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History
VOICES OF THE POWERLESS - READINGS FROM ORIGINAL SOURCES
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THIS PROGRAMME - THE WAGGONERS AT WAR
Thursday 21 August 2003, 9.02 am - 9.30 am.
Melvyn Bragg follows his long historical exploration of the Routes of English with Voices of the Powerless, in which he explores the lives of the ordinary working men and women of Britain at six critical moments across the last 1,000 years.


WILLIAM MALTBY - WAGGONER

We weren't soldiers, we were actually civilians. We volunteered, we got a pound each for each year. We didn't have a big wage: 17 pound a year.


READING FROM THE DIARY OF A FIRST WORLD WAR SOLDIER (ANON)

"I ran down one trench and came to what appeared to be a pile of about 30 dead men. I stood spellbound. A machine-gun had got them and was still cracking away through a gap in the parapet.

I had to scramble over these men to get along, but as I did so, the top man lifted his head. "Where the bloody hell are you going?" he said, and "Mind my bloody legs!" But this poor chap hadn't any legs - a shell had blown them off.

I didn't tell him what had happened. Neither did I stay there very long. It was too hot to hang about here. The noise was deafening, and fragments of shells and mud were flying about in every direction. I crept over them pretty quick, wishing the fellow luckā€¦ I was fed up with this world."


LANCE CORPORAL R. H. TEMPLE, FROM DRIFFIELD, WRITES OF LOOKING ROUND A BELGIAN VILLAGE, DESTROYED BY SHELLS

I am writing this in a farmhouse, 200 yards from a shell-wrecked village. I explored it this morning and I think many aspects of the war were brought home to me in a manner I had never realised before.

In the centre stood the church, in which for 200 years the simple-souled Belgians had listened to the voice of the village priest. Little children had been brought there to be christened; young men and maidens had pledged their love to one another and in the churchyard, crosses and tombstones marked the spots where dear ones had been laid to rest.

Now, the fabric, which was built by loving hands, is a heap of ruins. The spire has been shattered and has crashed through the roof. Great holes appear in the walls, the windows - many of them of stained glass - are all broken; and splintered timber fills the body and porch of the now desecrated edifice.

Leaving the village, with a sadder heart than when I had entered it, I took shelter in the priest's house till a thundershower passed over, and stooping down I picked up what appeared to be the outlines of a sermon. The text at the head was as follows:

'Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good-will towards men.'

My whole being echoed the prayer, and I trust the day may not be far distant when we shall all see it answered.


REGINALD GLENN, SHEFFIELD

"One day, our chaplain - I used to go about with him, we had a little organ and I used to play the organ for little services and what not. And one day, the chaplain and another officer took me out into no-man's land where our troops had all gone forward and then taken Serre village. And we stood there and all these skeletons lying around. And the chaplain said, could we sing a little hymn over these bodies? And so we sang 'On the Resurrection Morning'. And then the next morning I know it snowed heavily and it covered all the bodies over."


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In Our Time
Thursday 9.00-9.45am, rpt 9.30-10.00pm. Melvyn Bragg explores the history of ideas. Listen again online or download the latest programme as an mp3 file.
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This Sceptred Isle
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PRESENTER
Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg presents In Our Time for BBC Radio 4, a series where he and his guests discuss the "Big Ideas" of cultural or scientific significance.

He also presented The Routes of English, his millennial series celebrating 1,000 years of the English language.

Melvyn Bragg was born in 1939 in Wigton, Cumbria - where many of his books are set. He won a scholarship to Oxford to read history, and in 1961 he gained a coveted traineeship with the BBC.

He has presented a number of television series including: Read All about It, Two Thousand Years, and Who's Afraid of the Ten Commandments? and createdThe South Bank Show.

Melvyn presented Start the Week between 1988 and 1998. In his 1998 series On Giant's Shoulders he interviewed scientists about their eminent predecessors.

As well as presenting for Radio 4, he is Controller of Arts for London Weekend Television. In 1998 he was made a life peer. He's written 17 novels, the latest of which, The Soldier's Return, won the WH Smith Literary Award.

Melvyn Bragg was made a Life Peer in 1998 and he took the title of Baron Bragg of Wigton in the County of Cumbria.

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