared for the hundreds of emails, followed by equal numbers of letters that arrived from viewers in response.
Nor could we have predicted the remarkable quality of testimony, either from those who had been directly engaged in the action or from family members who have been deeply affected by the actions of their loved ones.
It's not often that a busy production office is reduced to silence but the quiet that followed as we read the stories spoke powerfully about the quality and honesty of the correspondence.
One of the first from the pile I opened found me both humbled and profoundly moved.
Just a few pages written on RAF headed paper from a remote bomber squadron in May 1942 and signed 'Teddy'.
It is an intimate and heartbreaking confession from a husband explaining why he lied and gave up a safe job as ground crew in order to serve his country flying on bombing missions.
You can probably guess the tragic circumstances in which it was delivered to his wife, shortly after the birth of their first child.
I urge you to read the full version on our website, by doing so I think you will understand why this single letter was confirmation of the potential for our programme.
Simon Shaw is the series editor of Antiques Roadshow.
For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.
Press red on Sunday, 13 November between 8.55pm and 4am to watch additional stories filmed at the Remembrance Sunday special.
Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.
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Thursday 10 November 2011, 10:10
Tuesday 15 November 2011, 11:24