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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Press Releases

BBC marks 70th anniversary of Second World War with new Archive collection

Neville Chamberlain
  • New BBC Archive collection from 1939 shows how the nation prepared for war
  • Wartime broadcasts released, including a government reminder to the public not to test their gas masks in the oven
  • Previously unreleased photographs uncover the reality of wartime broadcasting as sandbags and soldiers surround radio studios

The BBC Archive is today launching a new online collection dating back to 1939, as part of the corporation's plans to mark the 70th anniversary of the Second World War.

Documents, a new image gallery and 20 rare recordings dating back over 70 years have been made available online for the first time, giving a unique insight into the how the BBC prepared the country, and itself, for the outbreak of the Second World War.

Never-before-seen internal BBC documents and historic radio broadcasts have been released, including Richard Dimbleby reporting on Neville Chamberlain's return after signing the Munich Agreement, Chamberlain's declaration of war, and King George VI's radio address to the nation.

Surprising recordings which illustrate the reality of war for ordinary people have also been released, including a broadcast reminding people not to try out their gas masks in the oven or behind the exhaust of a motorcar.

Julie Rowbotham, Executive Producer, BBC Archive, said: "This was the first war where the radio was an essential source of news and information and the release of these broadcasts gives us the opportunity to experience first-hand what it was like for those tuning in as the nation went to war in 1939.

"The BBC archive provides a unique record of recent British contemporary history and this collection shows how important the BBC's role was in keeping the country informed during wartime."

The new Archive collection is one of many ways the BBC is remembering the 70th anniversary of the Second World War.

Two new BBC One daytime programmes, Land Girls and The Week We Went To War, have already been announced and The One Show has been featuring war-related films, including reuniting three women who flew in behind enemy lines to bring out critically-ill patients.

On BBC Radio 4, Peter Snow presents a Random Edition special focusing on Britain's first day of war in 1939.

Sally Magnusson and genealogist Nick Barrett start the new series of Tracing Your Roots by exploring how to locate and search Second World War archives to discover the fate of soldiers and civilians who, during the course of the war, simply disappeared from their families' lives.

There is more on both these Radio 4 programmes in BBC Network Radio Programme Information Week 35.

The BBC is holding an academic seminar on its approach to wartime broadcasting and BBC Learning is producing teaching materials for schools to help teachers plan exciting and engaging lessons about the war.

World War II: The Outbreak of War is the latest in a series of online collections released by BBC Archive, which explore the cultural and political developments that shaped the 20th century.

The collection is available from Wednesday 26 August and can be viewed at

Notes to Editors

BBC Archive

World War II: The Outbreak of War is the first of a series of online collections through which the BBC will release original wartime recordings and documents, marking key events in the years 1939-45.

The release of selections from the BBC's wartime archive will allow the public to experience and understand our wartime history as it unfolded. For more information, go to

Explore over 80 years of UK and BBC history with the BBC Archive website. Programmes, documents and images bring the past to life and reveal forgotten stories. Through the creation of these online collections, the BBC hopes to release hidden treasures providing a fascinating source of socio-political history.

BBC History Seminar

The BBC History-hosted academic seminar examining broadcasting in war-time will take place on Tuesday 1 September.

Music historian Professor John Deathridge will discuss the lessons the BBC learnt from its music selection on 3 September 1939; Professor Jean Seaton will explore BBC's dynamic with those in power in this the first ever broadcast war; and Sir Richard Mottram, the recently retired Permanent Secretary, Intelligence, Security and Resilience, together with historian Professor Peter Hennessy, will reflect on the similarities and differences between emergency planning in 1939 and what would happen today.

The seminar is on Tuesday 1 September, with presentations and interviews from the day available on the BBC History website,, from Wednesday 2 September.

A limited number of places will be available for journalists. For queries about the BBC History seminar please contact the BBC Press Office.

BBC Learning

BBC Learning's Heroes Of The Home Front pack, available free online, helps pupils to develop interviewing skills, allowing them to interview relevant members of their local community about their memories of the War.

Other resources for younger children include Second World War-style poster templates to be used during art lessons, and Forties recipes that can be made in the classroom.

Heroes Of The Home Front is available from 3 September from

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