Category Archives: History

BBC History launches archive to mark 80 years of Television

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To coincide with the 80th anniversary of the launch of the first British television service by the BBC on 2 November 1936, BBC History has today launched a new microsite that provides the public with access to archive material from the early days of television.

The archive, which can be viewed at here contains a wealth of video and audio footage which tells the story of television – including, the invention of television, the opening night at Alexandra Palace in 1936, TV closure during the war and its resurrection in 1946, TV’s milestone moments such the Olympics and the Coronations of 1937 and 1953.

 

Some highlights of the history archive include:

Technology battle: Early TV was a battle between two companies, the Marconi-EMI partnership and the Baird Company, each developing different technologies. Idiosyncratically, the press favoured the Baird Company technology, mainly because there was a 60-second delay in the image appearing on screen. At a special demo for the press this enabled journalists to run round and see themselves on the screen. In 1934 the Government asked the BBC to formally launch a regular service testing both systems.

Two Coronations: The Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on 12 May 1937 gave the BBC Television Service its first major outside broadcasting challenge, which was a huge technological leap forward. Despite the equipment failing just as the procession approached, the BBC’s Tony Bridgwater recalls EMI engineer Bernard Greenhead giving the equipment “an almighty biff with his fist” – which managed to restart the unit just in time.


The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 was a far more complex operation using more than 20 cameras in multiple locations. It was a seminal moment not just in British history, but in the development and popularity of television as a medium. BBC Director-General, Ian Jacob, said the Coronation “was the thing that made the Television Service take off… everybody from that moment on wanted to have television”.

Speaking about the archive, Robert Seatter, Head of BBC History, says: “We are delighted to mark this momentous occasion by sharing much never-before-seen material from the BBC archives. The anecdotes, images and recordings offer today’s audiences a fascinating behind-the-scenes insight into the early days of television.

“It is also great to be doing this in partnership with media history experts from the University of Sussex and other UK research centres, who set our BBC story in the wider context of what was happening in communications and society.”

Professor David Hendy, Professor of Media and Cultural History at the University of Sussex, says: “These fascinating accounts, from the BBC’s own collection of oral history interviews, take us straight back to a time when the future of TV wasn’t yet known, when everything was new and uncertain. They offer us as never before the real inside story of those who set television going on its now 80 year-long journey. And a very human story it is: a tale of risk-taking, pioneering spirit, rivalry, hope, anxiety – and, of course, the slow working out of how to make popular art out of an obscure bit of rather cumbersome technology.”

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Sinking of the Titanic- now in real-time

 

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The sinking of RMS Titanic occurred on the night of 14 April through to the morning of 15 April 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean, four days into the ship’s maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City.

The largest passenger liner in service at the time, Titanic had an estimated 2,224 people on board when she struck an iceberg at around 23:40 (ship’s time)[a] on Sunday, 14 April 1912.

Her sinking two hours and forty minutes later at 02:20 (05:18 GMT) on 15 April resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 people, which made it one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.

Titanic received six warnings of sea ice on 14 April but was travelling near her maximum speed when her lookouts sighted the iceberg. Unable to turn quickly enough, the ship suffered a glancing blow that buckled her starboard (right) side and opened five of her sixteen compartments to the sea. Titanic had been designed to stay afloat with four of her forward compartments flooded but not more, and the crew soon realised that the ship would sink.

A video of the historic RMS Titanic sinking has been made to shed light on the horrific events that unfolded on that fateful day.

 

 

 

Aerial laser maps reveal WWI Battle of the Somme secrets

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An aerial survey using aircraft mounted lasers has revealed previously undiscovered evidence that might potentially help to dispute accusations of a lack of determination by Welsh soldiers during the first Battle of the Somme in the Great War of 1914-1918. Aerial mapping company Bluesky flew an area of northern France called Mametz Wood, capturing accurate 3D measurements of the terrain and ground cover.

In the years since 1916, there has been uncertainty as to why Mametz Wood proved so hard for the Welsh Soldiers to clear; there were even accusations of a ‘distinct lack of push’. As part of a BBC TV documentary which explored the history of Welsh soldiers on the Somme through the eyes of rugby player Gareth Thomas, the evidence revealed by the data was used to evaluate the topography of landscape and help the archaeological team focus their efforts on the ground.

