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The Songs My Son Loved on Radio 2

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Jill Misson Jill Misson | 17:28 PM, Thursday, 3 November 2011

Margaret Evison with Jeremy Vine

Margaret Evison with Jeremy Vine

I never thought I would sit at my desk with tears rolling down my cheeks.

My colleagues are now used to the sight of me sobbing and it's one guaranteed way to get them to make you a cup of tea. It still surprised me though the first time I saw Jeremy Vine wiping a tear from under his glasses.

It was Jeremy who came up with the idea for this special series for Remembrance week. Each programme features an interview with the mother of a fallen soldier in which she tells the story of his life and his death and shares the songs he loved to listen to.

The soundtrack is an eclectic mix from rock to rap to rave. There's a football chant, a soaring school hymn, a party anthem and a beautiful piece of classical cello. The music takes the mothers back to a particular time or place and the memories that emerge paint a picture of the son she lost.

As an army wife, I knew it would be an emotional rollercoaster as the subject is very close to home. I know how it feels to wait and to worry. I also know the feeling of complete joy when my husband walks through the door after six months away.

The five mothers we met never had that homecoming hug. Two of them felt fortunate to be able to hold their son's hand as he lay seriously wounded in a hospital bed in Birmingham but for the others their reunion was at RAF Lyneham when his coffin was carried from the plane.

These are some of the intensely personal moments the mothers shared when we visited them around the country. We were welcomed into family homes in Abergavenny, Caversham, Sheffield and Dulwich and greeted warmly on a windy day out at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Jeremy Vine says it has been an incredible privilege to spend time with the mothers:

"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. I doubt we will ever hear these songs the same way again."

The music has already started to follow me round. It feels like every time I turn on the TV or turn up the radio, one of the songs is playing and my thoughts turn immediately to Richard, John, Mark, Cyrus or Liam.

I will think of their brave mothers when I start moaning about the magnolia paint and floral curtains in our next army quarter.

We are all fiercely proud of a man in uniform at the centre of our lives but mine is still here and I realise now more than ever how lucky that makes me.

Jill Misson is a producer of The Songs My Son Loved which is on Radio 2 at 1.30pm next week, 7th to 11th of November.


  • Comment number 1.

    I have just listened to Cyrus's story and will be listening in for the rest of this week. Intensely moving doesn't even begin to describe it. Thank you so much for this.

    My nephew by marriage got back safely from his second Afghanistan tour on Friday. On his first tour, he made the headlines when a rocket propelled grenade bounced off him without exploding. Were it not for this freakish miracle Jeremy may well have been interviewing his Mum, he would not have married my niece, and my two lovely great nieces - one born during his last tour - would not exist. I can't begin to countenance how we would all feel.

    I was an Army wife during the Troubles and whilst lives were lost then, time has dimmed the memories. The coming of peace to Northern Ireland has perhaps made people uncomfortable about remembering those who lost their lives during that period. This is maybe the nature of things, but I truly hope it does not happen for those lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    This series should be repeated each year. Those lost will never grow older and their stories should stay with us too. This is going to be hard to listen to, but mustn't be missed either.

  • Comment number 2.

    Never have i ran from my car into the house to finish listening to a radio show.......... i have now! This must be one of the most heartwarming and touching radio shows i have ever hear. The reading of Cyrus last letter for his family had me sitting in my kitchen in tear. The pride in his mothers voice when she was taking about her lovely son was heart wrenching.
    I have nothing but pride and great admiration for the service men and woman and their families at home.
    Amazing radio!

  • Comment number 3.

    I listened to this show, partly because it is remembrance week, but also because I had just had a very bad shock and I needed a fresh perspective to help me get on. Fresh perspective I got. I have an 8 year old son and I am a musician and song writer. This show made me see just what I have in my son and my music and how much I have to be grateful for. A profound and life-affirming and extremely moving testament to the power of music, friends and family. I felt honoured and humbled to hear it. Thank you BBC and thank you to the mothers and families involved. An especially big thank you to Cyrus' family for sharing that incredibly brave and private letter - it made all the difference to me today. I am now going to move on and pick up my son from school with my chin up and I'm going to give him a big big hug. He struggles with school too - I would be immensely proud should he grow up to be as fine at 19 as Cyrus obviously was. Bless you for your generosity - it really helped me today and I am sure I am not the only one who found courage within themselves after hearing this show.

  • Comment number 4.

    When my 19 year old son came home from Uni this afternoon he found me sitting on the sofa in floods of tears. He immediately took me in his arms and hugged me. I am such a lucky mum to have such a caring son.

