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Friday 18 Apr 2014

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Full range of BBC programmes to mark Remembrance season: introduction

Poppy

As the nation pauses to remember the sacrifices of the dead of two world wars and the conflicts since, the BBC is to broadcast a range of live and recorded programmes to mark the season of Remembrance.

This year's coverage will be particularly poignant.

In the wake of the loss of more than 100 soldiers in conflict over the past 12 months, programming will pay particular tribute to all those who have fought and lost their lives most recently as well as marking the end of the generation of First World War veterans this past year.

The broadcasts across BBC's national and regional TV and radio networks will enable millions of viewers and listeners to be part of the commemoration services as the nation remembers its war dead.

Across the coverage, moving footage of events will sit alongside interviews with many who have been directly affected by armed conflict, from family members to recently returned servicemen and women.

The Royal British Legion's National Chairman, Peter Cleminson, said: "The Remembrance period is an important time for everyone to take time to reflect on the sacrifices our Armed Forces are making today in Afghanistan, elsewhere and in previous conflicts in order to preserve our personal freedoms.

"As the National Custodian of Remembrance, the Royal British Legion is grateful that these events are televised in order for the nation to be able to join as one in the act of Remembrance."

Nick Vaughan-Barratt, BBC's Head of Events, added: "Remembrance is a time when the politics and argument are put aside for the whole nation to unite in paying our respects to those who died in conflict.

"It's always a privilege to be able to bring these moving and powerful events to our viewers and listeners each year."

On television, BBC One will bring four key programmes to air including the live annual Festival Of Remembrance (BBC One, 7 November, 9.15pm) from the Royal Albert Hall which will be presented by Huw Edwards. The ceremony takes centre stage on BBC One's Saturday night schedule.

This year's Festival broadcast will include heroic tales of bravery from servicemen and women including the story of Navy medic Kate Nesbitt who this year became the first woman in the Royal Navy to be awarded the Military Cross for her act in saving colleagues while under attack from the Taliban.

The broadcast will also show rare footage from a trip made by the military transport aircraft, the C-17 Globemaster, and it features a special film on the Welsh Guards who have had a tough tour in Afghanistan losing a number of soldiers including their Commanding Officer. The films will serve as a poignant reminder of why the Festival of Remembrance is as relevant today as it was when it was first held and broadcast by the BBC over 80 years ago.

Jamie Cullum, Forces sweetheart Hayley Westenra, The Soldiers and teenage singer Faryl Smith will all perform at the event.

The festival will then culminate in the traditional and moving moment when thousands of poppy petals fall from the ceiling, each representing a life lost in war.

On Remembrance Sunday, David Dimbleby is in London's Whitehall for the Remembrance Sunday: The Cenotaph (BBC One, 8 November, 10.25am) – the solemn ceremony when the nation will be led by Her Majesty The Queen in remembering the sacrifice made by so many in the two World Wars and in other more recent conflicts.

This year's programme will include interviews with RAF veterans who have carried memories for nearly 70 years of their comrades who died serving with Bomber Command in the Second World War.

Also featured are the family of Craig Barber, killed in Iraq, leaving a young widow and three-year-old son.

Having returned from Afghanistan in the last two weeks, soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers will talk movingly of the seven comrades they lost on their recent tour and there is poetry from Nigel Moffett, who talks about losing his beloved son, also in Afghanistan this year.

This year's coverage continues the BBC's proud history of covering ceremonies from The Cenotaph. In a column to the Radio Times in 1923 Lord Reith expressed his determination to broadcast the Armistice Day ceremony from The Cenotaph when he said: "If broadcasting is a national service, our function is revealed on occasions such as these."

The service was then broadcast for the first time on radio in 1928. The Remembrance Sunday ceremony from The Cenotaph has since been televised each year by the BBC since 1946 and is one of the longest running live televised annual events in the world.

Later, on Remembrance Sunday, Songs Of Praise (BBC One, 4.55pm) will feature the village of Wootton Bassett. The village near the RAF Lyneham has become symbolic with the war dead as the people regularly line the streets to honour repatriated soldiers.

Pam Rhodes will interview local people including Anne Bevis, the Royal British Legion's branch secretary who helped initiate the street-lined tributes paid to members of the Armed Forces in the village.

On Armistice Day on 11 November, a unique tribute to the veterans of the First World War will be broadcast live from Westminster Abbey on BBC One. With the death of Harry Patch earlier this year the generation that fought in World War One passed into history.

This special service, called Passing Of A Generation (BBC One, 10.30am) is presented by Huw Edwards and it will honour the dead as well as serving to mark the passing of an extraordinary generation.

Her Majesty The Queen will begin and end the commemoration at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior – beneath which is buried a soldier, unidentified by name or rank, who fought in the Great War and has come symbolise all those who died.

The abbey will be filled by members of the public from all over the country who were encouraged to apply for tickets if they were related to or connected to those who saw service in the First World War.

On Remembrance Sunday as part of its War Graves Week, BBC Four will show The Children Who Fought Hitler (BBC Four, 9.00pm) which tells the forgotten story of an heroic battle to help liberate Europe from the Nazis, fought by the children of the British Memorial School.

Also on BBC Four, on Monday 9 November, the documentary War Heroes – Arlington National Cemetery (BBC Four, 10.00pm) will provide an intimate glimpse into the grief, pride and loss suffered by visitors to the United States' largest military burial ground.

BBC's radio networks will also carry significant Remembrance coverage.

BBC Radio 2 will broadcast Behind Enemy Lines on Saturday 7 November, with John McCarthy presenting a documentary which sheds light on the experiences of other survivors of captivity. The programme includes John's first meeting with journalist Alan Johnston, who was held in Gaza for four months.

Radio 2 will also broadcast highlights from the Festival Of Remembrance and, on 8 November, Good Morning Sunday's Aled Jones talks to Sir Ranulph Fiennes, whose father was killed in action in the Second World War, before Sir Ranulph was born.

BBC Radio 4 has also planned widespread coverage including the programme Poppies Are Red, Cornflowers Are Blue which looks at how the poppy became the symbol of remembrance in Britain.

Elsewhere there will be widespread coverage across BBC's regional networks and local stations.

All 40 local BBC radio stations will feature coverage of various Remembrance events with highlights including Fred Potts: The Hero With The Shovel, the story of Reading's only Victoria Cross on BBC Berkshire on Sunday 8 November.

Elsewhere a broadcast on BBC Gloucestershire is live from the Cenotaph in Gloucester where coverage will include interviews with the Chaplain of One Rifles regiment, who are based in the county, and who have recently been in Afghanistan where they lost troops.

Highlights of coverage from the nations include a special feature, A Family Found, on BBC Radio Scotland on Sunday 8 November at 10.30am, in which Sybil Le Fleur talks about her escape from Burma during World War Two, leaving behind her family and friends, and her subsequent separation from them for 66 years.

On the same day on BBC Radio Ulster at 11.45am, Andrea Rea presents Before The War, a look back at life before the First World War and an examination how people's lives came to be changed; while BBC Radio Wales asks in The Story Of Silence what it is that makes those few moments of quiet so special.

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