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Using specialist software, the Bluesky LiDAR data was stripped of tree cover and other features to reveal the bare earth surface. The resulting ‘moonlike’ image clearly showed two crater-like features with rectangular sides, so, not shell holes, which were not on any other map. To the east of these anomalies was another, more subtle feature, also not depicted on war time maps or in reconnaissance information.

“The data allowed the experts to read the landscape from the air, seeing through the trees and vegetation,” commented the programme’s producer, Louise Bray of Bearhug TV. “This revealed a number of clues in a never before seen landscape. It was hoped that these discoveries might give a better understanding of the difficulties faced by the soldiers on the ground.”

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Clips from the programme ‘Wales at the Somme: Gareth Thomas and the Battle of Mametz Wood’ is available to view for a limited time only on the BBC iPlayer.

Martin Meredith: Mandela A Biography

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Today is Nelson Mandela International Day (or Mandela Day).  An annual international day celebrated each year on 18 July, which was Mandela’s birthday.

The day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009, with the first UN Mandela Day held on 18 July 2010. However, other groups began celebrating Mandela Day on 18 July 2009.

Jason McCrossan spoke to one of his biographer Martin Meredith about a biography which was published in 2010. Also broadcast on http://www.sfmradio.com 106.9 SFM in Sittingbourne.

 

 

 

 

Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo , Transkei, on 18 July 1918. His mother was Nonqaphi Nosekeni and his father was Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, principal counsellor to the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo. In 1930, when he was 12 years old, his father died and the young Rolihlahla became a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni 1 .

Hearing the elders’ stories of his ancestors’ valour during the wars of resistance, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.

Mandela, while increasingly politically involved from 1942, only joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped to form the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).

In 1944 he married Walter Sisulu’s cousin, Evelyn Mase, a nurse. They had two sons, Madiba Thembekile “Thembi” and Makgatho, and two daughters both called Makaziwe, the first of whom died in infancy. He and his wife divorced in 1958.

Mandela rose through the ranks of the ANCYL and through its efforts, the ANC adopted a more radical mass-based policy, the Programme of Action, in 1949.

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Nelson Mandela on the roof of Kholvad House in 1953. Image courtesy of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

Monday Mattters Buddy Holly Show 29 February 2016

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Monday Matters with Jason McCrossan is broadcast on 106.9 SFM in Kent. On the show tonight we hear the latest news from around the world; the latest from the Oscars and the featured artist is Buddy Holly who would have toured in the UK from 1st March 1958 – and it would be less than a year later the 22 year old was killed in a plane crash.

In the final hour – we play more Buddy Holly songs and hear interviews from his short, but amazingly productive life.

John Lennon – Imagine…35 years on

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35 years ago today John Lennon was assassinated while walking into his home at the Dakota building in New York City. 12 years later Mark Chapman gave this creepy interview to Larry King.

Syria: The Complexities Of Bombing

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We are in the middle of a heated debate in the UK as to whether we should or should not use our armed forces to bomb Syria.  Whether we do or wether we do not will be decided by a vote of our MPs on Wednesday.

Let’s be clear.  If Paris had been London – the discourse would be very different and it is important that we take this opportunity to be thankful that we make such decisions with a cool head and not as a reaction to horrific events.  That said – we need to realise the real dangers we face as British citizens – like the horrors that we saw on a beach in Tunisia – or that of in France.  The Russian flight that was blown up over Egypt’s Sinai desert could well of been a British flight.  Wether we like it or not – we are targets – wether or not we bomb in Syria.

There are those who are totally opposed to bombing.  I understand their concerns.  However, the truth is that bombing HAS worked.  It decimated their high command; helped halt their advance and in many cases pushed them back;  spreads fear and dread throughout the ranks of Daesh who worry that every time they step outside or jump into a vehicle – they could be killed or maimed.  That in turn helps disrupt their mobility and ability to hold gatherings outside of their strong hold and if they need to communicate over long distances – they take a chance with their lives or use technology which can be intercepted and used against them.

