D-Day on the BBC
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
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
"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
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 4s 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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)