Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Press Release

BBC Radio announces Remembrance Week programming

A Remembrance Day poppy

BBC Radio will be marking Remembrance Week with a season of programmes on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 4, as well as a special show on BBC Radio 3.

The programmes that will mark Remembrance Week on BBC Radio 2 are:

  • Victor, a documentary about World War Two soldier Victor Gregg, narrated by John Hurt
  • The Songs My Son Loved – through the music they loved, Jeremy Vine profiles five soldiers killed in Afghanistan
  • Friday Night Is Music Night Forces Special hosted by Paul O'Grady and including a performance by Katherine Jenkins

In The Songs My Son Loved (Monday 7–Friday 11 November) Jeremy Vine meets the mothers of five soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan who share their memories through music. Talking through a list of her son's favourite songs, each woman tells the story of his life and his death – a moving yet ultimately uplifting account of a mother's love for a boy who grew up but never had the chance to grow old.

The programmes will be aired as five stand-alone documentaries and be broadcast daily during the week from 1.30pm to 2.00pm.

Jeremy said: "I have never in my entire career recorded interviews which have been so powerful and so moving. Sons who were only boys, who died on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan as young as 19, are missed as much today by their family as the day they left them.

"It has been an incredible privilege to spend time with these mothers in preparation for Remembrance Week on Radio 2. They describe the lives of their sons through the music they loved. I doubt we will ever hear these songs the same way again."

Each of the five shows paints a picture of the son the mother has loved and lost including the mother who listens to the lyrics of Eminem and now understands why her angry teenage son played the album at full volume, the mother of an army officer who was a talented cello player, and the passionate Aston Villa fan who loved a song inspired by the game of football in No Man's Land in the First World War.

Jeremy also hears from the mother who cleans the house to the soundtrack of her son's iPod and about the sniper who is honoured by his band mates who play Kings of Leon's Sex On Fire to a packed pub.

All five shows offer very personal tributes to five young men and serve as a poignant reminder of the sacrifice they all made as soldiers.

John Hurt narrates the story of Victor (Saturday 12 November, 9pm), about former World War Two soldier Victor Gregg, now 92, who remembers some of the powerful events and experiences of his war. The programme includes original music by the celebrated British singer/songwriter Thea Gilmore and international DJ and music producer Kissy Sell Out.

Tricked into joining the army in 1937 on the false promise of a cup of tea and a bun, Victor's incredible story takes listeners through some of the greatest battles of that war. He remembers the brutal fighting and recalls the moment he first killed a man in hand-to-hand combat.

Victor escaped from a prison camp, only to be recaptured and imprisoned in Dresden on the night of the firestorm bombings. His story ends with a deeply moving account of his return to England.

John Hurt said: "Victor Gregg is an incredibly brave soldier, and I'm honoured to be presenting the documentary in which he recalls with vivid clarity the courageous battles that he fought in World War Two."

Friday Night Is Music Night, the UK's longest running live music programme, will be hosting a special Remembrance Week concert (Friday 11 November, 8pm).

Recorded at London's Hackney Empire, host Paul O'Grady pays tribute to service men and women past and present (many of whom are in the audience) in this Forces Special.

Forces sweetheart Katherine Jenkins tops the bill while Helena Blackman and Ben Stock recreate their roles as Gertrude Lawrence and Noel Coward from the hit show Noel And Gertie. Richard Balcombe conducts the 70-piece BBC Concert Orchestra as Friday Night Is Music Night recreates the spirit of ENSA (the Entertainments National Service Association).

Paul O'Grady said: "I'm very much looking forward to presenting this special edition of Friday Night Is Music Night. We mustn't forget the role the brave service men and women played and continue to play in our lives.

"Hackney Empire is an old stomping ground for me and I'd quite like to have been in ENSA. I wasn't around at the time, so this is my chance. So watch out Gracie!"

BBC Radio 2 will also be broadcasting highlights of the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance (Saturday 12 November, 8pm) as the nation offers thanks and pays tribute to those who risk their lives in the service of their country, not only in the two World Wars but also more recent conflicts.

Bob Shennan, Controller BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music, said: "The week of programmes is very important to Radio 2 and our listeners. I'm especially proud to be bringing much of it into the heart of our daytime schedule."

As well as coverage of the Remembrance Service from The Cenotaph, BBC Radio 4 will also transmit a series of programmes to mark Remembrance week.

Radio 4's programmes include The Poppy Factory (Wednesday 9 November, 11am) which looks at the manufacture of the millions of poppies bought every year to mark Remembrance Sunday.

In Bleached Bone And Living Wood (Thursday 10 November, 11.30am), Christine Finn visits The Forester's House, Wilfred Owen's final refuge in northern France, which has been transformed into a sculptural tribute to his poetry.

The War Brides Return (Friday 11 November at 11.04am) follows 20 women, now in their eighties and nineties, making a nostalgic return journey to Europe on the Queen Mary 2 liner.

Tens of thousands of war brides started new lives in America and Canada after meeting and marrying their husbands during the war. This programme follows them as they reminisce on the return journey.

Jean Fells, who set sail on the original Queen Mary on 30 June 1946 after a whirlwind romance, said: "I just wasn't prepared for what greeted me. The winter of 1946/1947 was the worst in living memory and in Canada it was horrendous."

Hazel West remembered: "We had no money and had no way to go home. If someone had given me a ticket in that first six months I would have gone back. It was hard to adjust and I was dreadfully homesick and I had no-one to talk to but I stuck at it and I wouldn't have changed it for anything. We were married for 55 years."

Laurels And Donkeys (Friday 11 November 2.15pm) features 18 new war poems by Andrew Motion tracking conflicts from the First World War to Afghanistan.

Denys Blakeway tells the story of the Act of Remembrance in Remembrance (Saturday 12 November 8pm), exploring what significance it has in the life of a nation.

In 2009 the remains of a soldier killed in World War One were found in a battlefield. Known Unto God (Sunday 13 November 11.45am) follows the painstaking process of identifying the English machine gunner through to the subsequent military funeral.

On BBC Radio 3, Remembrance Sunday will be marked with Aled Jones presenting The Choir: Choral Music For Remembrance Sunday (Sunday 13 November, 5.00pm). The show will feature For The Fallen by Cyril Rootham – and also a special performance of an ambitious new work for amateur choirs, Rhymes And Charms For Fly-Away Things by Kerry Andrew. The work will be performed by the John Powell Singers.

And all three stations will observe the two minutes silence on Armistice Day on Friday 11 November, and on Remembrance Sunday (13 November) will broadcast the Cenotaph sequence of chimes, silence and the Last Post.

Notes to Editors

Radio 2 programmes:

The Songs My Son Loved – Monday 7 to Friday 11 November, 1.30pm

Friday Night is Music Night – Friday 11 November, 8pm

Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance – Saturday 12 November, 8pm

Victor – Saturday 12 November, 9pm

Radio 4 programmes:

The Poppy Factory – Wednesday 9 November, 11am

Bleached Bone And Living Wood – Thursday 10 November, 11.30am

The War Brides Return – Friday 11 November, 11.04am

Laurels And Donkeys – Friday 11 November, 2.15pm

Remembrance – Saturday 12 November, 8pm

Known Unto God – Sunday 13 November, 11.45am

Radio 3:

The Choir: Choral Music for Remembrance Sunday – Sunday 13 November, 5.00pm


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