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21 March 2023

Book Review: Wartime Broadcasting


Wartime Broadcasting is a slim volume; one of the latest additions to the comprehensive Shire Publications catalogue.

Reviewed by: David Harris

Buy your copy of Wartime Broadcasting here.

Wartime Broadcasting is a slim volume; one of the latest additions to the comprehensive Shire Publications catalogue. The publishers are best known for their books on such subjects as side cars, fire engines and harvesting machinery. These books are often found in museum and garden centre gift shops.
The author, Mike Brown, is a former history teacher who now specialises in writing books about the Home Front during the Second World War.
He does an admirable job in condensing the wartime history of the BBC into seven short, well-illustrated, chapters. Readers learn about the merger of national and regional services in 1939 into the Home Service (now BBC Radio 4).

In 1940, a second channel, Forces Programme, was introduced, which later became The Light Programme (now BBC Radio 2). This was basically a light entertainment station, which attracted a big listenership from among civilian workers as well as members of the armed forces.

The book also briefly covers the BBC External Service. This started in 1932 with the Empire Service, broadcasting in English on short wave.

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During the Second World War, the BBC broadcast in many languages to the whole world. This included transmissions of seven hours duration per day to North America.

As in the first title under review here, the propaganda broadcasts in English from Germany (see previous section) are also covered in this book. In particular, the author offers a discussion of the role of Lord Haw-Haw These broadcasts came from Berlin and later from the captured facilities of Radio Luxembourg.

In addition to vital news broadcasts and light entertainment, many BBC radio programmes were aimed at giving out information on topics such as cookery and gardening to help people make the best of their meagre rations and grow more of their own food. There were also health programmes and educational broadcasts for schools.

This book is a fascinating read and would be a useful resource for any young person studying the history of Britain during the Second World War.

Helpfully, this publication has a bibliography and a list of museums with radio-related exhibits. 

Buy your copy of Wartime Broadcasting here

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