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75 Years

Soldiers from India broadcast messages to their families from a BBC studio (L) Winston Churchill address the people of France

Historic moments from the 1940s


1940 - General Charles de Gaulle broadcasts from London

General Charles de Gaulle
With mainland Europe under occupation, emigres, refugees and resistance leaders found their way to the BBC. During the war it launched 38 different language services. General Charles de Gaulle - the leader of the Free French - broadcast from London in June 1940.

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1941 - 'V' for victory is born

Winston Churchill gives V for victory sign
The BBC's language services were at the heart of the opposition to Nazi rule in Europe. An appeal by a Belgian service producer for people to chalk 'V' for victory, onto doors and walls was spectacularly successful and became a widely understood metaphor for resistance.

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1942 - Attack on Pearl Harbor

USS Shaw explodes atfer being hit following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour (Associated Press)
There were many theories on how best to demoralise the enemy and boost morale at home during the war. Music - jazz in particular - was central. Here's part of a german broadcast to Britain celebrating the Japanese attack on Pearl harbor.

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1943 - Churchill speaks to the people

Winston Churchill in front of a BBC microphone
Winston Churchill, Britain's wartime prime minister, knew instinctively when to encourage the media and when to rein it in. By 1943, with the war in Europe turning in favour of the allies, Churchill used radio as a platform to warn the people against complacency.

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1944 - Journalists in the field

World War II aeroplane (Hulton Archive Getty Images)
World War II saw journalists in action like never before. Famous American journalist Ed Murrow recorded this clip whilst sitting in the aeroplane as the paratroopers jumped out over the Netherlands.

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1945 - Hitler's final solution

The Nazi flag
As British and American troops moved through Europe at the end of the war, the true horror of Hitler's final solution came to light. This audio clip was recorded by a BBC reporter who was one of the first to see a Nazi concentration camp.

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1946 - The Nuremberg Tribunal

Defendants at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial sitting in the dock awaiting sentencing (Getty Archive)
After World War II, those behind the Nazi regime were brought to trial in full view of the international media. In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal announced its verdicts on 22 high-ranking Nazis, and hundreds of journalists and writers were in attendance.

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1947 - India gains independence

Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi on 17th August 1947 (Associated Press)
When India gained independence from Britain, Prime Minister Nehru delivered a speech shortly after midnight on All India Radio. Millions of Indians stayed up to listen to the birth of their nation.

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1948 - Orwell's novel 1984 released

George Orwell
George Orwell's novel 1984, written in 1948, has became a byword for totalitarianism and state opression. Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair, actually worked for the BBC World Service during the war, but resigned because of what he saw as government censorship.

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1949 - Communists win China's civil war

Portrait of Mao Tse Tung
When Mao Tse Tung's Communists won China's civil war, a cult of personality was born. The broadcast and print media - and massive portraits of Mao himself - were used to build him into one of the monumental characters of the 20th century.

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