    Listening to Helena talking about Cyrus and the special relationship he had with his family, the hugs they shared and the laughter, I can only wonder where she finds the strength to get though the day without him. I thank Helena and all the other mums for letting their sons go, for without them our lives would not be the same.

    Thank you for sharing Cyrus' with us in his music and last letter. There is so much more I would like to say but somehow I can't find the words.

  • Comment number 5.

    Cyrus's mother showed amazing strength during her interview with Jeremy Vine. The letter read out which her son left behind in the event of his death showed a loving, intelligent, thoughtful young man, wise beyond his years, a credit to his parents and two brothers

  • Comment number 6.

    I cried as I listened to todays show. What courage and honesty from such proud and brave people. Our son is in 3 Rifles and is due to go on his second tour to Afgan in April. If we have to find his letter to us I hope we have as much dignity as Cyrus's family have shown.

  • Comment number 7.

    I have to say that I have never heard such a heart felt recollection of a mothers love for her son that gave me a lump in my throat before today. We all know the dangers of war, but today I heard a family convey the loss of a loved one without anger as it was Cyrus's chosen path which he had every understanding of the potential perils. To write to his family in such terms as he did is unbelievable. Your son would be proud of his family who he clearly loved so dearly. May he rest in peace.

  • Comment number 8.

    Like everyone else I listened to this in tears. I come from a military family with my grandfather, father uncle and brothers all in the forces. Only my uncle lost his life in the Second World War and only now can I understand my grandparents pride and grief when they went to Buckingham Palace to receive his medal posthumously. A wonderful programme. I am going to cheer myself up tonight when, as a midwife I hope to help bring new life into the world to redress the balance. I truly admire Cyrus's family.

  • Comment number 9.

    Just as one Mum to another I send my love you are amazing.May he rest in peace x

  • Comment number 10.

    I was working at the computer and listening to Radio 2, I had to stop, I couldn't see the keys for the tears. I'll never forget the words Cyrus wrote and his music, thank you so much for sharing your precious memories with us.

  • Comment number 11.

    I sat crying in my car listening to Helena speaking about her son Cyrus she is such a brave lady, I don't think I would have been so brave, Thank you so much for sharing this with us today.

  • Comment number 12.

    I would just like to say I feel so humble and grateful to have been able to share in Cyrus's. God bless x

  • Comment number 13.

    I would like to say a very big thank you to Helena and her family for sharing her memories of Cyrus - I was smiling at the happy memories and then had tears flooding down my face as the letter was read I still feel tears welling up thinking about it as I write this - Jeremy you did an excellent job with the programme and handled it with real professionalism . It is so important that we recognise the servicemen and women who are serving and have served our country and think about all of those not just this day but everyday . Thank you for sharing your memories and thoughts

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi I have never commented on a radio show b4 but today I must, listening to the mum n brothers talking about their loss, n sharing their story about such a brave young man I was moved to tears whilst driving. This should somehow b broadcast to a wider audience - tv, BBC world, schools. Rememberance Sunday is such a special day to remember all who have fallen in our name. Please pass my regards to the family. I too have sons who r precious. Thanks for sharing. Sally

  • Comment number 15.

    I was overwhelmed by the programme today. Rifleman Cyrus Thatcher was an incredibly brave young man and I am humbled by his commitment and passion to fight for our country. I will forever associate that R Kelly song with Cyrus, my heart goes out to both of his families - what a wonderful memorial to an amazing and much loved son.

  • Comment number 16.

    I was completely choked up listening to the show today. It certainly put a few things in perspective and made me realise how lucky I am. It was painful to listen to, but essential listening all the same.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm a big hard bloke and I have no problem in admitting that listening to Cyrus' mother today had me in tears and then to hear his brother reading Cyrus' letter... amazing courage! I may well be a 'Big Hard Bloke' but you lads, and I very much include Cyrus in this, are head and shoulders above me.

    What a wonderfully warm, loving family you all are. It was heart breaking to hear your story but I was warmed by you as a family. You are undoubtedly proud of Cyrus but you should also be proud of yourselves.

  • Comment number 18.

    Thank you for doing this series. I always shudder in remembered fear when I hear the words "A British Soldier has been killed in ..." I'm remembering my Dad on active service in NIreland. To all the relatives of the forces you have my prayerful support all of the time and to those who have been bereaved my sincere condolences. Thank you for sharing such personal memories of your sons.

    I can't listen at work but will take time later to catch up and can easily say I will be in tears again tomorrow.

  • Comment number 19.