 

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Bombing Has Limitations

That said, bombing has limitations.  We know already that there is a complex network of tunnels and command centres placed underneath the houses and hospitals of innocent Syrian people.  The extremists use these dug outs knowing that if and when they get bombed – they survive but the innocent men, women and children above ground die; their deaths then captured and edited into slick horror videos distributed to easily suggestible men and women around the world who do not comprehend the context of how they actually died.

The real question for MP’s to ask of the Government on Wednesday is not just whether we should bomb Syria.  Whether we do or do not will not make much of a difference. This fact we know. We also know Daesh will be defeated in Syria and Iraq.  Maybe not next week, next month or next year. But they will.  And we know this because – they are a death cult. They are only interested in death.  And before they die they want to ensure they subjugate, kill, terrorise  and torture anyone under their control. This is not something desired by the masses – no matter how deep rooted they are to a religion.  Daesh has limited appeal.

 

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Even the use of the word “defeat” is a simplification.  Like defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan!

So, when we say “defeat” what we actually mean is turn them from a group which controls large swathes of a country and its population – into a small group of bandits and guerrillas who still hold the same ideology but terrorise on a much smaller scale and are dealt with at a local level before eventually being replaced with some other ideology and becoming a footnote in history.

The real question for MP’s to ask of the Government on Wednesday is: What do you think Syria will look like in 1, 3 & 5 years time and what do you base this on?  (as apposed to what do you want it to look like). What is our end game?   When Daesh is defeated – what could fill the vacuum?  Who are they? What are their aims? How far are you prepared to go militarily – understanding that bombing has its limits?  Weapons? Training? Our soldiers?

The West is adamantly opposed to Russian backed President Bashar al-Assad – yet backs the free Syrian army – which is adamantly apposed by Russia and President Bashar al-Assad.  In order to root out Daesh we may need to work with Russia and Assad – how do we feel about this?  Will  we need to adjust our policy to Assad – what about the thousands and millions killed or made refugees by his Government – what are our “lines to take” when answering their questions?  Can we feasibly have two opposing policies operating at one time?  With Assad – but against? With Russia, but against?

 

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Prime Minister David Cameron speaking about the Paris attacks in the House of Commons (PA) – flanked by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

And when Daesh are finally sent scurrying off into the desert – who will replace them?  Do we know? Do we think we know? Have we post-Daesh plans?  What do we do if Assad tries to reclaim control of the country? If we commit to side fully with the free Syrian army and this group of 70,000 militants ready to rout out Daesh from places such as Raqqa – what happens if they are then bombed by Assad or Russia?  What if we find ourselves backing an army which finds itself fighting against Assad and Russia.  Where are the lines drawn? When do we STOP?

So, whether we bomb or do not bomb Syria will probably turn out to be of less importance than wether we are or are not prepared for the end of Daesh control in the region and whether we finally find the stomach to square up to President Putin – when he tries to exert control in the region.

Let us not forget the lessons from history.

 

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Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife leaving the town hall in Sarajevo moments before they were assassinated – which in part, led to the start of WW1.

 

 

 

 

Anniversary of Agincourt – 600 years – Ian Mortimer discusses the Famous Victory

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2015 has been a year for anniversaries. As the World War One centenary commemorations continue, we’ve already had the bi-centenary of the Battle of Waterloo and the 800th Anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta. The latest historic event reaching a significant birthday is the Battle of Agincourt, which sees its 600th Anniversary on the 25th October.

The battle was fought on a muddy field near Azincourt in northern France.

Jason McCrossan spoke to the author Dr. Ian Mortimer about his groundbreaking and ambitious book 1415 Henry V’s Year of Glory – which records the dramatic events of 1415 on a day-by-day basis, culminated in the battle of Agincourt: a slaughter ground designed not to advance Henry’s interests directly but to demonstrate God’s approval of Henry’s royal authority on both sides of the Channel.

WW1 The Battle of Loos with Chris Langdon

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The Battle of Loos was the largest British battle that took place in 1915 on the Western Front during World War I. It was the first time the British used poison gas and the first mass engagement of New Army units. The British battle was part of the attempt by the Allies to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne and restore a war of movement.

Jason McCrossan chats to the historian Chris Langdon from the ‪‎Southend‬ museum about this battle which took place 100 years ago this month.