And Now an Urgent SOS Message...
Radio 4 used to broadcast SOS messages - "could Mr and Mrs Snodgrass, believed to be travelling in the Cotswolds please ring this hospital where their auntie is dangerously ill".
Eddie Mair wants to know more about them. He hears from listeners whose lives were dramatically changed through the SOS service. These short messages were transmitted regularly on The Home Service, and later Radio 4, for much of the 20th century. They appealed for relatives of dying people, often on holiday and thus, before mobile phones and internet cafes, uncontactable, to return home before it was too late.
Eddie invited readers of his Radio Times column to send in their recollections of the SOS Message Service, and little did the PM Presenter expect such a rich response of vivid memories, first person experiences and in one case, unexpected consequences as a result of the broadcast.
Some of these remarkable testimonies are told, in understated, haunting and even cheery ways in this narrative tribute to radio, and a nation, - "as it was". Best summed up by the tale of a six year old girl in the North East who while staying with a relation in 1958, was hospitalised with a very serious illness. She survived and tells Eddie her story. In the days of very few domestic telephones, the BBC's SOS message brought her parents to her bedside from London courtesy of an observant member of the public who heard the message and recognised the car number plate that had been announced.
The SOS Service, was the vision of John Reith, the first General Manager, and later Director General of the BBC. But its heart was the listener, as Eddie reveals.
Producers: Jo Coombs and Stewart Henderson
A Loftus Audio production for BBC Radio 4.