    I stood in my kitchen today, still,didn't move, listening to a mothers grief - the letter moved me to tears ...............such tremendous courage, I keep thinking about it........thanks Helena for sharing the emotion with us.

  • Comment number 20.

    I listened to this sitting at my desk in work today and was moved to tears, what an amazing family.

    I came home and listened to it on iPlayer with my two boys who are 12 & 15. We all cryed together and talked about it for a long time.

  • Comment number 21.

    Wow! Thank you! Thank you, Riffleman Cyrus Thatcher.

  • Comment number 22.

    Heard this today whilst driving home and had to stop in tears, thank you for sharing your story of your brave boy with us, the strength shown in his letter is a credit to him and your family, thank you again and best wishes to you, your husband and sons.

  • Comment number 23.

    i listened to this on the way home from work with tears rolling down my cheeks, my son will know in 5 weeks if he has been accepted into the Royal Marines and i have never been as proud to have him for my son obviously i hope i will never have to hear the news this mum had, but what an inspiration she was i look forward to listening to the other mothers this week. Well done Radio two xx

  • Comment number 24.

    Helena's strength and dignity is amazing. I have one 21 year old son and it struck a chord for me when Helena spoke about worrying about them every time you say goodbye to them. Tragically Helen's worst fear was realised. Thank you for sharing your experience of losing Cyrus - who sounded a thoughtful, kind and brave young man. x

  • Comment number 25.

    what an amazing story, i sat in my office in stunned silence listening to Cyrus' story and the brave words of his mum.

    It is truly humbling to hear about the bravery and courage of our servicemen and women but to realise how much pain their families go through as well is just as moving. My heart goes out to the family of Cyrus.

  • Comment number 26.

    I would like to thank Jeremy and Jill for allowing us to have a voice and tell the stories of our much loved and so terribly missed sons. I hope that we all manage to draw some strength from this series - it was hard to listen to and I know the rest of the week will be harder especially for us as a family knowing exactly the pain and pride the other families have.

  • Comment number 27.

    Thank you for all your kind comments which as you can see Helena and her family have been able to read. We will also forward on many of the texts, tweets and emails that have poured into the programme. We are incredibly grateful to our five mothers for their honesty and bravery in taking part in this series. We hope that the wonderfully warm response from listeners, while somewhat overwhelming, will also reassure them that their sons are not forgotten and that the public is hugely supportive of our Armed Forces and the sacrifice these soldiers have made. As Cristina Odone writes in the Daily Telegraph today: "I’ve always been conscious, when I pin on a poppy, of paying tribute to fallen soldiers; this week, those soldiers have names: Mark, Cyrus, Richard, Liam and John."

  • Comment number 28.

    Helena and all other family members’ thank you, thank you, thank you I listened to this in Australia this evening and was moved to tears by your compassion, bravery, pride and dignity you are inspirational. Please remember that there are people all over the world who get up in the morning and say thank you to men like your son who chose a life very different to 99% of the population. Cyrus and his comrades have made a difference, and by virtue of this medium (radio) he literally has touched millions, I wish you strength and fortitude for the years ahead. We will remember. Swift & Bold/Semper Fidelis.

  • Comment number 29.

    Dear Helena - I was so touched and profoundly moved by your story. I have two teenage sons and cannot imagine the agony of losing one. I hugged them so tight last night. It made me re-evaluate everything - we have so much to appreciate.
    Thank you Jeremy and the production team for such a wonderful item.

  • Comment number 30.

    I too have never written in before but just wanted to say to Helena that I have never heard such profound words of love from a 19 year old young man as those written by Cyrus in his letter. For someone who had struggled in school he wrote from the heart about his amazing family. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Comment number 31.

    Thank you Helena for sharing your memories of your son Cyrus. I cried for you and your family and you have made me appreciate my own three children so much more. Your son was a very special young man and he has touched the hearts of so many people, you must all be so proud of him.

  • Comment number 32.

    Like many of the other contributors, I have just listed on the iPlayer to the interview with Rifleman Cyrus Thatcher's mother. and was completely moved by both her words, the music and the heartfelt letter that Cyrus had written (read out by his brother). As the father of twin 19 year olds I cannot even begin to imagine what the Thatcher family went through with the loss of Cyrus. Thank you for sharing a little piece of who he was with us all. Cyrus along with many will be especially remembered on Sunday when I attend our local church service.

  • Comment number 33.

    listening to mums talking about their lost sons makes one so very grateful. it is so easy to be cross or frustated with our children. my sons are grown up. one of them has given me three beautiful grandchildren. helena and margaret will not have that from their sons.
    i am thankful to them for their sons sacrifice, my thoughts are with them and their families.

