Tonight’s BBC Home Service… in 1939 

12 September 2018

The outbreak of World War II saw BBC television close down a few days earlier (no, I think you’ll find they showed all of the cartoon), leaving radio once again as the sole method of broadcasting.

Gramophone music is the order of the day, after a 10-minute news bulletin at 7.00, we are treated to 50 minutes of Gramophone Records by the London Palladium Orchestra and the BBC Chorus & Orchestra. A gentle start to the day – a far cry from the likes of Grimshaw, James & Evans.

More news at 8.00, followed by music from the Arcadian Trio, followed by Music From Films on gramophone records – Maurice Chevalier, Ginger Rogers and Jimmy Dorsey some of the big names here.

More news at 9.00, then The Victor Oloff Sextet entertain us until 9.45, when Mrs Arthur Webb (wonder if her first name was ever revealed?) gives us the benefit of her experience in Making The Most Of A Wartime Larder.

More Gramophone Records at 10.00 – Leslie French (tenor) brings us the songs Sigh no more, Ladies, When daisies pied, Come away death, When that I was a tiny boy, Come unto these yellow sands, Full fathom five and Where the bee sucks.

At 10.15, a programme that still exists to this day, The Daily Service, until more Gramophone Records at 10.30 – the BBC Military Band starring on this occasion.

Off to school at 11.00, for an eclectic mix including Physical Training and Community Singing.

Sandwiched in between news bulletins at 12.00 and 1.00 is An Orchestral Concert, then at 1.15 it’s time for Intermission – A programme of novelty numbers and solo pieces by the BBC Variety Orchestra.

After the news at 2.00, it’s back to school – among other things, we learn about A Knight Of The Middle Ages.

Music dominates the afternoon, the BBC Orchestra at 3.00, The Melody Is There at 4.00, and more Gramophone Records at 4.45.

The Children’s Hour is on from 5.00 to 5.30 (I know), then it’s time for Cryptotunes – A Game of Tunes and Phrases, explained by David Porter.

More news at 6.00, then the evening is peppered with various regional announcements – London Announcements and Scottish Announcements being the first pairing. Were these “announcements” regional news bulletins, or something different?

John Hilton Talking follows at 6.30, then at 6.45 Sam Costa entertains us at the piano – apparently, he knows “just the kind of music the public wants in wartime”. Considering he’s only had a few days to find this out, he’s clearly a clever man. Sam would remain a feature of the airwaves until his death in 1981.

Welsh & Western Announcements take us to Violin Solos at 7.10, then there’s more news before the North get their Announcements at 7.45.

A quick interval before we “come and join the ‘Funny Men’ aboard H.M.S. St. George, not forgetting Shorty, Lofty, Pincher, Nobby, the Sergeant, and the Ship’s Band” in what sounds like a precursor to The Navy Lark – Eight Bells – appropriately enough at 8.00.

Tonight’s Talk is at 9.15, followed by an anthology of American humour in The Hell With It – a racy title for 1939?

A Religious Service is at 10.00, before the day’s final selection of Gramophone Records at 10.20.

The Midlands and Northern Ireland get their Announcements at 10.45, then the day’s final programme is an hour of Dance Music at 11.00, followed by a news bulletin to round off the day’s programmes.

If we discount news, regional announcements and schools programmes, there is a grand total of 3 hours of speech based programming in a broadcasting day that runs between 7.00 and midnight – music being very much to the forefront at this point in broadcasting history.

A fascinating snapshot of broadcasting in the late 1930s – special wartime programming had yet to take effect, with the exception of the Wartime Larder. Nothing special as any kind of breakfast programme, more emphasis on actual programmes during the evening, and into the night, before music again dominates the end of the broadcast day.

You Say

1 response to this article

Ronnie MB 15 September 2018 at 2:43 am

I think I have seen elsewhere on this site that the regional announcements were not news bulletins but civil defence announcements.

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