Archive On 4: The Long, Long Trail

Ep 1/1

Saturday 4 January



Roy Hudd explores Charles Chilton's forgotten 1961 radio masterpiece which told the story of World War One through soldiers' songs, and inspired the musical Oh What A Lovely War.

Broadcast on the BBC Home Service in 1961, The Long, Long Trail told the story of the First World War in a unique way - through the songs sung by soldiers. It was the result of Charles Chilton's personal quest to learn about his father who was killed at Arras in March 1918, aged 19, and whom he had never met. In 1962, Chilton, already a renowned pioneering BBC radio producer, adapted the programme with director Joan Littlewood and the cast of Theatre Workshop into the landmark stage musical Oh What A Lovely War, making The Long, Long Trail possibly the most influential radio programme ever.

The programme disappeared and was never broadcast again, but shortly before he died in January 2013, Chilton gave a copy to the British Library, so listeners can now rediscover The Long, Long Trail.

For this programme, Hudd, a close friend and collaborator of 'Charlie', is joined by satirist Ian Hislop, radio historian and Chair of the UK Radio Archives Advisory Committee, Professor Hugh Chignell, archivist Helen O'Neill at the London Library, singer Pat Whitmore, Penny Chilton, Charles's widow, and their children Mary and David Chilton. Together, they tell the story behind Chilton's remarkable musical documentary, reveal why it was revolutionary and reflect on its significance today.

Presenter/ Roy Hudd, Producer/ Amber Barnfather, for Goldhawk Essential Production

BBC Radio 4 Publicity