  • Comment number 34.

    I have just been listening to Johns mother talking about her son. Listening to the lyrics of Bette Midlers Wind Beneath My Wings really brings home how important it is to remember all those who have fallen in conflicts around the world. I share in the pride that these mothers have. Outside in my garden the autumn leaves are golden, the sun is shining..spending a little time to remember is so simple a thing to do. I invite everyone to spend a few moments doing this. Thank you for such a wonderful programme.

  • Comment number 35.

    As a ruffy-tuffy sailor with 32 years service - and a son in the Army - I've been in bits every day after listening to these programs. So emotional, so wonderfully made, and so tastefully presented. The best radio I've heard in a long long time. Thank you to the mothers for sharing their precious memories, and thank you all mothers who have lost their sons. They won't be forgotten.

  • Comment number 36.

    just like to say a big thank you to all the mum's of these heroes, i've listened to all the stories whilst driving my van around the country with tears streaming down my face, thanks again for these stories and god bless to you and your families.

  • Comment number 37.

    I listened to Helena on Monday afternoon. Like Cyrus, my son was a Rifleman and like Cyrus he didn't come home from Afghanistan. Monday would have been his 34th birthday. Needless to say I cried and cried and cried. But a big thank you to Helena and her family as I know I'm not alone and Helena's spirit and dignity gave me strength. Like her I am deeply proud of my son and all that he stood for. As all Riflemen say - Swift and Bold!

  • Comment number 38.

    What an inspiration these ladies are never again will I moan about having to go out in the bad weather,I have no idea how they manage to go on day after day not only were their sons heroes but they are also heroes.

  • Comment number 39.

    What a week ... so full of emotion. I congratulate the BBC on such an inspiring, moving week of remembrance ... and my heart goes out to the mothers this week who have shared their memories of their sons with so much bravery and candour.

  • Comment number 40.

    Thank you for this wonderful programme about Private Richard Hunt.Very moving ,as all these programmes have been this week. Well done,Mum.
    It is so desperately sad that all these lovely young men have been lost.Thank you to them all and their families for sharing their memories and thoughts.Thank you Jeremy Vine for these sensitive programmes.

  • Comment number 41.

    This daily remembrance tribute to the fallen has been very difficult to listen to and my heart has ached for every mother who told the story of her lost son. I've wept through the songs and caught my breath at the simplest of statements that have contained the strongest expression of grief and lost. Yet each and every interview has ended with hope and a smile. How brave were these boys and men? How dignified were those mums in their palpable sorrow? Words can't convey how much this gem of an idea this was. Nice one Jeremy and the team. I've loved every second of it and have been moved to tears thinking about the price we pay for freedom.

  • Comment number 42.

    I have listened to Jeremy's 5 shows with such pride. Our son was in Afganistaan last year and is going again next year. Those 5 mums have shown such courage their sons would be proud of them. Sometimes just sometimes, people forget the families whose sons are away . Thank you Jeremy. It brought those 5 boys and others who have dies alive.

  • Comment number 43.

    What an amazing piece of radio. Well done to Jill & Jeremy. I managed to only listen to Mondays about Cyrus and todays about Richard and like many of the listeners was brought to tears by the stories shared with us. How brave these young men were and still are as many are still out there. As a Mum of 3 boys myself, one of whom is 22 just like Richard nearly was I was hugely moved by the bravery of their Mums. They would be so proud of you as you were and are of them.On a day like today it makes me proud to be British. Rest assured they will never be forgotten as Jeremy said... their music will be listened to in a different light after this week! How powerful music is.. thanks again for a fabulous Radio show and like Helena said on Monday.. it's their brothers & sisters too whose lives were altered on that fateful day. Love to you all.

  • Comment number 44.

    Jeremy's five programmes featuring the mothers of fallen sons and their music was inspirational,moving and unforgettable. Thank you BBC and Jeremy.
    Marina. Chichester

  • Comment number 45.

    I reached the age of 40 having always been able to keep my emotions fully buttoned up. And then a close family member was posted to Afghanistan. Saying goodbye as he deployed was the hardest thing I've ever done. And you live every minute of btheir tour, putting your life on hold - waiting for them to come back.
    Unless you live it - it is hard to explain or understand. Heart stopping as the latest casualties are announced - and then the guilty relief that it is not your door being knocked. My respect and admiration for the military grew and continues to grow. I've listened to each episode - and sobbed throught each. I'll never listen to these tunes in the same way again - and as for the Mother's, now it is easier to understand how the son's that they lost are the people that they are. Total Respect.

  • Comment number 46.

