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D-Day on the BBC
Karl (Kenneth Collard) and Nicole (Felicite De Jeu) in The Long Wait, a drama for Radio 4

D-Day on the BBC




National radio


Radio 4

 

Radio 4 gets to the heart of D-Day with a mixture of documentaries, epic dramas and lively discussions which tell the story of the preparations rather than of the invasion itself.

 

The Act of Remembrance itself, on 6 June, will also be broadcast.

 

Helen Boaden, Controller, Radio 4 says: "The D-Day landings directly touched the lives of many of our older listeners. They have also captured the imagination of later generations.

 

"By uncovering the human stories behind the invasion, Radio 4 pays tribute to those who took part and provides a fascinating and inspiring story for the rest of us."

 

Radio 4 sets the scene on Saturday 5 June from 2.00pm. Veteran broadcaster Charles Wheeler, together with three historians, looks at how D-Day came about in the wake of the debacle at Dunkirk in From Dunkirk To D-Day.

 

The heart of the programming is The People's D-Day (7.00-9.00pm), a two-hour documentary presented by Libby Purves that hears from the people who actually played a part in the invasion preparations, often without knowing they were doing so.

 

This is the story of designers and engineers who made the Mulberry harbours; of the nurses whose wards were suddenly emptied so they would be free to take the expected wounded; the intelligence operatives who laid false trails to fool the Germans, and the man who spotted the gap in the bad weather that enabled the invasion to take place when it did.

 

There are also stories of amazing coincidences, lucky escapes and humorous twists.

 

On a lighter note, Back Row (5.30-6.00pm) and Loose Ends (6.15-7.00pm) look at the kind of films and more general entertainment people would have turned to in that summer of 1944.

 

The evening continues with What If The D-Day Landings Had Failed?, a discussion between leading historians about what would have happened if the landings had not succeeded.

 

Would the Red Army have advanced to overrun the whole of Western Europe or would the Allies have dropped an atomic bomb on Berlin?

 

A change of mood leads up to midnight and D-day itself, with a specially written sequence of poetry and music that recreates the thoughts and fears of an ordinary soldier in one of the invasion boats about to make the crossing.

 

Poet Michael Symmons Roberts and composer James Whitbourn have created a work for voice, piano and a solo instrument which explores the experience and aspirations of an ordinary squaddie in his early twenties sung by Christopher Eccleston from 11.30pm to midnight.

 

Drama plays a large part in Radio 4’s D-Day programming.

 

There are five, 15-minute dramas in the preceding week and two major plays on Saturday 5 June.

 

All are designed to stand alone but there are overlapping characters and situations that together form a compelling portrait of what life was like for ordinary people at the time.

The Biggest Secret and The Long Wait are the two major dramas on Saturday which construct a compelling mix of interlocking stories set both in England and in France.

 

The Biggest Secret (3.15-5.00pm) by Mike Walker is set on 5 June, the day before the invasion.

 

Captain Rob Collins is recovering in hospital from a failed parachute drop when he is urgently summoned back to base.

 

He can only surmise that he is being called back to take part in the invasion he knows must be about to happen and for which he has been preparing for two years. The producer is Jeremy Howe.

 

The Long Wait (9.00-10.00pm) by Sarah Daniels is set in Normandy.

 

A German army band is throwing a jazz concert in a hall in Caen when the singer, Mitzi, is called away on urgent business by Father Pierre.

 

He is the blind, elderly padre who realises that his cover as a double agent has been blown, just as coded messages are coming through to the French resistance that the invasion is about to happen. It is produced by Toby Swift.

 

Throughout the previous week, the Woman's Hour Drama slot has been given over to five plays which portray a series of snapshots of life in Britain and France in the six days leading up to 6 June.

 

Some of the characters also reappear in the Saturday dramas. They run from Monday 31 May to Friday 4 June at 10.45am.

 

Putting You Through is a play set on 31 May 1944, in the stifling heat of the subterranean Cabinet War Rooms in Whitehall, where Aurora and George work as telephone switchboard operators.

 

This is written by Patricia Hannah and produced by David Jackson Young.

 

Running Man is written by Arnold Evans and produced by Gilly Adams.


In the run-up to D-Day it is essential that there are no breaches of security, so when a soldier who's already been briefed on the Normandy landings goes AWOL, the authorities are determined to track him down.

 

Harry And Gloria is written by Katie Hims and produced by Gordon House.


Gloria is distraught when she receives a letter from her GI lover, Harry, who tells her that their relationship is over as he has to go away, but he won't say where.

 

Lily's Mum is written by Louise Ramsden and is set three days before the invasion in London.

 

Lilly's Mum has come to London from the Midlands to try to find her teenage daughter who has run away from home. It is produced by Peter Leslie Wild.

 

Hilary Fanin's play, Drop Zone, is set in Normandy two days before the invasion that nobody realises is coming.

 

It follows Father Pierre, a blind priest, and his niece Louise as they visit a distraught elderly lady whose house, estate and life have been overturned by the arrival of a German army unit preparing defences against the expected invasion.

 

It is produced by Tanya Nash.

 

Throughout the week of 31 May to 4 June, Radio 4's Book Of The Week is broadcasting five extracts from journals and memoirs of the key military and political players who were responsible for developing and executing what Winston Churchill described as "the most difficult and complicated operation ever to take place".

 

On Friday 4 June Any Questions? (8-8.45pm) comes live from the Hotel de Ville in Caen, in the heart of Normandy, only a few kilometres from the beaches that became the main arena for the landings.

 

Any Answers? also comes live from France, as Jonathan Dimbleby takes calls from listeners offering their views on the subjects previously discussed on Any Questions?

 

Sunday Worship on 6 June comes from Caen Abbey, with the choir of Portsmouth Cathedral joined by the choir of Maitrise de Caen - a boys' choir from the local music academy. (MG)

 

Radio 2

 

Good Morning Sunday visits Southwick House in Portsmouth, where General Eisenhower planned the Normandy invasions.

 

Don Maclean is joined by military historians Tony and Valme Holt and by veterans of the campaign to discuss its impact.

 

He also visits the tunnels underneath the white cliffs of Dover to see the place where Admiral Ramsay prepared the phantom invasion.

 

In Sixty Years Of Heartache - Britain At War And Peace, John Simpson presents the memories of war veterans and peace campaigners of the last 60 years, talking about their attitudes and experiences of war and peace.

 

To mark 60 years since the Allies launched their campaign to liberate Western Europe, Max Hastings presents the story of how common soldiers performed extraordinary feats in D-Day - Dance Of Death.

 

Depicting the faces of courage and heroism, fear and determination, the stories are accompanied by the music that underscored the events on the world stage.

 

Radio 3

 

Choral Vespers is broadcast on Wednesday 9 June from L'Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen with the Portsmouth Cathedral Choir joining a choir from Caen Conservatoire.

 

Music includes Harvey Brough's Valete Pacem, which has been specially composed for the 60th Anniversary; a Magnificat by Monteverdi; and music by Durufle.

 

The service is led by both English and French clergy with a homily from the Bishop of Portsmouth. (CR)



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