    I have just listened to the final programme and am profoundly moved by the dignity of these ladies and the love they have expressed for their fallen sons.
    Thank you to them for sharing such personal thoughts and allowing us an insight into their pain and pride.
    Today, I have stood in a school playground in silence with children who, even though very young, are ready to show respect for those who have given their lives.

  • Comment number 47.

    I have never felt compelled to write about any programme until today. This week I have listened to very brave ladies talking about their boys with such pride and with so much emotion. When I picked my daughter up from school this afternoon and told her todays story about Richard, I actually cried whilst doing so. Well done Radio 2 for doing this, it has given many people a chance to reflect and to try and understand what our boys & girls are going through away from home and to their families they leave behind. On Remembrance Sunday I will be givings thanks to those who have fought and are fighting for our freedom.

  • Comment number 48.

    I have managed to catch three of the five documentaries whilst driving between appointments and have been in tears each day. I can't imagine what it is like to have your child join the forces and worry every single day about them being safe. It was bad enough when my daughter left in August to go to college. I thought about these Mums and their children during the 2 minute silence today and about all the brave servicemen and women working in dangerous locations in wars we should not be involved in.

  • Comment number 49.

    the only radio station i listen to in my 44 ton truck is radio 2,and this week has been no exception,hearing the stories and music of these brave lads from their mums has had me in tears everyday,my heart goes out to these wonderful mothers and also to everyone else who is closely connected to these fallen heros ,i have a 14yr old son and cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to lose him at the age of these brave lads ,and this is to the many mothers who are suffering the same heartache, but have been unable to tell their story with their sons music this week..RIP boys

  • Comment number 50.

    I have never been so moved by music as recalled by these brave mum's that had such strong emotional attachment for their son's. We should be proud not just for these mum's but all those who are out at this time be it brothers, sons fathers, nieces and mothers they all deserve our respect. Because what ever we are going through at this time is nothing compared to they are going through on a day to day basis, until they all get home safe.God Bless and RIP each and everyone of you that have not returned home safe.

  • Comment number 51.

    I listen to a couple of the stories over the week and have just now caught up with the remaining ones. I was reduced to tears by them all and the bravery of the mothers of these dear beloved sons. I have a 20 year old son and just could not imagine the grief, as Helena said you worry each time your child goes out the door but to have a son in the army, well. RIP to all the brave boys

  • Comment number 52.

    I also wanted to pass on my admiration and gratitude Helena and Cyrus. I just happened to turn on the radio and was so very touched by everything Helena said. She is an amazing, brave and wonderful mother. She should be so proud to bring up such a warm, loving and caring family. Everybody who listened to that broadcast will forever remember Cyrus - he and his family have certainly made an impact in other peoples lives in a very positive way. I am in so much awe of Helena..I am a mother of a 21 year old son who is away at University and I miss him so much .. how mothers and families cope with their children in the armed forces I don't know. I just loved Cyrus's letter ... it was so touching, so well thought out and so meaningful ..certainly a letter to treasure. Cyrus you are one very special person and your family the best.

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    I have often wondered at the devastation behind those often heard words... The family have been informed. This was brought home last week during this exceptionally moving series. I decided to write this poem on Friday after listening to a song which reminds me of my own Son....
    This poem is dedicated to the Mothers featured on the show, and to all of the sons and daughters we have lost.

    Five Words.

    I heard those words again today...
    Five words...five words
    Thats all they say.
    Those five words rip through my heart
    A family has been torn apart.
    Those words refer to someone's Brother
    To someone's friend, to someone's lover
    To someone's Dad, to someone's boy
    To someone's pride, to someone's joy.
    Those words mean hearts have just been broken,
    Echoes left of words unspoken
    A face that can't be touched again,
    A void that's only filled with pain.
    Those words mean lonely depths of sorrow
    This day will stay with no tomorrow
    Today's the day their world stops turning
    Today's the day the grief starts burning..
    Those words are heard too much, too often
    The blows too hard for words to soften
    Five words that mean a family mourns
    Five Words......."The family have been informed".

  • Comment number 55.

    I am a secondary school teacher and listened to Cyrus' story last week with my form as part of Remembrance Week. My students are 14 years old and many have friends and family who are serving in the armed forces. They wanted to pass on their thanks to Helena for sharing her family's story with us. All of my students were deeply moved by what they heard and they said that it has made them realise just how their friends and families have been affected. They also said that it has made them appreciate their families more. So, from them and me, many thanks to Helena, all the mums who shared their stories last week, and to all the servicemen and women who are so brave and courageous. Thank you.


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